Traveling to Sumatra for 10 days in August
Replies: 13 - Last Post: Jun 27, 2012 8:37 AM Last Post By: wyrowski
Jun 19, 2012 1:13 AM
Traveling to Sumatra for 10 days in AugustHi all,
My wife and I will be in Sumatra for 10 days (I know, really short). We are flying to Kuala Lumpur on Aug 7 and will fly to Banda Aceh in the morning on Aug 8 (this flight is already booked). We are planning on taking the ferry to Paula Weh to start our trip. Here is kind of what I had in mind for our itinerary (I haven't booked the flight back to Kuala Lumpur yet, but it will be on Aug 18):
Paula Weh (4 nights)
Bukit Lawang (2 nights)
Lake Toba (4 nights) or Lake Maninjau (4 nights) - Depending on this we would either fly back to Kuala Lumpur from Medan or Padang.
Does anyone have any advice on nice lodging in these areas or maybe different ideas for itinerary? Is it worth the extra time on the road to go to Lake Maninjau instead of staying close and going to Lake Toba? I know it's a really short trip, but we've never traveled to Asia (besides Turkey) and would appreciate any help!
Thanks in advance!
Jun 19, 2012 5:09 PM
1What do you mean by nice lodging? Most accommodation is basic but (usually) clean.
It is possible to take an overland journey between Banda Aceh and Medan (or Lake Toba) stopping off at towns on the way including Takengon, Blangkejeran and Ketambe (which is a quieter proxy for Bukit Lawang). This involves a lot of bus travel which some people do not enjoy but is untouristed and scenic.
Personally I would not stay 4 nights in Pulau Weh as I don't care for it much. 3 perhaps.
Here is a nice blog discussing the area: http://slowtraincomingsalandrich.blogspot.com (see 'older posts' also)
I am not really sure how luxurious or rough and ready you want to go, so it's hard to offer an itinerary.
Another option is Banda Aceh (Pulau Weh) - Tangkahan by bus, then Tangkahan - Bukit Lawang by jeep.
I wouldn't plan too much, just take it as it comes.
Going to Lake Maninjau doesn't seem hugely practical, there are unfortunately no flights from Banda Aceh to Padang, so from Pulau Weh you are looking at road (long) or flight to Medan, then another flight to Padang. I would not attempt the road journey between Medan and Padang just to reach Lake Maninjau. If you had a week or more in the Padang area alone, and were travelling via Lake Toba already, fine, but for this itinerary you would really want to fly from Medan.
Jun 20, 2012 8:57 AM
2Thanks for the suggestions thelawnet. By "nice lodging" I just meant something clean and air con if we could get it, but I'm not expecting that. The only reason for Bukit Lawang is to do an orangutan trek, but it sounds like there might be better options, as you've posted. We don't want to to completely rough it for 10 days, but we don't need a luxurious vacation either. We are open to any itinerary suggestions. We are going to Paula Weh to relax and do some snorkeling and maybe diving and we would also like to do an orangutan trek, but other than that, that's really all we have. I think we'll end up flying out of Medan from what you said though.
Jun 20, 2012 2:10 PM
3There is no 'better'. If you take the road from Aceh to Medan via Ketambe it will be quiet with few or no tourists.
If you go to Bukit Lawang there will be a few dozen tourists.
One is not better than the other, you might prefer the livelier Bukit Lawang, with easy access to orangutans (they are very accustomed to tourists and it is easy to see them on a trek), or you might prefer the more natural Ketambe.
Some people just want to spend a few hours in the jungle and get out, others want to spend a week communing with nature. What pleases one person might annoy another.
No air con anywhere I'm afraid. In Medan you can stay at the JW Marriott, which is very nice, but otherwise no.....
Jun 20, 2012 5:46 PM
4I hate to be the bearer of bad news but your trip dates put u smack in the middle of Ramadan.
pulau weh is a good start. Stay 3 nights at yullias and do some diving with
Rubia tirta. Eat at mamas. All out in ibioh.
Being Ramadan get the night bus to medan and transfer to lake toba which is a Christian
area and less affected by Ramadan. Stay in tuk tuk with Mr moon. eat everywhere. Hire motorcycles and explore
Get the tourist shuttle to berastagi (1/2 day for travel) and climb a volcanic peak .
sibiyak is an easy half day or sinabung is more challenging full day with guide. Ask
for paolo at the visitor office.
Catch tourist shuttle to bukit lawang. Take overnight jungle hike with guides
to see orang u tans and sleep out. With rafting back to town.
Leave from medan.
I know this all sounds a little touristy but trust me its wild and you'll only encounter a
Handful of other travellers. Good luck with Ramadan. Get up early and stay up late!
Jun 21, 2012 9:36 AM
5thelawnet, thanks for the advice. I will look thoroughly in both options. wilson2515, Ramadan is actually the reason why we're traveling, so no surprise there. We're teaching in Turkey and have a break from school during this time. I appreciate all of the info you provided and will look a little bit further into all of your suggestions.
