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Subject: Sumatra - The Internet Travel Guide (FAQ) (part 2/2)

This article was archived around: 5 Jan 98 08:07:05 GMT

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SUMATRA The Internet Travel Guide Peter M. Geiser ************************************************************************** Last change 25 December 1997 Contents Introduction Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, 1997 Changes 1. General Overview 1.1 Geographical Information 1.2 Climate 1.3 People 1.4 Visa 1.5 Embassies 1.6 Border Crossing 1.7 Customs 1.8 Money 1.9 Telephone 1.10 Accommodation 1.11 Food 1.12 Health 2. Transportation 2.1 Flying 2.2 Train 2.3 Bus 2.4 Car 2.5 Becak and Taxi 2.6 Trekking 3. Places Banda Aceh Medan Lake Toba Samosir Island Prapat Nias Island - Gunungsitoli - Telukdalam Bukttinggit Jungle Train Padang 4. Literature 4.1 Guidebooks 4.2 Historical/Political 4.3 Internet A. Contributors ************************************************************************** The Internet Travel Guide http://www-students.unisg.ch/~pgeiser/itg.htm Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, 1997 Peter M. Geiser Peter.Geiser@student.unisg.ch Currently available in the series of the Internet Travel Guides: Cambodia China Laos Myanmar (Burma) Sumatra Switzerland Tibet Vietnam ************************************************************************** INTRODUCTION The main objective of this FAQ is to provide the reader with the newest travel information available, like what is the current situation on visa, where to stay and what prices are reasonable, etc. It is not a guide to the Sumatras culture or history (although I started to include some information about those subjects as well), for these non-changing facts are much more pleasantly presented in many good books (see the list in section 4 in this FAQ). It is also not intended to be a political pamphlet since politics is often a very opinionated subject. However, I started to include some political facts where I felt it was appropriate. Remember: Things change very fast, so by the time you get to Sumatra the information in this FAQ may be outdated. If you encounter this, please bear with me. Instead of being upset, rather share your experiences with other people on the net. The next tourist will thank you if he or she can rely on your new information. Also, if you find time during your travels to write a postcard or a letter to me, I would greatly appreciate it. Some paragraphs are led by the name of the author in brackets. This doesn't mean that these are their only contributions, but rather that in that case I chose to leave the words as the author wrote them, adding a more personal note to the FAQ. Answering questions There are many people who send mail to ask me some questions. As much as I like to answer as many questions as possible, my time is limited. I do this work in my spare time, so I frequently answer the questions only after a couple of days (or even weeks if I'm away for a while.) It also happens that I cannot return an e-mail due to an invalid e-mail address. Please be careful to include a valid e-mail address, or then ask me to post the answer in rec.travel.asia. This guide lives by being up-to-date. Since I cannot travel all the time, I am glad to receive suggestions, contributions and comments. Any addition is useful, regardless of the size. ************************************************************************** COPYRIGHT NOTICE In accordance with the Bern convention, this document is copyrighted worldwide. The information provided within this document is the property of the original authors. The author especially reserves the right to the exclusive use of the term "The Internet Travel Guide". This document or parts thereof may NOT be sold for profit or included in any commercial documents (e. g. books, esp. guide books, magazines, CD-ROMs, WWW-pages, the Microsoft Network or any other form) without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. However, following the common practice of the Internet, this document may be freely redistributed without any modification whatsoever, including this copyright notice. If you as the reader has paid to get this document, please let me know. As much as I would like I cannot give you back your money, but I can try to put an end to the illegal stealing of other people's work. ************************************************************************** The Internet Travel Guide Copyright (c) 1995, 1996, 1997 http://www-students.unisg.ch/~pgeiser/itg.htm Peter M. Geiser Seeblickstr. 10 9010 St.Gallen Switzerland Peter.Geiser@student.unisg.ch ************************************************************************** 2. TRANSPORTATION -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.1 FLYING Flying is cheap and easy. Flights may, however, not be readily available at exactly the time you want them. Booking ahead is recommended. Some fares: Padang Batam IDR 153300 Padang Denpasar IDR 575000 Padang Jakarta IDR 299600 Padang Jogyakarta IDR 461700 Padang Medan IDR 174200 Padang Surabaya IDR 528800 -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.2 TRAIN In Sumatra, there are several lines of railway that are not connected. The train from Lake Toba to Medan takes some 7 hours. