Singaporean Malaysians have home cities in Malaysia

Travel report: Round trip Sumatra, Malaysia and Singapore

Singapore and the south of Malaysia with Malacca and Kuala Lumpur via Ipoh to Penang. In Sumatra via Medan for orangutan observation, to the Batak peoples and Lake Toba with the island of Samosir and to the land of Minang-kabau near Bukkitinggi. Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia - landscape and nature on the one hand, culture and tradition on the other - hardly any a trip can be more exotic than this combination of three countries in Southeast Asia! As the introductory text in the Eberhardt catalog for this trip already promised, this year the tour truly carried our guests off into a "different world".
Even the visit to Singapore was a grandiose start and the further course of the journey in mainland Malaysia and finally through half of Sumatra - after all the fourth largest island in the world - showed the beauties but also the contrasts of the countries that historically belong together, but through theirs unbelievable diversity of nature, peoples and cultures appear very different.
There was no shortage of highlights on this Eberhardt long-distance trip this year - we roamed modern Singapore as well as the old trading city of Malacca, the lively Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and the markets of Sumatra, hiked in the jungle to the orangutans and through the villages of the different Batak tribes, to finally get to know the magical Lake Toba, the largest volcanic crater lake on earth, and the highlands of Bukittingi with the astonishing architecture and traditions of the Minangkabau tribes.
Perhaps you are also interested: to experience everything again, or to be inspired - for next year. Because from October 10th to 27th we were on our way to the highlights of Singapore, Malaysia and Sumatra ...

Flight to Singapore, first day, Thursday October 10th:

Only in the evening did the Lufthansa flight to Frankfurt take off from Dresden. As always, there was a heavy crowd of passengers from all over the world, through which we had to find our way to the plane to Singapore. It was only there at the departure gate that the "first meeting" with our fellow travelers from Leipzig and Berlin took place.
A brand new Lufthansa Airbus A 380, currently probably the largest civil airliner in the world, again served the popular route to the center of Southeast Asia and - despite its capacity of more than 500 passengers - was fully booked. Comfortable with on-board service and a sophisticated entertainment program, we started the trip with a twelve-hour flight.

Evening in Singapore, day two, Friday October 11th:

Due to the six-hour time difference compared to Germany, the flight "swallowed" the night and most of the next day and did not reach Singapore until around 4:00 pm. Southeast Asia's only city-state received us extraordinarily warm, almost humid - but we only noticed that after we got together The entry cards - only possible in English or Chinese - had filled out, passed the border controls and picked up our luggage. Ishak, the local tour guide, was patiently waiting for us, who then greeted us and, after going to the "money changer", to the bus accompanied. On the way to the hotel he already talked about his hometown. Right at the beginning we were able to organize a highlight: In order to get to know something of Singapore before tomorrow's city tour and to experience the unbelievable metropolis from its "night side", we met after a short freshening up in the hotel for a walk to the Singapore river port and took one Boat trip. It was very idyllic to glide along the river, past some of the illuminated highlights in the center of Singapore. It is a completely different feeling to experience places from the water and to discover things: the old city harbor with Singapore's landmark Merlion, the Colonial old town quarters, the Chinese city and the huge new bank and hotel buildings. Skyscrapers and above all the new luxury hotel "Marina Sands" with its unmistakable three-tower structure lined the harbor. What became more and more colorful and fascinating with increasing darkness and blazing lights ended with a spectacular music, water and fire show in the middle of the harbor, which we could enjoy from the boat. When we returned to the hotel, an Asian buffet was the end of the day for dinner, before we started to rest in our modern decorated rooms and to overcome the "jet lag".

Singapore City Tour, Third Day, Saturday October 12th:

After breakfast, tour guide Ishak picked us up for a city tour of central Singapore. Of course we started where it all began: in the old colonial city center, around the statue of the city's founder, Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles. It stands impressively next to the old post office and all around the former administration building. Singapore was a British colony and, as a major trading center, it was the most important of the "strait settlements" - three trading posts (Singapore, Malacca and Penang) on ​​the "Strait of Malacca", which has since been one of the busiest shipping routes in the world. The historic buildings that were completely scaffolded in the previous year for renovation in preparation for the celebrations for the 200th anniversary of the foundation in 2014 now shines in a new, white-and-yellow shine with the exception of two buildings. A short walk along the river with two historical bridges - and the "Merlion" was reached. The symbol of Singapore is a mythical creature - half lion, half fish - and goes back to the founding legend of the city.

