Tuesday, August 24, 2010

36 Hours

This has to be one of the most adventurous weekends I've ever had. Greg and I took a little trip outside of Padang. In short, we went to Bukittinggi, stayed at a Beach Inn at Lake Maninjau, swam in the lake (former volcano), hiked up a mountain, made our way around the lake to Lubuk Basung, and made it back to Padang. All within 36 hours.

From Bukittinggi and Maninjau

Saturday morning. We got up fairly early, at around 6:30am so that we can have a proper breakfast. We managed to get on a bus to Bukittinggi that left at almost 8am. It wasn't actually a bus, more like a minivan. The shotgun seat in these things are big so both of us sat in the front the whole way. It was not bad since the view was very good. We have been on the road going north from Padang several times now so this was nothing new.

We got dropped off somewhere in Bukittinggi at about 10am. Greg has been to this city for about three hours back in March so we worked off of his sense of directions and a Lonely Planet map. People go to Bukittinggi for the experience of a traditional Minangkebau town. It is also a “base camp” city for outings to nearby villages and nature. We hopped on an angkot going to the “pasar” (market). This is always a good place to go if you don't know your way around. We spent the next hour walking all over the various markets.

I think we like the traditional markets too much. We literally spent an hour wandering around in them without even thinking about buying anything. They sell everything you would ever want. We spent a little bit of time asking about the prices of bags made from traditional fabric. But we decided to save the very demanding task of bargaining for afer lunch.

Buying lunch took an hour. And this is why:

From Bukittinggi and Maninjau

We got some bananas because we wanted fruit. We would have gotten some oranges or something else more juicy but they only come in kilos and we couldn't eat that much. The bread has sweet coconut filling. And if that wasn't sweet enough, we got some green mochi-like things that has a sugary filling coated with coconut. We think the brown thing is some kind of baked yam that is topped with (you guess it) coconut and a sweet sauce. Greg said it reminded him of bread pudding and that was why we made several loops around the market looking for the one stall that sold it. To finish off our lunch shopping, we also got some buffalo yogurt (unsweetened).

That was the fun part. The difficult part was finding a place to eat all this stuff. Since it's Ramadan, we didn't want to eat in front of everyone. Actually, if it wasn't Ramadan, we would have had “real” food instead of this sugar overload. We managed to find this building whose top floors are abandoned and there were stairs that led to the roof. We ate on the stairs that leads to the roof. We were joined by some high school students towards the end but otherwise this was a pretty good spot. I think we spent half the time laughing at how ridiculous our lunch was.

After lunch, we did some serious shopping. Actually, it wasn't too hard. We got everything we wanted at one store. I think we even did a decent job of bargaining. Not going to tell everyone how much we spent on these souvenirs because they're gifts. But if we were to resell them in the States, we would make a lot of money, no joke.

After this, we headed to a park that has lookouts over what we think is the Sumatra Fault and caves/tunnels built by Japanese soldiers back in WWII. The town is pretty small and we were about to ask directions at a fire station when we saw that the address on the fire station told us we were on the right street. We stopped by a hotel to ask about how to get transportation to Maninjau and then went to the park. The cliffs made by the fault was really amazing. The not so amazing things were the monkeys though.

From Bukittinggi and Maninjau

I had a battle with a monkey. We were standing on a little tower thing that gives you a great view of the cliffs. I wanted to repack a bit and was putting the remainder of our lunch (bananas and bread) back into my bag when a monkey came up the tower and grabbed the bag! I tried to yell at it and take it back but it was fierce. The bananas and bread fell out and that was the end of it because the monkey proceeded to eat everything in sight. We were then held hostage on top of the tower until the monkey ate all the food (banana peels included). There was a family below us that was also getting attacked by the monkeys. One monkey snatched a bag of bread from a little kid. We think they recognize the black bags as food. One tried to take a t-shirt from Greg's bag but was unsuccessful.

On our way down to the Japanese caves, a local guide told us about a path that can lead us down to the cliffs. There are a lot of people here who wants to make a few bucks while serving as a guide. Their English is generally not bad either. It would have been really nice to go on a hike down the to the valley but we needed to get to Lake Maninjau at a decent time. So we explored the caves a bit before exiting the park.

