The International Steam Pages

Home from Home, Berastagi 2017

This is part of our report on our visit to North Sumatra in 2017.  You can read about the rest of it from the links below.

No wonder the Dutch loved Berastagi, generally they are not too fond of mountains, but up here the fertile soil and the cool moist conditions make it easy to grow European flowers, fruit and vegetables. Yuehong too felt very comfortable at our hotel, they obviously knew she was coming and they hung out the red lanterns. 

Also, they had specially planted some of her garden favourites. Outside our room were Sweet Williams, nearby were Geraniums, Salvias and Hydrangeas. Not shown were Begonias and African Daisies.

A short walk from our hotel was the Berastagi Garden Centre a.k.a. the Fruit and Plant market. Yuehong quickly worked out that if we moved here she could buy every single plant and bulb on offer for small fraction of what she has paid to stock our garden back home. However, I don't think it could happen as the few roses on offer were not up to standard.

In terms of eating out, I have to say that what is available in the market does not readily translate into culinary excellence. The only way to enjoy fresh cooked vegetables seems to be in the small Chinese restaurants just to the south of the main roundabout at the top of Jalan Veteran. If the road to hell is paved with good intentions then Yuehong finds it hard to avoid temptation. Faced with yet another less than dry afternoon, she was happy to curl up with a good book and a couple of takeaway durians. For the record the book is Sjovald Cunygham-Brown's Crowded Hour, an essential read if you want to capture the spirit of adventure that characterised many British adventurers of a certain time and class. He also had a cameo appearance in the Whickers World TV programme on Penang,

Come the evening, a contrite Yuehong restricted herself to a fish ball soup while I took the healthy option of fried pork with French fries. Healthy for me, that is, if I followed Yuehong's lead I would expire within a month. I thanked the 'God of Fortune' for smiling on us, but was reminded he represented the other meaning of fortune.

There is a long tradition of corporate bungalows in the highlands. Two near our hotel brought back memories for me. The first belongs to PTPN II. I stayed in what must have been a similar building back in 1979 at their Sawit Sebrang Oil Palm Plantation north of Medan, it was the occasion when I started my collection of Indonesian industrial steam locomotive worksplates, they were unwanted discards... Next door was the better maintained Wisma Keretapi.     

Back in 1974, I was stuck on a package tour bus at a level crossing outside Pematang Siantar for some time and when I went to investigate I found my first ever Indonesian steam locomotive struggling up on a mixed train from Tebing Tinggi, it was one of those few life changing events.

I had been to Berastagi only once before on the aforementioned 1974 tour. I recall only that we stayed at the Bukit Kubu guest house, everything else I have forgotten but I guess it must have been rather smaller than it is today but the atmosphere would have been similar.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson