Venezuela and Ecuador were my two last destinations. It's time for a change. Instead of South America we (Monica, Goska and I) went to the Far East. We took a flight from Frankfurt to Singapore. Singapore was too tiny for our three week trip, but this was a great port to continue exploration of Southeast Asia. There are many interesting destinations in this part of the world. One of them is Indonesia- the biggest islands country in the world and this was our second destination.
Trip to Indonesia is very complex logistic project. We had about 20 days to visit some of 17 000 islands. Indonesia is as big as Europe. You can travel between the islands by ferries. The option is cheap but ferries are very slowly and irregularly, especially during the rainy season. Flights are faster, more predictable but expensive. We chose planes because our time was very limited. We decided to be very flexible and prepared several options for our holidays. The choice would depend on price and schedule of domestic flights in Indonesia.
The flexibility had one disadvantage. We had to read many web pages and hundreds pages of book guide. Indonesia is too big country to visit it during one month but we had to prepare at least a few alternative options.
We said goodbye to Warsaw in February 2012. It was -10 degrees in capital of Poland. The weather dramatically changed after several hours. When we left Airbus A 380 it was +30 degrees in Singapore. I love tropical climate. This is a link to: Singapore post.
We flew from Singapore to Yogyakarta (Yogya) by Air Asia. Meals were extra paid and very expensive. When the meals were served intensive aroma of fried food was spread. It was very perfidious. It made my mouth water but I was tough and I didn't buy expensive meal. The flight lasted about 1.5 hour and finally we landed in Yogya.
Border formalities were detailed and shocked for me. First of all VOA cost USD 25. When the visa was stamped in the passports we moved to another queue. The uniform lady took a picture by web camera and ... asked to put my fingers down on fingerprint scanner. I was shocked. First of all I am not any criminal or terrorist. And secondly I thought that only Big Brother-USA has such procedures on its borders. It was too late to cancel my trip to Indonesia. Probably I would have chosen another destination if I had known about the procedures. Anyway passive resistance became my weapon. I tried not to touch all my fingers to the scanner. It made the reading error and I was asked to put my fingers again. I did my trick a few times and the the uniform-woman asked the uniform-man for help. He put his fingers down on the scanner and everything was ok. They asked me to put my fingers on the scanner again. I did it on my way and it was reading error again. I played with them 10 minutes and at last they said angry go away. I crossed Indonesian border but my dignity and privacy were violated.
If you do not agree with increasing violations of privacy and human dignity and you can not accept to be treated as potential criminal or terrorist, Indonesia is one of growing number of countries that should be deleted from your list of travel destinations.
Is there an actual list of countries which collect fingerprints, eye-scan, DNA and ...? If know the list send me web address. Thank you in advance.
We took a bus from airport to cheap homestay streets (Gang I and Gang II Sosrowijayan). I get off the bus at Malioboro bus stop. There were plenty homestays around the streets. The prices depended on room standard. Room with A/C cost 150000IDR, room with fan: 70000-80000 IDR
We rested a little bit and went to see Yogyakarta. Almost all attractions were located on Maliboro street are close to the street. Kraton or Taman Sari were very disappointing. General impression was not good either. Yogya is very loudly and noisy city.
Next day was full of organisation staff. We bought one day trip to Prambanan and Borobudur (70000IDR incl breakfast). Unlucky I had to change my plans. We planned to visit Kwah Iien. The site was closed because of the volcano activity.
We went for shopping in the afternoon. Batik was expensive and sellers did not want to negotiate prices. At local market we wanted to buy famous sarong at good price. The first price was very high. We bargained hard over prices. They fell down about 30-40% but I expected 80% of discount. Finally I bought nothing. Neither did the girls. We were a little bit irritated. On the way to local restaurant we passed by art gallery. Salesman offered us a tea and presented batiks and paintings. Monika liked one of the batik.
  • How much is it? - I asked
  • What's a taste. It is beautiful, isn't it? You are nice people. I give you good price : 100 USD - salesman said.
  • I think, I didn't understand you correctly. Did you mean 100000IDR(10 USD) - I replayed choking on my tea. I was surprised with his insolence.
  • It's a great piece of art. I give you special discount. The last price is 70 USD. - salesman was still insolence.
We bargained on the price a few minutes. 30 USD - it was his offer and 17 USD - mine. Finally, I used my favorite trick. I said to the girls 'get out' and we started leaving the gallery. The salesman stopped us and offered reasonable price : 20USD. We bought the batik.
We came back to the homestay and were chatting with other backpackers. German girl showed us her batik. It was smaller than Monic's one and cost 25 USD. Chinese man joined us and showed his batik. It was very similar to Monic's one. I asked him about the price. He said 8 USD. I said loudly: fuck and german girl said laundry list of german courses.
Borobudur sunrise tour starts at 4.30. We were supposed to watch sunrise over Borobudur. However we were not on time and missed sunrise. We also missed large groups of people and could visit the site comfortably.
Borobudur was found in VIII/IX AD. It is not as impressive as Angkor but it is still very attractive. Temple was built as giant stupa. It remains tantric Buddhist mandala from bird view. The walls were decorated with Buddha's ancient world relief panels. There are also a few hundreds statues of Buddha in the temple. It was possible to visit the site with a guide (75000IDR). Borobudur is located and built perfectly. The building survived several earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
There is another sacred site a tens kilometers away from Borobudur. Prambanan is hindu temple complex from IX AD. The complex was so lucky. It was destroyed several times by earthquakes or lava flows. The last massive destruction took place in 2006. Most of the damages were renovated but we could see some templates completely destroyed. We hired a guide (75000IDR). He told us a history of Hindu sacred complex. The temples were decorated with reliefs. The reliefs told a story of Rama - one of the incarnations of Vishnu.
Prambanan and Borobudur must be on your shortlist. Although the sites are close to each other one of them is Buddhist temple, the other is Hindu sacred complex. It took us about 2 hours to visit each site. You can visit the sites on your own or buy one day tour (70000IDR). The entrance fees are expensive Borobudur - USD 15 Prambanan- USD 13.
In the evening we went to a Ramayana ballet. On the way a teenage boy tried to sell us a small stone stupa - the distinctive souvenir from Borobudur. The souvenir was cool but first price was incredibly high - 20USD. I didn't want to buy it but young salesman was very pushy. I wanted to get rid of him and said ' My price is 1 USD'. His price dropped to 10 USD but my price was fixed - 1 USD. He was followed us and his price was lower and lower. When we got to theatre he said:
  • Mister one dollar is ok
I gave him 1,5 USD.
Ramayana ballet was delightful. I liked choreography, dancer performance, the local music and songs very much. The epic story was a little bit complicated but the performance was great. I highly recommend it. At dry season you can watch it at Prambanan complex.

