South Sumatra and Jambi

We arrived in Badar Lampung well after dark. The journey had involved a pretty hot bus, a nice ferry crossing, and another few hours of semi comfortable bus ride once we made it to Sumatra. My first impression was that this was a ghost town, as all businesses appeared shut and cars put aside, the streets were empty. I could however see light inside the houses, and I remembered warning words about Lebaran: the country pretty much comes to a halt for the celebration. Let’s say it’s the Muslim version of Christmas -families get together and eat lots…

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We eventually found some dinner, and walked the streets in search of a place to spend the night. Our efforts were fruitless; the hotels were way over our budget, and to our surprise, mostly full. Tim left me sitting on the side of the road with our packs while he visited some other venues, and I was left there fighting the huge disgusting cockroaches threatening to overwhelm me if I did not keep them at bay. After about an hour, I started getting a bit worried and manufacturing a rescue plan in my mind. Shortly afterwards I saw him attempting to cross the 7 laned street, with 3 teenagers on his heels. I then got introduced to Witit, Pipit and Rio, and they invited us to stay at their house, with their combined families. We humbly accepted, and were greeted with huge smiles and heart-warming hospitality. None of the adults spoke any English, but thanks to the kids translation, google, hands and gestures, we talked well into the night, and laughed lots. During our stay in Lampung, we grew to become part of the family, learned to love and respect one another, making our pass through this town unforgettable.

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Over the next few days, we were fed as if we were starving children. There are some cookies only made during this time of the year (Lebaran), and they range from savory cheesy cookies, to sweet crumbly ones, chocolate sticks and anything you can think of in between. There was a vast variety that they kept shoving in our faces (which we mostly gladly accepted) and we felt sorry that these are not part of Indonesian cuisine for the rest of the year, as they are wonderful. In general, every meal we shared was delicious. Pipit’s mother had won some sort of cooking competition and was an expert in the kitchen. The last day, they made us all our favorite Indo dishes together: vegetable soup, tempe, tofu, rice and eggplant sambal curry. If we stayed any longer with them, we would have rolled away of that house…

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Originally, my main goal in this town was to visit the Butterfly Gardens, a local initiative dedicated to preserving the endangered Sumatran Butterflies. They have over 180 species! The place is located about 45 minutes away from town, but our friends took us there with their bikes. The park is quite attractive on its own, and we wondered around for a long time, admiring the fauna and taking pictures. There is one enclosure where they keep some really big Kupu-Kupu, and also some quite cool tree houses build out of bamboo. We had an amazing day for sure, and the entrance was only 10.000! Most certainly a worth while place to visit if you are ever in Badar Lampung. I have updated wikitravel with all the details to make it easier to find and explore for future adventurers 🙂


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Adi, Wiwit’s dad, turned out to have been a professional Volleyball player in his youth, before he injured his knee and had to retire. I was delighted to hear this, and we went to the local gym to hit some balls. His sister joined us there, who was also quite skilled, and we had an amazing time. Needless is to say, sports in the tropics has its obvious added difficulty… Before we left he gifted us Indonesian volleyball shirts, which we will treasure as long as we live. The same day, they dressed us up Muslim style and took millions of pictures…


All good things come to an end, and our trip had to continue, so we had to say goodbye to our newly acquired Indonesian family. Hugs were given, tears were shed (lots of them) and we took an overnight train to Palembang, the end of South Sumatran’s rail way line. The ride was very comfy, as we were forced to pay for Eksekutiv class (this is how they spell Executive), because all the other tickets were sold out for 10 days. Once in Palembang, we took an Angkot to the city center, but had not been able to find any cheap hotels online, so all left to do was walk around hoping to stumble upon one, while asking locals for help. Again I stayed with our stuff, while reading Children of Dune, and Tim went about finding us a place to spend the night. It took him a long while, but he finally returned with his chosen place, after walking on the wrong direction for a while, and visiting and comparing many options.