Jun 21, 2012 9:48 AM
Jun 21, 2012 1:06 PM
if you want to have a real adventure in the jungle, see wild orang utans and bath in a hotspring deep in the jungle go to Ketambe. There is a flight from Banda Aceh on Sunday August 12st to Kutacane, which is near Ketambe, with airline NBA. Book it after your arrival at the Airport Banda Aceh. Cost not more than 35 US$. For more info check Ketambe Website
Cheap flights from Medan to Kuala Lumpur normally are with AirAsia, but on August 18th is exactly end of ramadan and tickets are expensive as you wrote. If you go one day later its only 100 US$ and 2 days later its 70 US$.
Enjoy North Sumatra
Jun 21, 2012 6:31 PM
8Ramadan is really not a problem for tourists in Indonesia.
Eid is disruptive, but that's not until the 19th of August. There will be more people travelling on the 18th, but that's about it.
Some local restaurants close during the day during Ramadan, but most just put a lace curtain up to hide the food from hungry fasters.
You could reach Medan via Penang. Medan - Penang on Firefly is $60, 18;15 arr. 20:10. You can then fly on from there to KL on Air Asia for about $30, or take the bus from $10.
I would book whatever flight you need to take on the 17th/18th/19th now, flights will sell out.
Jun 22, 2012 1:36 PM
9Thank you both for your responses. We wanted to have one full day in Kuala Lumpur, but I went ahead and skipped out on that to have a direct flight from Medan to Subang on Aug 19...$110 each for the flight. I guess that's not so bad considering the circumstances.
Ketambe is sounding very appealing to me, but I'll have to discuss it with my wife. Should we book lodging ahead of time or just find it as we go?
Jun 24, 2012 5:39 AM
Jun 24, 2012 1:07 PM
11We just did a similar trip in April-May, and given the combination of your limited time, jet-lag and slow, hot bus travel that would be involved, I disagree strongly with some of the advice you've been given. I'd definitely recommend booking that Malaysian Air or Air Asia flight from Medan-KL today! You'll have to bite the bullet on price if you're stuck with that date.
On arrival at Banda Aceh Airport on Air Asia, you'll have time to kill before the ferry to Pulau Weh, so you could go to the Garuda, Lion Air, and Sriwijaya Air offices, and book a ticket to Medan before catching the ferry to Pulau Weh. Better yet, I'd do it right now on line. Garuda's 1125 flight is marginally more expensive, but if you book now, at the lowest economy price, it will only be about $65. That flight is easy to connect with on the 8AM fast ferry from Pulau Weh, and it will get you into Medan at around 1230, so you won't need to overnight there.
On Pulau Weh, definitely stay at Freddie’s, http://www.santai-sabang.com/. People who aren’t happy with Pulau Weh usually stayed at overdeveloped and dead-near-shore Iboih or Gapang. Book Bungalow #1 at Freddie’s, and you will have step-into-very-good-snorkeling right off the spectacular beach. Accommodation is simple and fan-cooled, but comfortable, the food is truly excellent, and the atmosphere is great. When you're floating in clear water over turtles and morays after a great buffetr breakfast, or enjoying your nice buffet dinner, you'll feel the jet-lag melting. Freddie's website will give you the ferry schedules and taxi details. Check out the reviews on http://www.tripadvisor.com. Book soon, as it books out!
When you leave Banda Aceh and arrive at Medan Airport, get a taxi immediately to Bukit Lawang. Stay two nights. Then, try to get from BL to Lake Toba directly via Brastagi, without stopping. Brastagi is OK, but you don't have much time. In Lake Toba, we really enjoyed Tabo Cottages at http://tabocottages.com/, and the nearby Horas Family Home also looked and is rated excellent (see Trip Advisor, etc.). I'd prebook now. A Batak Villa or Junior Suite at Tabo will make you very happy!
Leaving Lake Toba, get transport down to Medan in the morning for an overnight before your flight to KL the next morning. In Medan, we really liked Hotel Deli River at http://www.hotel-deliriver.com/htm/Hotel-Deli-River.php. It's got tons of charm and is very quiet, comfortable, and personal, with excellent food.
I've been to Lake Toba twice, and to Maininjau three times, and given your time constraints and the grandeur of Toba, I'd suggest saving Maininjau and the surrounding spectacular Minangkabau Highlands for when you can do them justice. Same for Ketambe.
Jun 26, 2012 6:27 PM
Jun 27, 2012 8:37 AM
13thelawnet, I took your advice and booked a flight from Medan to Kuala Lumpur. Thank you very much for all of your advice. Kario, I appreciate the time you took to write your response. The Tabo Cottages I've actually already seen before through my own research and they looked really nice. I'm happy to hear you had a good experience with them! As for Palau Weh, I really like the look of Freddie's. Now, we just have to decide if that is the area we want to stay. We already have the JW Marriott booked in Medan for the night before we fly back to Kuala Lumpur. Thank you all again for your help. They are all great suggestions!
Kuala LumpurBook now
(2 star Hotel)
From US$26.37 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$10.92 per night
Banda AcehBook now
(3 star Hotel)
From US$61.90 per night