Java - Bromo Volcano

We spent a few days in a city, it was time to see the nature of Java.
Primary we planned to visit famous Bromo and Kawah Ijen. Unfortunately Kawah Ijen was closed because of the volcano activity.
It took us all day to get to Bromo from Yogya. We were accommodated in Budi hotel. The conditions were very poor. The room was dirty and there was no hot water. The vulcan is located 2000 m asl and it was quite cold in the evening or morning. It would have been nice to take warm shower.
Anyway it was very short night. We had to get up at 3.30 a.m and went to viewpoint by jeep. We were waiting for sunrise and expected to watch sunrise over Bromo and Semeru exhaled volcanic ash. We had to wait almost 2 hours for sunrise. It was not very cold. Sweater and rain jacket was enough for the weather. From time to time I looked at sky. I could not see any stars. At last it was dawn but there were a lot of clouds around us. We could see neither sunrise or Bromo or Semeru. Suddenly the wind blew strongly and Bromo became visible. I took some picture and it was time to go to Bromo. We got off the jeep close to the vulcano. It was dark volcanic ash a few kilometers around the Bromo. No plants or any other forms of life. Nature didn't get back the area around vulcano. Only human beings rebuilt Hindu temple near the trail to the top of Bromo. We had to to climbed up 250 steps. There were many tourists on the top. All of us were watching the crater and taking photos.
At 1100 a.m. we came back to the village and took breakfast. Most of the tourists left Bromo after breakfast. We walked around the surroundings. There is farmer building and fields. Cultivations looked familiar for Europe people. They cultivated cabbage, onion, beans at 2000 m asl. At 4.00 p.m. we said goodbye Bromo and went to Bali.
Travel agency tour packages to Bromo cost 270000IDR plus 80000 IDR for jeep transport to viewpoint and the vulcano. If you are not excited with sunrises I would suggest to save 80000 IDR and go for nice trekking. You should start at dawn and go to the viewpoint. It takes about 1-1,5 hours. When you reach the point most people will leave the site. You can enjoy the views without horde of tourists. Then you go back to the village and have a breakfast. Check out at your hotel and go to Bromo. Again you will enjoy the vulcano without many tourists. You can leave the Bromo area at 4.00 p.m. I think this option is better than jeep one.