Modern Singapore

But the historic district is quite small and has more of a museum character - the actual city-state of Singapore is essentially an ultra-modern business city with a skyline that can be compared well with that of Manhattan or other major American cities, as well as that of Tokyo, Hong Kong or Shanghai . The symbiosis of glass and concrete palaces, hypermodern buildings that sometimes seem almost weightless and the "remnants" of the colonial past, the old Chinese quarter Chinatown and the "little India", which was developed mainly by residents of Indian origin, is always astonishing for the visitor In contrast to the ultra-modern, they almost have a small-town character. We visited Chinese temples and Indian markets, stood at Hindu temples as well as in Malay residential areas. Singapore as a kind of "melting pot" of different Asian peoples, mixed with Chinese and Europeans, has produced a wondrous mixture of Asian traditions, modern technology, European business practices and superlative architecture. Unfortunately, the sky opened its locks in between and was due to this tropical rain with subsequent fog it is not possible to include the beautiful cable car ride from Mount Faber to the island of Sentosa. So we sadly watched the gondolas vanishing into the fog from the over a hundred meters high "vantage point" ...
One of the highlights of the city tour is definitely the visit to the orchid garden, the largest of its kind in Asia, with a magnificent and enchanting variety of flowers.

Singapore Flyer

At the end of the city tour, a superlative experience awaited us - how could it be otherwise in Singapore. As an idea for "real travel", city guide Ishak organized tickets for a ride on the Singapore Flyer, the world's tallest Ferris wheel. From a height of 165 m, we not only looked at the famous Formula 1 racetrack, but also looked at Singapore's cloud crater “at eye level
A long walk along the Singapore River brought us back to the hotel. After a bit of rest, we left again to have dinner in a traditional restaurant by the river. Before finally returning to the hotel, there was a small individual tour of the bar and entertainment district, where Oktoberfest was being celebrated! With a lot of atmosphere and German beer from plastic cups, a real German band intoned Schunkellieder like "Rosamunde ..." - who would have expected that in the heart of Asia!

Trip to Malacca, fourth day, Sunday, October 13th:

Relatively early it was called "loading suitcases" and we took the bus to the Malaysian border, where we said goodbye to the bus driver and tour guide Ishak. As in the previous year, the border crossing was uncomplicated and problem-free. Then the bus passed the "causeway", a kilometer-long bridge and left the island nation of Singapore to go to mainland Malaysia. Here, too, everything is uncomplicated - since a few weeks there has even been no need to fill out the otherwise mandatory entry cards. Right at the exit our Malaysian tour guide Zulkarnain - called "Zul" for short - greeted us very friendly in his homeland. In the small coach we drove on the mainland autobahn towards the northwest, while Zul, who had lived in Germany for many years, spoke excellent German chatted about his Asian homeland and the peculiarities of Malaysia. After an interesting drive, only interrupted by a short toilet stop at a motorway service station, we reached our destination for the day, the city of Malacca. Today it has almost 400,000 inhabitants and is not only an important city, but Historically one of the most interesting places in Malaysia. Although its once well-known and important port is now only of importance for coastal shipping, the old town is under UNESCO World Heritage protection and a visit to the historic center is a must for anyone who wants to get to know Malaysia In the old town of Malacca is t the colonial legacy palpable and visible almost everywhere, from several epochs. We began our tour at the remains of the once fortified Santiago Gate, built by the Portuguese and later used by the Dutch, whose strategic importance was documented by the picturesque old ship cannons grouped around it. Over the mountain with the ruins of the St. Pauls Church, from which the Dutch had once made a fortress, we went to the old main square. Why it is called the "Red Square" is immediately apparent from the painting of the buildings, which with the Christ Church, the old town hall and the bell tower and the still active St. Peter's Church form the colonial center and the center of the UNESCO site. Enjoyed the short city tour we spend our free time on the famous Jonker Street, the "tourist heart" of Malacca. The historic shopping street has retained much of the flair of the old Dutch colonial street to this day.
We stayed in the "Bay View" hotel on the outskirts of the old town, where a good dinner awaited us later.

Putrajaya Garden City, fifth day, Monday October 14th:

