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Trip Report - Singapore, Sulawesi, Komodo, Bali and Sumatra

Trip Report - Singapore, Sulawesi, Komodo, Bali and Sumatra

Old Jul 28th, 2023, 08:03 AM
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Trip Report - Singapore, Sulawesi, Komodo, Bali and Sumatra

We spent four weeks in SE Asia during June/July, the majority of it in Indonesia. We spent a fabulous three days in Singapore en route and a full day in Dubai on the way home. This trip report is long and I hesitated to post it, but I will do so in sections. The fabulous city/state of Singapore first!

We left home on June 14 and flew to Singapore from New York via Seoul on Korean Air. We landed at 11:00 PM on June 15, which allowed us to go straight to the hotel and go to sleep. We woke up in the morning on our new time-zone and were able to quickly acclimate. We stayed at the Intercontinental on Middle Road, which was a great base for us. The hotel is on top of a subway station, on the “blue line”, which is the line that goes pretty much everywhere a tourist wants to go in Singapore. We immediately set out to find kaya toast, the must-try breakfast in Singapore. It was delightful and the coffee was delicious. Our hotel was located in the “Bugis” section of the city, so we easily walked to the Arab quarter and then to Little India to do some exploring. We saw a beautiful mosque and lots of colorful Hindu temples, as well as numerous markets / shops and restaurants. We then took the MRT to China Town, where we saw another wonderful Hindu temple, the Buddha tooth relic temple, and just enjoyed exploring this fabulous China Town.

For a late lunch / early dinner, we hit the Maxwell Hawker Center, one of Singapore’s many famous Hawker Centers. We found a vendor that appealed to us, and enjoyed a meal of noodles, duck, and vegetables, along with two delicious glasses of fresh fruit juice (one water melon and one sour sop), all for about $15 US. In the evening, we had arranged to go on a “mammal tour” with a guide in one of the local parks, Bukit Batok. I won’t go into detail on that since most travelers will not be going on a mammal tour. We did see several colugos (“flying lemurs”) and a couple of palm civets.

The next two mornings, we went on birding tours in other nature parks with a local bird guide. (My husband is a birder), but again, I won’t go into detail on these. We did see some cool birds and a troupe of long-tailed macaques, which is always fun. If you are interested in seeing birds or mammals, please message me and I will be happy to recommend our guides.

Our second afternoon, after changing into dry clothes, we took the MRT to Gardens by the Bay – the highlight of any trip to Singapore – and spent several hours walking around the various gardens and ponds (hoping to see otters, but no luck), and inside the cloud forest, which was really impressive. We made our way to Satay on the Bay for a dinner of satay and more fresh juice. One of the best things about SE Asia is all the delicious fruits and fruit juices! We still had some time before we needed to get in position to watch the evening light display, so we went up the sky-walk to get a great view of the city, and then we walked through the Marina Bay Sands hotel and out the other side for a beautiful sunset view of Merlion park. By this time, it was time to get in place for the light show. We just picked a central spot under the supertrees and were treated to a fantastic show. Not to be missed!

To get back to the Metro, we simply followed the throngs of people, back through the MBS hotel and then down down down through an enormous shopping mall, to the MRT station below. If you like to shop, you should check out this mall. It has all the high-end stores: Prada, Givenchy, Channel etc, and an indoor river with gondola rides. A bit much for us so we happily took the metro back to our hotel (which is also on top of a mall, although our mall was not quite as fancy).

On our last day in Singapore, we did another birding tour and, after changing into dry clothes, headed to the Maxwell Hawker Center for some delicious stir fry and fresh juice (we don’t typically drink juice, but you will find that you are just sweating so much that you have to keep drinking. We each soaked two sets of clothes each day – changing before lunch). After lunch, we took the MRT to the Botanic Gardens. It is a beautiful and expansive gardens and is worthy of a half-day. I think we would have enjoyed it more if we had not already been to several nature parks, if we didn’t live in an area surrounded by beautiful botanic gardens, and if it hadn’t been so hot. Living in the southern US, we are pretty heat-hardy, but by the afternoon of the third day, the constant 90+ degrees and 90+ humidity, as well as walking 25,000 steps/day was getting to us. We made it an early day, and headed back to the hotel to cool off and pack. We really adored Singapore. It is so modern yet has so much nature while also being incredibly easy to get around…. And the fabulous history / culture. And the food!! Tomorrow, we fly to Indonesia…
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Old Jul 28th, 2023, 10:07 AM
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Along for the ride; you visited some of my old stomping grounds (lived on Sumatra for four years and visited Singapore on a pretty regular basis).