It was very long night in a coach. At 6 am we got off the bus at Denpasar. All cafes were still closed. I was walking around the station and looking for open ones. Sometimes I could see the employee sleeping on the floor inside the cafe. Local man wanted to drink coffee to. He opened a door and kicked sleeping woman in one of the bar. She woke up, got up, washed her hands and prepared the coffee. Business is all your life. I called the girls and we bought coffees and tea and light breakfast.
We took a taxi to an airport. There are several airline offices at the airport. We collected information about flights and had to choose one destination. Macassar was accepted by acclamation. Ticket cost 500000 IDR. The flight was short and we landed in Macassar in the early afternoon.
We hardly left a plane and hawkers approached to us. They wanted to arrange a taxi for us. The price was a little bit lower than pre-paid taxi but there was catch 22 - we supposed to pay highway fee. Total it was more expensive than pre-paid taxi. We went outside the airport building and catch a taxi for 80000IDR( incl. all fees).
There were not many cheap hotels in Macassar. We had to accept A/C double room for 125000IDR.
In the evening we went to a promenade to taste famous Macassar's seafood. A waiter invited us to a kitchen and we pointed fish and shrimps. The selected food was grilled for us. The meal was good but nothing special.
Next day we got up very early and went to bus station. First class coach to Rantepao cost 100000IDR. We overpaid about 20000 IDR. Friendly Indonesians were chatting with us during the trip. They recommended us good hostel in Rantepao. They also asked a driver to stop next the hostel.
The driver did it. It was first class service.
Maria hostel is very nice. There are many rooms and the prices are reasonable. We paid 100000IDR for a room with bathroom (only cold water) and fan. In my opinion A/C is not necessary in Sulawesi, located in the mountains but bathroom with hot water is a good idea.
We met local guide in a restaurant. He gave us a lot information about Sulawesi and unique funeral ceremonies. He told us that the ceremony had took place in one village close to Rantepao.
According to his information next day mourners would sacrificed buffaloes.
In the morning I bought a few boxes of cigarettes and went to the ceremony. We shyly entered the village and looked around. One of the ceremony member invited us to join the ceremony. We expressed condolences and gave cigarettes to deceased son. He offered us tea, coffee and cookies. We talked with him a little bit and watched the ceremony.


Funeral ceremonies are very important part of religion and social life in Tanah Toraja.
When Torajan dies his/her family devote a lot of time and money to organise the ceremony.
First of all a body of deceased is preserved by formalin injection. The body is put in a house of the family. Toraja people treat the dead man as ill person till burial ceremony. 'Ill body' is kept from several days till a few months in the house. At this time the family collects money and prepares ceremony.
Generally there are 3 social classes in the Toraja society - upper, middle and low class. Middle and low class families organise short and decent ceremonies and the it is usually takes place a couple days after the death. Rich people spend a lot of money to pay tribute to the dead. Hundreds of guests are invited to the ceremony. The event lasts several days and it is very sumptuous. It takes even several months to prepare the ceremony.
The ceremony takes place at special square in the village. There is empty site in the middle of the square. Traditional Toraja house for the body is on one site of square and special lodges on the other site. Invited guests sit in the lodges. The rest of the visitors (included tourists) are located in special lodge for the other guests. Master of Ceremony is hired to make sure that everything is according to Toraja funeral customs.
During the ceremony buffalo and pigs are sacrificed. Low and middle class people kill 1 or 2 buffalo and pigs. Upper class members can even scarify up to 100 buffalo. Most of the animals belongs to the family of deceased but some of them are given by the guest. The gift is strictly noted by the Master of Ceremony and is expected to pay off in the future. A few animals are eaten during the ceremony. Fresh beef is delicious. The most famous Toraja meal is the meat wrapped up in banana leafs, put into bamboo stick and fried on the fire. The rest of the meat is sold to the shops or gave to the guest.
The ceremony lasts a few day but the most significant is the second day. The day of buffalo slaughter. It is massacre of poor animal and you can watch it. Animals are scarified to assure eternal life after death and safeguard the family of the dead.
After the ceremony the dead is buried in a graves. It is usually family graves and even 20 bodies is placed in one grave. There are different type of cemetery in Tana Toraja: caves, carved stone grave or even the coffin is hung on the cliffs. The body of baby used to be put in the whole of Tarra tree, called Baby grave tree. The rich are usually buried in stone-carved graves. There is balcony for Tau tau outside the grave. Tau tau (wood-made effigies of the dead) is put on the balcony. Tau tau can be placed on the balcony when at least 25 buffalo were scarified during the funeral ceremony.
Despite of buffalo slaughter Toraja funeral ceremony is unique and exotic tradition. While wedding celebration marks family and material status in western society, the funeral ceremony has the same meaning in Toraja tradition.
If you like bloody movies you can watch documentary film of the ceremony:


Rantepao is nice and not very busy town. It is enough a few hours for sightseeing. We also found the best waung in the town. This was Khas Pong at Jl. Emi Saelan street. The food was local and very delicious. Contrary to the Khas Pong I advise to avoid Mambo. This is tourist targeted restaurant. The prices are high and food is tasteless.
Tana Toraja is mountain area. It was great opportunity to go for trekking. First we went to the bus station. We wanted to go to mountain village Lempo.
At the station we found the bus to Lempo. The bus was ready to go but waited for passengers. It took about 1.5h till minimum number of people had gathered. Finally driver drove off and we reached Lempo half and hour later.
The trail was not hard. Spectacular views of rice terraces were on the way. We passed a few villages with traditional Toraja houses - Tongkonan. The roofs of the houses resemble boats or bull horns - depending on interpretation. Toraja people came to Sulawesi by boats and the roofs symbolize the boats. Decades ago, the roofs were made of bamboo and required frequent repairs. These days corrugated iron is used to build them. It is more durable than banana roofs but not so charming.
There were some cemeteries on our trail. Toraja people buried deceased in the tombs carved in the rock. One grave was for dozen family members. Baby cemetery is very unique. Dead babies used to be put into Tara Entin trees. The trees are empty inside. The original tradition has been vanishing since the beginning of XX century when Christianity became more popular in Sulawesi.
We also saw stones circle. It was similar to the the famous Stonehenge. The circle used to be a place dedicated to funeral ceremonies.
We were so fascinated with torajan heritage that we decide to hire a guide for whole day (550000 IDR incl. guide, driver and car). Manda, our guide, prepared quite ambitious plan of sightseeing.
We started at 8 a.m. and went to Lemo. The village is famous of tombs carved in the rocks. Each tomb belong to one family and is used for many years. When the tomb is full it is locked and new one is cutted. Rock-cut tombs are very expensive and only rich people can afford them. Statues of the deads are placed outside. They are made of wood and resembled the deceased. According to Toraja tradition the statues can be placed outside the grave on one condition. At least 25 buffaloes must be killed at funeral ceremony.
Next we went to Kambiri to see Baby Tree. The cemetery for babies.
We also visited a house where elderly woman died two weeks before. Her daughter introduced us to living room. There was a coffin in the center of the room. Deceased person was waiting for burial ceremony. When grandma died the body was preserved with formalin. There was no odor of decomposing body in the room. The family of the deceased treated her as ill person, not a dead one. Ill person was supposed to wait another two months for funeral ceremony.
We also visited a house where elderly woman died two weeks before. Her daughter introduced us to living room. There was a coffin in the center of the room. Deceased person was waiting for burial ceremony. When grandma died the body was preserved with formalin. There was no odor of decomposing body in the room. The family of the deceased treated her as ill person, not a dead one. Ill person was supposed to wait another two months for funeral ceremony.
Mandy saw a group of mourners on the to one of the planned site. We stopped and she talked to them for a minute. She came back to the car and ask:
  • Do want to join funeral ceremony of lower class people?
  • Yes, we do - we answered
  • But we don't have any gift for a family of deceased - I started hesitate a little bit later.
  • Don't worry. Toraja people do not expect any gifts from guests. - she replied
  • Well, they are not rich people. Maybe we will give them some money? - I said
  • No way - she answered- you can give them sugar, cigarettes but not money. Money will spoil funeral ceremonies. I am Toraja woman and I don't want the guests buying tickets for my funeral.
I shut up.
We went to the village. A lady in long black dress greeted us. She talked with our guide and invited us to the ceremony. The ceremony was modest. Only two buffaloes and one pig were sacrificed. The killed animals were cooked on the fire. We were given some traditional food. Beef and fish was delicious. The service was also traditional. The food was given on sheet of paper and we ate it with fingers. At the end of dinner rice wine was served in bamboo stick. The most important was the atmosphere of celebration. Everybody was very nice and friendly. We were chatting a couple of hours. Finally our guide said - it is time to go and we said goodbye.
The participation in unique funeral ceremony was my the best experience of my holidays to Indonesia.
In the evening we went to Nanaggala to watch bats resting on the trees. They hung down and looked like black fruits. When we approached the trees we could see small heads and wings.
We came back to the hostel and said many thanks to Mandy, our guide. I highly recommend her service. This is her email:
The same night we went to Makassar by coach. The coach picked us up from the hostel. The coach was very comfortable and I slept all night. In the morning the coach stopped at the airport. First class service.
Our luck ended at the airport. We hesitated too long to buy ticket to Bali. All tickets for morning flight were sold out and we had to wait till 3 p.m. at the airport. We lost all day.
Finally we took off. We spent one night in Kuta (300000IDR A/C room). Next day we had long trip to Gili.


