Indonesia was apparently a very popular destination for tourists before Thailand took over and began drawing people to Southeast Asia. Because of this the tourist infrastructure is there but the islands are blissfully devoid of other tourists. From Malaysia we took a local ferry and made our way overnight by bus to Bukittinggi. For whatever reason it was decided that everyone on the bus should feel like it would be a white Christmas after all and the AC was on full blast all night. Quite ironically we crossed the equator on this stretch making the equator officially the coldest part of my trip. At one point Bukittinggi may have been overrun with tourists using it as a jump off for various treks and tours or just visiting the scenic town, but these days it has settled back into its own quiet existence.
Moon over Bukittinggi
We hired guides to take us by motorbike to visit a secluded waterfall and to trek deeper into the jungle to catch a glimpse of the Rafflesia Arnoldii, the largest flower in the world which grows in the rainforests of Indonesia. Unfortunately the flower only blooms for 7 to 10 days and the recent rains had turned it black. The ride itself through surrounding rice paddies was awesome in itself; motorbike is the best way to see these countries.
Feeling enjoy for the waterfall
Equally pleasing for us was finding that Indonesia is at least as cheap as SE Asia was; food and accommodation are dollars a day, travel is only slightly more and overall the Dollar is strong against the Rupiah, though I suppose I shouldn't celebrate that their economy is doing even worse than the US'. The food in Indonesia is fantastic! Everything is prepared fresh and spiced wonderfully, and for less than $1 a plate we can eat like Americans ... err, yeah! The coffee, yes that would be local Sumatran coffee, is prepared as one might when camping without a coffee maker. But I enjoy every last bite of my 30 cent coffees.
Food to the face in under 2 seconds
After Bukitinggi we caught a truck to Lake Maninjau, a beautiful crater lake surrounded by steep mountains and jungle on all sides. The road cuts back and forth through 42 hairpin turns, allowing everyone a chance to get good views of the lake below. The valley is home to hundreds of monkeys who tumble and play in the trees and across the roadway. Since we seem to be the only tourists in the valley we were given a fine bungalow, directly on the shore with a view that is worth the $5 we paid even without the bed. The lake itself is clean and warm despite being up to 42m deep in places, suggesting that may be mysteriously heated from somewhere below.
The weather up here in the mountains is unexpectedly pleasant. I had assumed that, being within 100km of the equator, we would be struggling to stay cool and dry. There is actually real fog over the lake and the other day, in Bukittinggi, I could see my breath! I almost wanted long sleeves! Anyway, for now we are quite content to just meander through Indonesia at a leisurely pace. We have yet to visit tribal cultures, Komodo Dragons, Orang-utans (hopefully), beautiful surf spots and white sandy beaches. Whoever decided to abandon Indonesia as a tourist destination we thank you! , but you're an idiot.