Last edited by Melnq8; Jul 28th, 2023 at 10:49 AM.
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Old Jul 28th, 2023, 10:46 AM
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I confess Singapore is not my favourite place in Asia but looking forward to reading more of your other destinations.
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Old Jul 28th, 2023, 11:07 AM
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Thanks for taking the time to read it! Here is the next installment - N. Sulawesi. I have a big section on logistics first, which you should just skip if you are a frequent traveler to Indonesia

The Indonesia portion of our trip was quite complex since the things we wanted to see/experience were on four different islands, so I used an Indonesian travel company, Kekayon Journeys, whom I found through TravelLocal. This allowed me to put together exactly the itinerary I wanted and to travel independently, but to have most of the internal logistics (hotel and flight bookings, airport pick-up, local guides) handled. It worked perfectly for us.Logistics first: I watched airfares for 8 months prior to our trip and I never found anything for less than $1,800 round trip (from East coast of US). We ended up doing an open-jaw ticket whereby we flew from New York to Seoul (14 hours) and Seoul to Singapore (6 hours). We stayed in Singapore for four nights, adjusted to the time change, and had a lovely time. Then we flew to Manado, Sulawesi (about 5 hours), where we started the Indonesia part of the trip. Coming home four weeks later, we flew Emirates out of Kuala Lumpur to Dubai (7 hours) and then from Dubai to New York (14 hours). This flight itinerary also meant that we flew West both going and coming home. Might sound crazy, but flying West is infinitely easier for me to recover from than flying East (obviously not always possible). Flying home on Emirates via Dubai was fabulous. We had a 12-hour day-time layover, so we got to spend a day in Dubai. Very cool bonus!

Medications: If you read anything online, you will end up terrified that one rogue Codeine pill in your backpack will land you in front of an Indonesian firing squad. I took this very seriously, did not bring any codeine or other meds for which I did not have a prescription. For my prescription meds, I had a doctor’s letter and all meds were in their original prescription bottle. I assumed there would be drug dogs sniffing for opiates at every airport and thorough questioning / examining of all medications. In the end, not once was I asked about medications and there were no dogs. I could have put those codeine pills in a regular Tylenol bottle and no one would have noticed. Disclaimer: I am not recommending that anyone bring illegal medication to Indonesia, but my own experience was that I was never asked about medications, and I was in and out of five different Indonesian airports.

Temperature: We live in North Carolina. July and August are pretty much too hot to go outside. When we are planning trips, we often read about how hot the country is. The only place we have ever found hotter than we are accustomed to was Cartagena. That is before we went to Indonesia! IT IS HOT. North Sulawesi is the hottest place we have ever been. The temperature is in the high 90s / 100s but the humidity is the killer. It is above 90%. The sun beats down on you and your sweat will not evaporate. If you are outside, you are soaked. People in N. Sulawesi tend to just shut things down between around 11AM and 4PM. The rest of Indonesia is also hot. The Sumatran jungles were hot. It is all hot all the time. We had one hotel for one night that didn’t have AC and my husband just about died. Americans, in particular, who are used to coming inside to cool buildings in the summer – you should make sure your hotel rooms have AC if you think this might be an issue for you.

