Day 4 Part 1: Sepiso-piso Falls

Saturday, December 12, 2009
We set off to Sepiso-piso Waterfalls today. It was a very bumpy ride as the roads were barely even passable, filled with massive potholes here and there. Every now and then, the driver had to slow down and carefully navigate around these potholes. I enjoyed the scenery along the way, looking at mountains and plantations. What I enjoyed most was to look at the people staying around the area, their simple yet very happy lives. You can see kids riding on buffaloes and cows grazing along the roadsides. What a contrast between Singapore and here. On the one end, people are all clambering for success, working their way up the corporate ladder or towards better academic grades. On the other end, people here lead a carefree life, with no materialistic aims, living each day as it is and letting time pass by slowly, not to mention to enjoy every single day. =)

We reached the Falls and voila, it was right next to Lake Toba. The first time I saw Lake Toba, I gasped. It was the most beautiful lake I have seen. Very eagerly, both Kelvin and I trekked down the steps to the base of Sepiso-piso. It was a very dangerous way down, the steps were not properly constructed and there were parts so steep, I had to crawl down. I fell once on my butt because the steps were really slippery. Luckily, I didn't fall off the steps and onto the rocks below. Reached the base and it was awesome. There was mist everywhere from all that gushing water high up above.


Before getting wet


Awesome but very dangerous rapids


The water tasted good! Fresh mountain water...

All wet from the mighty Sepiso-piso...

The way up was horrible. It was like climbing the steps from PGP bus stop to KE dining hall times 20. No kidding! We stopped 3 times along the way to catch our breath. What more with the high altitude and thin air, the climb was unbelievably difficult.

Shall continue in my next post..Day 4 was a very long day...=)

Day 3: Brastagi

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Today was the day that I have been waiting for! A trip up to the Brastagi highlands! We set off in the morning and it was a 2 hour journey all the way up till Kelvin's villa...oops, his Uncle's villa. It was a different journey than usual as traffic got lesser with time. The air became fresher too as we ascend the mountains. Leaving the hustle and bustle of Kota Medan was a refreshing thought =). I gasped when we finally reached the villa. To me, it was the perfect retreat. The place was cool, beautiful and most importantly, quiet enough for you to live in complete peace. Food tasted better up in the highlands plus the fact that Kelvin's aunt who tagged along cook great meals =).



Strawberries at the villa, all picked and eaten!!


View of the kitchen, it is a separate space from the main villa but we cannot eat outdoors less we risk sharing our meals with the pet dogs =)

Gunung Sibayak, an inactive volcano viewed from Brastagi

I spent the entire day reading National Geographic. His uncle had a massive collection of the Geographic dating back years ago. I love the Geographic a lot. Ever since I was young back in Puchong, I have always waited in anticipation every month for the postman to deliver the Geographic. Through the Geographic, I got to know the world. But I was little then and mostly admired the Geographic because of its fantastic photography, not much of the reporting. Anyway, there was this special edition on China which I found particularly interesting, talking about the hopes and dreams of many Chinese with the upcoming Olympics back in 2008. Another day of adventure tomorrow!! (Pictures from Kelvin's facebook photos and Google Images)


Day 2: Sun and Music


Couldn't think of a more suitable title. Anyway, went to Sun Plaza today, reputedly the best place in Medan! On the way there, we got stuck in a traffic jam. Got to see Medan during its morning rush! At Sun Plaza, met up with Kelvin's friend, Nadia and had lunch at a restaurant there.

Sun Plaza, Medan

Watched Ninja Assassin starring Rain and was horrified with the amount of blood and gore on screen. Apparently, cinema goers here were very lively =). Every now and then, they would make appropriate sounds to go with the scene, especially this romantic kissing scene in the movie where the crowd went "Pheew weet!!!!"

Ninja Assassin

After that, we went to try Sate Padang. Different from Malaysian satay, this satay has quail's eggs, cuttlefish, chicken intestines and of course your usual chicken meat, not forgetting the chicken's heart...gosh. It was still delicious nevertheless. =)

Sate Padang, the sauce was really spicy!!

