Blogs from Sumatra, Indonesia, Asia - page 7


Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Berastagi June 23rd 2013

After making the difficult but inevitable decision to leave beautiful Toba, I continued northwards on a 4h ride to the hill-side town of Berastagi. Like many hill-side towns that I've visited the past year, this one was also established by former colonial rulers looking to escape from the searing heat of the lowlands. In this case, it was the Dutch of course. And as far as hill-side towns go, Berastagi doesn't seem to be that different from the rest, especially with regards to its pleasant, temperate climate. A small town essentially centred along just two main streets, Berastagi nevertheless packs some kind of buzz from a busting local Karo population, as well as Medan-Chinese weekenders, whose presence becomes increasingly apparent as we venture closer to the regional capital. The uniquely-accented Hokkien (a Chinese dialect) very similar ... read more
Welcome to Berastagi
My Kind of Coffee Shop!

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Lake Toba June 21st 2013

"You might find it difficult to leave." So said LP, about Lake Toba, my next destination. Having already travelled my fair share and compared notes against LP and Wikitravel's sometimes overly-generous hyperboles, you couldn't blame me for initially being somewhat skeptical. In any case, there was first the small matter of a 20h bus-ride-from-hell to deal with, crossing from Bukittingi in West Sumatra to Parapat in the North. I normally try to break up such crazy bus rides, but it seemed there weren't any particular places of note that would have been natural stopping points in between, while a domestic flight would have entailed much back-trekking, and ultimately maybe even more time (and of course, money). And this trans-Sumatran journey seemed to be part of the whole backpackers' experience, so I gritted my teeth and just ... read more
Traditional Batak Song & Dance
Wow, wow, wow...
Brutal Bus Ride from Bukittingi to Parapat

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Bukittinggi June 17th 2013

Just two nights at serene Maninjau, and it was time to move on again, I am on a schedule after all. You might ask, a schedule for what? Since I don't have any concrete, immediate life plans anyway. And that would be a good question, for another day, but I digress. In any case, I do have a visit to the much larger, and more famous Lake Toba penned in imminently, and so I took the 1.5h bus ride up the 44 hairpins again, and back to the highland city of Bukittingi from whence I came. Lying some 900m in altitude, Bukittingi boasts of agreeable temperate weather all year round, and to some extent reminded my of another highland city Baguio in Luzon, North Philippines, where I was a couple of months ago. Except Bukittingi's quite ... read more
Jam Gadang
Fort de Kock
"The Bridge"

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Lake Maninjau June 15th 2013

It wasn't exactly in my original plans but I decided to do it anyway. After the 2h bus ride from Padang northwards to the highland of Bukittingi, I decided to continue 2h westwards to Danau Minanjau, a 16x8 km volcanic crater lake. LP mentioned that the ride there would be memorable, and that was certainly true! The steep final descent to the lake area featured 44 (yes, forty-four) twisting hairpins ala Initial D or Monaco GP, complete with signboards counting you down through each and every one of them! And as you make your winding way down, the calm sky-blue lake and volcanic crater walls beckon in the distance. Certainly not your everyday welcome! It's a bit of a mystery to me why this unforgettable entrance to a spectacular volcanic crater lake isn't more well-known among ... read more
Minangkabau Cuisine
Maninjau Padi
Hairpin No. 9

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Padang June 13th 2013

Flying out from KL's massive warehouse-like LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal), it was just a short 1h ride to Padang, the largest city on the western coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, which is itself the world's sixth largest island. Despite it's proximity to my home country of Singapore (which is probably just an hour or two's boat ride from the closest point of the massive island), this was in fact my first time here. Apart from the occasional earthquakes that ravage the island, and the separatist violence that used to plague the northernmost city of Acheh, the island itself does not seem to generate much global news, and my arrival here would have filled me with more hesitation and anxiety, had I not already spent a month in the neighbouring (and more populous) Indonesian ... read more
Jalan Batang Arau
Sunset over the Indian Ocean
Beachside Fish Vendor

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Berastagi May 21st 2013

Today's hike up to the volcanic crater rim of Gunung Sibayak was quite tame compared to yesterday's burner up Gunung Sinabung. Both are manageable day trips from Berastagi where I have based myself since flying from Malaysia to Indonesia last Saturday. I arrived in Medan, North Sumatra ~11:00 a.m. local time and immediately began plotting my departure from the furnace that is coastal Indonesia. I was offered a ride to a share taxi office for service to Berastagi but there was no space so I caught a moto-taxi to the bus staging area and was almost immediately on my way to the coolness of the Karo Highlands. I have actually been wearing long pants and a long sleeve shirt at night in stark contrast to Thailand and Malaysia where I hardly wore any shirt at all. ... read more
False Summit and Rock Spire
Sitting on the Summit Marking Block
Crater Rim and View From False Summit

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Bandar Lampung April 7th 2013

Bukittinggi (Sumatra, Indonesia) – Bandung (Java, Indonesia): Distance covered so far (since 20 Dec): 6927 km We have made it through the plantations, the jungle, along the coast and over the mountains to reach the southern-most point of Sumatra! With one final cockroach infested hotel (Mel squeaked whilst on the loo, as a cockroach scampered over her legs), we rolled into the port of Bakauheni and onto the boat – Java bound. What a relief! What pride! Cycling hot, hilly, humid, bumpy, sticky, insecty Sumatra, as the subject of everyone’s curiosity has been the hardest thing we have ever done – it has roasted, poached, smashed, pummelled and drained us. Sumatra turned out to be MUCH bigger than it looked on the map, and it has a climate apparently designed to upset cyclists. A truly beautiful ... read more
South Sumatra route
Quaint fishing villages along the coast
This bridge did not look safe!

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Bukittinggi March 18th 2013

George Town (Malaysia) - Bukittinggi (Sumatra, Indonesia): 4th - 17th March 2013 Distance covered so far (since 20 Dec): 5654 km Imagine that you have popped into a quiet UK town to do some shopping. Today, however, you are 8 foot tall, have chosen to wear a hat that has a neon flashing sign reading “LOOK AT ME”, and you are wearing a suit made entirely out of daffodils. Furthermore, instead of arriving in town conventionally (by walking, or by car, for example), you have trotted into town astride a rhinoceros. The two of us are putting on the equivalent of this spectacle in Sumatra. We have found ourselves in places that receive no visitors, and quite frankly... we look a bit odd. AND we are travelling in a bizarre fashion (bike). We get A LOT ... read more
Stage Map - Northern Sumatra, Indonesia
Equator - True and False
Leaving Malaysia for Sumatra

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Bukit Lawang February 5th 2013

I was back in another airport waiting for another flight, this time to Medan in Indonesia, to go back in the rainforest again. The flight only took an hour and caught a taxi to Kampang Lalang which could loosely be described as a bus station. From there I caught a minibus to Bukit Lawang, on arrival a guy came up to be and offered me a lift to my hostel for 5000rp. There are 14,000rp to £1 so when I went to the ATM to withdraw £100 I instantly became a millionaire – woohoo. What the guy didn’t say was that he was going to give me a lift to the hostel on his scooter which made for a very cramped journey with my backpack and daypack! It was no surprise at all to me that ... read more
A visitor
Bukit Lawang
In the bat cave

Asia » Indonesia » Sumatra » Bandar Lampung February 3rd 2013

I've finally got the message. It's the wetter season not the drier one as I thought. That explains the rain I've been peddling in for that last 2 weeks! I'm now in Bander Lumpung near the eastern tip of Sumatra. Having crossed the mountain/volcano range south of Bukit Tinggi the scenery has been pretty dull. Mostly rubber plantation which is not remotely attractive or tropical in aspect. The resulting latex also has a bit of a pong. So the decision to cross the mountains was probably a bit of a mistake in hindsight. A dutchman on a bike I met in Bukit Tinggi, Eric, took the coast road south, stayed in beach huts and swam in the Indian ocean. Well, next time..... Diet: Nasi and Mei Goreng. twice daily with or without chicken or a boiled ... read more

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