Toilets/bathrooms: If you are a traveler, you already know about non-Western toilets. The squatty potty is a familiar horror to most of us who enjoy seeing other parts of the world. In Indonesia, you get the full experience. In higher-end or tourist-centered places, you will get a western-style toilet. It might even have toilet paper, but always carry your own just in case. In decent hotels, you will have a western – style toilet. But if you stop at a gas station or in a restaurant or shop or any other sort of regular public place, it is likely going to be the squatty potty. They are basically always filthy and always, always soaking wet. The wetness comes from two things: 1. the Bum Gun, which is present in 100% of Indonesian toilets. It is used instead of toilet paper and generally sprays water all over the bathroom. 2. Many toilets do not have flushing mechanisms but instead, have a bucket of water with a large scoop. You are meant to scoop the water out of the bucket and pour it into the toilet. It then slooshes the water down. It also means that the floor is always wet. Combine this with the fact that many showers (even in decent hotels) are just IN the bathroom – not inside of a shower, just as part of the wall, so the floor is always wet. And the sinks often just drain onto the floor. You are brushing your teeth and you hear a trickling sound at your feet – Oh, it is the sink water draining onto the floor! Don’t worry, it will make its way to the drain because there is a drain in the floor. It is kind of like the whole bathroom is just sort of a sewer. Anyway, “nice” hotels, resorts etc will have nice bathrooms, but in jungle lodges and other non-resort-ish places, you will probably have to deal with the wet bathroom floor.

Food and water safety: We are up to date on all of our travel vaccines (Hep A & B, Typhoid, Yellow Fever, even rabies), and we are cautious but not paranoid about foods in developing nations. Our general rule is not to eat raw vegetables, only eat fruit that has been peeled, and do not drink local water / consume local ice. These have been my rules for 40 years, since I was 13 years old. I could probably stand to update them. We have found that anywhere that deals with tourists on a regular basis has store-bought ice and they will never give you tap water. All of our hotels provided large carafes or bottles of water for us, which we used for tooth-brushing etc. Towards the end of the trip, we even started eating some lettuce and tomatoes because they didn’t seem to be harming the other tourists. We ate in “Warungs” that were recommended by people or had lines outside. We also ate in restaurants, hotels, and resorts. We did not eat street food and did not eat at any of those shops where all the food is displayed in the window all day. Neither of us had any tummy issues over four weeks.

Bugs: Before the trip, I was worried about mosquitos and leeches (mostly leeches). We encountered almost zero mosquitos. We did use deet when going into the jungle and going out in the evening, but there were few mozzies around. We also saw some leeches in Tangkahan but I was tripled-layered so they didn’t get on me (but I was super hot). Allegedly, there are not many leeches in Bukit Lawang and we did not see any. I think they are more of a problem in Borneo.

Air travel in Indonesia: We were incredibly lucky in that all of our logistics went smoothly. We flew on Batik, Lion Air, Scoot, and Air Asia within Indonesia. All flights were about an hour late departing. All flights had gate changes and most of these were not announced. You have to stay on your toes and continuously check the board / ask the gate agent. In Denpassar, in particular, no one knew what was going on at all and it was a mass of confusion. They were boarding three flights through one gate all at the same time. But ultimately, everyone gets on the right plane and gets to where they’re going. Don’t wait for your zone to be called. When you see Indonesians start to hover near the boarding area, get up and hover with them. It will soon be time to board even though you haven’t heard your flight called. Stay alert! Also, I have to say that all of the Indonesian airports we were in (Manado, Medan, Denpassar, Jakarta, and Labuan Bajo) were incredibly nice!! I think they all got an overhaul during Covid. Super nice, clean, modern, high-tech airports! Now, if only they could figure out how to get the right planes to the right gates…

I’m sure there are more logistics I could cover, but I will just get to the trip report now!

June 24 – 26: Bunaken Marine Reserve, N. Sulawesi

We flew from Singapore to Manado, Sulawesi, a direct flight on Scoot airline. We were picked up at the airport and driven to the port in Bunaken where we got on a speed boat that took us the short (20 minute) boat ride to Siladen Island in the Bunaken Marine Reserve. This is part of the “Coral Triangle” and contains some of the most pristine coral reefs and highest diversity of marine life on the planet. We stayed at the Siladen Resort and Spa. Most people come here for scuba diving. We just wanted somewhere to relax for the first couple days of our trip, and we enjoy snorkeling. We primarily wanted to be in N. Sulawesi for Tangkoko NP because I wanted to see the tarsiers. We are not resort people, but two days in Siladen was fabulous. Total luxury. The amenities, the food, the pool, the beach, all the things. We went on two snorkeling excursions and saw TWENTY-FIVE sea turtles. We also saw loads of other marine life, like angel fish and clown fish (Nemo), and star fish and dozens of other cool things. The water here is so clear, and there are so many fish, it is like swimming inside of a tropical fish aquarium.

