Category: Indonesia

Mar 18 2010

Medan, Indonesia to Penang, Malaysia to Bangkok, Thailand

Got a cab (20,000 Ruppiah, 10 minutes ride) to the airport at 5.30am in the morning.

I was joking with the air ticket seller yesterday to give me a morning call and she really did, I never expected it and that gave me a good impression about Indonesians. There is an airport tax of 75,000 Ruppiah which must be paid in Ruppiah.

Sriwijaya Air

So far in my trip, this is my 10th flights. Usually I avoid flying, but because flying is inexpensive in Indonesia and the road transportation is bad, I flew 3 times in Indonesia and that saved a lot of time.

On the plane, noticed that many Indonesians were flying to Penang for medical treatment, Penang is trying to attract medical tourism money from Medan since it’s just 40 minutes flight away. Taxied down at Penang at 9.20am Malaysian time (an hour ahead of Indonesia time) and my parents picked me up. I just have a few hours to kill before the 2.20pm train to Bangkok.

It has been many years since I last took the ferry to the mainland.

Leaving the port

There is a daily train from Butterworth to Bangkok at 2.20pm (112 Ringgit.~USD$33, 20 hours ride). The train station is located right beside the ferry terminal in Butterworth. The train was delayed for 30 minutes and departed at 3pm.

Inside the train

There were only 2 coaches, so the train was pretty short compared to those in China with at least 15 coaches.

The train moved pretty slowly. It was supposed to cross the Malaysian border to Hat Yai, Thailand at 6pm but the train only crossed the border at 9pm.

Mar 17 2010

Medan, Indonesia

Waited for the boat to Parapat at 8am but somehow the ferry missed me. Got on the next 9am ferry (7000 Ruppiah, 40 minutes ride) to Parapat.

On the way to Parapat

Parapat Port

I decided to skip Berastagi and other scenic cities on the way and took the 9.45am bus to Medan.

View Larger Map

Even though it’s only around 170km but the bus ride took around 4.5 hours

and got to Medan Amplas terminal around 2.30pm.

Had my lunch, figured out where to stay for the night then got on an Angkot, shared mini vehicle to Masjid Raya area.

After, this tiny vehicle managed to cramped 14 people in it.

Masjid Raya area is where most of the budget hotels are located. Stayed at Hotel Zakia (55,000 Ruppiah).

However, I would have chosen Hotel Residence if I were to pick again.

The Grand Mosque

I was thinking about visiting Banda Acheh up in the north but changed my route to Bangkok instead because of time constraint. For the past few days, the protest in Bangkok was pretty big in the news, but I am hoping things will get better in the next few days. Flying straight to Bangkok will cost around USD$300. A more budget is to get to Penang then go overland to Bangkok by train.

There are ferries departing every morning at 11am to Penang. The boat ride will take around 4-6 hours. However, the port is in Belawan which is another 30km away and cost around 45,000 Ruppiah. By taking the boat, I’ll have to leave around 8.30am and probably arrive at 5pm Malaysian time which is an hour faster. There are also a couple of low cost airlines flying daily from Medan to Penang, AirAsia, Srivijaya Air, Lion Air and FireFly. Those cost from 300,000-800,000 Ruppiah depending on supply and demand.

Since there is a train leaving from Penang to Bangkok at 2pm, I tried to get the morning flight. After asking at the 4th travel agency, I managed to get a seat on the 7.20am Srivijaya Air fllight (485,000 Ruppiah~USD$50).

Walked around the city for a couple of hours. The air in Medan is quite polluted by the many motorbikes and cars on the street.

The street is dusty and not very pedestrian friendly.

The old city.

Managed to walk from Masjid Raya area to Carrefour, passing by Lapangan Merdeka and breathed in a lot of polluted air.

A roundabout in the city

Medan is the 3rd largest city in Indonesia and the largest in Sumatera. There is a big ethnic Chinese population here and surprisingly the Hokkien (FuJian) dialect they speak is quite similar to the Hokkien used in Penang.

