Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sumatra, the final holiday installment

Hooray! The end of my holiday (writing). As much as I loved the summer holiday, I have felt the blogging about it was hanging over my head a bit.  I returned to Jakarta back on August 11th and it's taken me over a month to get all caught up.

I went to three small towns/villages on the island of Sumatra on my way back from Cambodia.  I stayed one night in Kuala Lumpur on my way there.  Since I'd been to KL before, and the bus ride to town is at least two hours, I didn't bother.  Instead I splurged and got a room in a three star hotel.  It was the cheapest one available within a half hour and cost more than any previous nine days of lodging combined. It was wonderful to have a room all to myself and a hot shower with some water pressure.
Beach near Padang.  Unfortunately it was only a fifteen minute stop to break up three hours on the motorbike.
My flight to the town of Padang was under two hours. Padang is in West Sumatra about half way between the tips of the island. I'd been put in touch with Jhoni, a guide who is an old friend of a co-worker. He picked me up and we rode off, on a motorbike of course, to his house where I stayed the night.  I saw most of Padang city as we rode around for an hour, but there wasn't much to see. I met his kids and wife, who were all very sweet to me.  We managed to do a lot together considering we only had about five dozen words of shared vocabulary.

Day two was a long motorbike ride to Lake Meninjau.  I saw the beach above on the way there.  Lake Meninjau is in a volcanic crater caused when the mountain blew eons ago.  It must have been a huge explosion because the lake is large. It's a quiet area with the population spread around the lakes edge and up the steep hill of the crater wall on rice plantations. We arrived late in the day, had a walk around and dinner at Jhoni's father-in-laws.  The next day was a hike up to almost the rim of the crater.  Here are photos from the trek up.
First view of the lake.  My trek would take my up the far side.

Rice plantations near the lake.
View of the lake from my bungalow
View most of the way up to the ridge.
After a shower, we were back on the bike.  The road that climbs out of the crater is famous for having forty-four hairpin turns.  What they don't point out is the number of uncounted turns and the turns after breaching the crater.  It's one of the few motorbike rides that made me nervous. I though we were going to hit the gravel on a far side turn or a car on a close side turn and that would be it.  When I arrived in Bukittinggi I was very physically tired.  Finding food was a pain since it was Ramadhan.  I hadn't been hungry all morning but by 3pm I was starved.  Next was a walk around the market.  By the time Jhoni was walking us in circles two and a half hours later I was dragging. I could barely make conversation at his sisters house.  Dinner to break fast (Muslims fast sun up to sun down during Ramadhan) perked me up a bit.  I collapsed into bed.
Only stop to stretch my legs was five minutes here.
Eight hours later I woke up to find that I'd been attacked by bed bugs overnight.  I had several dozen bites, in addition to mosquito bites, and I was very unhappy.  Luckily, I only had on night there planned anyway.  Walking around town in the morning was pointless.  Jhoni took me to a park and a garden that once again turned into a zoo.  I had to use all my self control to not punch Jhoni in the face when he said he wanted another monkey as a pet right after we talked about how bad most of the animals, especially the monkeys, are treated in Indonesian zoos and homes. I hate zoos.  I hate that I keep ending up in zoos.
These were at a park and scavenged the trash for food.

Another two or three hours on the motorbike with a stop to pick up mangosteen from his niece (I felt like I was financing a family tour for him by this point) and we were back at his house.  We took the two younger kids to the beach and had a laugh there.  Back at the house Jhoni and his wife were quite content to let the kids play/pester me until we had dinner.  I stuck out another hour of play after and then escaped to my room. I was very itchy and totally exhausted. I would have been asleep instantly except for the ever-lovin bites!!!

Deas and the mountain.
I woke up in the morning looking like I was ready for transfer to the leper colony.  Between the mossies and the bed bugs I had over a hundred bites (that's when I stopped counting).  Most were swollen and red, some had opened and were oozing clear liquid.  Have I mentioned that I'm allergic to mosquito bites?  Yes, that's possible. I wasn't sure they'd even let me on the plane until I remembered this is Indonesia and I'm white so of course they would. I couldn't get back home and to civilization fast enough. Who'd have thought I'd be happy to get back to Jakarta?
This doesn't even give you a true impression of how bad it was.


  1. Wow. Now I am scared.

    I am heading to Padang in early October. Looking to stay at the Paradiso resort for a few days (have to be there for work on a friday.)

  2. Since you won't be traveling by ojek or staying in "hotels" that cost 60-75,000 Rupiahs a night you should be fine. Take some anti-mosquito spray just in case though. The food's excellent.