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.3 BUS Busses are the main means of transportation. They are cheap and reliable. However, it's worth to pay a bit more to get the tourist bus or minibus. The bus between Medan and Prapat is IDR 3000. The minibus is more expensive (IDR 10000) and takes about 4 hours. Do not take the evening bus from Prapat to Medan, there are numerous accidents, and it may as well hit the tourist minibus. The bus from Bukittinggi to Lake Toba costs IDR 27000 and takes the whole day. It leaves between 7:30 and 8:30 and arrives after dark in Prapat (around 8 or 9 pm). It arrives too late for the last boat, so you'll have to stay one night in Prapat. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.4 CAR In Indonesia, cars are driven on the left lane! -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.5 BECAK AND TAXI Becaks are the main form of transportiation within cities. A ride should cost about IDR 1000, but you will have to bargain. There are two types of becaks, one with a bike and the other motorized, having exchanged the bike by a motorcycle. A ride in a taxi is IDR 1200 local price. Often, you will be bothered by a lot of becak or taxi drivers where you want to go. Just keep on walking, smile, and answer back "jalan, jalan" (meaning somehing like "just walking" or "catching the wind".) -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 2.6 TREKKING [Yet to be filled.] ************************************************************************** 3. PLACES BANDA ACEH Situated at the north tip of Sumatra, this city of 75000 is the capital of the Special Region of Aceh. This is the center of Islamic activity, with an active group of rebels, Aceh Merdeka (Free Aceh). Mesjid Raya Baiturrahman (Great Mosque) Built by the Dutch in 1879 to replace the old one they had destroyed during the Aceh Wars in 1873, the black-domed and white-walled mosque is a center of peace and quite. It is open to non-Muslims on Monday to Sunday from 7:00 to 10:00 and 13:30 to 16:00. Gunungan In the southern part of the city is this small palace with a lovely enclosed pleasure garden. Legend has it that in the 17th century Sultan Iskandar Mudah built it for one of his queens who wanted to take a stroll from time to time. Aceh Museum South-east of the Great Mosque is a small museum with a lot of local artefacts but little information. It is open on Tuesday to Thursday from 8:30 to 13:30 and 14:30 to 18:00 and Friday and Saturday from 8:30 to 12:00. Pasar Ikan (Fish Market) In the morning, this market is bristling with activity. Accommodation The cheapest place to stay is the Losmen Rasasayang at Jalan Cut Mutia 26 -------------------------------------------------------------------------- MEDAN This city of more than 2 million is located on the north-east coast of Sumatra. It is the main gateway to and from Sumatra. Mesjid Raya (Grand Mosque) Designed by a Dutch architect, the stately building was built in 1906 by the Sultan Makmun Al-Rasyid. It is truly international, with 'Marocco' style, the marble from Italy, the stained-glass windows from China and the chandelier from Amsterdam. There is no admission, but a donation is expected. Transportation To get into town from the airport, there are taxis with a fixed price of USD 2.50. Accommodation Wisma Yuli, near the big mosque has rooms for IDR 12500. Irama, Jalan Palang Merah 112-S, is a friendly palce with lots of good information. Sarah Guesthouse, Jl Pertama 10, is friendly and has a lot of information. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- LAKE TOBA Lake Toba is the biggest lake in South-East-Asia. It is on 600 m and has a depth of 523 m. There was a waterfall at one end, but it has been turned into a power staion. The water is excellent for swimming, with a constant 25 C. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- SAMOSIR ISLAND Samosir Island, an island in Lake Toba, is a good place to get a rest. The main place for tourists is Tuk-Tuk peninsula. Accommodation There are more hotels than tourists on Tuk-Tuk peninsula. Many are directly at the shore and the boats will drop you directly at the door step of the hotel. Starting from south to north, the ones directly at the shore are: Linda, Duma Sari Hotel, Elsina, Carolina, Sidita, Silintong Hotel, Rumba, Mata Hari, Hisar's, Marroan, Romlan, Rodeo, Ambaroba, Toledo Inn, Anju Cottages, Samosir, Toledo Inn II, Reggae, Abadi, Sony's, Tony, Christina's, Hogi's, Sony, Nina, Mas. Excellent value for money is Mas, with rooms from IDR 4000 to IDR 12000. They also have a restaurant with very good foor and a laundry service. Carolina's Cottages is a group of very fancy, but real Batak cottages. They have a real flush toilet, stellite TV, and there is a good resturant. It is directly on the beack and has a diving board. They cost IDR 17500 for a cottage. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- PRAPAT Prapat is a nice, touristy town at the shore of Lake Toba. It is also the gateway to Samosir Island. Accommodation -------------------------------------------------------------------------- NIAS ISLAND Located 110 km east of Sumatra, the island has a length of 125 km and is 40 km wide. Some 500'000 people live on that island, divided into three different regions with differences in language and culture. The most interesting villages are found in the south. The other reason to visit Nias is its excellent surf on Lagundi Bay in the south. Lately, Nias Island has made itself a name as a place for tricksters and thiefs. Be careful with your belongings. GUNUNGSITOLI The capital of the island lies on the east coast. The town itself doestn't offer much to see, but there are nice walks in the surrounding area, where the typical northern style houses can be seen. Accommodation Ketilang is the cheapest place in town. Wisma Soliga is cheap as well, very clean and friendly with helpful people. It has also a Chinese restaurant. TELUKDALAN The second biggest town on Nias, it is the center of the south. It is an excellent base to visit the traditional South Nias villages. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- BUKITTINGGI Bukittinggi is one of the most beautiful places in Sumatra. Located in the heartland of the formerly maternalistic Minangkabao people and surrounded by several volcanoes, there are numerous possibilities for excursions to surrounding sights. Central Market If you look for something, it most likely will be sold at some stall or other, you just have to find it in this huge market. The more interesting days are Wednesday and Saturday when a lot Minangkabau people from surrounding villages come to town to sell their goods. Of course, these are also the days when prices are a bit higher than usual. Clock Tower Just south of the market is a strange clock tower built by the Dutch in 1827. Fort de Kock In the northern part on top of the hill is Fort Kock. It was built in 1825 by the Dutch during the Padri Wars. There is little to see, except a moat and a couple of rusty cannons, but it is a peaceful place to get away from the rahter noisy town. Entrance is for both, Fort de Kock and the Zoo. Zoo On the other hill, accross the main street of Fort de Kock is the Zoo. It is not in excellent condition, but there are some interesting species of animals to see. There is also a traditional Minangkabao house in the style of the King's palace which includes a museum. Recommended. Entrance is for both, the zoo and Fort de Kock. Getting around There are motorbikes to rent for IDR 15000 and for IDR 20000 per day. It is also possible to rent mountainbikes. Within Bukittinggi, the best way to get around is to either walk (it's so small) or to take one of the shared minibusses (called Bemos). Tours The best way to explore the surroundings of Bukittinggi is to go on one of the tours provided by the many travel agencies. There is every imaginable tour possible, so following is only a list of the most commonly done ones. A one day tour to the center of the Minangkabaus, the Harau Valley or to Lake Minanjau costs IDR 22500. Trekking costs USD 20 per day. Typical destinations are Lake Maninjao (3 days), Harau Valley (4 days), Equator Trek (3 days), Kubu (5 days), or one of the surrounding volcanoes. A back-to-nature trip (where the Muslim guides enjoy photographing Western women wearing only a woven mini skirt) to Siberut island takes either 6 day (USD 120) or 10 days (USD 150). Note that it takes about one to two days to get there and the same time to get back. Accommodation The Tropic Hotel is not directly at the main road and thus very quiet. They have rooms from IDR 7000 to IDR 12000. The manager, Eddie, speaks very good English and is very friendly. Restaurants Valentine, just next door of the Tropic Hotel has good, cheap food. The woman running the cafe also does cheap laundry service. At the main road (Jalan Jend A. Yani), there are many small restaurants. Not recommended are the Coffee House and the Three Tables Coffee House. Good food and friendly service is available at the Under The Bridge Coffee House. There you also have the possibility to eat without beeing hasseled all the time. On 58, Jalan Jend A. Yani is an excellent, but crowded Chinese, the Mona Lisa. It is not exactly cheap, though. Further up Jalan Jend A. Yani, towards the Clock Tower is a KFC. Very expensive. Just next door to the KFC is a small traditional Indonesian restaurant. The people there are very freindly, the food is excellent and very cheap. Absolutely recommended. Near the market, there are many good foodstalls. On the other side of the KFC is another Chinese. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- JUNGLE TRAIN (Marc) It must be one of the most beautiful railway lines in the world, and yet it is almost unknown. It runs from Padang Panjang to Padang. En route it will pass waterfalls, high bridges and deep tunnels, first through the jungle, then between rice paddies. It is a cogwheel railway and the first time I was walking the rails I discovered that I was stepping on iron sleepers that had +Krupp 1895+ written on it. Imagine the feeling walking through the jungle on a railway track that has been there for 100 years! They have now replaced most of the rails and sleepers but nothing else. The reason why this train is not known very well is maybe because it is a cargo train for coal but you can catch a ride on the locomotive. You will probably anyway want to go to Bukittinggi, about 100 km from Padang. Many travellers describe Bukittinggi as Indonesia+s most beautiful City. From Bukittinggi walk the road to Padang Panjang (you may use the old railway track, that is partly dismantled, party still there and rotting) and catch one of the passing minibuses (called bemu) to Padang Panjang. There you walk to the train station (ask for setasiun kereta api). There are frequent trains departing from Padang Panjang to Padang (strangely I have never seen one going the other direction). Go to the station and talk to the station master (or whoever hangs out there). Explain them that you would like to get a ride to Padang. You wait for the next train, ask the driver for the lift and hop onto the old Swiss diesel locomotive. They won+t charge anything, but I had some European small coins ready as a souvenir. Another great gift are ballpoint pens, with something foreign written on it, however cheap. I once even jumped onto one of the carriages of a passing train as I was walking along the track (remembering Jack London). If you like +off the beaten track+ you should alight at Kandang Ampat. Simply tell the driver where you want to get off and he will slow or even stop the train for you. In Kandang Ampat ask for Uncel Dee Dee's Homestay. This is an ideal place to know something of the jungle, you will most likely be the only guests. A must is the waterfall. Ask Ris (one of uncle Dee Dee's sons) to take you to the waterfall, but make sure to go to the waterfall in the jungle, not the touristy one on the road. There will be a turquoise pool and sometimes you can swing over the water on a liana. If Ris is not there somebody else will be happy to be your guide (this is one of the very few occasion where I like to go by guide, it is moreover always fun with Ris). Best of all you will not see a single soul there. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- PADANG Padang is not really much, a busy, dirty town. If you arrive at Padang airport, the best thing is to get on directly to Bukittinggi. The taxi from the airport to the town costs IDR 10000, to Bukittinggi they ask IDR 60000. If you walk out of the airport and to the right up to the main road (about 200 m), you'll be able to flag down one of the frequent busses. The bus to Bukittinggi takes 2 h and costs IDR 2000. There is a possibility to change money at the airport, but sometimes they run out of money and you'll have to wait for a couple of minutes until they get new. There are several cheap restaurants right at the airport. Recommended is the one in the middle (run by two or three very nice ladies.) ************************************************************************** 4. LITERATURE 4.1 GUIDEBOOKS Indonesia, Malaysia & Singapore Handbook. Trade & Travel Handbooks, ISBN 0-900751-66-5. Passport Books (North America), ISBN 0-8442-8886-1. Fourth edition, 1996 With more than 1300 pages, it is a very detailed and valuable source of information. Indonesia - A Travel Survival Kit. Peter Turner et al. Lonely Planet. Over 1000 pages. Indonesia Handbook. Bill Dalton. Moon Publications. One of the classics, the current edition (6th) is from August 1995 and has about 1300 pages and 265 maps. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4.2 HISTORICAL/POLITICAL Stahl, Sabine/Ulrich Mihr (Hrsg.) Die Krallen der Tiger und Drachen. Wirtschaftsboom und Selbstbewusstsein in Asien. Droemer Verlag 1995. An excellent book about the current political and economical developments in Asia. -------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4.3 INTERNET The newest version of this guide is available on WWW at http://www-students.unisg.ch/~pgeiser/sumatra/ An archive with many tips and a lot of stories is ftp://ftp.cc.umanitoba.ca/pub/rec-travel Infohub has a list of Indonesia ressources at http://www.infohub.com/TRAVEL/TRAVELLER/ASIA/indonesia.html ************************************************************************** A. CONTRIBUTORS I have been able to include a lot of information from other people and sources. Where it is necessary to do so, I put the author in front of the paragraph, mostly so when personal experiences/feelings are important. Whenever possible I tried to contact the author of the information to get permission and I include his/her e-mail address for reference. Marc Obrowski Marc.Obrowski@siemens.com.au Tris Swan ************************************************************************** The homepage of the Internet Travel Guides is at http://www-students.unisg.ch/~pgeiser/itg.htm Please send your comments, suggestions and contributions to the address below. For questions, please see my note in the introduction. e-mail:peter.geiser@student.unisg.ch Peter M. Geiser Seeblickstr. 10 9010 St. Gallen Switzerland **************************************************************************