Got on a Becak, a three wheeler.

to Jalan Majapahit which is famous for Ambon and Layer cakes, Marquisa juice and other Indonesian local products.
One of the shop recommended.

Got some stuffs to bring home and had Sate for dinner (17,000 Ruppiah).

Mar 16 2010

Lake Toba, Indonesia

The bus cramped many people in it. I think there were 7 people in the row in front of me.

Finally arrived at Parapat at around 10.30am. The 500 km ride took almost 17 hours!
Parapat is actually a small town beside lake toba. Lake Toba is the largest lake in South East Asia (1130 km^2) and was formed when a giant volcano erupted around 70 thousand years ago. Archaeologist mentioned that the eruption killed most human then and caused volcanic winter which decreased the earth temperature for few years.

Indonesia has a lot of Volcanoes, a lot of it are still active.
Volcanoes in Indonesia

Samosir is something like an island in the middle of Lake Toba but is connected to the mainland as well. The size of Samosir is similar to the area of Singapore. Tuk Tuk is at the eastern tip of Samosir where most of the hotels and guesthouses are located.

Took the hourly ferry at 11.30am to Tuk Tuk.

Kids swimming in the lake

Met a German lady who is the owner of Toba Cottage (50,000 Ruppiah) and managed to convince me to stay there.

Rent a motorbike (40,000 Ruppiah) for a few hours and ride around the quasi island.

Lake Toba area is populated mostly by the Batak people. Many years ago Batak was a cannibalistic tribe where they ate human. People in Padang area are pretty conservative Muslims but the Bataks are very strong Christians. There are around 6 million of them living around Northern Sumatera.

View around Samosir

Batak architecture

Tomb of a Batak King

Today is actually a public holiday in Indonesia. It’s the day of Silence, Hari Raya Nyepi which is a Balinese new year celebrated by the Hindu. I heard that in Bali, even airport is shut down to keep the sound level low.

Because there are so many different ethnicities in Indonesia, the government is trying hard to unite the country. Races are not that obvious since everyone speaks Bahasa Indonesia fluently. Unlike Malaysia, on Indonesia national identity card, ethnicity is not a required item. Only religion has to be shown on the ID, there are only 5 major religions (Islam, Buddhist, Hindu, Protestant and Catholic) that can be chosen, atheism and agnostic are not one of the option so pretty much everyone has to pick a religion.

Mar 14 2010

Padang to Bukit Tinggi, Indonesia

Padang food (11,000 Ruppiah) again in the morning.

Indonesians are a bunch of friendly people,

after eating the shop owners invited me for a chat. My spoken Malay is not that great so it’s a good exercise for me.

The weather in Padang is warmer than Jakarta. Had coconut Padang style coconut water (7000 Ruppiah).
Coconut water seller

Typical local houses

Padang just lies beside the sea

and is an earthquake prone area. There are earthquake happening every few days. The September 2009 earthquake was a big one measuring around 8 ritcher scale.

Buildings destroyed during the 2009 earthquake

Padang Minangkabau architecture

More pictures about the Sumatra earthquake on Boston Globe

Pasar which means market in Indonesian/Malay language, it sounds similar to Bazaar used in the middle east and central asia.

Dried anchovies

Went to a meeting point for cars heading for Bukit Tinggi at 1pm. Waited for 1.5 hours for the mini van (17,000 Ruppiah) to be full before the driver started driving. The mini van managed to cramp 10 people in it plus a boy. Bukit Tinggi is just around 90km away but the trip took 2.5 hours because of traffics and rain.

View Larger Map

Since it’s raining, paid the driver another 15,000 Ruppiah to get me to Hotel Orkid. Got the cheapest room (40,000 Ruppiah).

Bukit Tinggi is a small town located 930m above sea levels and the weather is cooler here than Padang. Both Bukit Tinggi and Padang are very close to the equator.

Jam Gadang, clock tower is located at a square just arcross Ramayana shopping mall and Pasar atas. It’s a popular place for locals to gather around especially during new year. The Muslims around this area are more conservative, Valentine’s day and Christmas celebrations are banned here.

