Indonesia · Sumatra

Sumatra – Bukit Lawang and beyond

We arrived in Bukit Lawang exhausted and in desperate need of some time to re-energise. This was largely due to our 4 day stay in Yogyakarta where noise travelled through paper-thin walls and lucky us, on Good Friday the Christian church service commenced at 4am and was right next door to our hostel. On top of that our flight to Medan was delayed 12 hours, the AC in our hotel room for the night didn’t work and the city doesn’t seem to sleep ( very loud). Oh and we forgot to give the kids their travel sick tablets for the following day’s drive into the jungle …. need I say more.

Bukit Lawang was literally like a breath of fresh air when we arrived. We stayed on top of a river which was beautiful, amazing and SO loud. Murray and I woke up during the night thinking it was thundering down with rain only to discover it was the noise of the river. We could sit on our veranda for hours and watch the monkeys playing in the river and it felt like the furthest place from Sydney on the face of the earth. We swam in the river, went for walks and enjoyed the isolation. On day 3 we bravely signed up for a jungle trek in the hope that we would see some orangutans in the wild. We were not disappointed. The jungle trek was one of the best and most memorable days so far. Admittedly the first half hour of the trek was a bit dicey. We climbed up a mountain edge that literally dropped off at points with no barrier. I could see the look in Murray’s eye ( it basically said – wtf are we doing here.. and with our kids??). Before the jungle trek Murray had Jokingly said “if we don’t see an orangutan I’m going to get one of the guides to dress up as an orangutan and jump around”… ha ha, funny right? … well maybe not so funny for him when I heard Maya tell the guide “my dad said that if we don’t see an orangutan…” Hilarious.

Danger aside, we saw orangutans up close and got to feed the charismatic native funky monkey. Brooke’s initial claim that ‘ the jungle is boring’ quickly changed to ‘can we come back here again tomorrow?’ The girls got to hand feed these amazing creatures, who with their human-like fingers, gently took all of the fruit we had to offer. To top it off, we rafted back to the village on big blow up tubes, down rapids, veering dangerously close to rocks only to be careered away by the trusty bamboo poles used by the chief river guide ( who was probably about 14 years old). It was a blast.

After Bukit Lawang we stopped in a place called Berestagi for a few days. It was memorable, but not in a great way. Our hostel was joined to an amusement park, which could only be described as odd. The girls enjoyed it but all Murray and I could think about was whether we were going to survive. The most bizarre ride had to be the train with broken laser guns that you pointed at the cute cartoon like animals and shot dead. On top of that , we were the only ‘bule’ ( white person) in town and our photograph was in demand. I had to pretend I couldn’t speak a word of Indonesian ( or English come to think of it) just to push through the crowd of ‘photo please? ‘ .

Our hotel had an amazing buffet breakfast, Asian style only.. and oh the phone call at midnight just to check we still needed our driver the next morning was bizarre. They also tried to fit us into a room with 2 king single beds .. what the?

Needless to say once we arrived back in Medan ( not a city I could ever live in – if you’ve been there you might relate) I could have dropped to the lushly carpeted floor of the JW Marriott and thanked Allah that we were back in a hotel that understood us and our western ways. We spent a day swimming in the pool , wandering around an air conditioned mall and stuffing ourselves on pasta and nachos. Not a single soto ayam ( Indonesian chicken soup) was consumed that day… thank goodness.

Indonesia, you have been wonderful and trying. We love you and we shake our heads in wonder at the same time. We plan on returning to Bali at the end of the year, which is a world apart from the rest of Indonesia. Medan , I think we can safely tick you off the bucket list.

Next stop , KL, Malaysia…