Myles Harrington

The Indonesian Mission

In Indonesia on July 20, 2010 at 11:58 am

Off the boat in Dumai the next leg of my trip began. The kind people of immigration granted us 30 days in their country for $25. That gave us the mission of getting from the middle of Sumatra to Bali via Java, all overland, for the planned departure date of 12th August. 2,723 km; on the quickest route. We’d been warned by an Irish couple in KL not to attempt it because the roads in Indonesia are pretty horrendous and the public buses, the ones we have to use because of our budget, are in a dreadful state.

After getting swiftly past immigration we were hustled to a minivan and then on to a travel office to book our on going transportation. We didn’t know where we were going because we only have a very old South East Asia Lonely Planet and no one had given us tips on where was good. Everyone else in Dumai definitely knew where we were going; Bukit Tinggi. Now I’ve been in Sumatra for a week I realise why, it’s the only destination tourists go to. We didn’t like the vibe of the office we were forced to go to, we felt like they were ripping us off, so we walked up the dusty main road to another so-called travel agency (all of the shops seemed to have the same glossy bus poster outside their premises) and secured two seats on the public bus for 70 grand each (£5).

The lovely lads at the "travel agents"

After 11 hours on the rickety bus (the Irish were right) we arrived at the very awkward time of 4am. No point in checking in anywhere, we couldn’t get past locked hotel gates anyway, so we just sat at a tea stall for a couple of hours. Luckily everyone tends to wake up in Bukit Tinggi extremely early because of the ridiculously loud call to prayer from the central mosque. Even though it is technically a tourist town, not much was open and we only saw about a handful of westerners during our time there.

The stunning view from the Panorama Park, Bukit Tinggi

On our second and only full day in town we completed all of the sights. The bizarre and under utilised tourist attraction of the Japanese caves, dug by the Japanese during World War II as an ammunition storage facility. Panorama Park, which was built above the caves and has an amazing view over the valley below. Fort De Kock (hehe), a rubbish concrete fort that was apparently an old Dutch colonial outpost. Its only redeeming feature was a great aerial assault course that was only opened last week, that included a zip rope. Graet fun and only 20,000 Rp (£1.45). I was the first Brit to complete it.

The brand new assault course at Fort de Kock

As part of the entrance ticket to the fort you could cross the dangerous bridge over the town to the other side of the hill where there was a zoo. The conditions of the zoo were shameful. The two poor elephants were chained by their ankles to different points of the cage so they couldn’t move more than a few steps. It’s disgusting how animals are still being treated this way. The small museum in the zoo’s grounds was ‘interesting’, the collection included British coins that are still in circulation and a few mutant goats.

The chained elephants of Bukit Tinggi zoo

The top attraction in the zoo museum

Just outside of the zoo was the town’s market where we managed to get a delicious local treat. Called Es Campur it’s a bowl of warm oats (like a rough porridge) topped with lashings of honey, buffalo yoghurt, random sugary chewy bits, grated coconut, numerous fruit syrups and ice. It sounds strange but the combination works extremely well.

An amazing sweet treat at the market

5k remaining: £2670.80

  1. […] a zoo. Like the waterfalls, I’ve also seen a lot of zoos over my time in Asia, from Delhi to Bukit Tinggi to Taman Safari Park near Jakarta. None of them match up to Kampot’s zoo though. The $4 entry […]

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