We left Indonesia on the morning of the first day of Ramadan – which was completely fluke – and which turned out to be a really interesting experience. We left Bukit Lawang at around 5.30am and the streets most of the way to Medan (about 2.5 hours away) were lined with partying muslims letting off fireworks to celebrate the beginning of their fasting period. Once at the airport we decided to console ourselves about leaving Indo with massages before getting on the plane.
We spent the first afternoon in Penang pretty much just chilling on the beach opposite our guesthouse, then the next day in Georgetown. We saw all the usual sights – the British Colonial buildings, waterfront and Little India (where we spent most of our time). We decided to spend the next morning at Kek Lok Si Temple, and ended up loving it so much that we spent almost the entire day there, wandering the extensive temple grounds and climbing the stairs of the Pagoda of ten thousand buddhas. Kek Lok Si was definitely the highlight of our time in Penang. In the following couple of days we went to Batu Ferringhi (the main touristy beach) and hung out on our beach, went to the floating mosque and basically just chilled. We felt a little underwhelmed at both Georgetown and Batu Ferringhi, and are glad that we opted to stay on the beach between the two, near an awesome hawker centre. Tonight we’re getting the overnight train to KL which we’re both really looking forward to, so will report back soon! Our photos are here.
During the past 11 days so much awesome stuff has happened that it’s hard to know where to begin. We were presented with the amazing opportunity to go trekking into the wild jungle one hour from Bukit Lawang in a jungle called Bukit Kencur – a jungle that people only venture into a few times a year. We saw so many cool things, and just being in the jungle was a highlight in itself. We went to Bukit Kencur with Andrea, a scientist from the UK who now lives in Bukit Lawang and educates people about the forests and Orang Utans – we were extremely lucky to be given this chance so jumped at it and had an awesome time.
We have waded through rivers, climbed rocks, seen wild and semi-wild adult and baby Orang Utans, (even got wee-d on by one Orang Utan!), seen a family of White-Handed Gibbons, some Pig-Tailed Macaques, (5 wild primate species in total), at least 200 different insects and 50 different butterflies. We have been into caves, walked many trails, rafted down the river, eaten so much awesome food and made some unforgettable friends. Bukit Lawang is so far the hardest place we have had to leave – the jungle cast it’s spell on us after the first week or so and we could spend days just sitting staring at the trees, river and animals.
We came to Bukit Lawang to see Orang-Utans and we got so much more than we bargained for. Every day we would see and hear new things, watch the hundreds of dragonflys hover and swifts fly over the river, and be visited by monkeys on our balcony off our little hut in the jungle. Once a Pig-Tailed Macaque even stole Dre’s shorts after raiding our rubbish bin, and put them on his head – then carried them up to the top of the tree before dropping them not too far from our hut so Dre could go and rescue them!
Ultimately we have far, far too many photos to share on this site, and have tried really hard to narrow them down. Here are just a few highlights. Indonesia has caught us a bit by surprise – we had expected to have a good time, but we hadn’t realised just how utterly awesome it would be – to the point where we are quite sad to be leaving tomorrow. (Although also excited to be going to Malaysia.) One thing is for sure: every day that passes, we are falling more in love with Asia.
We arrived in Bukit Lawang at around 3pm, and within a couple of hours we had seen 2 kinds of monkeys in the trees outside our house and a scorpion in our room (yes, in our room – a little unsettling after the centipede incident!). This really is the jungle.
We have had a funny couple of days with every person we walk past asking why Dre’s foot is swollen / why he was only wearing one jandal (when it was so swollen that his jandal wouldn’t even fit on) or how he is feeling. We have received advice from everyone and it has been intriguing how almost every local we have talked to has also been bitten by one of the Sumatran Giant’s and each has the ‘best’ cure that if Dre had used the swelling and pain would be gone by now. So, the definitive list on how to cure a bite from a Sumatran Giant Centipede is this:
– kill the centipede and crush it innards and smear over your wound
– rub ‘special oil’ on the wound every hour
– walk around constantly to massage your foot
– get a knife and cut out the poison (sounds particularly appealing)
– wrap leaves (of unknown kind?) around the wound
– get plaque off your teeth and mix it with raw chewed peanuts and smear on the wound (also appealing!)
– enbalm the centipede in oil and spread on wound
– get water spinach and add salt to taste, then make into a powder, and put on wound
– rub lime or lemon juice into the wound
– tie string around limb so the poison doesn’t spread, and then squeeze poison out
– soak wound in salt water
– and of course, the doctor’s recommendation “you need an injection, otherwise you will always be in pain”
So there you have it, should you ever find yourself in need, the Batak people of Lake Toba can cure your centipede bite faster than you would otherwise be able to.