Today we first reached the "garden city" Putrajaya. The concentrated economic power of the up-and-coming state of Malaysia, sometimes referred to as the "tiger state", is documented here as a gigantic and interesting project: it was only founded in 1995 that the city is planned as the new seat of government not far from the overflowing capital Kuala Lumpur . The transport connections, although not yet perfect, seem to be working quite well and more than a hundred thousand residents have already moved to the modern city, whose layout is based on the gigantic skyscrapers, despite the gigantic proportions, again and again based on traditional forms of construction. Your urban landscape is determined by man-made lakes and extensive green areas, dominated by prestige government and commercial buildings - mostly prime examples of modern, but still Islamic-Malaysian architecture. The new administrative center of the Federation of Malaysia is already home to many ministries, the new official residence of the king (which is called "Istana Melawati") and numerous office, administrative and bank buildings. But the dominant feature is the new, huge conference center, built on a hill with Good view over Putrajaya and the prime minister's complex: the "Perdana Putra" with the head of state's offices and the "Seri Perdana", his residence. A significant, elegantly lofty building, picturesquely situated on a lake, is Malaysia's new central mosque . Putra Mosque has space for around 15,000 worshipers and, with its 116-meter-high minaret, features the second-tallest sacred structure in Southeast Asia. The mosque was built in just two years from 1997, with a large promenade and relaxation complex with snack restaurants and non-alcoholic restaurants in the basement of its lake terrace Houses coffee and refreshment bars.
In the early afternoon we reached the capital Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is a lively Asian metropolis, with old and especially new districts, the silhouette of which is dominated by the world-famous twin towers of the Malaysian oil company Petronas. After checking into our hotel not far from the center, we had free time for our own explorations or some relaxation at the hotel's small pool. Then the bus picked us up for dinner and took us to a restaurant with an excellent, extensive and, above all, very tasty buffet. After dinner there was a folklore show. Traditional dances and colorful costumes once again made us aware of the exotic sphere of our host country - even if the show had a very touristy feel.

Batu Caves and Kuala Lumpur, sixth day, Tuesday, October 15:

In the morning we take a little way out of Kuala Lumpur, which by the way is everywhere only called "KL". After a short drive we reached "we holy ground", because the Hindu sanctuaries in the Batu caves are known all over Asia. They got their name from the Batu River, which flows through the village right next door. The branched cave system, in some places competing with the height of European church naves, several hundred meters deep and often bright, effectively illuminated by daylight, houses numerous Hindu shrines and many figures of gods and demons. The background for the huge site, which is visited by millions of pilgrims every year, is the legend of the victory of the god Murugan over the demon Soorapadam, which he just defeated here. A huge, 43-meter-high statue of the god, only completed in 2006, dominates the forecourt, wrapped in gold. The caves are located in the middle of a huge limestone cliff and can be reached via a wide staircase with 272 steep steps. Nevertheless, one should not shy away from the ascent: unique in terms of spatial effect and splendor of colors, this place is probably the most important shrine of the Hindus in Malaysia and beyond. The cave system had been known for centuries, but was made famous in 1878 by the American William Hornaday, who described the impressive largest cavity - the almost one hundred meter high temple or cathedral cave, in which several Hindu shrines were built a little later. On the other hand, the "Dark Cave", which lies a little deeper next to it, is relatively untouched to this day, extends over two kilometers and has multiple light-dark effects.

Kuala Lumpur

After an extensive tour of the "Batu-Caves" we returned to "KL" to get to know the busy center on a tour. On the way we stopped at the "National Memorial Park" dedicated to the struggle for independence, sovereignty and overcoming the colonial past. Its remains and the origin of the colonial KL can be found around Merdeka Square, for example the old Victorian train station, the former main post office old administration building and the former British officers' club. Finally, of course, we also had a long-awaited photo stop to finally photo-graze KL's landmark, the Petronas Towers - which is only possible with a little distance from the colossi, to see it completely to record.
For dinner we drove through the city again, this time straight to the Petronas Towers, because the Chinese restaurant where we ate dinner was in their basement.

Kellie's Castle and Ipoh, seventh day, Wednesday October 16:

Today we drove on the country road and only a part of the motorway, because again the journey was not very long and you can see more of the country and its people when you drive outside the motorway. Malaysia's country roads quickly brought us to typical towns and villages like Bidor and Kampar. We tasted various "seasonal fruits" while strolling around the markets here - pomelos, for example, which are much larger and juicier than in Germany at the fruit dealer. The difference between the classic and the "white" mangoes - the latter with a light yellow color - was also interesting Skin, very light, sugar-sweet pulp and almost unknown in Europe.
Later we turned to one of the "classic sights" that no Malaysia travel guide is missing: Kellie's Castle north of KL. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Scottish plantation owner William Kellie-Smith wanted to be near the village of Batu Gajah, where he had a plantation mostly Indian workers, his wife and himself fulfilled a dream and built a castle in the wilderness.In almost twelve years of work, from 1915 to 1926, the Indian helpers built a castle-like building with a massive tower.But then Kellie-Smith did not return to Malaysia and there was no further work on the construction. So the work was never completed and remained as it was on the day of the news of the master's death. The Indians had built a Hindu temple nearby, in which a statue was erected in honor of Kellie, and so this is the only Hindu temple in Asia that contains not only gods, demons and symbols but also the figure of a European.
Of course, the abandoned castle in the area attracted attention and so there were soon strange stories about nocturnal lights and strange noises all around and the building ruin gained the reputation of a "ghost castle", in which, in addition to numerous local demons, the former "lord of the castle" and his Haunted the family.
Shortly before entering the old tin industrial city of Ipoh, which is now the northern administrative center and fourth largest city in Malaysia, we turned our attention to some very interesting Chinese temples. Several colorful and splendid "tongs" = cave temples with courtyards full of painted concrete statues are built into the karst crevices of the limestone mountains near the city center of Ipoh. The most important of them, Sam-Poh-Tong and Kek-Lok-Tong, are often closed, But then we found our way through the artfully designed front gardens and vestibules into the main shrines - huge rocky cavities, some furnished with shrines and figures of gods and some painted. Guan Yin, the goddess of mercy, is often the predominant figure here alongside countless ones Altars and sacrificial sites that exude impressive calm.
A short city tour to the main square showed the close together sights of the otherwise modern city with 700,000 inhabitants: the blue house, the town hall and the train station from colonial times and on the forecourt the landmark that gave the city its name, the Ipoh tree. "Ipoh" actually means "poison" in Malay, because the hunters and warriors of the tribes living here obtained their arrow poison for spear, arrow and blowpipe from the tree, which is found in abundance in this region.
Later we checked in for dinner and overnight in the modern and comfortable "Impiana Hotel", which is a bit outside of town.

