Having recently received a much-needed lick of paint, the Maimoon Palace (Jl Katamso; admission by donation; 9am-5pm) stands as grand as ever. Built by the sultan of Deli in 1888, the 30-room palace features Malay, Mog%l and Italian influences. Only the main room is open to the public; it features the lavish inau-guration throne. The back wing of the palace is occupied by members of the sultan's family. The current sultan, Aria Mahmud Lamanjiji, was only eight years old when he was installed as the 14th Sultan of Deli in 2005, replacing his father, who died in a plane crash. He is the youngest sultan in Deli history. He currently resides in Sulawesi, and his role is purely ceremonial.
The impressive Grand Mosque was commissioned by the sultan in 1906. The Moroccan-style building has towering ceilings, ornate carvings, Italian marble and stained glass from China.
The Museum of North Sumatra (Si 7 716792; Jl HM Joni 51;admission750Rp;H8.30am-12.30&1.30-4pmTue-Sun) has a well-presented collection ranging from early North Sumatran civilisations to Hindu, Buddhist and Islamic periods to colonial and military history. Highlights include fine stone carvings from Nias and extravagantly carved wooden coffins.
Bukit Barisan Military Museum ( Zainal Arifin 8; admission by donation; S 9am-3pm Mon-Fri) has a small collection of weapons, photos and memorabilia from WWII, the War of Independence and the Sumatran rebellion of 1958.
Ghosts of Medan's colonial mercantile past are still visible along Jl Ahmad Yani from Jl Palang Merah north to Lapangan Merdeka. Some are still stately relics, while others have been gutted and turned into parking garages, demonstrating the enduring friendship between Indonesia and its former coloniser.
Tjong A Fie Mansion:the former residence of a famous Chinese merchant, mixes Victorian and Chinese styles. It is intentionally similar to Tjong A Fie's cousin's (Cheong Fatt Tze) home in Penang. At the time of research the mansion was opened to the public for the first time since it was built in 1860. The exquisite handpainted ceilings, Tjong's huge bedroom, interesting art pieces, an upstairs ballroom (which now exhibits work by local artists) and Taoist temples make the pricey admission worthwhile. If you're a fan of 1950s pulp fiction, you'll love his son's collection in the Chinese guestroom.
Across the street is Tip Top Restaurant, a historic spot tor sipping colonial nostalgia. Further north is Lapangan Merdeka, a former parade ground surrounded by handsome colonial buildings, such as the Bank Indonesia, Balai Kota (Town Hall) and the post office.
For more information about Medan's colonial architecture, check out Tours Through Historic Medan and its Surroundings, by Dirk A Buiskool, a long-time Medan resident. The author also operates Tri Jaya Tour & Travel , which offers historic city tours.
ORANGUTAN FEEDING CENTRE
Bukit Lawang's famous orangutan centre was set up in 1973 to help primates readjust to the wild after captivity or displacement through land clearing. Much of the original duties of the centre have been moved to more remote locations, but twice-daily feedings are still provided to semidependent orangutans. These events are open to the public (no guide required) and provide one of the closest views of the forest ape outside the confines of a zoo.
During the centre's decades-long operation, it has introduced 200 orangutans into the jungle and many of them have successully mated with the wild population. Many of the animals have been kept as caged pets; the centre teaches them how to forage for food in the wild, build nests, climb trees and other essentials for survival after release. The orangutans are also treated for diseases that they contracted during contact with humans. The most recent release of an orangutan into the wild was in 2005.
Once the apes are on their own in the wild, the centre still provides supplementary feedings in case of awkward transitions or demanding circumstances. The feedings provided by the centre consist of milk and bananas and are considered a fairly bland diet compared with the diversity of food found in the forest. The semi-wild apes who appear at the centre's 'welfare' platform are typically nursing or pregnant females in need of an extra source of nutrition.
There are two feeding times a day: 8.30am to 9.30am and 3pm to 4pm. These are the only times visitors are allowed to enter the national park without a guide.
The feeding platform is located on the west bank of Sungai Bohorok within the park boundaries, about a 20-minute walk up from the village. The river crossing to the park office is made by dugout canoe. Permits are required to enter the park (20,000Rp) and are available from the office (S 8am-10am & 3-4pm) at the foot of the trail to the platform. If you have a camera/video camera you'll have to pay an additional 50,000/150,000Rp at the office, with no refunds if orangutans don't come to the feeding platform - during peak fruit season they often don't.
Since 1996 the centre has beer, closed to new arrivals, as the park is considered to be saturated with orangutans. A replacement quarantine centre, just outside Medan, opened in 2002 to carry on the rehabilitation efforts, but it is not open to the public. Originally funded by World Wildlife Fund and Frankfurt Zoological Society, the centre now falls under the management of the Indonesian govern-ment, which does not provide adequate financial resources. Park rangers are not paid in a timely fashion and permit money is sent directly to Jakarta. Despite these problems, the rangers are dedicated to their jobs and often supplement their incomes and their hands-on experience by working with foreign researchers.
Outside Guriung Leuser National Park, orangutans can be found in the Tanjung Puting and Kutai National Parks; in the
Gunung Palung, Bukit Raja, Sebangau, Danau Sentarum and Betung Kerihun national parks in Kalimantan; as well as in neighbouring Sarawak and Sabah in Malaysia.
For more information about Sumatran or angutans try the Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS www.orangutans-sos.org) and the Sumatran Orangutai Conservation Programme (www.sumatranorangutan com).
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