We left Melaka and Malaysia on a 2 ½ hr boat for 130RM (£24) each to Indonesia...and so begins the long journeys in Sumatra…
We left Melaka at 10am and arrived in Dumai at 11.30am, as they are an hour behind Malaysia! The boat journey was good, well organised and I enjoyed the live Rod Stewart on the TV. Once arriving in Dumai, it was obvious we were in a totally different country. The roads were much worse, driving was crazy again and people were trying to tout us for taxis. We refused and walked to find a super cheap, very local restaurant for 30,000RP (£1.75) for both of us to have so much food. Classically Indonesian, it was out on the side and looks like it had been there for days, but it tasted good and we were all fine afterwards.
We had several hours before our overnight bus, so we went to a Teacher’s house who had been trying to poach us at the harbour to help at his English School. Feeling very wary and not sure if it was legit, we found the place after he’d given us a business card and saw it on Maps.me so assumed it was all good...and it was. We helped his evening class speak some English and it was great, although I think he was taking advantage of us giving free classes and left to do his own stuff, which was fine!
Got ripped off by a tuk tuk to the bus station (100,000RP, classic), but the driver was so thin so we thought he needed the money more than us. Took our overnight bus at 7pm to Medan costing 200,000RP (£11) for a ‘Super VIP Bus’. 0 sleep being back on bumpy roads with a ,crazy driver, but the bus was new seats reclined lots and we were given snacks, pillows and blankets. 5.30am arrived at Medan a little lost. Got a ‘Grab’ (Asian Uber) to another bus station to catch the public bus to Bukit Lawang…
Wow that truly was an experience! Luckily I’d read online about people trying to scam you as you get onto the bus asking for 100,000RP, when it only costs 20,000RP that you pay the driver at the end. There was some arguing with this man with chains and tattoos but we won and took the oldest bus ever for 3 ½ hours from Madan to Bukit Lawang. 22 people rammed into a 12 seater minibus with holes in the floor and many missing seats. It was also the bumpiest ride ever and after over 20 hours of travel we were incredibly happy to arrive!
What we did:
Decided to do a 2 day trek in the jungle with Rainforest Guesthouse. It cost 1,350,000RP (£75) each for the guided Orangutan trek plus food and ‘accommodation’ (tarpaulin on sticks in the jungle). It was well worth the money though as we really enjoyed it, and our local guides Merci and Walter were hilarious and showed us so many things. On our first day, we trekked 7 hours and saw native ‘Thomas Monkeys’, rubber trees, cocao plants, and then Orangutans! We saw a semi-wild mother and baby, the big male, another mother with her 2 babies, and we saw a wild young male too which was amazing. We also saw a white Gibbon high up in the canopy.
The trek was tough, lots of hot climbs and drops and we were so happy to jump in the cool river to wash at the end of the day at the campsite. No electricity, no toilet, no nets, just a big fire cooked dinner and roll mats under a tarp with sleeping bags in the middle of the jungle.
Next day we trekked through the jungle again and saw the mother with her 2 babies and a wild young female who came within metres of Jack which was incredible. Hiked down to the river at the end of the day and went ‘rafting’ on tractor tyres roped together down the rapids back to the guesthouse. Few drinks that night with the guides at the ‘jungle party’ with an awesome local live band. Loved Bukit Lawang and enjoying Sumatra so far.
Rainforest Gueshouse is where we stayed. It was right on the river side in the heart of Bukit Lawang on the edge of the jungle. It cost 75,000RP (£4) a night for both of us in a basic fan double room with a bathroom! Slightly dated and dark bamboo rooms, but the locally run place had such an amazing view and the staff were just so lovely, welcoming and funny too. We spent many hours (not on the trek) chilling on hammocks by the river listening to the jungle and playing badminton.