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Travelling from the travel hub

March 9, 2010
Late last year, Tassapon Bijleveld, CEO of Thai AirAsia said that the introduction of new flights operating to and from Phuket would give Phuket International Airport the potential to be a serious travel hub for South East Asia.

This meant that for the first time there were low-cost and direct flights to places such as Jakarta, Singapore, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, and Ho Chi Minh City from Phuket. One of the most recent of the introduced flights was to Medan, Indonesia (20 December).

The short flight which runs at just under an hour operates three times a week on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday and departs at 16.30, arriving in Medan at 17.20. The return flight departs from 17.45 and arrives back in Phuket at 18.50.

Medan is the third biggest city in Indonesia and is located in the Sumatra Island. It has a population of approximately 2 million people. The most common religion is Christianity, closely followed by Islam.

I was booked onto the inaugural flight to Medan and arrived early at the airport. I was very excited. Looking around at the different types of people at Phuket International Airport, it did seem to have the appearance of being a travel hub.

I managed to speak to a passenger who was waiting for the direct flight to Hong Kong, (a destination introduced in October 2009) who was a 31 year-old company employee who was travelling for business. She said, “I always have to travel for my work and with the introduction of these new flights, I’m sure my employers are happy. It’s a direct flight and so is convenient and it saves me time and money.”

I also talked to an Australian tourist who had been in Phuket for two weeks and was about to travel to Singapore, he said, “I stayed in Bangkok for a few days and I have been in Phuket for two weeks, now I will go to Singapore, this is not my first trip in Asia. I have seen many beautiful sights in Phuket; the beach, mountain, and many Thai temples.”

While in the past, our young Ozzie would have needed to go to Bangkok to travel to Singapore, now he can leave from Phuket, cheaply “I chose to get a direct flight from Phuket because it’s more comfortable and saves both my budget and time” he said.

I was having so much fun talking to the different people at the airport that I thought like staying there, but I didn’t because I had a plane to catch!

Food played a big part in my trip and seemed to punctuate my experiences in Indonesia, my first delicious meal was dinner at the Mutiara Hotel. They served Mussamun Gai, fried vegetables and a corn and egg soup, eaten with rice and rounded off with pineapple.

We checked in at the JW Marriott, Medan. My colleagues and I had a room on the 25th floor. It was great because we could see the night view of Medan. We had planned to take an evening stroll around Medan city but unfortunately within five minutes of checking into our rooms, it had started raining.

The next morning when I ate a breakfast of boiled rice with salted eggs and fried peanuts, I realised that the Indonesian cuisine was not so dissimilar to Thai food.

The weather on the morning of the third day was great and before we hopped on a ferry to go to Samosir Island we had a Chinese breakfast During the ferry ride we were treated to a local singing show from some cute ferry crew boys, I recorded part of the performance to show my friends how the local boys sang and danced.

There were several souvenirs that I could have purchased on this island but most of them were handmade products. I liked the sarongs (local dress) but it was pretty expensive so I didn’t buy any but I did buy a pack of little traditional drums from an old shopkeeper.

I also visited a traditional village called Tomok and saw a stone tomb of King Sidabuatar. Next to this was a stone court which was the place where the King executed his enemies.

On our way back to Medan from Lake Toba (the third largest lake in South East Asia), we stopped off at the colourful Kwam Im temple (Kwam Im is the female Chinese god) and although the temple was still under construction it was still beautiful.

Our dinner was at a wonderful Chinese restaurant (again), but I couldn’t eat much, even though it was the best place so far, because I had some problems with my stomach since the previous night.

On the final morning, I had the best breakfast since arriving; I chose to try Sala (the local fruit that we also have in Thailand, but in Medan it was much bigger). Then we visited Maimuen Palace, passed the grand Mosque and shopped for a while at the Sun Plaza, the biggest plaza in Medan.

On the flight back, I experienced a sunset from a plane for the first time; it was so beautiful and romantic and made me happy to be going home to Phuket.

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