June 27 -29: Tangkoko National Park, N. Sulawesi

The resort had a speed boat take us back to the mainland and our Sulawesi driver and guide (who had been arranged for us by Kekayon) picked us up and drove us the 90 minutes to Tangkoko. We stayed at Tangkoko Lodge, which was more of a “basic” type of accommodation, but there is very limited selection in Tangkoko National Park. Our room had AC that worked – barely – but the main lodge / dining room did not have AC. The lodge staff fed us breakfast, lunch, and dinner while we stayed there (not really any restaurants in Tangkoko). We ate what they served us, the same meal that the other small handful of guests ate, and it was quite fun to sample the local fare! It was all fine – curried chicken, whole grilled fish, vegetable soups, corn fritters, lots of nasi goreng (the ubiquitous fried rice), and the ultimate enormous banana pancakes for breakfast – with nutella and chocolate sprinkles!!! Around 4:00 PM, we met our Ranger from Tangkoko National Park, to head into the park to look for Spectral Tarsiers – the main reason we wanted to go to Sulawesi. Our ranger was extremely good, and we found two tarsier families numerous couscous bears, and a troupe of black crested macaques. The macaques were fabulous! They are habituated enough that they don’t run away from humans, but not so habituated that they pester you for food like the Bali macaques. They just did their thing – playing, grooming, climbing – while we watched them and took photos.

The morning of the second day, we had scheduled a bird tour for my husband. Sulawesi is so hot that most activities occur before 10 AM or after 4:00 PM. There is not much to do in Tangkoko between those hours, so this was a rather boring day for me, but I enjoyed the later afternoon nature hike again.

The following day was a travel day, and our driver and guide took us on a lovely and interesting tour of the Minhasa Highlands en route to Manado where we spent the night to fly out the next morning.

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Old Jul 28th, 2023, 11:16 AM
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June 30 – July 3: Bali:

We stayed overnight at a hotel near the airport in Manado, the Manado Four Points hotel. It was a western-style hotel, was quite lovely, and had a fabulous, huge buffet breakfast. We flew on Lion Air to Bali and survived. We were picked up at the Denpasar airport by the previously-arranged driver, and taken to Ubud. In the interest of space, I am not going to go into a ton of detail about Ubud. We loved all the things about it that people love, but the traffic is SO AWFUL, I would put it up there with Kampala, Cairo, or Rome. In brief, I think I would recommend to someone that they stay in Central Ubud where you can walk everywhere you want to go in Ubud, and then move to a location outside the city (which we did – to Sideman) for your temple / rice paddy / waterfall visits etc. Driving in and out of central Ubud is to be avoided at all cost.

What we absolutely adored about Bali were the culture and the people. When we commented on the traffic at dinner the first night, the delightful waitress explained to us that it was an extra-heavy traffic day because the Hindu powers-that-be had deemed it an auspicious day to exhume one’s dead loved ones and take them to get cremated. Well, of course that caused a traffic jam! Then there were various temple requirements, offerings, and all the things. The more we learned about Bali Hinduism, the more we loved it. For boring westerners, it is just so unfathomable and also magical!

I had worked very hard with the travel company to plan an “anti-Instagram” tour of Bali. We managed to see beautiful temples, rice paddies, and waterfalls that were not overrun with tourists. We visited the Sangeh Monkey Forest (loved it!), Pura Gunung Kawi (highly recommend this one! There are a couple temples with similar names, but this is the one that is down many steps into the jungle and has funerary tombs carved into the rock. It was spectacular and there were few other tourists), and Pura Samuan Tiga. We visited one very popular temple – Besakih – which we felt could not be missed. The day we went, there were more Balinese Hindus there than tourists. It was some special day in the Hindu faith, and we enjoyed getting to see Hinduism in practice. We were supposed to go to Jagastru waterfall, which is less touristy, but it had been raining for three days and our guide did not think it was safe to climb when it was this wet. We went to Gembling waterfall instead. It had several 20-something-year-olds frolicking in its pools and taking their Instagram photos, but was not crowded by any means, and we enjoyed it very much. There are a lot of steps to walk up, but they have been recently maintained.