The caves were kind of creepy. There are plans to make it more into a museum, which would be really interesting. But right now, it's just a bunch of empty rooms. They shotcreted the walls to make it more stable. I would've like to see them in their original condition because they didn't try to keep the original feel to it at all. There are a couple of openings where the tunnels open out into the side of a cliff. There's just enough space for a handful of people to hang out. I could totally imagine Japanese soldiers hanging out there, smoking a cigarette on their break, looking out into the lush Sumatra jungle, and thinking about how far they are from home.

We waited outside of the park for a while before catching an angkot going the right way. On the way to the main market, we picked up two women who were bringing food to another market. They had two grocery baskets filled with fried noodles and fish. This particular angkot is the only one that goes out far away from town so a lot of people piled in. At one point, there were 15 adults, 2 children, and 4 baskets of food. I think this is a new record, even for us.

In addtion to buses that go from city to city, there are smaller travel agencies that take people in cars from point to point. They are generally more comfortable and will take you from door to door. We got one of these to go to Bayur.

The drive from Bukittinggi to Bayur was pretty amazing. I still don't know how we didn't fall off a cliff. We had heard about the 44 switchbacks towards the end of the journey but the entire journey seemed like a jumble of switchbacks. This road seriously makes Lombard Street look like a joke. The switchbacks were numbered, of course.

We really didn't know where we were going. We had read about Bayur on from the Lonely Planet guide and told the driver we wanted to go there. Turns out, Bayur is a small town that is stretched out along the lake and there are several hotels and homestays right on the lake. We got dropped off in front of one by our driver.

Actually we got dropped off in front of a sign that says Bayur Beach Inn. There is a little path between the fish ponds and rice fields that led to the actual inn. We walked along this path and found a pretty nice little place to stay. Our room was literally right on the lake. We settled in and went for a swim in the lake. We ate at a little place down the road. We wanted to find the actual town but it turned out to be pretty far away. It got pretty dark at night but unfortunately it was really cloudy so we couldn't see the stars. I think the stars would have been amazing.

We went to bed at 9pm because we were really tired from a day of running around. I slept pretty well and got up after 9 to 10 hours of sleeping. The sun came out from behind the mountains slowly in the morning. We ate breakfast at the cafe and found out about how to hike up the mountain from an Irish lady who had been staying at the inn for a while.

We went on a 5 hour hike up a mountain. I don't think we expected it to be 5 hours because we expected the path to end somewhere before the top of the mountain. The path kept going higher and higher. We came across a lot of beautiful butterflies, monkeys, and other creatures. I think we even saw a baboon run across the path once. Found some coffee bean bushes and a village halfway up the mountain. We couldn't find “the top”, as in we didn't find a clearing that let us look out at the lake. The path kept going to the next mountain. Coming down, we were really surprised at how steep some parts of the path were. Amazing views of the lake again so we took our time getting down. My shoulders got sunburnt but only the very top part. The sun was directly overhead most of the time.

From Bukittinggi and Maninjau

From Bukittinggi and Maninjau

We had peanuts for lunch. It is really hard to find lunch during Ramadhan so we got some peanuts and water from a little store. We had the peanuts and some cookies before packing up. We took our time leaving the inn because the owner was very relaxed about the check out time. Then we waited out in the road for a bus or angkot to take us to Lubuk Basung.

We managed to get to Lubuk Basung but our angkot driver informed us that there were no more buses to Padang for the day (or at least for another 1.5 hours). We got there at 4:30pm and apparently buses leave every two hours. So he drove us down the road to different travel agencies asking if they were going to Padang. We finally found one way outside of town. They said that they were leaving at 6pm at first but one driver was willing to take us at 5pm. We bargained pretty hard with him. He wanted to charge us a lot because it was only the two of us. He ended up giving us a pretty good deal and spent all of what we gave him on gas. Don't think he actually made very much money off of us since it was a pretty long ride and he didn't managed to pick up more passengers.

After we dropped off our stuff, we went to Mak Etek for some rendang and juice. We got there at around 8pm, ending our 36 hours of adventures outside of Padang.

Even though I've traveled a lot and been to a lot of places, this is probably one of the most memorable weekends ever. We had this vague plan of going to places and things somehow worked out. The markets and cliffs at Bukittinggi were amazing. Lake Maninjau is a must see. The hike up the mountain and jungle was really awesome. Really wish we could have stayed longer. Compared to camping or vacations in the US, this was super cheap. All in all, it was a really nice way to spend the last weekend in Indonesia.

From Bukittinggi and Maninjau

1 comment:

docey101 said...

WOW~! It's sooo nice, sounds like an awesome experience : )