Waterfalls, Gibbons, and Planting Rice

Trip Start Nov 08, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Where I stayed
Echo Homestay

Flag of Indonesia  , West Sumatra,
Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Harau Valley is a must-see.  Like much of Sumatra, it seems like  it’s always the low season and you’ll have the place pretty much to  yourself.  We only saw a couple of other travelers in the entire valley over the course of several days.  There are lush rice paddies, sheer cliffs covered in greenery, a dozen stunning waterfalls, and accessible roads to explore by bike or motorbike.  This is one of my favorite places in SE Asia.

One of the cooler moments was planting rice. I've always wanted to try it, but it's usually large groups of people and we always feel like we're intruding when we come across people working. But this time it was a single woman planting her paddy, and so I motioned and asked if I could try (through some basic gesturing). She laughed and said sure. So I jumped into the knee-deep mud and she showed me how it was done. It smelled like death, but it was awesome. She laughed a lot, and you could tell that she was fascinated that a foreigner would want to jump in and do what is everyday work for her. But it was a really cool cultural experience that I've thought about doing all over Southeast Asia. Now I finally have.

We stayed at Echo Homestay, which is nestled between two  towering cliff faces and lives up to its name by providing perfect  acoustics for the calls of gibbons in the canopy above.  Macaques crawl  up and down the mountainside and even roam through the guesthouse  grounds, and the sounds of birds and other wildlife are omnipresent.

Our room was $28 a night after negotiations, which isn’t bad considering the picturesque location and amenities in the room.  The bed, which I’m typing in right now, is awesome.  But they also have cheaper rooms  (huts) starting at $6 a night.

Long HD video of our motorbike ride through the Harau Valley. Click on 720 on the bottom right. It'll take a while to buffer, but it's worth it.


Video of the gibbons calling in the valley. Also HD:


Waterfalls in Harau:


Pulau Weh:


Danau Toba:


Windy Pulau Weh:


General Thoughts on Sumatra:

Travelers, I highly recommend Sumatra. The mountains and valleys are stunning, and the island of Pulau Weh has gorgeous coastline and world-class snorkeling and diving.  We rarely felt the hustle that is such a mainstay on the Southeast Asian tourist track.  People always quoted reasonable prices and were willing to offer better deals for long-term stays.  The accommodations probably aren't on par with other countries in the region, but the prices are fair.  And the awesome weather around Bukittinggi means the lack of air con (or even fans) isn’t a problem.  I should point out that Banda Aceh is the exception, because the presence of NGOs for years has made prices unreasonable, but there’s nothing to see or do there, so just skip it.  But around Toba and Bukittinggi, you can rent motorbikes for $6 - $8 and see some of the most breathtaking scenery in Southeast Asia. So again, Sumatra is an excellent destination.

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Marga on

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