Mar 13 2010

Jakarta (Day 3) to Padang, Indonesia

Met an Indonesian Chinese guy and he brought me to try out local street food.

Street food is pretty popular, sometimes it’s hard to walk around because there are street food at most pavements.

Mie Kalimantan.

Met up with Yannuar at Senayan Plaza.

Found out that many of my university friends from Indonesia went back to Indonesia recently and were quite successful in business. Yannuar started his own coal mining business few years ago and expanded to oil digging and owning power plants in just few years. Indonesian Chinese are pretty savvy business people and have good a business network.

Jalan Mangga Besar has a lot of Chinese places, they even sell Shangdong dumplings.

Got on the Damri bus (20,000 Ruppiah, 45 minutes bus ride) from Gambir station to the airport. Luckily it’s Saturday and the traffic was not that bad, managed to arrive at the airport just an hour before my 7pm Lion Air flight to Padang. There is a domestic airport tax of 40,000 that is required. However, the flight was delayed for 1.30 hours.

Sumatera stretched for around 2000km from the northern tip to the south of the island. Padang is at west Sumatera and is frequently hit by earthquake. The last one happened on September 30, 2009, just around 5 months ago and killed over 1100 people. Padang is mostly inhabited by Minangkabau people and Padang cuisine is pretty famous, with hot and spicy as the main flair.

Got to Padang airport at 10pm after the 1.5 hours flight. The airport is 20km away from the city and got on a Damri bus (18,000 Ruppiah)

to Padang city at 10.30pm. Since I got no idea where am I going to stay, got off the last stop and tried searching for a cheap place. Walked around and found nothing that fit into my budget then took an Ojek (motorbike taxi) to Wisma Salleh (75,000 Ruppiah).

Had Padang food (11,000 Ruppiah), Padang food is spicy.

my second meal for the day at 11.45pm.

Mar 12 2010

Bandung, Indonesia

Got on the 8.30am Parahyangan train (85,000 Ruppiah) from Gambir train station to Bandung.

On the way, the train passed by some paddy field

and tea plantation

, hills and jungle.

Passing by the southern slums in Jakarta and some ramshackle wooden houses on the way. There are still many poor people living in Indonesia.

Arrived at Bandung at around 12pm.

Bandung is the 4th largest city in Indonesia with a population of around 2 million and is called Paris of Java. It’s around 180km away from Jakarta and is situated above 750 meter sea level so it has a slightly cooler climate. The city was a resort city for the Dutch Colonials in the 19th century.

Lunch (36,500 Ruppiah)

Walked around for an hour and then took an angkot (mini van) towards Ledang to Jeans street, Jalan Champelas. This area was big in textile industry in the 90s. Currently, there are a few factory outlets for reject goods and distribution outlets for local designers.

Superhero statues

Big statue of Rambo

Jalan Bagra, was a shopping district during Dutch colonialism.

Asian African conference museum.

Bandung was a host for the Asian African conference in 1955. The conference objective is to promote world peace and oppose against colonialism.

Jalan Africa Asia

Got on the 3.35pm train (85,000 Ruppiah) back to Jakarta.

and arrived at around 7pm.

Mar 11 2010

Jakarta Day 2, Indonesia

I lost my netbook adapter few days ago and had to spent the whole day today looking for adapter for my laptop. I already went to the electronic shops in Glodok Plaza and Pinagasia yesterday. Took the transjakarta to Kota and then got on a minibus to Mangga Dua. There is a big computer and electronic mall at Mangga Dua,

however no shops has the size for my netbook adapter. Asus is not that popular in Indonesia and the pin size for my netbook was smaller than what most notebook uses There is a shop which mentioned about ordering the adapter from Asus for me but I decided to go there on my own since it will take a while for them to do so and I thought I can get a better price, at the same time look around the city by going on my own.