Kuala Kangsa and Penang, eighth day, Thursday October 17th:

Continuing on our way north, we stopped in the morning in the old princely city of Kuala Kangsa. They are still the sultan's seat and both historical and new capital of the Malaysian state and former sultanate of Perak. The first highlight and a must for all visitors is the extremely magnificent Ubudiah Mosque. Entry of the prayer house is also permitted for non-Muslims, but one must adhere to the religious conditions and regulations and enter without shoes and with covered shoulders and legs and be emphatically calm. But then you can enjoy extremely interesting sights in the magnificent building and the solemn atmosphere of an important religious site. Right next to the mosque is the huge sultan's palace Iskanderia, still the official seat of the Sultan of Perak. Even more interesting, however, was the contrast between this prestigious building and the old sultan's palace: the Kenan building, the original, detachable wooden palace, is just a stone's throw away. Erected in the traditional old construction and decorated with refined carvings, paintings and gilding, it now houses a museum.
Later we drove over the kilometer-long car bridge to the holiday island of Penang, once one of the three important "Strait Settlements" of the British colonial era. First we checked into the Bayview Hotel, one of the largest in the island's capital, Georgetown, which in turn is one of the most important tourist centers in Malaysia In the afternoon, bicycle rickshaws awaited us on a tour, during which we could experience the city as an unusual mixture of colonial past, Chinese and Indian tradition and the Malay present. Several stops showed us the focal points of history and the tourist highlights of the city and the Island: First there was the flat old Dutch artillery town of Cornwallis, whose cannons stretch over the sloping walls through the loopholes of the star-shaped fort and once dominated the harbor. From the fort, the path led us to the "Chew Jetty", a traditional one Landing stage of the chin Esian fishermen and ship lighters in the form of a built-up landing stage. Every significant Chinese family clan had once set up such a "logistics center", as it would be called today, in order to keep up with the emergence of the port and to create jobs as transport workers for the family members. The docks for unloading boats and coastal transporters, for houses Surrounded on stilts and extended further and further out to sea in the form of billet dams and wooden roads, they have been preserved to this day as an extremely picturesque tangle of jetties and small landing sites. Boats, transport workers and children playing in between and women busy with food preparation or mending work still characterize the picture between them still inhabited houses, which are now part of the UNESCO heritage as a whole.
Several of the deliberately temple-like Chinese clan palaces in the city center are also part of it, of which we visited the magnificent buildings of the Khoo family, who once ruled an entire city district. To this day, the palace, which is sometimes still used for family get-togethers, reflects the dignified and traditional way of life of the local Chinese families. Later we drove through Little India in the rickshaws and ended up with the Baba Nyonya Museum. The old patrician house was built in the cultural style of the same name, growing out of connections between Chinese and Malay families who cultivated their own style of life and architecture, developed their own traditions and, for example, their own typical cuisine, of which we got a taste for dinner in a restaurant by the sea.

