Hi again! thanks for having another look at our blog, its been a while since the last entry and its definitely been an interesting 5 weeks or so! At the end of the last blog we were staying in Penang, northwest Malaysia. We stayed there just over a week and gorged ourselves on all manner of gorgeous chinese and indian food, mainly sweet and cakes, which is what Penang is mainly famous for. We also visited the spectacular Kek lok si temple, which s the largest buddist temple in Malaysia with a 120ft bronze statue of a female God.We weren't that excited about going as there are so many temples in Penang, but it turned out to be a highlight of the trip so far, and we each took nearly 100 pictures each!
From Penang we flew to Medan, which is the capital of Sumatra, the most northerly Island in Indonesia and we were a bit apprehensive as people had warned us that Indonesia wasn't nearly as easy to travel round as Malaysia and the people not as friendly. The travelling started badly as we arrived at the airport at 8am for the flight, for Darren to realise he had left all of the money we had changed for Indonesia back in the room at the hostel! After much panicking and unanswered calls to the hostel we decided there was just enough time (and enough money left behind) for Darren to get a taxi back to the hostel to pick it up. Luckily (for Darren!) he retrieved the money and we got the flight.
Our first destination in Indonesia was Bukit Lawang, which is the base from where you can spot semi wild Orangutans. We did this as apart of a 1 day jungle trek and it was fo me the highlight of the trip so far, being able to get so close to them and observe their behaviours was amazing, we saw 3 different groups of them and watched them feeding, mothers playing with babies, and we even saw 2 mating, which was a little uncomfortable but interesting nevertheless! In a stroke of characteristic bad timing/luck, Darren happened to be standing underneath the female and she was taking a huge dump! He was left with a very smelly stain on his arm and we were all thankful that it (narrowly) missed his head, as given the thud it made when it landed, it would have doubtless knocked him unconscious!
After the trek we went to some local Bat caves, which turned out, as did many things in Indonesia to be a lot harder and nowhere near as straightforward as anticipated, but was great and Darrens favourite part of the trip!
From Bikit Lawang we headed to Beristagi (via another trip to Medan, which was as noisy, smelly and stressful as we had anticipated!). Beristagi is very close to 2 volcano's and we climbed the easiest one (obviously!). It was a very hard and hot 5 hours getting up and down but worth it for the views, I was not prepared for the stench of sulphur that greeted us at the top though! After finally getting to the bottom we soaked in some hot springs, which was lovely, and we stank of sulphur for what seemed like days afterwards!
We stated to realize in Beristagi that the warnings people had given us were spot on, while there are some amazing things to do and see in Sumatra, the travelling in between and the places you had to stay in to do the good stuff were pretty horrible.The cities and towns are very rundown, noisy and loud and particularly in Beristagi, the locals were on the whole fairly hostile to tourists, walking down the high street involved being stared at by everyone and in the cities, the very sight of tourists ensured at least 10 people crowding round you trying to get you to go in their taxi or bus company! Its only after a few days that you start to suss out what the prices are that you SHOULD be paying, so needless to say in the first few days we got ripped off a lot! It was in Beristagi that we ,et Shane and Haley, a couple fom NZ that we ended u travelling with for most of the rest of our time in Indonesia (they had arrived in Beristagi only the night before we were going to leave and hated it so much they left with us the next day! They reasoned that they had enough volcano's at home that it wasn't worth staying there just to see another one!).
Our next destination was Lake Toba, was is the largest freshwater lake in Asia, so big in fact that it has an island the size of Singapore in the middle of it! People had told us how lovely the scenery was and how relaxing the place was and we agreed so much that we spent the next 8 days there! Apart from some wood carving (Me and Darren both made necklaces) the days dragged lazily by reading books, eating and swimming!
Unfortunately 2 days before we were due to leave, (and also the night England were knocked out of the world cup) we both got food poisoning and this was where the week from Hell began!We basically had 5 days of non stop travelling which included a horrible night in Jakarta, where I got a hideous case of bedbug bites (see photo if you dare!) and we stayed in what is definitely in our top 3 of most disgusting rooms so far!We had planned to work our way down the island of Java on buses, stopping off at places along the way but we landed in Jakarta (capital of Java, the next island down from Sumatra), waited 8 hours in the airport overnight for a bus into town (after waiting 5 hours in Medan Sumatra airport the previous day for the flight) only to find out that the train we wanted to get out of Jakarta was full! So although we tried to avoid it, we had to stay in Jakarta and it was bad bad bad!! After what felt like 100 days of sickness, sleep deprivation, travelling and food that was bordering on inedible, we decided we had had enough and booked a flight for the next day to Bali!
Just getting to Bali was such a massive relief and it took us a couple of days to recover physically and mentally from the trauma so although Bali was a disappointment in terms of the place, it was a vast improvement on Java and Sumatra! As me and Darren had a nightmare extending our visa in Bali and because we had had a not too successful stay in Indonesia in general we decided to enjoy our time as much as possible and come back to Malaysia before planning our next move.There is a small Island just off Bali called Nusa Lembongan, which is a lot nicer, quieter and more reasonably priced than Bali so we got the ferry and relaxed there for a few days before our visa ran out and we headed back to the ease and comfort of Malaysia!
Next update coming soon, sorry it was long, thanks for reading!