Took the transjakarta towards the south, passed by this interesting statue

stopped by Block M at the southern part of Jakarta
Had Mie Acheh (11,000 Ruppiah)

and then went to the Asus service center at Senayan Trade Center. The lady mentioned that currently Jakarta doesn’t have any parts and needed at least a week to order the adapter from Taiwan. I asked her to double check again and found out that the other service center at Kelapa Gading has a spare adapter.

Kelapa Gading is located at the eastern part of Jakarta so had to take the transjakarta towards Pulo Gedung

and then got on an Ojek to the Asus service center there. That took me around 2 hours to get there.

Finally got the damn adapter (425,000 Ruppiah~USD$44), on ebay I can get a compatible one for USD$10.

Looking for adapter

View Adapter search in Jakarta in a larger map

Indonesia is huge and I have been thinking about my travel routes in the country for a while. I was thinking about either traveling east to Java or west to Sumatera. Decided to go Sumatera because it’s closer to Thailand and leave Java for next time since it’s closer to Bali, which is not a great place for a one man budget backpacking trip in my opinion.

Since Sumatera is 2000 km long with mountains and lakes, furthermore the road is not well maintained, I decided to book a flight (550,000 Ruppiah) to Padang in Sumatera instead of traveling overland, skipping by Palembang. That will save at least 3 days in my trip. The agent screwed up and I had to take the evening flight instead of an earlier flight booked earlier.

Booked return train tickets to Bandung with the same travel agent. Paid 85,000 Ruppiah for each way but noticed that on the ticket is just 45,000 Ruppiah, since it’s already 11.30pm, I don’t want to go to the train station and just pay more for conveniency sake.

Mar 10 2010

Jakarta Day 1, Indonesia

Moved to a different hostel (70,000 Ruppiah) few doors away

because the one I stayed at looked dirty and my skin has rashes sleeping on the bed.

Jakarta pusat.

Jakarta has a similar transportation mode to the Transmileno in Bogota, Columbia. But the one here is called transjakarta, it’s actually buses running on a special lane, 3500 Ruppiah per trip.

Museum Mandiri, an old dutch bank just right across Kota transjakarta/busway station.

Bajaj, a three wheeler transport vehicle

The rivers in Jakarta are dirty and do smell.

Museum Jakarta

Bridal photo shoot in the museum

Bicycles at the square

Walked to Maritime Museum

The museum is informative. Ports and the maritime sector do play an important role in Indonesia because of the geographic and shape of the country.

View from a tower

and then to Sunda Kelapa.

Sunda Kelapa is a port north of Jakarta, it was a burstling port of the last Hindu kingdom of west Java before the Portuguese came at 1520s but then was driven out by a Muslim leader and was renamed Jayakarta, meaning Victory City.

Sunda Kelapa

The Dutch then came in the beginning of 1600, built a fort and named it Batavia, making it the capital of the Dutch East Indies. The Dutch colonialize Indonesia for the next 350 years.

Walked from Kota, the old city to Glodok which is also called Chinatown.

The gap between the ethnic Chinese and other ethnicity in Indonesia is obvious, with many Chinese businessman owning shops. Ethnic Chinese only make up of 3% of the population but they control almost 70% of the economy. The riot in May 1998 happened around Glodok area.

Lunch, GadoGado at Glodok Plaza (16,000 Ruppiah)

Museum National

There are many Hindu statues because Hindu was a major religion just around 600 years ago before Islam came.

Jewelry for different ethnicity

Sanskrit writing and the many different forms used in Indonesia before Roman alphabet was introduced.

Local houses during old times

The national museum is also known as the Elephant building because of the bronze statue in front, given by the King of Siam in year 1871.

Monas (Monument Nasional)

built by Sukarno and the flame on top was said to be covered with Gold. Wasn’t able to get up the tower because there were demonstrators practicing some drills.

It’s not uncommon to see protest on the street here.

Met Stephanus for dinner, Mie Bakso (15,000 Ruppiah)

and Stef dropped me off at FX mall which has quite a cool design. There is also a 7 storey slide in the mall.