We spent two nights in Ubud at the Adiwana Bisma hotel, which was absolute heaven, and two nights in Sidemen at the Cepik Villa. This took heaven to a new level. Set among the beautiful rice terraces, it was our favorite hotel of the trip. We loved Sidemen and would recommend it as a base if you don’t want to stay in crowded Ubud. As well as using Sidemen as our base for temple and waterfall touring, we also enjoyed a spectacular morning of hiking in Sidemen through the rice paddies and farms and the village where we saw many Balinese people carrying offerings for the local temple (it is a lot of work to be a Balinese Hindu!!). Our guide for Bali was Komang from Sidemen Tour and Trekking. I absolutely recommend him. I enjoyed talking to him and learning about Balinese culture as much as I enjoyed the beautiful sights. He also knows the best warungs to go for lunch 

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Old Jul 28th, 2023, 01:06 PM
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July 4 – 7: Komodo National Park

We flew from Bali to Labuan Bajo. The flightinto Labuan Bajo was spectacular. Try to get a window seat. All the mountainous islands sticking up out of the perfectly clear, aquamarine water were just stunning.

We were picked up at the airport by a previously-arranged driver, and taken to our hotel for the night: Puri Sari resort. It was gorgeous and we wished we had had more time there but we were only there for the night. The next morning, the real adventure began! We did a three-day / two-night liveaboard and it was unlike anything we have ever done before in our lives. The boat we had was private (just us, our guide, and the crew) and very simple. We had a basic cabin that was air-conditioned at night, and a bathroom (well, more like a toilet with a shower sticking out of the wall). It functioned but we had to use the sluice-bucket for flushing; there was no flusher. And when the boat was stationary, the toilet water splashed out..... minor details. The boat had an upper deck with lounge chairs, beanbag chairs and a partial canopy so you could be in the sun or shade. It had a lower deck where we ate our meals and got on and off the motor boat. Our big boat towed a motor boat that was used to ferry us back and forth to various islands and snorkeling sites. The crew consisted of the Captain, a cook, and two young men (probably late teens) who cleaned up, drove the motor boat, dealt with the anchor, and generally helped out. They were all fantastic. We also had an English-speaking guide who was in charge of our excursions. He provided snorkeling gear, fins, and towels. There were life jackets available, but we were not required to use them.

Over the three days, we visited Kelor Island, where we hiked to the top and then had the opportunity to do some shopping in a small market and swim on the gorgeous beach; Padar Island, where we hiked to the top at sunrise for the spectacular picture-postcard view; Kalong Island, where we got to watch thousands of flying foxes fly overhead; and Komodo Island, where we trekked for – and found – Komodo dragons! We visited other islands as well for swimming and snorkeling. They were stunning and I don’t remember all the names. At least two of them had pink sand beaches. We also snorkeled at several sites that were just in areas of shallow coral reef in the water - no island. The snorkeling in the Flores Sea was even better than at the Bunaken Marine Reserve in N. Sulawesi, which we didn’t think would be possible. The water was even clearer and even more full of fish! There were THOUSANDS of fish everywhere we looked – all kinds of colors and sizes. It was like swimming in an aquarium. Luckily, we had purchased a go-pro before the trip. It was worth every penny. Our only disappointment was that we did not get to see the famous manta rays in “manta alley”. Some days, they just don’t show up. But that aside, the whole experience was really magical.

Advice for others: In hindsight, we realized that we could have done a two-day / one-night liveaboard and seen everything we wanted to see (Padar Island, Komodo Island, the flying foxes, and some snorkeling). The extra day really just stretches everything out and gives you more R&R time on the boat (which we didn't want / need). If I could do it again, I would skip the second night on the boat and add a night at Puri Sari. Also - if you get sea-sick, take some scopolamine. I don’t know why, but for some reason I thought the Flores Sea would be smooth like glass. It wasn’t. One night, it was pretty wavy and the boat rocked. Luckily, I had my scopolamine patch on for the whole voyage and it worked!!! If I hadn’t had it, I would have been a very sad sailor.
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Old Jul 29th, 2023, 07:37 AM
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Following!

Sinagpore is one of my favorite places to go to so it's nice to read your report. I do recall fresh pressed sugar cane juice at our hotel as you mentioned about the great juices there.