Flight to Sumatra - Medan, ninth day, Friday, October 18:

We went to the airport very early today, where we had to say goodbye to our great Malaysian tour guide Zulkarnain and bus driver Ifan.
The recently rebuilt Penang Airport - the construction work still caused delays and great inconvenience last year - has become large and modern, as it is the gateway to a major Malaysian holiday region and now also an international airport. From here we took off with a plane operated by the regional airline "Firefly" for the short flight to Medan, Indonesia.
The flight was so short that we arrived five minutes earlier than we left - joking aside, that's really true, because we had to set the clocks back an hour. Medan, the largest city in Sumatra, also has a brand new and almost ultra-modern airport. Nevertheless, everything went well and smoothly when, after filling out the entry card together, we acquired the entry visa that the border official stuck on our passport and immediately stamped. Soon we were "through" and were welcomed by the tour guide Linda whom I already knew and appreciated from the previous year.
Immediately we drove to Medan, whose new airport is just under an hour's bus ride from the center, and began our city tour through the light traffic chaos of Sumatra's largest city. There is not too much left of the colonial heritage here, a few buildings in the city center still point to the old Dutch quarter. Our first visit was to the largest Buddhist-Taoist temple Vihara Gunung Timur. As everywhere in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, people with Chinese roots make up a large proportion of the population and their temples reflect the wealth and influence of the large Chinese community. Then we had lunch break at the Freedom Square, the "Lapangan Merdeka" with the opportunity to stroll and have lunch, because most of the things worth seeing were not accessible during the Friday prayer over midday. After the lunch break we first visited the Raya Mosque, built across from the former sultan's palace in 1905 by a Dutchman. The magnificent building shows Muslim-Indian Mughal style and non-Muslims are cordially invited to visit the house of prayer. Whoever wants to follow the muezzin's call to prayer, which he traditionally sounds several times a day from the minaret during prayer times, enters a spacious, almost empty hall, which is carpeted and used for prayers, but can also be used as a resting place between prayer times. Not far from here was another interesting sightseeing point, the historic sultan's palace Istana Maimoon old seat of government, which in 1888 an architect from It alien as a "fairytale castle" built a special feature. Many Indonesians take the opportunity to borrow magnificent costumes here and have themselves photographed on the throne.
Later we checked into our centrally located hotel and then we drove to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.

Palm oil and monkeys in Leuser-NP, tenth day, Saturday, October 19:

An interesting overland trip took us north of Medan to the Kuala market today. Countless fruits and vegetables are on offer here, many of which are barely or not at all known to Europeans. So we started by "tasting" our way through what started with lime-white looking khaki fruits to mandarins and rambutana and brought in some previously unknown taste experiences. Our local tour guide Linda explained tirelessly details about the special features, cultivation, use and taste of the ones on sale All kinds of food could be found here on the traditional market, which is the main source of shopping for the population - in addition to fruit and vegetables, there was spices, meat, dried and fresh fish, as well as snacks and chips.
After all, we Europeans also caused a stir here and had to take some quick cell phone photos as "photo models". Our way led many kilometers through palm oil plantations, the fruits of which make Indonesia the largest palm oil producer in the world at the moment. Of course we could too Watching the harvest of the palm fruits, the results of which lay in large piles on the ground, ready to be loaded onto passing trucks and brought to the nearby factory. Both the harvest and the transport of the ripe palm fruit grapes, which weigh up to 30 kg We were able to watch the plantation workers from the ground using a sharp sickle attached to an aluminum or bamboo stick more than ten meters long to cut through the roots of the palm leaves behind which the fruit stands, and the palm for so long pruning until they could finally cut through the stalks as thick as an arm of the palm fruit grapes old, heavy fruit clusters with palm oil fruits to the ground. The ripe palm fruits felled from the tree were then pecked with a special grapple hook and pulled to a collection point where the harvest of half a dozen or even a dozen palm trees was waiting for the trucks that would bring the oil fruits to the factory for processing.
At noon we reached our destination Bukit Lawang and our hotel Rindu Alam, located in the middle of the Gunung-Leuser National Park. The hotel, conveniently but simply designed according to its surroundings, is the starting point for various jungle hikes in the national park, whose 9000 km² make it one of the largest nature reserves in Indonesia. He is known not only for his Sumatran tigers and the last large population of Sumatran rhinos, but above all for his monkeys. In Bukit Lawang, on the edge of the national park, there is the "Orang Utan Rehabilitation Center", where orangutans have been released into the wild since 1973 - incidentally in cooperation with the Frankfurt Zoo, after the ban on keeping them as pets was slowly gaining ground. After a lunch break, most of us, accompanied by a national park ranger, set out to observe animals in the jungle, which are so similar to humans. In Indonesia they are considered close companions of humans: orang means human, utan means forest - so the name means "Forest Man". This year we were lucky - after a rather arduous hike the reward came: several monkeys, some of which approached almost without fear, met our group and we got lots of good photos. The participants returned to the hike completely enthusiastic - sweaty but happy.
The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing. A typical regional dinner brought us all back together in the dining room before the day ended with a typical tropical downpour.

