We landed in Medan and proceeded to the Garuda Plaza Hotel which is a place I would not recommend to anyone to stay in. I understand that North Sumatra is not yet an area where tourism is a priority but basic standards of cleanliness and hygiene should be a priority to any business or establishment offering service to visitors. I have travelled extensively throughout Asia and try to make judgements based on the local standard and not my western view. India was a challenge but we still found all the accommodation offered relatively clean and had very welcoming attitudes. Unfortunately the Garuda Plaza was not such a place. Everything reeked of cigarette smoke, rooms, bedding, foyer and the lobby where we relied on getting wifi access. Our first night there wasn’t too bad, apart from the smell, but the night we stayed for the last night was a disaster. Late arrival, up to our room through the cloud of smoke, coped with that with the help of the atomiser of citrus spray I had packed. All looked OK, small but in order, then we folded back the bedding and found some surprises. The sheets obviously hadn’t been changed, just pulled up and neatened. Not a good move as the beds had quite obviously been slept in (don’t want to say what we found) and I felt quite ill at the sight. No interest from staff to rectify the situation so we stripped the beds and used the sarongs I had bought as sheets. Not a good feeling I can tell you. Having said this, everywhere else we stayed was basically clean, accommodating and really nice. Medan would have to be one of the most boring cities ever! We walked and walked covering about 10 klms and still didn’t find anything of interest. Add to this the fact that alcohol is not readily available we really struggled!
A trip on the bus to this delightful area to arrive at the Rindu Alam Hotel. This was our base to venture into the jungle to view orang-utan in their natural habitat. Once settled in we walked into the local village and got great exposure to the local community. Highlight was we came across a huge celebration going on which our tour guide thought was a local wedding. Happy, happy, happy, don’t get to see this often we were told. Families welcomed us and invited us in.
At this point our tour guide chatted to the entertainers who had a sound system that would have rocked Wembley Stadium only to discover it wasn’t a wedding ceremony but a circumcision ceremony. Needless to say we all felt a little uncomfortable about this!This is the lucky recipient of the great celebrations. Doesn’t look too engaged with us for good reason I would say! This is his extremely proud mother, happy to share such an important right of passage with strangers. Grandma is so proud too. All the local villagers are celebrating in style.
It was a beautiful feeling seeing the community coming together to share such an important moment for this young boy, one that none of us felt comfortable with. We smiled, graciously thanked them for their hospitality and continued on.
For the remainder of the walk we saw some beautiful people escaping the extreme heat and going about their day as they normally do. Just delightful!