You mentioned a few times about "changing into dry clothes" and I assume it's because of the heat and perspiration of was it due to rain?
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Old Jul 29th, 2023, 09:03 AM
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Jacketwatch - thanks for the clarifying question. I can't believe I didn't mention the heat in Singapore! Like in Indonesia, it was in the high 90s with humidity in the 90%s as well. We were outside / walking virtually all day, so we were soaked with sweat all the time!
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Old Jul 29th, 2023, 01:06 PM
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July 7/8: travel days: Labuan Bajo to Medan to Tangkahan

The price we paid for visiting four Indonesia Islands in four weeks was the lengthy travel days between islands. This was a travel day and-a-half. We flew from Labuan Bajo via Jakarta to Medan, spent the night in Medan, and drove the next day to Tangkahan. The flying was easy (and the Jakarta airport is incredibly nice!) but the driving was pretty rough. Eventually, we arrived in Tangkahan, where the community runs an elephant sanctuary that allows tourists to have an “ethical elephant experience”. I know that some people do not think any human encounter with elephants is ethical, so I am going to leave this part out even though it was one of the highlights of our trip. If you are interested in this experience, please message me and I will be happy to share details.

July 9 – 13: Bukit Lawang

A driver took us from Tangkahan to Bukit Lawang in a jeep (un-airconditioned, with open windows). The road is very bumpy rock / gravel, and full of pot-holes. It took 2 hours to go the less than 40 KM to Bukit Lawang, but nonetheless we eventually made it. Our only logistical difficulty of the trip arose when we arrived in BL. After spending one night in an un-air-conditioned room in Tangkahan, we realized that we would need to change our jungle lodge in BL. We were booked at the Jungle Inn, which is lovely and has great ambiance, but we needed AC. There are many jungle lodges in BL; they line the river going about a mile outside the main part of “town”. They are all quaint with great atmosphere, ranging from back-packer hotels on up, but only some rooms in some lodges have AC and those rooms get booked out months in advance (I didn’t realize until too late that we hadn’t booked one). A bunch of scrambling ensued, and we eventually found a hotel room with AC at the Rindu Alam hotel. It was a large, clean hotel with rooms that opened on to a series of courtyards. It lacked the charm of the jungle lodges and had a more local clientele base, but the AC worked great, it was centrally located on the river, and it made a comfortable and very convenient base for us to do what we had come to BL to do – the orangutan trekking!!!

Bukit Lawang is one of the main entry-points to Gunung Leuser National Park, the last remaining habitats for Sumatran orangutans. For about 30 years prior to 2002, there had been a rehabilitation center for orphaned / rescued orangutans here and though the center has been closed for 20 years, there is still a high density of orangutans in the area and they are very tolerant of humans. For this reason, there is a very high probability that you will see orangutans if you go jungle trekking here. This was why we chose Bukit Lawang. We love to see animals in their natural habitat, but I get frustrated if I spend days trekking through jungle and don’t see anything. Although I read some warnings about unethical guides who try to lure the orangutans with food, we saw nothing like this at all. All of the guides we encountered were well-trained professionals from a small number of eco-friendly, ethical companies. Our guide was Idris from Bukit Lawang Tour Trekking. We went into the jungle with him two different days, and he took my husband birding on a third day. The jungle trekking is challenging but not technical. The trails are well-trod and you do not have to do any bush-whacking, but there is lots of climbing and some slippery mud. There are several great things about Bukit Lawang, and one of them is that everything is walkable. From any lodge in town, you just walk to the jungle. From our lodge, it was just over a bridge across the river, up a bunch of steps, past a jungle lodge, up some more steps that eventually became roots, and there we were at the entrance to Gunung Leuser National Park! By the time we passed the last jungle lodge (“On the Rocks”), we were already hot and thirsty, but fortunately, you can buy a cold drink here and there is a toilet that you can use.

