Last December, I went back home for the first time in 3.5+ years. Some things have changed; some others I’ve forgotten but eerily familiar. And it’s a beautiful thing to re-experience my hometown, this time as a ‘tourist’.
Medan is the fourth largest city in Indonesia. It’s the largest outside Java island and is the capital of North Sumatra. It’s well-urbanized but is no metropolitan city, with only very few high-rise buildings.
Majority of the city-dwellers here live in a 4-floor house, although some parts of Medan aren’t as developed yet. Formerly colonized by Dutch, the old buildings of Medan noticeably shows the influence of Netherlands-like architecture.
Above is the well-recognized landmark known as PP London Sumatra, a subsidiary of the national food conglomerate Indofood. PP London Sumatra owns more than 100,000 hectares of plantations: palm oil, coca, rubber, tea and other famous commodities from our province.
The plantations can be seen in areas surrounding Medan, which you’ll pass through from our brand new airport in Deli Serdang area. When I was a child, our airport was located in Medan. The new Kualanamu airport is 1.5 hour drive away. Way farther than what it used to be, but in exchange for a beautiful view.
One very noticeable change I saw when I first arrived: a new form of advertisement has taken over the whole province.
Hope the house owner made a good fortune out of that!
I really admire the traces of our retro-styled landmarks though. I used to see these iconic buildings everyday that I didn’t know how to appreciate that, but after five years of living in Singapore, seeing them again makes me feel excited and I begin to realize that my hometown isn’t half-bad.
Pictured above is our Post Office building. It is located near Lapangan Merdeka (Field of Independence) and right at point zero, exactly at the center of the city.
That’s a huge clock tower just nearby to Medan Fair, a popular mall in our city, which incidentally I never visited much back in the days. I had my own favorite malls which I’ll share in one of my next posts!
Above is Tjong A Fie Mansion, which is so-called #1 attraction in Medan according to TripAdvisor users’ ratings. Tjong A Fie is a famous Chinese community top leader with strong economy and political tie to the city. Even nowadays, the Chinese community is visibly thriving in Medan, which is a very distinctive feature differentiating it from other big cities of Indonesia.
And here’s a little modernity thrown into the mix. There’s a small white building right in front, which was built during the Dutch East Indies era as a financial center called De Javasche Bank. But that was 1908. Fast forward one century and that building is now overshadowed by a skyscraper hotel called Grand Aston City Hall.
De Javasche Bank is now called Bank Indonesia, another distinctive building in its own right.
But if I can only pick one truly iconic landmark in Medan, I’d have to give it to none other than the Tirtanadi Water Tower:
When it was first built in 1908, it was vital in providing abundant supply of clean water for the locals. Back then, only the middle-class and above could afford it, while those who are not as well-off still had to rely on wells. Honestly, I had no idea about the history when I was young, but its unique shape and color made it the single most recognizable landmark in Medan.
Majority of the above historic buildings are located close to each other, nearby to the oldest street in Medan called Kesawan. It used to be the economic heart of the city.
A little farther from there is the office of our local newspaper called Harian Analisa (The Daily Analysis). I have a soft spot for them as I used to submit articles to them when I was a kid, around 7-10 years old. Really, really embarrassing writing if you ask me, but getting those early efforts published kinda helped to shape my interest into eventually becoming a mass comm student.
Of course, that’s not everything that Medan has to offer. While Medan is not a biggie tourist attraction (expected), it’s the city where I lived for the first 16 years of my life and I rediscovered plenty of memories when I was there.
I’ve left Medan for half a decade in pursuit of my dream, but it’s always beautiful to look back at where we come from a new perspective.
How’s your hometown like? How do you feel looking back at it years after you’ve left? How does it compare to my hometown in Medan?