Part of a trip through Southeast Asia encompassing Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia’s Sumatra, Brunei, Malaysian Borneo, the Philippines and Taiwan.

Indonesia: Sumatra

– visited June 2015 –

Time is running short. I have to decide if I want to visit Indonesia for only a few days or not at all. Getting a short impression is better than getting no impression at all, so I go. From Singapore I take the ferry to the nearby island of Batam and from Batam a perversely cheap flight to Padang on the western side of Sumatra. I am glad that I decided to visit Indonesia: Firstly, it is a very beautiful country; secondly, Indonesian girls love to smile and thirdly, the avocado-chocolate smoothies are amazing.

Padang

Padang has nearly a million inhabitants but feels a lot smaller. A few old colonial buildings, a beautiful harbour with small fishing boats and a viewpoint with a WWII era gun that can overlook long stretches of the coast.

Bukittingi

Bukittingi is located on an altitude of 930 metres in the Minangkabau Highlands. A beautiful city by itself, it is especially known for the beautiful things in its surroundings. It is a leading tourist city in West Sumatra, the problem is just that less and less tourists are actually coming. Bukittingi’s problem are the cheap airfares. Sumatra’s spectacular highlights (orangutans, active volcanoes) are in the north of the island. In the old days, people would go by bus and be happy to break the long journey in Bukittingi but these days, everybody takes the plane and just whizzes overhead.

I rent a motorbike to bring me to Lake Maninjau. The lake has formed in the caldera that was the result of a volcanic eruption 52,000 years ago. The caldera is 20 kilometres long and 8 kilometres wide and superbly beautiful. The lake is used for fish farming and the shores, flat at first and then steeply rising, are used extensively for agriculture. Rice is grown on every available patch. The people prepare, plant or harvest. It is a pleasure to explore. The next day, I head to the Harau Valley with its beautiful waterfalls. Along the way, I stumble upon more villages and beautiful scenery.

The landscape is so wonderful that I want to stay as long as possible. But being late for the night bus to Dumai (and the ferry to Malaysia and the flight to Brunei) would be catastrophic so I have to speed a bit on the way back. It is quite some fun to move through the traffic as it gets denser closer to Bukittingi. I make it well in time.