Before we even entered the National Park, we saw Thomas’s Leaf monkeys and Silver Langur monkeys. Both are extremely cute; the Thomases with their “mohawk” hair-do (earning them the name “punky monkey”), and the silver langurs with their bright orange babies. Very shortly after we passed the park entrance, we saw our first orangutans! It was a mother and her 5-year old climbing and feeding in a tree. We had wonderful views of them and watched them for a good, long time. There were few other tourists at this point. After a little more hiking, we found black-handed gibbons and then our guide got word that the big male orangutan had been heard and then located. These orangs are wild and there is no way to know where any of them will be from one day to the next. Our first day of trekking, we saw 10 orangutans, but our second day, only 3, so we were extremely fortunate to see the big male our first day. He was magnificent with full facial flanges. He put on a wonderful display for us, peeling bark off the tree with his teeth and eating it; then climbing down from his tree and ambling around. At this point, there were probably 40 tourists, and I felt a bit bad for the big guy, but he simply moved along when he was done with us – up into the trees and off into the denser jungle where tourists can’t follow. The most magical sighting (for me) was seeing a mother orangutan with her 2-year-old little one and 11 year old big-sister playing in a tree. The little one was climbing around doing all sorts of adorable acrobatics, and every once in awhile, mom or sister would reach out a long orange arm and pull the baby back to safety. Getting to observe the family interaction in nature was one of most precious things I have every witnessed in my life.

We trekked for about 6-7 hours each day. Mid-morning, Idris gave us a delicious fruit snack of mangos and lychees. Then mid-day, he gave us the classic jungle lunch of fried rice/egg/veg wrapped in a banana leaf, with more fruit. It was wonderful! Everything after the orangutan sightings was pure gravy at this point, so we just enjoyed hiking and seeing lots of monkeys in the Sumatran jungle. We felt extremely privileged.

One of the other great things about Bukit Lawang is that the town is on a river and the river runs through the jungle. Some enterprising tour company had the great idea to offer river rafting back to town after your jungle trek, so instead of hiking the 2+ hours back through the sweaty jungle, you can opt to hike over to the river, and take an inner-tube raft back to town. This was really fabulous! The guides (jungle guides and river raft guides) work together to assemble your raft and wrap all your gear in dry bags, which they lash to the raft. Then you raft the 20-30 minutes back to town. The river has just enough rapids (probably class 2 and 3) to make it fun but not scary. There are a few “wooohoooo” moments, but you are not going to fall out. The pull-out for the rafts was about 200 meters from out hotel, so we just walked back at the end and then went for a swim in the river. What a fabulous way to end a day of jungle trekking!

Bukit Lawang is a real back-packer’s paradise. It is little more than infrastructure for the jungle trekking. There are dozens of lodges, restaurants, and little shops / market stalls that line the river for about a mile out of the center of the town. Everything is walkable, with rickety wooden bridges, and alley-ways and unpaved streets. The river is perfect for taking a nice dip and cooling off at the end of a hot day of trekking. It was idyllic. I have not mentioned yet in my report, and maybe it goes without saying that nowhere in any of the trip have we been in proximity to a “chain” restaurant or hotel of any sort other than in the airports. They are there – in the cities – but it is easy to avoid them completely. In BL, we ate our dinners at the Eco-Lodge (definitely the happening place in town) two nights and Cave Rock Café two nights. Both had good food and better-than-good atmosphere; especially Cave Rock, which is actually in a cave.

Tomorrow I will wrap up this very long post.
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Old Jul 29th, 2023, 03:11 PM
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Originally Posted by ljturco
Jacketwatch - thanks for the clarifying question. I can't believe I didn't mention the heat in Singapore! Like in Indonesia, it was in the high 90s with humidity in the 90%s as well. We were outside / walking virtually all day, so we were soaked with sweat all the time!
I thought so. We were in Singapore in 2016 Feb. and it was hot and humid but not so mach that we needed to change to dry clothes too often.

Love your TR.
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Old Jul 30th, 2023, 11:12 AM
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July 13 – 15: getting home

On July 13, we said goodbye to Bukit Lawang. A driver took us to the Medan airport and we flew to Kuala Lumpur, where we spent the night at the Sama Sama hotel and flew out the next morning. We flew 7 hours to Dubai, where we had a 14-hour layover (from 12 pm – 2:00 AM); the perfect amount of time to have one last adventure and get good and tired for the long flight home. We spent a couple hours checking out the modern downtown Dubai sights, and then did a desert safari for the late afternoon and evening. It was wonderful! We got on our plane home at 2:00 AM and I slept half the 14-hour flight to New York.

