With the cautious reopening of South East Asian countries to international visitors, it was time that air travel started to resuscitate this year. Business travel is more or less going full throttle as we start to meet business partners and colleagues in person rather through a Zoom call. So I took the first flight out without the need for any Covid tests or quarantine. It almost felt normal again.

This was a trip to Medan, the capital of North Sumatra, and also the fourth largest city in Indonesia.

Direct flights were still not fully operational and I had to transit in Kuala Lumpur. While governments are pushing for reopening, the reality on the ground is that airports and manpower is still not ready for the influx of travelers.

As this was a short business trip, I didn’t have time to visit the main attractions of Medan. However, one thing that caught my eye in the city was the Tirtanadi Water Tower. Located at the corner of a busy traffic intersection, it’s not that readily visible due to tall buildings and trees obstructing the view.

Water towers are nothing new and have existed for years as a means to store and supply water to a city or town. The elevated water reservoir helps to maintain water pressure in the piping system and serves as a buffer when water demand rises. Most of them are utilitarian looking or downright ugly, but some are real architectural gems and become a landmark in their own right.

The Tirtanadi Water Tower was built in 1908 during Dutch colonial rule by NV. Water Leiding Maatschappij Ajer Bersih company . It is still in operation today after more than a hundred years.

This water tower’s design has a somewhat medieval look with the battlement like structures at it’s top, and narrow windows along it’s sides.

Standing at almost 40m in height, it must have been an imposing sight more than a century ago. But now the city has grown around it and it’s dwarfed by numerous apartment blocks and office buildings.

The Tirtanadi Water Tower is a protected monument and is one of the few monuments which still serves it’s purpose even until today.

8 thoughts on “The Tower of Medan

  1. I have to say Medan is not my favorite city in Indonesia for a couple of reasons. However, the food scene there is often considered among the liveliest and tastiest in the country.

    1. Yes, the city looks very like any other mid tier city but I got the laid back vibes from the traffic. It’s not bustling or hectic like Singapore or Jakarta, just slow and steady. I did read that food is good there but I didn’t have the time to try much of the food. Our host did bring us to Lembur Kuring which I see is a popular restaurant with good reviews.

      1. Oh, that’s strange. The Medan I remember had a traffic that was unlike any other cities in Indonesia. I remember telling my friend, whenever we crossed a street in Medan, we felt like the drivers there just didn’t care and if they could I think they would have just run over us! 😆

        Also strange, the name of the restaurant your host took you to is actually Sundanese (from West Java). This means you just have to return to Medan one day and try the real local food there — although I do wonder if you will find some of the dishes similar with what are common in Singapore.

      1. Hahaha way to go Edwin! I should envy you, it’s difficult for my entire family to travel this year – my older boy is in NS and only has 5 days of leave remaining this year and my younger kid couldn’t do the vaccine yet. I gotta split the family to be able to take a holiday abroad hehehe

      2. Yeah, NS can be a hassle. For the recent trip, I haven’t travel like in >2 years. I forgot how to pack my bag, and I even had anxiety on the way to the airport because I was thinking might have missed out something with all the extra requirements for Covid vaccinations, registering on the tracking app of Indonesia and Malaysia, etc.

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