Monday, May 21, 2001

Indonesia - Singapore Airlines flight bound for Zürich

Danau Toba
The 3 days in DANAU TOBA (Lake Toba) have been very enjoyable in many ways. Nice hotels with luxuries such as 24 hours hot water, wonderful food  from all over the world and no muezzin within hearing distance.
DANAU TOBA has a lot more to offer than just restaurants and shops. Lake Toba is laying like a jewel in Sumatra. DANAU TOBA is Southeast Asia's largest freshwater lake and at 700m possibly the world’s deepest too. It was formed about eighty thousand years ago by a colossal volcanic eruption: the caldera which was created eventually buckled under the pressure and collapsed in on itself, the high-sided basin that remained filling with water to form the lake. A second, smaller volcanic eruption 50000 years after the first, created an island and the size of Singapore in the middle of the lake.

Today, the Island SAMOSIR is totally covered with dense jungle and offers some of the nicest landscapes that we've seen in Sumatra. The locals are the Batak people, who are surprisingly mostly Christians; their houses are the famous long houses with the saddle shaped roof that end in a water buffalo horn on either side.
On SAMOSIRs eastern side is a small peninsula called TUK TUK - not to be confused with the Thai tricycle taxis.
TUK TUK is where most of the tourists stay. We also decided to stay there and splurge in the numerous restaurants run by Swiss and Germans.Sadly this was our final stop in SUMATRA.

Lake Toba seen from space
Having had plenty of adventurous bus rides, we booked an Aircon Bus with reclining seats for our last 12hours trip to the port of DUMAI. These Aircon buses are rarely full and if they are, they do not pick up more passengers than seats available... Wishful thinking!!!
We left the Terminal with a few vacant seats, but soon stopped to pick up more passengers from the roadside... "OK, they just want to fill up all the seats before heading nonstop to DUMAI " ...Wrong again! once all the seats where full, the bus driver pulled out some 20 plastic stools and started to line them up in the already narrow aisle. This is how you convert bus with 4 seats per row to a five-seater. We stopped over and over again during the whole night to load and unload passengers... This much about the them "Nonstop Bus"
The worst of all was that we've lost quite some time with all the unscheduled stops. From the second half of the journey, the bus driver decided to catch up some time by speeding like a maniac in order to make it to DUMAI on time. And of course he would not want to be late and miss the arrival of the ferry from Malaysia

Our ferry to Malacca
Another interesting observation: the driver sent all the aisle passengers on the plastic stools out of the bus and carefully put the stools away as soon as we were in the Outskirts of DUMAI, could it be that these extra passengers were helping to improve the drivers income, and their fares have not be declared to the bus company?
Yeah, I know! Again these bus stories, but there is one last comment about the buses: Aircon does not mean a comfortable temperature, but that the Aircon runs on full speed and cools down the bus as low as possible. No wonder that all the locals were equipped with winter jackets and blankets. Julane and I, without jackets, have been shivering all night long the "chilly blues"

After 45 incredible days in INDONESIA we left from DUMAI to MALACCA in MALAYSIA
SUMATRA exceeded our expectations by far, and I would (hopefully will) go back anytime. Especially MANINJAU and PULAU WEH are both a beautiful little paradises!
If you ever plan on backpacking through Southeast Asia, don't miss out on SUMATRA. Especially "off the beaten track" you'll find amazing hospitality, friendliness and incredible landscapes. Sumatra is still adventure and nature. It's not yet overrun by western tourists like Bali, or Thailand.

Melacca, Malaysia
It's amazing what difference a short ferry ride from DUMAI to MALACCA can make. From the usual chaos, smells, noise and dirt in the third world, to the big, modern and clean city of MALACCA. All these high-rise buildings, shopping malls and McDonalds.... We were almost in a little culture shock!!!
MALACCA was just a one-night stop on our way back to SINGAPORE.

This time, we only stayed a few days in SINGAPORE, where we also celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a "High-Tea Buffet" in the Marriott and afterwards a night out with friends on the riverside.

Tioman: view from our bungalow
Having come to the end of our 5 months on the Road, we went to TIOMAN ISLAND in MALAYSIA to relax and recover from our strenuous travels (hahaha). TIOMAN is east of the Malay Peninsula in the East China Sea, some sources say that TIOMAN is amongst the 10 most beautiful islands in the world. We moved into a cozy little bungalow on the sleepy beach AIR BATANG, and spent our days snorkeling, hiking, diving and relaxing.


... Well and now, we are sitting in an airplane 30,000 feet above ground, below us is India and behind us 160 days full of experiences.

What is ahead of us? First a few days in Switzerland, before flying to our new hometown PHOENIX, Arizona. I will be reentering the working world again, this time in the States.

 NOTE: we left our camera in Singapore, 
all  Sumatra pictures are from the Web