Indonesia - couldn't it be easier?!
Trip Start Jul 02, 2003
12Trip End Aug 03, 2004
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The single night that we spent in Medan was very unmemorable. The first thing that greets you when you arrive is a herd of in-your-face, money-sucking locals offering all sorts of 'services'
Medan was a disappointing introduction to Sumatra. The place was very busy, dirty, heavily polluted and uninspiring. We spent one night and quickly (in a manner of speaking) moved onto Lake Toba, home of the Minangkabau people. Without a doubt, the bus journey was the one worst yet!! It felt a lot like being on a cattle bus - similar comfort and smell! Even the bus wasn't a safe haven from hagglers with locals actually clambering into the bus at every opportunity! Needless to say, neither of us were particularly happy after spending 6 hours on a '4 hour' journey.
The beautiful scenery we saw on the boat trip over to Pulau Samosir helped make the journey feel a bit more worthwhile. The island, which is the size of Singapore, is situated in the centre of a large lake created by a volcano which collapsed on itself after erupting 100,000 years ago. We stayed in a small village called Tuk Tuk but thankfully there were no tuk-tuks in sight!! The houses in the village have batak-style architecture - simple huts with bull-horn shaped roofs. Legend has it that when the Javanese sent an army to conquer Sumatra, which was ruled by the Malay kingdom of Minangkabau, the chiefs of both sides agreed to settle the issue with a fight between two bulls. The Malays starved a calf for ten days and bound knives to its horns. The calf, mistaking the Javanese buffalo for its mother, stabbed it to death trying to find milk. To commemorate the victory the Malay conquerors named their land and people 'Minang Kabau' or conquering buffalo.
The place that we stayed, Samosir Cottages, was fantastic and had more of a hostel feel about it
After the stress of getting a bus, we were relieved it was a pleasant-ish ride to the dump known as Bukittinggi. The name is a pseudonym for 'Big Clock Town' but should in fact be called 'Nothing-but-a-big-boring-clock Town'. Was it really worth travelling here?! It had nothing to offer and it was even difficult finding food. The Lonely Planet had made it sound quite modern with lots to see and do but we must have been in a different Bukittinggi!! We stayed for a couple of nights hoping we'd stumble across all the spectacular sights. No such luck.
'Swiftly' onto our next stop: Danau (Lake) Maninjau. The journey was another cattle-smuggling exercise through 44 hairpins on a narrow cliff edge. The lake is much smaller than Danau Toba but we managed to find a comfortable guesthouse in a good location - literally out the door and into the lake. When it eventually stopped raining we witnessed the most amazing sunset either of us had ever seen.
Leaving on a high (and wet) note we headed towards Padang airport seeing more of the Sumatran countryside which consisted of rice fields and more rice fields
While in Yogya we weighed up the options of travelling to our next destination: Bali! We had the choice of either enduring an 18 hour coach and boat trip or a two hour flight... As the countryside in between doesn't have much to offer and we'd had enough of buses to last a lifetime we opted for the flight.
We decided to stay in Kuta, the main tourist area of Bali, although we hadn't quite appreciated how touristy it actually is!! I think it is safe to say that all of Bali's charm has been completely lost in the mass of restaurants, clubs, hotels, shops and market stalls. It's not possible to walk down the street without being offered transport, watches, sunglasses, manicures, hair braiding and drugs. And that's just to name a few! Although Vicky has been trying her hardest to resist shopping, the many shops selling DVDs for a pound each tempted Moz. This meant we had to hire a DVD player for a few days to check that they all worked!
We spent a couple of days on Kuta beach, which is long and relatively clean but even there you get hassled
Another day we splashed around in the nearby Waterbom Park. Here we spent hours racing each other down the many water slides, eating ice creams and basically being big kids!
Although there's much more to Bali than we've visited, our general feeling about Kuta is that it's over-rated. Not our idea of a good holiday spot but maybe that's because we're now getting very excited about going to Australia!!