I was disappointed by Lonely Planet. Indonesia guide said that a speed boat from Bali to Gili was very expensive (600000 IDR). Due to the information we decided to make very complicated trip to Gili:
  1. Flight from Bali to Lombok - 1 hour (250000IDR)
  2. Taxi from airport to Bangsal port 2 hours. (120000IDR)
  3. Ferry from Bangsal to Gili Trawangan - 0,5h (10000 IDR)

In fact we should have gone to Gili by speed boat. The price is 300000IDR. Thanks to Lonely Planet guide we lost a lot of time and money.
There are many bungalows on the island. The prices are not cheap on Bali: A/C: 300000-350000 IDR per 2 - 3 people. Fan bungalow cost 200000 - 300000IDR.
It was second week of our holidays and it was about time for relax.
Gili Trawangan is perfect place to rest. No cars and motorbikes. Only bicycles and horse carriages are on the island. Warm sea, nice beaches, bars with cold juices and beer at the beach. There were many live-concerts in the evenings. Paradise on the earth. The food was delicious too. We had dinner at local warungs in the center of town. Grilled or fried seafood was very good. The prices were reasonable too: fish 50000-100000IDR depends on size. Seafood : 30000-50000IDR.
All days I snorkeled in very clean and warm water. I watched colorful and various shapes sea creatures. I saw a few water-turtles. The reef was not as good as Egyptian one. It good to get up at 7 a.m and go for snorkeling. There are so many fishes and other water creatures.
I would like to give you one warning. Water currents are very strong around the island. Please avoid swimming at north part of island. The currents can move you far away from the island. In my opinion it is good idea to start in the middle of the island. The currents move you alongshore to the south.
One day we rented bicycles and go for a ride around the Gili. It was very nice but I noticed more and more hotels are built. I think Gili will look like Kuta in Bali in a couple of year. Shame.
We spent a few very relaxing days on Gili Trawangan. It was time to go. This time we went to Bali by speed boat. It took us about 1.5 h and cost 275000IDR. Transport from a port to Ubud was included in the price.


Bali - paradise on the earth for massive tourism. I think a lot of people still believe in the legend. Maybe Bali used to be the paradise but it is not any more.
Contrary to Kuta, Ubud is nice town. There are many cafes, hostels for backpackers. Monkey Street and surroundings is tourist zone. Most Ubud's inhabitants live on tourism. There are many taxis, souvenir shops and other tourist facilities. First prices are usually very high but locals are willing to negotiate. Sometimes prices can drop down 10 times.
People are very nice and they don't hurry on Bali. Most of them believe in Hinduism. Sacrum and profane are important on daily basis. Everyday locals pray and decorate their houses, shops and cafes with small alters. A little bit rice, piece of fruits, petals of flowers and incense sticks on banana leaf - this is typical alter.
Ubud is interesting town for sightseeing. There is rain forest in the middle of town. The site is called Monkey Forest because of huge number of aggressive monkeys. When you pay entrance fee - 20000IDR, you step in monkey world. They look at people carefully. If you have unzipped back, pocket you can say goodbye to your wallet, passport, camera etc. I lost bottle of water. I tried to get it back and I was almost bitten by the monkey. It opened the bottle, drunk a little bit and poured out the rest.
We visited some hindu temples and old cemetery at Monkey Forest. The sites were decorated with gods and demons statues. Some buildings and sculptures are wrapped by lianas. It looked very charming.
We left monkey kingdom and went to Ubud and Water Palace. The sites are beautifully decorated with gods and demons. Water Palace is very photogenic. There are lotus flowers on the pond.
In the evening we went to a theater. We watched famous performance - Kecak. (80000IDR). Kacak was based on epic story Ramajana. The same story we watched on Java. This time the performance was shorter, scenery were very modest and actors sang a cappella. On the other side there were a hundred actors. Most of them were sitting on the scene and played trees.
Bali actresses are famous of movement of their hands and fingers. Every hand, finger gesture is important and have unique meaning.
We went for trekking around Ubud. A trial was quite nice. Many art shops were located next to route. Prices range were very large (40000IDR - 500000IDR). Going back to the hotel we dropped into local bazaar in Ubud.
We were a little bit surprised to see the same pieces of art as were sold in art galleries. The difference was the price - a few times lower at the bazaar.
At the end of our holidays on Bali we rent a driver and car (350000IDR) for one day and visited some sites on Bali. The island is not big but one day is not enough to visit all interesting places. We concentrated on sites close to Udub. Below you can find short description and my subjective judgement of the places:
Goa Gojah - buddhist and hindu sanctuary in a natural cave. The site is famous of the entrance. It looks like elephant head or demon - It is up to interpretation.
Yeh Pulu - reliefs on rocks form XIV AD. nothing special - in my opinion.
Pura Pentaran Sasin - Hindu temple famous of one of the biggest gong in the world - diameter: 160 cm. Besides the temple is very ordinary hindu sacred place. Lucky it was religion celebration in the Pura Pentaran Sasin. Locals people prepared rise, cookies, decorations for the evening service. A lot of people were involved in the preparations.
Gunung Kawi - There are 10 huge monuments at the site. Rock-cutted statues were created in XI AD. You can see it.
Bangli -the second largest Hindu temple on Bali. This is smaller copy of the biggest one - Pura Besakih. Great building decorated with gods and demons.
Klungkung - At the beginning of XX century there was Semura Pura palace complex. In 1908 Dutch soldiers destroy it almost completely. Only one gate survived and it is enough to admire craftsmanship of creators. We also visited Hall of Justice. This is an example of Klungkung architecture. I liked the roof covered with beautiful paintings.
It took us all day to visit the sites and it was last day of our holidays. We managed to see a few islands of Indonesia during three weeks of holiday. There several thousand islands left to visit.

Sumatra - Bukit Lawang

Bukit Lawang is located at the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park - North Sumatra. Orangutan Feeding Center is the main attraction of the town. Animals are fed twice a day and there is a very high chance (99%) to watch orangutans at platform. The distance between you and semi-wild creatures is very short, a few meters.
The orangutans come to the center from the jungle. One day there are many of them but the other day only one or even none. Nothing is guarantee.
The second and the best option to watch orangutans is a trek in the jungle. The most popular options are:
  • 1 day- not recommended
  • 2/3 days - the best one to watch orangutans
  • 7 or more days - to experience the real jungle.
Medan is a transport hub at north Sumatra. We paid 50 USD for a international flight from Penang (Malaysia) to Medan. A new Medan airport is far away from city and taxi cost 100k-150k IDR. Do not accept first, very high price and bargain very tough.
Transport from Medan to Bukit Lawang:
  • bus 20k IDR
  • taxi 400k IDR - very costly and senseless
Money exchange.
The exchange rate is very low at the airport. You can exchange 20 dollars/euro for taxi and go to the center of Medan. It takes time but the rate will be the best. The other option is to ask taxi driver to drop you off at exchange office. It is not good idea because the drivers are paid commission. The fee makes our rate low.
You can also exchange money in Bukit Lawang. The rate is not so bad as it is mentioned on Internet or book-guides.
Bungalow (3 beds and bathroom) costs 100k IDR in Green Inn.
Prices are fixed. 1,2,3 days trek costs 20 Euro per day, exclude rafting and 25 Euro include rafting. Prices for longer treks are negotiable.
Which trek should I choose? There are 3 options ( as mentioned above):
  1. 1 day. Focus on orangutans and other monkeys. The chance to see the animals in the jungle 90-95%.
  2. 2-3 days. The trails leads at borders of the jungle. We can be sure to see semi-wild orangutans and other monkeys. You can approach to them for a few meters. Don't come closer and watch your bag. Some orangutans grab them because they hope to find food inside. 
    Don't expect to see wild animals. 
    The night in the jungle is great experience. This is the most popular option.
  3. 7 or more days in the jungle. You have a chance to explore the real jungle, not only the borders of Gunung Leuser National Park. Maybe you see wild animals from huge distance or only footprints of them.
Orangutan Feeding Center.
Ticket price: 20k IDR + 50k IDR for camera. Don't go there or at least don't pay camera fee if you plan to trek in the jungle. Orangutans are fed twice a day: 8.30 and 15.30. First you need to buy a ticket. Ticket office is located at the beginning of Bukit Lawang. Then you need to go to the end of the village and wait at the river bank for the transport. Around 8.30 tourists are transported to the other bank of the river.
There is very high chance (99%) to watch orangutans at platform but it is not guarantee.
You can watch short movies shooted in the jungle:

Bat Cave.
You can go for a 2 hours trek to bat cave. There is a rubber plantation on the way.
Some guys collect money (5k IDR) at the entrance to the cave. It is illegal. You don't need to pay it but be prepare for a huge row. First you can ask for a ticket. They don't have a tickets so you don't pay. You can also ask for government permission to collect money etc. If you are not 'fighter' you can pay this small amount of money.
Young man offers guide service. It is waste of money.
Don't forget to take a flash

Sumatra. Volcano region- Berastagi

Transport. The most convenient way to get to Berastagi from Bukit Lawang is via Medan. It is not the shortest way but the quickest. It takes 3 hours to get from Bukit Lawang to Medan (15k IDR) and another 3 hours from Medan to Berastagi (17k IDR).
Accommodation Guest House Thailia is one of the best options in Berastagi. It is a little bit far way from the center. Take an oplet or taxi to go there from bus station. We paid 100k IDR for a room with bathroom and three beds. You can have extra paid breakfast. Try delicious strawberry jam, made by hostess.
Volcanoes Gunung Sibayak (2212 m asl) i Gunung Sibanung (2460m asl) are the most accessible volcanoes in Indonesia. To be precise Sibanung used to be one of them because it erupted in January 2014. Several people were killed and 30 000 evacuated from danger area. .
You should start trek to Gunung Sibayak in the morning. Take an oplet (2k IDR) from Berastagi to Sibayak Multinational Rest House. Pay entrance fee(4k IDR) and you can go on foot several kilometers till the end of paved road. It is a little steep and boring trail. Alternatively you can take a car (40k IDR for 3 people). There is a small square at the end of the road. You have two options from the point:
  1. easy trail
  2. jungle path

It is tricky to find both trails. I drew simple map to make it easy:

I recommend jungle path but remember to put on appropriate clothes: long sleeve shirt and long trousers. Otherwise you can hurt your arms and legs. The path is very narrow and overgrown with plants. When you reach the top, go 50 meters down to wide ease trail and then walk to crater. In my opinion a guide is not necessary to go this path.
There is another trail to go down. If you go the way you can take a break at hot springs. It is difficult to find the trail. This is Lonely Planet (9th edition) instruction:'Finding the path down is a little tricky. When you reach the crater, turn 90 degrees to the right (anticlockwise), climb up to the rim and start looking for the stone steps down the other side of the mountain. If you can't find the steps, you can also go back the way you came.' Good luck.
Lingga village is famous of traditional wood-made house. The excursion to the village takes half a day. First you need to get to Kabanjahe by oplet Rio, then take another bus directly to Lingga. Total return transport costs: 10-15k IDR. The entrance fee to old part of village costs 4k IDR.
It is good idea to go for a walk around the village.

Banda Aceh & Palau Weh

Banda Aceh
Aceh is a special region of Indonesia. It is located in the north part of Sumatra. The province was devastated by earthquake and tsunami in December 2004.
Most of tourist spent in the capitol of region - Banda Aceh on the way to Pulau Weh one or two days.
You can get to Banda Aceh by bus or plane. It is very long and uncomfortable way to go there by bus. It is much better to get a plane. Tickets are not very expensive. I paid 400k IDR for one way ticket. During the flight I found Invocation Card in seat pocket. There were short prayers of different religions(Catholic, Protestant, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Khonghucu) for safety journey. This is a scan of prayers:

Lion Airlines not only follows technical safety standards but also asks higher powers for blessing flights.
There are a few hotels in Banda Aceh. Prices are fixed. We paid 150k IDR for a triple room with bathroom. .
Taxi to/from airport cost 40k IDR. You pay the same price for a taxi from ferry harbor to the city center.
One day is enough to stay in Banda Aceh. You can visit mosques, Tsunami Museum and ships or boats moved a few kilometers into mainland by powerful waves in December 2004.
Gentlemen, I can recommend you a barber in Banda Aceh. Perfect hair cutting and shaving cost a few dollars. I had never been so smooth-shaved in my life. The barber is located here:

