The longest I’ve ever traveled overseas is a total of 19 days. Thanks to cheap flights, booking first and planning the route later, all the more inevitable.
The first stop is Indonesia. Specifically, our Sumatra leg. We began our journey in Medan, the fourth largest city in Indonesia. It has all the trappings of a third world city. Sprawling, congested and packed. We stayed a night, couchsurfing with a baker.
Medan is supposedly 2 hours from Lake Toba, our next destination. If you discount traffic. We made it in 5 through the heat and congestion that could rival any of Asia’s metropolis. Although I heard the new Trans-Sumatran Highway will make it easier in the future.
The humidity of the lowlands gave way to the cold climate of Lake Toba, a giant caldera with an island in the middle. It’s so huge you forget the body of water isn’t salty! It’s a great place to chill, with gorgeous scenery and interesting Batak cultural artefacts peppering the countryside. It was the low season so there weren’t that many tourists around. It’s truly a hidden gem that I urge any traveler to experience at least once. The crowd stopped coming in due to infrastructure decay.
We rented a motorbike as we toured the various districts on the island. You get the touristy side in Tuktuk and Tomok, and see a slice of daily life in Ambarita.
After a few nights we left Samosir Island for the mainland, Parapat. We took an overnight bus through the Minang Highlands (more mountains) to Bukittinggi. A 14 hour bus ride.
And what a bus ride it wasm. The most harrowing, ice cold, vomit comet we’ve ever been on. Sleep is basically impossible. So much for my smart idea to do an overland tour! Interesting experience, just not one I care to repeat.
Note: Later on we did find out although the rate of fatal bus accidents along Parapat-Bukittinggi route is quite low, it does happen occasionally.
Bukittinggi is now West Sumatra, a small city with plenty of food, and a center for most points of interest. We couchsurfed in a paintball arena!
Close by is Ngarai Sianok, a huge valley with a park overlooking its expanse. We once again rented a motorbike and drove to Bukit Lawang, where we could see the magnificent Lake Maninjau. Plenty of people picnicked under the trees, as we just lie underneath the swaying fir trees.
Leaving Bukittinggi we dropped by Harau Valley, a quaint and picturesque settlement with green paddy fields, steep cliff walls and many many many waterfalls at freezing temperatures. We rented a cottage overlooking swaying paddy plants and wandering chicken. Best service, affordable price and perfect location!
From there on we made our way by bus on a 4 hour journey to Padang. Since we needed to catch an early flight, we slept in the airport mosque because you are not allowed into the airport unless you are checking in.
We caught our early flight back to KL to continue the next leg of our backpacking journey.