We have been to Indonesia several times, and it was not the first country that I visited, though it was the first one that I almost covered the whole area in one month. I started in Manado, Sulawesi. At the hostel there, I met two Danish guys and Endo, a Japanese guy who had a great attitude and had been traveling for five years without going back home. We all decided to hang around together and check out Indonesia. We called ourselves â€œThe Four Musketeers.â€ We took a boat to Bunaken Island and rented a small cottage for 3 days. The corals were some of the best you could find on this beautiful island. The locals were friendly and the food superâ€” if you like it spicy. Endo and I rented a local canoe and paddled to Siladen Island, which looked pretty close but took us hours to get to. The local kids thought we were fishermen so we got a nice reception at the beach . They showed us around and we played beach football with them before we paddled back to Bunaken Island. We spent the whole day for this trip and ended up with aching arms but it was worth it, though not recommended for novice paddlers in the open sea.
We hired a van to send us to Ampana and Poso for Rp 100,000 each which was a reasonable price at the time. Poso has spectacular scenery and a pretty lake. A local guy befriended us and showed us the surroundings. We had a great time in Poso, but what was surprising is that the local guy refused the money we wanted to give him for guiding us. He said that the meals that we paid for were enough and that he had had a good time with the Four Musketeers, anyway. Though we had heard many bad things about Poso, we had only positive experiences with the people there and enjoyed its beauty. But please be carefulâ€” it is always a good idea to travel in a group.
We continued to Rantepao, in the highlands of Sulawesi, which is known as Tana Toraja. The Toraja people are mostly Christian in this predominantly Muslim archipelago. Rantepao is in the mountains and has pleasant, cool weather. Its attractions include hiking and climbing cliffs that have holes in them which contain burial urns. We checked out several of those holes. We went inside and looked at the jars with human bones in them. We also did whitewater rafting and joined others on two rafts. We had a great time splashing water at each otherâ€™s raft, so the trip was worth it.
After Rantepao, we took a bus to Makassar (Ujung Pandang) with a stopover in Pare-Pare. I had met a lot of local people from this place, so we took a day to check it out. Pare-Pare is nothing special and not geared for tourists. There are boats that go to Kalimantan from here if you want a short cut to Kalimantan, Borneo. In Ujung Pandang, Endo and I had planned to take the boat to Flores but our Danish friends persuaded us to go with them straight to Bali as they were running out of time. So. we flew from Ujung Pandang to Bali on Garuda Airlines.
As cheap travelers, we headed straight for Kuta beach and started looking for accommodation. We found a nice place with a swimming pool for Rp10,000 each with a good breakfast and twin beds â€” a great bargain. Bali catered to every kind of tourist and traveler. They seem to have everything from bungee jumping to surfing; rafting to hiking; and even some theme parks. The first thing our Danish friends looked for was a good, â€œreal meal.â€ Guess what they found? A Subway. Endo and I decided to go to an authentic Indonesian Warungs (local eatery) along the back streets instead. We feasted on gado-gado (a mixture of vegetables and shrimp or fish crackers with peanut sauce) and ayam goreng (fried chicken) with a bottle of Bintang beer. We had to say goodbye to our two musketeer friends as it was time for them to head back to Denmark. Endo and I took a short bus and boat ride to Java, then caught a train all the way to Jakarta. We stayed at Jalan Jaksa, the equivalent of Khaosan Rd. in Thailand.
In Jakarta, we took the train to Jogya to visit the Sultanâ€™s old palace, then proceeded to the Borobudur temple and the Hindu temple. What is astonishing in this place is that there arenâ€™t any local Hindus or Buddhists but Borobudurâ€™s majestic site proves that this was once a Hindu kingdom. Perhaps this will change in the future.
We continued our journey from Jogya to Sumatra and stayed in Medan. We planned to see Lake Toba and then continue on to Bukit Lawang to see my cousins, the orangutans, and note the similarities and differences to the orangutans in Borneo. We had less than a week left on our visas for Indonesia, so I suggested to Endo that since our hostel was offering a trip to Bukit Lawang, we had better sign up with them to make sure we could make it and avoid overstaying in Indonesia. Endo was sure we could make it by public bus from Parapat but I decided to sign-up with the hostel trip.
We stayed at TukTuk on Samosir Island, with a pretty view overlooking Lake Toba. We hiked around the lake, went swimming and boating with the local kids. It reminded us of our time in Lake Poso minus the crowd. Endo took the public bus to Bukit Lawang while I went back to Medan to do the hostel trip. We would just have to meet up later in Bangkok or Penang … maybe.
Back at the hostel, they decided to postpone the trip to Bukit Lawang for a day, and then another day, but promised that I still had time to get to Bukit Lawang. They even offered to help me extend my visa. On the third day, the trip was still on hold, so I took the ferry to Penang, Malaysia without seeing Bukit Lawang and my orangutan cousins.