Mar 09 2010

Batam to Jakarta, Indonesia

Coming from Singapore, felt that Batam is not clean.

Took a cab to the airport (65,000 Ruppiah) after lunch. There is an airport tax of 30,000 Ruppiah for domestic flights at the airport. Got on the 2.50pm flight with Kartika Airline (303,000 Ruppiah). There are many low cost airlines in Indonesia so it’s affordable to fly.

and arrived at Jakarta airport at 4pm.

The city is around 30km away from the airport so got on the shuttle bus (20,000 Ruppiah) to Gambir train station in the city center.


is also called the big durian and is a city with 10 million people. The city is located at the western part of Java. Java is just half the size of Britain but it has 120 million people here and is considered as the heart of Indonesia. The city is around 660 sq km and is 25 km from the north to the south.

Java Man, an earliest form of human lives here 1.7 million years ago. Even though Indonesia has the biggest Muslim population in the world, but Islam was just introduced during the 15th-16th century. Before that, Hindu and Buddhism are the major religion here. Borobudur, one of the biggest Buddhist temple was built around 750-850AD in central Java. Almost 88% of the population today is Muslim but it doesn’t seem like a religious country. By just looking around it seems there wearing head scarf is the exception rather the norm for the ladies, probably it’s better to stay that there are more non head scarf wearing ladies than those that who are wearing head scarf.

Took an Ojek, motorbike taxi (10,000 Ruppiah) to Jalan Jaksa

which is a place for backpackers. When I tried to look around the hostel, I noticed the Ojek rider tried to open my bag. Always have to be aware of people around.

Stayed at Hostel Kresna (70,000 Ruppiah) since that’s one of the cheapest option among the few places I asked.

Nasi Goreng Gila and Avocado Juice (20,000 Ruppiah)

Mar 08 2010

Singapore to Batam, Indonesia

Decided to visit Batam, Indonesia since it’s just 20km from Singapore and I thought I can get a cheaper flight to Jakarta from Batam. Went to Harbour front and took the 2.50pm ferry, Penguin Express to Batam Island (SD$23, an hour ride).

Indonesia time is an hour slower so arrived at the same time as I left.

Singapore has one of the most active ports in the world and there are quite a number of ships around Singapore coast.

I am pretty excited to visit Indonesia because it’s so close to Malaysia yet I have never been there. Indonesia is the 4th most populous country in the world with 250 million people. It has 17,000 Island which 6000 is unhabited, with 300 ethnic groups. From the Northern tip of Sumatera, Acheh to Papua, it’s around 4000km long, roughly the same horizontal distance between LA and NYC..

The largest ethnic groups are the Javanese (45%) of central and eastern Java, the Sundanese (14%) from western Java, the Madurese (7.5%) from the island of Madura, and Coastal Malays (7.5%), mostly from Sumatra. The rest are Acehnese and Minangkabau of Sumatra, the Balinese, the Iban and Dayaks of Kalimantan and many more.

Wasn’t able to find a public bus from Batam center to the city center so had to take a cab (45,000 Ruppiah~USD$45, USD$1~10,000 Ruppiah).

There isn’t any hostel in the city so I asked the cab driver to drop me off at a cheap hotel, Hotel Bahari (16,000 Ruppiah)

and booked a flight to Jakarta for tomorrow (303,000 Ruppiah )

Batam is similar size to Singapore and is considered like the special economic zone of Indonesia with factories, shopping malls and is also considered as the sin city for Singaporeans. Even the taxi driver was asking if I wanted to rent a girl for the day. There isn’t much to see at Batam, it’s just like another typical small city. There aren’t public buses around so it’s hard to move around city since I usually avoid taking cabs.

Nagoya Hill which is the biggest mall here.

Lunch Mie Soto and GadoGado Siomay(14,000 Ruppiah~USD$1.40)

Nasi Padang for dinner (24,000 Ruppiah)

Took a ride with an Ojek (Motorcycle taxi) and the rider drove me around and went to the beach front.
With the Indonesia motorbike rider

I just bought him a drink and paid for his gas.


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