Come nightfall was the highlight of the day, a piano and cello duet performance at Selecta. I am not really a music fan but I love their synchronized play! The pianist was Dr Christine Utomo, a famous pianist from Indonesia while the cellist, Tina Guo from America. Apparently, it was quite a big event that even the US Ambassador to Indonesia attended. Truly enjoyed the classical music belted out by the duo. I cannot find any recorded video, but there was a rehearsal video featuring the two. They played Bumblebee as their final performance and it was great! Just ignore the false start as this was just a rehearsal video. Again, images were from Google Images and video from Youtube. Have not forgotten my acknowledgements!!



Day 1: The bustling city

Monday, December 7, 2009
My biggest regret was that I didn't have my camera with me. It was with my sister back in Malaysia, probably sitting in a cupboard, getting all dusty without her having any apparent use for it....grrr...

Therefore, I can only descriptively describe this city of 2 million with words. Woke up in the morning and tagged along with Kelvin to his high school, SMA Sutomo I. We decided to walk and experience the streets of Medan on foot. The pictures below were taken from Google Images; 1.5 years in NUS and I know jolly well about plagiarism. =) This was our breakfast:


Medan's Duck Bee Hoon

I tried the Lemper as well and loved it. I will definitely da bao this back to Singapore!


Lemper

While walking the streets of Medan, I noticed that there were guppies swimming in the city's clogged up drains. The pedestrian walkways have uncovered parts and one fatal step could lead you straight into the drains, into the wonderland of those swimming guppies. I thought that I can cross any road, being a Malaysian all my life. My goodness, that was before I came to Medan. I don't think there were traffic rules here, definitely no pedestrian crossings and if not for Kelvin, I would have stood there frozen, not daring to cross the road. So, what do I do? When in Rome, do as the Romans do. While in Medan, do as the Indonesians do. Watch and learn. I occasionally saw people crossing the road just by extending their hands and using their palms to form a stop sign, as if ordering the vehicles to stop and walking across just like that. This must be the way to do it and I tried the magical hand walk to cross the roads. Thankfully, I managed to cross every road. =)

Aside from terrible traffic, I really like the city. It was a city that was very much alive with activities. One corner you can see someone pushing a cart and at the next corner, you can see a group of becak (trishaw) riders. Hard to believe that people here actually sleep at 10pm. It was this pulse of vibrancy that keeps Medan alive.

Kelvin's school's classrooms were fitted with air-conds!! OMG, why can't my school purchase air-conds as well? We entered the headmistress room (Kantor SMA) to get the Album Kenangan aka school magazine.

The Perpustakaan was a modest one and it was there that I killed time reading about Sejarah Indonesia. Started from Proklamasi Kemerdekaan Ogos 1945 till Pembentukan Tentera Nasional Indonesia till Penyerahan Wilayah Irian Barat. What the heck am I doing reading Sejarah?? Trust me, reading about another country's history was really exciting and a great way to know the country too.=)

Had bakso for lunch. I wanted to try this ever since I saw ang mohs eating it on The Amazing Race. Medan's food was very spicy, so much so that I can practically breathe fire!



Bakso

It really was meatballs and mee, some meatballs have egg in it. I was introduced to his friend and brought to Thamrin Mall. On the top level you can actually see the panorama of Medan city, dominated by amazingly tall TV antennas and spherical water tanks on top of roofs.

It was makan time again (tea time counts right?) and therefore I was brought to try Palembang epek epek. Fried goodies with dipping sauce. It was fantastic! Sorry, couldn't find any images on Google.=(

Rode on a becak back home. The ride was bumpy, owing to the many potholes on the road, but enjoyable nevertheless. It costs only Rp 5000, slightly less than a dollar (S$). The conversion rate is 1S$ to 6800 Rp. That concluded Day 1!


The becak, a personal public transport in Medan



Medan: A Prologue

Well, I have decided to blog about this when I get back, but never mind, since I have the time now, I might as well write the prologue.

