Archive for the ‘Indonesia’ Category

Holy Statue

Holy Statue

Our time in Indonesia began on Sumatra, the biggest of the many islands, all the way to the West. Indonesia is a huge country, stretching for thousands of kilometres along the equator, made up of around 17.000 islands, home to more than 250 million people and uniting a host of different cultures, traditions and languages under one banner- exactly how, nobody knows, as there is little a Papuan tribe has in common with conservative Muslims from Aceh province in Sumatra.

We only got a very small taste of the country, not even nearly enough to be able to claim that you know anything about it, really- and we have decided, since our time now was too short, that we have to return, probably even on this trip.

What can be said is that it is a country of extremes- in nature as well as in culture. It is diverse and intriguing, the people are friendly and hospitable, and there is so much to discover you could spend an entire year only in Indonesia.

It is hectic and full in the cities, but in a different way than in India- still more ordered. Crazy traffic, but less noise somehow- even though one has to bear in mind that Sumatra and Bali, the only two places we were able to see, cannot be seen as representative for the country as a whole, as Java is the most densely populated of all the islands, and we did not have a chance to go there this time.


Our path on Sumatra led us from the city of Medan to Berastagi, a small town in the periphery of two active volcanoes. One day, we climbed one of the mountains, a sweaty and exhausting, but rewarding trip- the crater was impressive, with clouds of sulphuric fumes hovering in the air, rocks coloured a bright yellow, and all of that combined with the smell of rotten egg and hot steam escaping cracks in the rock in loud whistling sounds from the pressure inside the mountain.

The area is full of hot springs, of which we made use at our next stop- Lake Toba. Indonesia’s biggest lake, it was formed after the death of a huge volcano and fills out its former crater. And it is one seriously big lake. In the middle of the lake is an island, on which we stayed for nearly a week, exploring the area with a scooter, going for walks and just enjoying the calm atmosphere. The region is Christian, so all of a sudden, one sees small churches everywhere, and very interesting shrines/tombs- many of them resembling the houses in the traditional building style of the local Batak people- curved roofs and beautifully carved wooden fronts, painted and richly decorated.

Lake Toba

Lake Toba

It was also here that we both experienced our first serious earthquake: in the middle of the night, both of us fast asleep, our entire house starts rattling, windows and doors clattering about, the bed moving. The time it took us to wake up and realise we were just in the middle of an earthquake and should probably leave the building, it was nearly over. We found out it had been a magnitude 6,7 quake the next day- but apparently it did not do too much damage and not too many people were killed.

Our next stop was Bali, which has a very mixed reputation- famous for its surf and rich culture and traditions, infamous for some of its tourists. We got a taste of the latter first- we ended up in Kuta, the most touristic place on the whole of the island, a bit of the ‘Ballermann of Bali’, for all Germans out there. Drunk idiots abounding, everyone wearing terrible Bintang tank tops (Bintang is the local beer brand), slutty girls and much partying and drinking at night. Most visitors are obnoxious Australians that treat the local people like shit, but luckily, they are not representative of the whole Australian population….

Fat Monkey

Fat Monkey

So after we got seriously drunk one night, we decided to flee the place and rented a scooter to explore the calmer southern peninsula, where all the good surf is, and then went up to Ubud, a mountain town famous for its traditional dance performances. It is a much more quiet and, in our eyes, nicer place than Kuta and the like. The population is Hindu, and every morning, all the houses are decorated with little offerings to the gods- flower petals, rice cakes, incense, all placed in a little container made from banana leaves. There are beautiful houses with amazing yards, all with their own shrines and god figurines, and the women dress in long, colourful skirts with lace blouses and a scarf wrapped around their waist.

Monkey Statue

Monkey Statue

One day, we rented a car to drive around the central mountains and up along the northern coast- Bali has a lot of beautiful spots, far away from the party and intensity of the touristic areas, so there is way more to the island than one might first think.

Unfortunately, our time had to end down south, close to the airport, so it was tourism all over again. We did not fancy going back to Kuta, so opted for one of the neighbouring towns- not much better, only older idiots, and we even got into a fight in a pub with some old stubborn guy about watching a rugby worldcup match. After that, we were both quite happy to be leaving- yet, still eager to return to Indonesia, to see more of its people and culture, but definitely not to this part of Bali ever again.

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