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2009 Jan by Leo Koolhoven
In Georgetown (Malaysia) I took the ferry to Medan from where I did go to Bukit Lawang to see the Orangutans in the wild. Before continuing to Bukittinggi I stayed another day in Medan, with more then 3 million citizens the biggest city of Sumatra. Bukittinggi was the capital of Indonesia during a short time of the liberation fight against the Netherlands and is a town with history. From Bukittinggi I moved to Dumai where I helped a English teacher with communication lessons for the local youth before I took the ferry to Melaka, Malaysia. |
2001 Jan by Veikko Huhtala*
From Jakarta we had Merpati flight to Palembang. Palembang is the capital and the largest city of South Sumatra province with one and half million people. It is also the oldest city in Indonesia. We stayed there couple days in nice hotel in the middle of the jungle. Indonesian people are very friendly and we had good time there. Service was so good that I never seen better anywhere. Sumatra is the sixth largest island in the world, it is about 1,800 km long and on equator, which is locating on the middle of Sumatra, 430 km wide. Its area 470,000sq km (1,5 times more than Finland, for example, but there are living ten times more people than in Finland) |
1997 Apr by Jorge Sanchez
Sumatra represented for me a rewarding rest after travelling around the Pacific islands on the cheap, sleeping in beaches, during several months.For just a few US dollars I rented a house for me alone, in an island called Samosir inside the salted Lake Toba. The house belonged to the hostel Bagus, in the village of Tuktuk. The natives of the island were Batak.That place is idyllic with a fantastic view of the lake. You have to climb to the wooden houses through several steps; they have the form of the horns of a buffalo. Every now and then sellers will offer you exotic fruits and cool drinks, and during the evenings you have many activities to dinner out or watch local shows.You can reach Lake Toba by direct bus from Jakarta (about 40 hours plus the time lost in the constant bus damages).If after Sumatra you plan to visit Malaysia, then you have two main boats services. The first sails from the port of Medan (Belawan) until the lovely Pinang Island, or you can descend to Dumai and board a ferry to historical Melaka, what I did.
In the year 2013 I travelled again to Sumatra and this is what I wrote:
I had just visited the Gunung Leuser National Park observing orangutans, then returned to Medan and the next day I travelled to Aceh with the intention to know more about the places in Sumatra Island where first Marco Polo at the turn of the XIII century, and then Ibn Batuta during the middle of the XIV century, had spent some time, mainly in Samudera Pasai, near Banda Aceh.
I caught a night bus from Medan with destination Samudera Pasai and a few hours later another one to Banda Aceh.
Banda Aceh was almost destroyed by the Tsunami of the year 2004, but in 2013 had been practically reconstructed.
During the first day I visited the town itself, the main mosque, the coast and several monuments. One of the most striking views was a boat on the top of a building.
The second day was entirely devoted to an extraordinary place called Museum Tsunami Aceh. Entrance was free of charge.
Practically all the visitors were Indonesians. Very few foreign tourists venture to visit Aceh, region that before the Tsunami was off limits to foreigners because of the the guerrilleros of the independence party trying to secede from Indonesia (Free Aceh Movement).
In one part of the museum there were flags representing the countries that had lost citizens due to the Tsunami.
I also saw the list of the countries that immediately after the tragedy sent help to Aceh, basically money and medicines. Spain was included in that list.
Inside there were paintings, pictures and objects saved from the catastrophe,
I spent a whole morning inside. Nobody left the museum indifferent. It had been a didactic although rather sad visit.
In Aceh province I did not find any signs of Marco Polo or Ibn Batuta (there are some critics who doubt the veracity of the travel tales of those two men, especially their description of China, full with mistakes), but what I experienced in that museum was enough justification to have visited Aceh province.
The third day I travelled by buses to Palembang, in the south of Sumatra.
And about Palembang: Sriwijaya was a Buddhist empire comprising many territories in South East Asia, mainly in today Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand.
Its capital, Palembang, a nice city of about one and a half million inhabitants, is located in the southern parts of Sumatra Island. Probably is the oldest city in Indonesia.
I travelled to that town because I was following the steps of several great Chinese travelers of the past in Asia, mainly Hiuen Tsang (also known as Xuanzang), Faxian, Cheng Ho and Yijing.
The Buddhist monk Yijing spent several years in Palembang in the VII century, during his journey to Nalanda Buddhist University, in today Bihar, India.
The first day in Palembang I asked about Yijing in the few Buddhists temples (today Palembang is mainly Muslim), in the Tourist Information Office and to the people with whom I made friendship, basically rickshaws’ drives and fruit sellers in the central market.
But nobody knew anything about that Chinese monk. They knew about another Chinese, the admiral Cheng Ho, a Muslim eunuch who made seven great maritime travels during the XV century. Even one of the mosques in Palembang was named after him (Muhammad Cheng Ho Mosque), and is to be found in the skirts of Palembang, which I visited by means of a rickshaw.
