I have found that
travelling around on public transport in Sumatra is quite a bit more
expensive than the usual tourists islands of Java, Bali and Nusa
Tengarra, I would say about 35-40% more expensive. This is mainly due
(so I'm led to believe) to the limited amount of roads.
There is currently a
fast boat running which links Surabaya (Java), Benoa (Bali), Bima (Sumbawa),
Maumere (Flores) and Kupang (West Timor). It is relatively expensive
but is very fast. It takes 34 hours from Surabaya to Kupang stoping at
all the other ports along the way. It runs once a week leaving
Surabaya towards Kupang on Saturday at 11:00 arriving Kupang 21:00
Sunday. It leaves Kupang at 08:00 on Monday and arriving at Surabaya
on Tuesday at 14:00. Rumour has it that the ferry is on a trail period
to see if it is successful so I would not rely on it without checking
at the harbour first.
Going to Java is easy
on the Bali side (public bus, ojek, ferry etc are all good) but watch
out on the Java side! Get a becak to the 'terminal bus' and find your
bus and get on. Pay on the bus! You might want to make this clearer in
the book. If there's room, there's no need to book a ticket or get it
via an agent. We were ripped off by the conductor who guided us to a
'ticket office' with someone who then sold us tickets at 35000rp to
Probolinggo. We paid, and he gave half the profit to the conductor,
who simply showed us back to the bus we had passed outside. If we had
simply got on, we would have paid 15,000rp each.
Three months ago an
express ferry started between Flores and Bali. It leaves Maumere
(Flores) every Monday at 15.00 and takes 12 hours. It's a really good
alternative to an airplane. It is also cheap from 190,000Rp business
to 253,000Rp executive. The ferry has made it much easier and more
comfortable to travel to Flores.
Kuta: All the terrible
stories about the moneychangers in Kuta are true, it's practically
impossible to find an honest place where you get what is written on
the board outside. If you still insist on changing your money there,
there are a few things to bear in mind:
- first of all, make sure there's no commission
- then ask if they have enough rupees to change your money
- never change more than US$100 at the same time
- put your money (say dollars) on the counter and don't let them take
it away or put it anywhere
- count ALL the money you get and make sure they do not touch it
- leave immediately if you can't keep these rules
I'd like to leave a
message about the Gili Islands next to Lombok, Indonesia. There are
three of them, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Terawangan, which they
call the Party Island. It's true, it IS a party island - but also an
island where robberies and rapes are happening! In April this year I
spent two nights on Gili Terawangan and there was a Beach party, it
was nice sitting in the sand with a cold Bintang beer. I had to go to
the toilet which was placed at the very back behind the warungs next
to the promenade. As I came out of the toilet, a local guy grabbed me
from behind and put a knife to my throat. He pulled me behind the
house, then lead me through a path in a field of high growing grass.
This guy wanted to rape me! Luckily I speak Bahasa so I whispered to
him, I was very polite and made myself small. I offered him all my
money, jewelery, whatever. He was not interested. After a while I
realized that there's nobody who would help me, that I had to help
myself......so I did. I waited for the right moment and squeezed his
balls as hard as I could. He wanted to attack me with his knife so I
grabbed the hand which held the knife, he pulled it out and cut my
hand. I started to scream and he run away.
I took the very first boat back to Bangsal/Lombok, wanting to go
directly to the police, but the police office was closed! So I
reported the incident to the police head office in Mataram. They told
me, that they know of 18 rapes in the last 1 1/2 years just in Gili
Terawanan! So, obviously, it happens a lot!
I don't want to stop people going to the Gilis, it's a very nice place
where you can have lots of fun. I just want to make sure, that
everybody is aware of these "happenings" there and that
NOBODY walks around the island alone!
Climbing Gunung Agung
from Pura Besakih involves climbing hand over hand using only tree
roots and rock ledges for support. There is no equipment and the
general opinion among the guides is that it is a fairly foolish thing
to do. (We got 4 hours into the climb but had to turn back as the
mountain began smoking and the guide said that it was
"forbidden" to carry on.) It is dangerous, and to be honest
we could easily have broken a limb or two each. There is very little
scope for rescue as you are on the side where the lava flows, covered
from above by dense foliage.
Yogyakarta, Java: A Dutch man was killed recently climbing this active
volcano, and his brother injured. Just a warning to anyone thinking
about climbing Merapi.
True, these two people did go above the 'safety zone', but too many
people arrive in Yogya (often people just off the plane from Bali),
see the trip to Merapi advertised and just go for it - not even
realising how dangerous it is. Please be careful if you feel you must
visit this volcano.
A note of warning to
intending travellers to Indonesia...I recently met the victim of yet
another Indonesian scam. A young male European traveller witnessed the
snatching of a young Indonesian woman's bag. He chased the snatcher up
a lorong (lane), where the snatcher's (and the victim's, as it turned
out) friends were waiting. He was badly beaten and lost his day pack
and all he was carrying in it, plus the contents of his pockets, a
camera and a watch. The day pack was last seen being carried away at
high speed by the "victim" whose property he'd been trying
Care must be taken when
walking in the Pasar Baru area during the day, as many tourists have
been robbed recently, and an attempt was recently made to rob me. The
scenario is always the same; 4 or 5 young guys, 2 or 3 of them point
at your feet and then restrain them while the other 2 go for your
pockets. Better to leave valuables in your room.
In Medan, a lot of
people will warn you to be careful, hide valuables, watch your stuff,
not walk outside after 7pm.... These warnings can be more frightening
than the actual situation but surely they don't come without a reason.
Be particularly careful when you have to stop at red traffic lights.
The only time I was
scammed (so far) was in Sibolga, Indonesia - waiting for the ferry to
Nias. A guy told me that there was malaria on the island and that an
Australian tourist had to be airlifted to hospital the previous week.
LP mentions mentions that malaria has been reported on Nias, so I
believed him. We went to a pharmacy, where I bought eight tablets,
(two for each day of my proposed trip) for $1 each. (That's $8 for
generic tablets that probably cost about 10 cents.) There is no
malaria on Nias, though malaria exists on some of the smaller
neighbouring islands. Afterwards, I met two travellers who paid $40
each for tablets to the same guy.