I couldn't exactly remember how I decided to visit Medan but I have always been curious about life across the Malacca Straits. I know little about Indonesia and a lot less about North Sumatra. Off I went together with Kelvin, a hall mate to the 3rd biggest city in Indonesia, after Jakarta and Surabaya to get a taste of life across the Straits.

Landing at Polonia Airport after an hour long trip from Singapore, we were whisked into a bus and taken to the terminal. The bus was packed like sardines but oh well, I can still squeeze in. I remembered Kelvin saying "Welcome to Medan" and was delighted to have finally step foot on another country. While waiting for immigration clearance, I noticed an irony. There was this big electronic board with the message "Terminal ini bebas asap rokok" and yet cigarette smoke filled the air. The baggage reclaim conveyor belt was extremely short, with only a distance of few metres. After that, your luggage ends up on the floor. Never mind that, I got pass immigration painlessly. All those stories about Malaysians having a hard time entering were unfounded claims.

Hopped into the car and off we went over to Kelvin's grandma's house. I was a bit confused initially as there is a one hour time difference between Medan and Singapore. According to Kelvin, Singapore wanted to be in the same time zone with China, hence the one hour forward approach for the island republic. Nothing much to see at night and it was time to call it a day. Adventure starts tomorrow!

End of Semester 3

Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Another semester came to an end yesterday, with the conclusion of the final exams. In the blink of an eye, I am already halfway done with my Year 2 studies. With the upcoming 5 weeks free of academic torture, I am free to chart how I want to live my Sem 4.

I have changed a lot since KEWOC days. Somehow, those 2 months being in hall doing hall CCAs changed my perspective and outlook about my future. Now, I will need to take certain drastic steps before I regret not having a fulfilling university life. I am gonna do these things in the 5 weeks, with or without a job at the Science Centre:

1) Apply for NHG Pharmacy Scholarship. Top on my list of priorities. With this scholarship will come many many opportunities that would otherwise be restricted financially. I will go all out and not let the mistake of ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship repeat itself.

2) Sit down, think through and talk to seniors about NOC Application. Why NOC? Why throw away another year for this programme? Is this programme only suitable for aspiring entrepreneurs? What if I just want NOC for a better resume? Think think think...the decision could be life changing. Think of ways to get it!!!

3) Almost forgot about this, but yes, enjoy Medan and all it has to offer!!! The food, the scenary, the people. It will only be my 2nd overseas country after Singapore though, and I am looking forward to it. Thanks Kelvin for graciously allowing me to stay with him. Come to Malaysia next time!! OMG, cant wait to see Lake Toba....

4) UROPS. Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programme in Science. The name speaks for itself. Finally, I will get to experience first hand research methodologies and get to know my pharmacy professor better. I might like it or hate it, but I will know for sure if research is my cup of tea after completing it. Not to mention the opportunity to take part in the NUROP Congress where I can present my findings to others. How exciting!!

5) Learn Chinese! I have not given up yet. Still have to stuff in at least 100 characters within this one month. 我要学到我会写好的中文!!Nop, I did not refer to anything when typing that out, if you are wondering...but I must admit, knowing that alone is not enough.

6) Read the books I bought during a MEGA SALE in conjunction with NUS Library Resource day. Although the books are dirt cheap, I wouldn't want them sitting on the shelves screaming out to be read.

7) Bring Jiea Huan around when he comes for a visit sometime during the end of December.

8) Plan for Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam trip during next sem's vacation!! OMG..I will be pouring over the net and guidebooks for information. Exciting and perhaps one of the best ways to experience South East Asia. Again, the feasibility of this trip depends on holiday plan no 1. (refer above)

9) Join in the XQRJ fun! Will most probably be tagging along during prelims rehearsal or roadshow rehearsal. Jiayou X12!

10) I will leave plan number 10 empty in case anything new pops up somewhere in between.

I want to start Sem 4 with brand new optimism!! I want to be a changed person, a more confident and better person as a whole, not just purely "someone good in his studies and NOTHING ELSE!"