Almost in a sewer….
Medan, Indonesia (Sumatra Island) – The guide books all said I should avoid this place. They were right. What a dump! The city stretches from the Straits to the mountains in one long unending blur of low rise buildings, smog and horrific traffic.
The roads, if you want to call them that, contain swimming pool-sized potholes, crumbling sidewalks, and one must travel in traffic praying that the motor bikes whizzing by spare your body. I think I lost my little toe on one encounter.
We went to the Pasar Ikan, which means fish market, but there was nary a guppy in sight. Each section of shops had its own flavor. All of the guitar and speaker shops are in one section followed by a line of sports awards shops, trophies and medallions. There must be enough for every man, woman and child in this place – Indonesian third largest city – for each to have at least three. There was also a large section devoted to clothes and cloth of the chintziest variety ever to adorn man. I don't know who bought them because I certainly didn't see anyone wearing these garish outfits of bright colors and gay red society hats.
The main mode of transportation, other than motor bikes, is motorcycled trishaws called betca and taxis. I speak passable Malay while my wife speaks fluent Malay, yet between the two of us we could not be understood by these individuals. "Do you know where this address is," we inquired. "Yes" was the reply. We got seated. "Where are we going," he asks.
We gave the address again. He nods. Then we end up someplace we had never intended to go. Further discussions ensued and there is a conversation with the other drivers with jibing about why the driver doesn't know. We ended up just where we started.
The Marriott Hotel was one of the cheapest in town because the one in Jakarta was blown up and most white people refuse to stay near the American-branded complex. I saw only three western looking individuals during my stay, the only good thing about Medan. The security was very strict, our luggage went through a scan; and we were wanded if we set of the alarm. They were overjoyed that I was residing, being the first American they had seen in awhile. I also wrote down that I was from Middletown, Maryland. I am sure they realized Marriott Headquarters was located some place in that state. The management watched me like a hawk to see if I might be a spy.
There is a large portrait of J Willard and J.W. Marriott, Jr., founders of the chain, in the lobby next to the check-in desk. When I made sure everyone was looking, I stood at attention and saluted it, then walked away. Service has been outstanding with about three people refilling my coffee cup each morning.
On the bright side of this rodent infested garbage trawl (Medan) we did find a nice old painting; at least we think it was old. Later we found two others almost just like it. We deduced they had made copies from the original. I also look for books and was offered a first edition manuscript of the Holy Quran for $20,000. I asked how it was acquired and was told it came into the family three generations ago from an old lady who needed money. I wonder if it’s the same little old lady who only drove the car peddled by used-car salesmen to church each Sunday.
The people here are about as friendly as the greeters in Lucifer's den, which in this place is a good taste of his abode. When St. Peter pulls the lever and sends people in the other direction, they end up here as a taste of what is to come.
We will be leaving here for Bukit Lawang and the orangutan visitor’s center. Better swinging with the apes than living here.
...life is good