On the way to Brastagi, eleventh day, Sunday, October 20:

In order to get to the further route in the south and towards Lake Toba, we first had to go back to Medan and then further south-east to Batak land. In the amusement resort Greenhill we had lunch break and the opportunity to have lunch and then we were able to make a photo stop at the Sembaha River, a summer break for the locals who like to come here for short vacations during the holiday season or on weekends. Small cottages and guest accommodations line the river, where the summer visitors come Pass the time by bathing or "rafting" with inflated car tires or repeatedly having drinks or small snacks at the numerous local food stalls. On the continuation of the journey, at the suggestion of our tour guide Linda, we stopped at a place on the road where we saw live fruit bats - Unfortunately in the cage. These mammals, which belong to the bats, can be found everywhere in the rainforests of Sumatra. They are similar to bats, but mostly larger than them, and often even appear threatening due to their wingspan of more than one meter. whose elongated dog-like Ko pf led to its name, completely harmless. They are now very much threatened with extinction, as they are hunted in some places as plantation pests and elsewhere for their meat. Here, too, at the point where we were able to photograph them, the animals caught from the wild should be sold to local people who need them as medicinal products. For us this time it was the only and unique opportunity to look at the cute looking animals up close and to be able to photograph them.
In the afternoon we finally reached Brastagi, an important market town and center of a plateau, which is about 1400 m above sea level. First of all, we experienced the most important market in the region on a tour, with numerous explanations from the tour guide Linda again about the vegetables and exotic fruits, of which we bought various for tasting, e.g. the delicious, unknown mangosteen, tamarillos and - for later - for every guest a fresh passion fruit. Afterwards there was free time to visit the market. A tour here is always interesting and the hustle and bustle in Brastagi is particularly colorful - because here in the central market of the region, souvenirs, clothing and live animals are sold in addition to food, everyday items and Eastern and vegetables. After the tour of the market, we checked into the hotel on the Gundaling observation hill, which was named after the nearby volcano "Sibayak", and later enjoyed a good dinner.

Through Batak Land to Lake Toba, twelfth day, Monday, October 21:

This morning there was a photo stop at Gundaling Hill. The evening before, due to the rainy weather, almost nothing was seen of the beautiful surroundings and it was not particularly clear this morning either. Nevertheless, we were able to take a good look at the volcano Sinabung, which is currently active, while the neighboring Sibayak hardly showed itself.
Since yesterday afternoon we have been traveling in the land of the Batak, who are divided into five main tribes. Today we started with a visit to the Batak Karo village of Dokan. Here there was of course the opportunity, with the approval of the clan chief, to see one of the traditionally built private houses made of wood and bamboo from the inside. Up to eight families live here under the leadership of the oldest man, in a huge house with a steep roof structure, which is still built and furnished as it was centuries ago. Although we came without notice, the extended family gave us a warm welcome and willingly let us look around and take pictures everywhere. It is a unique experience and exactly "real travel" when you can look "behind the scenes" of people's everyday life like here! After saying goodbye to the residents and the end of the tour through the village, we were able to deepen our impressions during the subsequent visit to a long house with a museum. The "Rumah Bolong" longhouse was once the seat of the last Simalungun kings who were ousted after Indonesia's independence. The interesting ensemble of "castle", guard house, representative buildings and storehouses is still in a historical location and is very picturesque, photogenic and deepened the impression of the typical architecture and way of life of the Batak peoples

Lake Toba

A little later we had our first view of Lake Toba. Of course there was a photo stop here, because in addition to the view of the lake, we had a wonderful panoramic view of the Sipiso-Piso waterfall, which is over a hundred meters high.
On the way we then stopped for photos and explanations at a point where Linda could explain a clove tree and coffee bushes to us. Until then, many of us hadn't seen cloves ripen on trees and coffee ripen on bushes. Here we had the opportunity to take a photo of a particularly lush coffee bush, on which the pretty white flowers as well as green and unripe as well as ripe, deep red coffee cherries were hanging.
In the afternoon we arrived in the town of Parapat, one of the ferry locations and pier for trips across Lake Toba Parapat on Lake Toba. The bus was unloaded and the driver and his helper prepared to see us again the day after next, as the bus was not allowed to go to the island of Samosir due to the lack of transport and the narrow streets there. Porters loaded our suitcases onto the boat and we drove relaxed across the lake for a little over an hour. Then we could go ashore directly at the hotel "Samosir Villas", which offers a wonderful view from the water. The hotel has its own ambience and the wonderfully spacious, beautifully furnished rooms were a real positive surprise. There was free time - for example to relax at one of the two pools or a swim in Lake Toba - until we got together for dinner, after which there was rousing live music in the style and with songs of the Batak and a dance performance.