Finally, the second day, in the local museum, I found a plaque with news about Yijing stay in Palembang.
I was happy. My two days stay in Palembang was thus justified.
The third day I left Palembang by ship with destination to Tidore and Ternate islands, in the Moluccas Islands, to learn more about Juan Sebastian Elcano, who made successfully the first around the world journey in the history of the Humanity after Magallanes (Magellan) death in Mactan island, Philippines, from 1520 to 1522.
By the way, today Palembang is a very nice city situated at the shores of the River Musi.
Its mosque, called Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II, besides the magnificent bridge Ampera, is very impressive, and the fruit market very exotic. Since I lived in a hotel next to that market, every night I used to buy in it several delicious fruits for my dinner.
and about Medan:
.......................Since in the year 2013 the boat from Penang to Medan did not work anymore, I had to fly. The price of the flight was cheap, anyway.
I had the intention to visit the separatist province of Aceh, with a strong Muslim character, plus the orangutans of the Gunung Leuser National Park rehabilitation center.
Fortunately I was travelling to Aceh province together with an American traveler and could share expenses.
In Medan we rented a car with driver, not very expensive, and after two and a half hours we reached Gunung Leuser National Park.
The road to the National Park was great. We traversed villages. We even were invited in one of them to observe the ceremony of a marriage.
We had to pay an entrance fee to the park, then we hired a guide, something compulsory; they do not allow you to penetrate into the park alone.
We were not promised to observe orangutans, but we asked to some tourists and everybody said that most probably we will see them.
After half an hour or so climbing mountains we saw the first family. We had been given instruction no to come too closer to the orangutans. It consisted in an orangutan mother and a baby. Our guide gave them bananas and we could observe the family for at least ten minutes, after that they disappeared in the deepness of the jungle.
Then our guide headed to another part of the park and after 20 minutes or so we could see another family, again a mother with her baby up, in the trees. This time we would spend at least half an hour or so watching them. They were not afraid of men.
We were told that some orangutans get used to the humans beings and wait bananas from them, as in that rehabilitation center that we visited, but they exist some other orangutans that live in the deepness of the park, not having contact with the humans
We returned to Medan very satisfied. It was a marvelous experience to be so near to these incredible creatures, so close to the human beings.
The next day I headed by bus to Aceh. My friend would fly there.
TRAVELLING BY BOAT TO BATAM ISLAND: in 2013 I travelled from Pekanbaru, in Sumatra, to the port, and then caught a ferry to Batam Island. I left Pekanbaru at about 8 AM and reached Lubuk Baja, in Batam Island, at about 6 PM. I had bought a combined ticket Pekanbaru - Batam Island by minibus and ferry. The bus even came to my hotel to pick me up. I was the only foreigner in that journey. All the rest of the passengers in the bus and ferry were Indonesian. The boat made a stop in Tanjung Balai Karimun, in the island of Karimunbesar, where Policemen controlled the travel documents of the passengers. Riau Islands are tax free area and not every Indonesian is allowed to travel there. I had time to get out and walk for a few minutes around the port. Once in Batam Island port I caught a bus to the main city, Lubuk Baja, that in the past was called Nagoya. Even today the main shopping center of Lubuk Baja is called Nagoya Hill Shopping Mall. I found a hotel in the downtown and went to the Nagoya Mall to have dinner. I was surprised of the girls offering themselves. In spite of my aspect, looking like a traveler, I was taken by a rich businessman and bothered all the time by the girls. Many Singaporean tourists go to Batam Island for the week end; everything is cheaper in that island than in Singapore. Batam Island is duty Free place, like Canary Islands in Spain. Batam Island forms part of the rich Riau province of Indonesia. They are very rich in that province because they have petrol gas, etc. Two days later I left that place and continued my journey around Indonesia, mainly by boat.
..........................................TRAVELLING BY BOAT TO BANGKA ISLAND: Sometimes the travel itself is more interesting than the destination. And that was right in my boat journey to Bangka Island. I left Palembang, the old capital of the old Kingdom of Sriwijaya, in the south of Sumatra Island, by boat through the River Musi Children swam close to our boat and some passengers throw them notes that they rapidly catch. Our boat made several stops to drop and pick up passengers, when I had time to get off the boat to walk around the port for a few minutes. I noted that the entrance to those islands was controlled. Policemen checked the documents of the passengers. That practice was very frequent when entering some Indonesian islands. Soon we crossed the Gaspar Strait and reached Bangka Island. Bangka is the larger producer of tin in Indonesia. The main inhabitants were Indonesian, followed buy Chinese. In the port of Muntok I boarded a bus to Kota Pangkal Pinang, in the other side of the island. During two days I visited the main tourists’ attractions of that town, the larger in Bangka Island, such as the mosques and the beaches. The third day I continued my journey by boat to Java Island..................... |