The end of this very long TR. If you have stuck with me, thank you! It really was a wonderful trip.
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Old Jul 30th, 2023, 12:43 PM
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Originally Posted by ljturco
July 13 – 15: getting home

On July 13, we said goodbye to Bukit Lawang. A driver took us to the Medan airport and we flew to Kuala Lumpur, where we spent the night at the Sama Sama hotel and flew out the next morning. We flew 7 hours to Dubai, where we had a 14-hour layover (from 12 pm – 2:00 AM); the perfect amount of time to have one last adventure and get good and tired for the long flight home. We spent a couple hours checking out the modern downtown Dubai sights, and then did a desert safari for the late afternoon and evening. It was wonderful! We got on our plane home at 2:00 AM and I slept half the 14-hour flight to New York.

The end of this very long TR. If you have stuck with me, thank you! It really was a wonderful trip.
Glad you are home safe and sound and that you could get a glimpse of Dubai for your final send off.

Very nice TR and thank you for posting it.

Larry
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Old Jul 30th, 2023, 01:07 PM
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Thanks for the report. I did a multi-island birding tour (including Komodo and Flores) several years back. Indeed the Kalimantan lowlands are probably the most miserably hot I had ever been (and I've been to Cartagena!) Ubud was paradise after that.

I had a free layover in Singapore and at the time if you flew Singapore Air you could go on a tour with them (first come first serve). Wonderful visit to the Gardens but again too hot for me!
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Old Jul 31st, 2023, 06:25 AM
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Originally Posted by mlgb
Thanks for the report. I did a multi-island birding tour (including Komodo and Flores) several years back. Indeed the Kalimantan lowlands are probably the most miserably hot I had ever been (and I've been to Cartagena!) Ubud was paradise after that.

I had a free layover in Singapore and at the time if you flew Singapore Air you could go on a tour with them (first come first serve). Wonderful visit to the Gardens but again too hot for me!
mlgb - It really is the hottest hot I have ever experienced. Fortunately, in the jungle, you are shaded the whole time, but if you are in the sun, it is pretty much unbearable. My husband would love to go back some day and do a "real" birding tour... one of the many places he will have to return to!
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Old Jul 31st, 2023, 06:26 AM
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Thank you, Larry!
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Old Jul 31st, 2023, 05:36 PM
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Originally Posted by ljturco
Thank you, Larry!
You're welcome!
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Old Aug 1st, 2023, 07:26 PM
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Thanks for posting your report! Don't know if I'll ever get back to Indonesia, but this made me want to try!
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Old Aug 9th, 2023, 06:11 AM
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Thanks for a lovely trip report! I had hoped to visit about 10 years ago but, alas, it didn’t happen. Now I don’t think we’d quite manage a trip like this, so thanks for giving us all a taste of what it’s like.

I love the description of the orangutan mama and children - what a wonderful experience! Any possibility of a few photos? That would be such a pleasure to see.

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Old Aug 9th, 2023, 06:41 AM
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Thank you, Progol. I never know whether to post my TRs. I love writing them but they tend to be long. Coming home from a trip like this is always very hard for me, so writing the TR and going through my photos helps. I hadn't thought to post photos, but here are a few from Sumatra. I'll reply again with more from different islands.[img]blob:https://www.fodors.com/4467a1bd-c26f-42b1-b008-7bbd2fe9dce0[/img]
mommy and baby orangutan
[img]blob:https://www.fodors.com/c56612eb-091c-443c-b71a-193aa60caf91[/img]
the little one - 2 years old. That fuzzy hair!!!

[img]blob:https://www.fodors.com/efdf31c7-690f-41fa-862a-5faa52ea7846[/img]
"King Louis". Absolutely gorgeous alpha male
[img]blob:https://www.fodors.com/0ed7325a-ef8e-4344-b87b-9ea25a087b8e[/img]


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Old Aug 9th, 2023, 06:51 AM
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hmmm, not sure those worked. Trying again...



mommy and baby

the little one - 2 years old. That fuzzy hair!

gorgeous alpha male


a youngster in a classic orangutan pose
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