Batak villages on Samosir, thirteenth day, Tuesday, October 23:

A day by boat - today the program promised to be very relaxed. Our hotel was on the holiday island of Samosir, which at 647 km² is only slightly smaller than the Balearic island of Menorca. It is the largest island in the world, which is located in a crater lake and this in turn - the legendary Lake Toba - is in turn the largest volcanic crater lake in the world. Its area of ​​1776 km² could contain more than three times that of Lake Constance and as a funnel-shaped, volcanically formed body of water, it exceeds most inland lakes in the world with a depth of over 500 m. Today we wanted to visit the most interesting and traditional places of the holiday island Samosir by boat on this lake of superlatives.
Our watercraft first brought us to the unspoilt town of Ambarita with its originally preserved village center in the style of the Batak Toba villages. The modest royal palace is surrounded by traditionally built houses on stilts and houses a well-preserved court and ritual site of the Batak. Everything in the village still breathes the old traditions and way of life, starting with the surrounding wall, which offers only one single passage in and one out - which, according to tradition, must be just as high that a woman with a rice sack on her head and so wide that a water buffalo can fit through it. The special thing about Ambarita are the two originally preserved places of worship with stone furniture: the assembly and court area in front of the royal palace and the place of execution for ritual executions directly on the surrounding wall of the village. With detailed explanations of the beliefs and legal practices of the Batak Toba and descriptions of the rites for grasping and mastering the magical powers of potentially evil people, we succeeded quite well in presenting the described processes of village life not so long ago.


Then the boat took us to the next traditional Batak-Toba village: Simanindo. Here, too, there are the traditional carved stilt houses in the village center, in front of which a small demonstration of the traditional dances of the Batak took place, where the photographers got their money's worth as well as the scenery from the interesting ornate houses and rice granaries, the small museum in the Village house or the richly decorated huge dugout canoe. Tour guide Linda then surprised us by pointing out that a wedding was taking place and after just a few steps we met a colorful wedding procession, which we were allowed to follow to a homestead, where hundreds of wedding guests were waiting and traditional music was already being played. We were able to mingle with the guests, take a few photos and wait for the first dances before we turned back to our program. That included a visit to the traditional village of Tomok with its royal cemetery, but heavy rain set in on the way, which drove us under the roof of the boat. It hadn't completely died down when we marched through the small village of Tomok to the old royal tombs. Here we learned a lot about the history of the Batak Toba, especially about their most revered kings who - coming from the natural religion - later adopted the Christian faith. On the way back to the boat, as in Ambarita, we passed alleys full of souvenir sellers. Here in Ambarita and Tomok, in addition to shirts, bags, carvings prepared for tourists and all sorts of trinkets, quite original souvenirs were also on sale, e.g. wands for the practice of white and black magic, medicine man books and the carved Batak houses and ritual Batak calendars, which are popular here. The rain only stopped slowly later, while we returned to our hotel by boat and after some free time had our dinner.

Via Balige to Sipirok, fourteenth day, Wednesday, October 24th:

After our suitcases had been loaded back onto the boat, we returned to Parapat, where the bus crew met us. We covered the rest of the way by bus and soon stopped at a pineapple plantation. It was interesting to see how these fruits, which are very popular with us, grow and of course extremely tasty to taste fresh. Everyone had to admit that they taste different than at home: freshly harvested, peeled and cut by an expert hand, they are much sweeter and juicier than you know them in our supermarket - and certainly not comparable to canned pineapples.
There was even more tasting at or after the traditional market in Balige, which provided a smell experience with its many dried fish, but also astonishment at the variety of the offer, in addition to which, of course, fruit and vegetables were not to be missed. It was then interesting to taste the strange-looking, often heart-shaped fruits of the salak palm. Better known as "snake skin fruit" because of its flaky skin, the bittersweet and not exactly juicy fruits are very popular in Indonesia, but they do not always meet European tastes.
There was a short lunch break in the city of Tarutung and then a photo stop at the last view of Lake Toba. Getting out and walking was asked again when we stopped at the hot sulfur springs of Sipoholon. Smoking rivulets smelling of sulfur and flat, white-yellow mountains mark the volcanic sulfur eruptions on which the locals mine limestone.
The traditional-style hotel near the market town of Sipirok welcomed us for an overnight stay and a delicious traditional dinner.

