National Geographic : 1920 Jan
BY MOTOR THROUGH THE EAST COAST OF SUMATRA of the Amsterdam-Deli Company, the most important tobacco company of the Indies, is a modern town, created by the Dutch and laid out in a very attractive manner. MEDAN A CITY OF MANY MIXED RACES There is an airy appearance and a cheer ful, "white-man's" atmosphere about .the official buildings around its spacious square and the cool, shaded streets of its European quarter. The white bungalows are extremely attractive in their green and well-kept grounds, shaded by tall royal palms, rub ber trees, bamboo, banyans, "flames of the forest," travelers' trees, and other tropical growth. The huge buildings of the Deli Com pany, with a European hospital and a well-appointed asylum for native immi grants, are almost hidden in the dense verdure of a park filled with beautiful shade trees. Farther out are the native compounds and various Asiatic quarters, having each its own characteristics. The Chinese compound, with its elab orate temple, bears the unmistakable mark of the Celestial Republic, with adap tations to East Indian conditions. Its houses, joined together in even-fronted rows, faced with cement or white and tinted plaster, with carved and colored decorations and roofs flaring slightly up ward at the corners, are much the same as are found in Malayan towns. Many of the stores and a large part of the trade of Medan are in the hands of Chinese, who, as usual, are extremely prosperous. Medan's prosperity and importance are due to its location in the center of the rich tobacco lands; and owing to this, with the consequent demand for labor and to the scarcity of native Sumatrese, its population of about 14,000 is a very mixed one. THE "BIG DAY," SUBSTITUTE FOR SUNDAY We had arrived in the midst of hari bazar and so were immediately intro duced to this interesting feature of Su matran life. The tobacco, rubber, and various other estates of the east coast are spread over such a vast amount of territory, with so comparatively small a number of white men in their administration, that the Dutch planters and managers outside of the head office and shipping ports are apt to be more or less isolated from the so ciety of their own kind. Since it is quite without significance to the Asiatic labor ers, Sunday is not recognized as a holiday on the estates, but in its place a substitute has been instituted in the fortnightly hari-bazar, occurring about the first and fifteenth of each month and literally meaning "big day" or "holiday." Both are pertinent. On these days all the planters-the general term for white men in any capac ity on an estate, either their own or a company's-who are able to do so, flock in from their estates to the towns, those within reach of Medan naturally seeking the capital. Very few are free to celebrate every hari-bazar, and when they do come into town, usually arriving the night before the "big day" with weeks of silence and loneliness to make up for, they waste very little of their time in sleep. Neither does any one else whose room happens to be in the vicinity of their gathering places. The club and hotels are filled, as they were the night we arrived, with ruddy, healthy-looking Dutchmen in fresh white suits, sitting around big tables in unre mitting conversation, while vast quanti ties of gin and bitters and other beverages are consumed, but with very little effect on these hardy men of the open air. COMFORT AND PRIVACY IN A MEDAN HOTEL Among its other advantages, Medan possesses one of the best hotels in the Netherlands Indies. The Hotel de Boer is built upon the plan largely used throughout Farther India-the dining room, cafe, office, and kitchen by them selves in one single-story building, open on all sides to the air and shaded by large covered verandas and splendid big trees. Around this, forming three sides of a square separated by a driveway from the central building, the bed-rooms occupy the entire depth of a second single-story structure.