For the past few days, Dre has been saying that he wishes we were seeing more giant insects and crazy animals. I keep reminding him that in a few days we are going into the jungle where we are sure to see plenty of creepy-crawlies. I think he forgot to wish that when he saw a Sumatran Giant Centipede, that he would only see it, and not be biten by it! Yesterday afternoon only a few hours after again saying it would be cool to see some giant beetles or large insects, we went up to our cottage for a few minutes, and the split second that Dre put his feet back on the floor there was one of these Sumatran Giant Centipedes about 25cm long (which apparently grow to 30-35cm and eat bats!) underneath his right foot which promptly have him a poisonous bite. After medical consultations with some locals, who gave us some herbal medicine which smells like petrol to put on the wound every hour, and a trip to the doctor who wanted to give Dre an injection (of what, we have no idea – of course we declined), Dre spent the night pacing the floor because if he stopped moving his foot would throb in intense pain. His foot is still sweating profusely out the top, and the petrol stuff does seem to be working somewhat, so now apparently we just have to wait 2-3 days before it will stop throbbing. Nothing like some drama to add excitement to life!
Our experience of Sumatra has been very different to Bali or Lombok so far. There are far fewer tourists, and no touts at all. The people are very friendly and we are never hassled. If we leave the area of Tuk-Tuk, and go elsewhere on the island of Samosir, we are the only white people we see. We have had an entire classroom of school kids rush outside to gawk and wave at us, a local man stop on the side of the road for us because he want’s to help us (we had stopped to take a photo) “Please, there must be something I can do for you.” In the end we agreed that he could show us his village and have a coffee in his house. There have been kids rush into the street as we ride past to give us a high five, and a wide-eyed small girl gasp and cover her mouth at the sight of us white-y’s. We have learned that for our driver, “If I no eat chilli it’s like I no eat.” And we learned that the reason they cut down the big trees is because “There are too many ghosts when the trees are big.” It’s been quite surreal, and very cool. Here are a couple of pics of our lazy days here.
We are absolutely loving Lake Toba. True relaxation has set in and so far in the past week we have established sort of a routine – get up at 5am to see the sunrise and work, have breakfast, go for a run, go for a swim, realise it’s 8am and you have the rest of the day to do whatever. We’ve spent our time after 8am scootering around the island, swimming, reading, admiring the view, relaxing, eating amazing food and napping. It doesn’t get much better than this! Our photos are here.
We chose to spend some time at Padangbai because it had one thing that most of Indonesia did not: high speed internet. So we able to spend time most days working on our business which was really good. Sitting in our private garden courtyard while using the internet next to the beach in Bali is definitely a good way to spend time working! We also did the usual other stuff, swimming, eating, etc. Karen finally found a circumstance when sitting down to pee is far superior – when you need both hands free for swatting mosquitos! A few pics of our time in Padangbai are here.
Stunningly rugged coastline, deserted beaches, some of the whitest sand and clearest turquoise water we have ever seen, and horribly aggressive touts on the main Kuta beach, is how we would sum up southern Lombok. Plus awesome Lombok coffee (better than Bali coffee). The Sasak people, in our limited experience, seem a lot harsher than Balinese, harrassing tourists at every step and never taking ‘no’ for an answer. In saying that, there are always exceptions and we did meet some truly lovely people. In general though we felt the ‘big white ATM’ tag that circulates around Asia very strongly here. The saving grace was the immense beauty of the area. We hired a scooter for a couple of days and the breathtaking coastline more than made up for any frustration that the touts caused. (And it was fun speeding away from them on the scooter too!) We had the most awesome time tiki-touring around and finding deserted beach after deserted beach, it really was stunning. We would swim, dry quickly in the heat, get back on the bike and find the next beautiful beach. The roads are atrocious, and definitely put Dre’s scootering skills to the test – but he passed with flying colours and we have survived to see another day! Our photos are here.
Well they don’t call Gili Air “Paradise Island” for nothing. We spent 10 days here and we are willing to make the big call that it may have been our best 10 days in one location ever. Yup, it was pretty special. The friends we made (and now can’t wait to go back and visit), the atmosphere, and the beauty all made for perfect relaxation. There is no doubt we will be going back to Gili Air. The team at Santay where we stayed were beyond awesome, and apart from reliable internet (!!) there is nothing more we could have wished for while staying there. By chance we made good friends with Jakar who we later found out was the “godfather” of the Island, with an entourage to meet any need or whim always at his beck and call. We were priviledged to be invited to his house a few times (the flashest house on the Island by far) and partied with him and his friends many times. Our photos of our time in paradise are here.