Pulau Wehis one of the best destination for diving and snorkeling in South-East Asia. Weh is perfect island for people who like calmness. If you like parties, pubs with alcohol and loud music you won't find them on Pulau Weh. No alcohol or beer is sold on the island.
Transport Ferry form Banda Aceh to Pulau Weh costs 25k IDR. Tuk-tuk from harbor on island to Iboh Beach (30km) 90 IDR for 3 people, taxi - 130k-150k IDR.
Bungalow costs 150k IDR at Iboh village. Some bungalows are located next to the sea. You can watch sea creatures from terrace.
When you are fed up with Iboh Beach you can rent a motorbike and go around the island. You can also trek to Long Beach and snorkeling there. It is not good idea to lodge in Long Beach. It is expensive place.
Scuba diving
is expensive activity. Fun dive costs 25 Euro (PADI open water license is necessary). Intro dive - 45 Euro (you don't need any license). PADI Open Water course takes 3-5 days and costs 270-300 Euro. Remember about a break between the last dive and flight. It should last from 12 till 48 hours (depends on number of dives).
Check equipments before you buy scuba dives or courses.
DO NOT rent any kayaks or canoes at Mr Bean's. The equipment is in very bad condition. Don't risk your life. I rent a kayak and it was full of water in 15 minutes.
Almost everyday there were electric failures at Iboh Beach. Watch short movie how the electric lines are repaired on Pulau Weh.

Useful Advices

  • Price negotiation is a must. Never accept first price. Prices for tourist are a few times higher than local price. If first price is 100000IDR, your price should be 10000IDR. The last price will be from 13000 to 20000 IDR. At airports taxi drivers expect you to pay enormous prices. I described bargaining examples in Java chapter.
  • Money exchange and ATMs ry to check a few exchange offices before you make transaction. Make sure you have brand new notes. If note is a little bit damaged or even folded the exchange rate is 5% lower. USD notes issued before 2006 are not accepted ( check series on the note). It is difficult to exchange old money or the rate is 5% lower. 
    There are plenty ATMs in cities or towns of Indonesia. Visa or MasterCard are accepted.
  • Accommodation- prices depend on standard. You can expect high prices at popular tourist destinations. A/C rooms with hot water and bathroom are the most expensive. Breakfast is usually included in the price. Single traveler pays 70-80% of double rooms price. As far as our trip concern we paid 100000IDR for double room with fan and cold water on Sulawesi. It was the lowest price. The highest - 300000IDR A/C room with hot water at Kuta.
  • Indonesian are very nice people. They like chatting with tourists and are very helpful when you lose your way. English is widely spoken.
  • Indonesian Art- Bali and Yogya are the most popular art centers in Indonesia. You find out that pieces of arts are very familiar in all art shops and bazaars. They look almost identical but the prices are very different. The lowest prices are offered by wholesalers or on bazaars. Don't waste your time in art galleries.
    You can buy painting for 25000-40000 IDR. Batik is more expensive, you can expect prices higher than 100000IDR.
  • Rainy season - the weather is not bad. Humid is almost 100% - it is good for you skin. Temperature is about 30 Celsius degrees. It usually rains afternoon, after 2 p.m. It didn't rain at all at Jawa during our trip. It rains on Sulawesi everyday after 2 p.m. We spent 5 days on Bali and it rains two times in the afternoon. Gilli - no rain.
  • Public transport Bemo is the most popular transport in Indonesia. First class - long-distance coaches are very comfortable. In my opinion it is better to pay a few dollars more and have comfortable seat and trip. The coaches pick you up from your hotel and get you off in front of the hotel. Door-to-door service :)
  • Return transport from Bali to Gili -Speed boat is the best option. It cost 300000-350000IDR and the trip takes about 2 hours.
  • Flip-flops - 'shoes' for all season in Indonesia. They are extremely popular in Indonesia. Indonesian usually take off flip-flops or other shoes outside houses or even shops. Respect the custom.
  • Gudang Garam cigarettes - if you smoke try carnation flavor cigarettes. They are very strong and have one advantage - quite effectively keep mosquitoes out.
  • Trekking equipment:
  • non-slip sport shoes for dry season. Trekking boots or adidas kampung for wet season. Adidas kampung are very cheap 10k IDR. More information about the shoes you can find on webpage:
  • trousers with zip off legs
  • long sleeve shirt.
  • T-shirt and underwear to change
  • swimsuit
  • hat
  • rain coat
  • at least 1,5 liter of water per day

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