The hotel was quite nice, with a hot shower and AC. I cannot even remember the last time I had had a hot shower (Kuching, maybe?), so this was priority number one.  The city of Pelambang is not very dazzling, but we had a day there so we set out to explore it. We found quite wonderful street food in a small alley, but were unable to replicate at night time. We walked for a long time, but all previously bustling places were now closed and the streets deserted. We finally settled for some rather expensive chicken noodle soup and turned in for the night.


Finding transport the next morning was quite a challenge. Because of the holidays, all the buses going to Jambi were full, or so we were told. After checking multiple “travel” companies (they specialize in organizing private cars from town to town) we found the cheapest and started making our way towards Jambi. The trip there took all day, and we did not eat anything until we arrived. We were then happy to sit at a Warung and eat lots of rice and tempe, while we attempted to procure a phone to contact Lukman, our upcoming CS host.


He and a friend picked us up from the vicinity and took us into his home. Two other surfers were currently staying with him, a Polish guy called Wojtek, who had already spent 10 months in Indonesia and could speak the language, and a Swiss girl, doing some research for University in the country. The five of us stayed up talking until quite late, exchanging impressions of the country and brain storming possibilities for what we perceive are the more latent problems: pollution, rubbish, education. We mixed all that serious talk with some travel stories and a lot of laughter, so it was all in all an inspiring and fun night.


The next morning, a few of Lukman’s friends joined our party (minus a Polish who left in the morning) and we set out to see the magnificent Jambi temples. Though many of them are flattened to the ground, and had been forgotten for generations, their sight is still awe inspiring and the place teeming with life. Moreover, this was on a Saturday, so many families were enjoying the walks and green open space. We took Wilson with us, and played some volleyball while we were at it.

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Our last day in Jambi was relaxing. Finding internet proved to be an almost impossible challenge, and we miserably failed at it. We did spend some time exploring WTC mall, as it encompasses a fabulous Play-land adorned with the creepiest animals we have seen.

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Instead, we bought food to make dinner for all. We splashed out and bought French cooking cream, making a delicious tasting pasta that everyone loved. Enjoying good food with friends always lightens up the spirit!


Thanks to Lukman’s hospitality, our stay in Jambi was very memorable and worthwhile. He even recommended a friend of his for us to stay with in Bangko, which we gladly accepted. Getting there was rather simple and we caught a chicken bus that took us all the way. Following Isna’s (our host) instructions to get to his office was also easy and we were definitely very glad once we made it to the AC. Once he completed his work shift, he and a friend drove us to his home, were we met his 2 year old daughter and his gorgeous wife, Yuni. They served us a delicious dinner and shared their warmth and stories with us. They are both lovely people, and we were honored to stay there.

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Nonetheless, we still had been unable to get an internet connection for about a week by that point, and we needed one for planning our trip further. With that in mind, we found a hotel the next day, promising to still spend our afternoons/nights with our new friends. Therefore we dedicated days to research on Kerinci National park, trying to figure out where to go, what to do, etc. We read lots, sent emails, drafted itineraries, etc… The first night, Isna took us to his favorite restaurant in town, who specialize in steaks. The food was very yummy, though the portions were quite small. Two of his friends joined us as well, and we had a very entertaining evening. The following night, we returned the favor by making a meal for them. We made our first attempt at Indonesian style food, and the result was quite successful. Yuni helped us organize the ride for the following day, and we departed knowing how lucky we were to have met these two wonderful souls 🙂


The ride up the mountains was absolutely stunning. To both our sides, mountains started raising high and proud, covered in dense forest. Some lower hills started showing signs of cinnamon trees, with their yellow, red and brown colours and distinguishing smell. The streams we crossed were pristine and cold, and a few small waterfalls also made an appearance. I could not help but try and look and absorb everything at once, with a big smile on my face. Going uphill also meant the temperature dropped considerably, a welcomed sight for both of us, who were starting to feel lethargic due to the heat.


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