From the spice garden to the highlands, fifteenth day, Thursday, October 25th:

Today we had the longest stretch in Sumatra ahead of us, so it was time to start early. In the morning, the first part of the program was a visit to a spice garden. We learned "how pepper grows", what cardamom, coriander or trees with nutmegs look like, how our kitchen spices grow and are prepared. Coconut palms also grow in this spice garden and at the end of our visit we saw a small demonstration with a trained monkey Afterwards we could of course taste the milk of young coconuts, as well as nibble on very fresh coconut meat that had been refined with brown palm sugar.
Later, a walk to the Aek Sijornih waterfall over an adventurous suspension bridge led to the beginning of expansion as a local recreation center. After some free time here, we were able to attend a state school straight away. As "exotic" visitors, we delighted the students (and probably messed up their lessons), but were welcomed very warmly by the teachers and warmly welcomed by the children, who then sang the Indonesian national anthem to us with great fervor. Another stop in Rimbo Panti At the Rainforest Resort in the pouring rain we took a short walk to a hot spring and then through a tiny piece of jungle. The last big highlight awaited us - unfortunately still in heavy rain - in Bonjol. Shortly before dark we reached it Equator, the imaginary line that divides the earth into a northern and a southern hemisphere. Almost two hours by car north of our destination Bukit-Tinggi, we crossed the equator from the northern to the southern hemisphere. Tour guide Linda had prepared a certificate for everyone to document the event - and she had obtained young palm wine for the he watering event. Admittedly - it takes some getting used to - and that was neither because of the rain nor the equator.
After further driving we reached our hotel in Bukittinggi after dark.

In the Bukittinggi highlands, sixteenth day, Friday October 25th:

The Bukittinggi highlands are one of the most interesting and important tourist areas in Sumatra. Here is a great natural attraction, the unspoilt Ngarai Sianok Canyon, which offered wonderful views and at the beginning of which you could still see the huge tunnel system built by the Japanese occupiers in the Second World War.
The colonial past of the place can still be seen in the remains of Fort de Kock, which the Dutch built at the highest point in 1825. Except for the remains of the wall, earthworks and a few rusty cannons, there is not much to see of the former fortress, because it has fitted into the landscape. We were then able to wander through Bukittinggi's small zoo with native animals, Sumatran elephants, tapirs, collar bears, Sumatran tigers and numerous birds, as well as a replica of a traditional Minangkabau house, before visiting the large market for its snacks and nibbles and a short stop at the city's landmark, the clock tower on the edge of the market crowned by a buffalo-horn-shaped roof in the Minangkabau style, ended our stay here.

Minangkabau Palace

On the further way we first visited a cooperative, where coffee was roasted in large drum roasting systems, which we were also allowed to try. After lunch we went to Batu Sangkar, the final highlight of Sumatra, whose Pagaruyung royal palace is the focus of the Minangkabau culture and the Bukit Tinggi highlands. The sight of it is certainly one of the most exotic of the whole trip, which was not exactly poor in traditional buildings. Although the local Minangkabau tribe accepted Islam as their faith, the rules of the Adat also count here. They lay down the unwritten customary rights of primitive society and the rules of matriarchy, especially in legal, inheritance, family and daily matters.
On our way to the last night in the port city of Padang, we made a photo stop at the Anai waterfall in the village of the same name and then to get to the port city of Padang. .
Our hotel, located on the shores of the Indian Ocean, received us for the last night and we had our dinner in a renowned fish restaurant.

Padang and flight home, seventeenth day, Saturday, October 26th:

In the morning on the way to the airport there was still time for a short detour to the fishing port of Padang. It forms a kind of suburb, located on a river from which the fishing boats set off for the Indian Ocean in the morning. After a photo stop here we drove to the airport at noon and said goodbye to the bus driver, bus attendant and our tour guide Linda, who helped us to check in the group for the domestic flight to Jakarta with the Indonesian airline "Garuda". Unfortunately, the delay was so that Despite the fact that we had planned enough time, we had to fear that we would not be able to collect luggage from Jakarta's national airport and check in again at the international terminal.
Immediately after landing, we secured the help of a Garuda employee, who led us through the inside of the building to the departure desk of the Singapore Airlines and helped us with the hasty check at the last minute. At the "last minute", the "Garuda" delivered our luggage, which we were then just able to post to Germany. This was followed by rapid passage through border and security controls - and we had reached the plane in time for our flight home. After changing at Singapore's Changi Airport, we sat in the Lufthansa Airbus A 380 and flew to Frankfurt. Here we changed again, passed the extremely exaggerated German security check - the third during this one flight - and reached our destination airports on the morning of the eighteenth day of travel, Sunday, October 27th. This trip also has great, exotic and interesting new experiences brought to those who already knew some parts of Asia. We were able to get to know up-and-coming countries that are still little known in Europe, such as modern and traditional Malaysia, as well as Sumatra, with its outstanding landscape and populated by very different peoples, or the ultra-modern city-state of Singapore.
We can already look back on this journey next year. It will definitely be just as eventful and I'm looking forward to it.
So see you soon!
Your dr. Michael Krause, Eberhardt study tour guide

Picture gallery for the trip