January 29 Travel to Bukit Lawang, Indonesia

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One of the first mosques that we saw in Medan. There were many, many mosques in Medan!

Our trip to Sumatra, Indonesia got off to kind of a rocky start. First, Harmony left her passport in her room in Tainan. And she discovered that she had left it behind too late on Tuesday evening to go back, get it and return in time to make our morning flight to Sumatra. Fortunately, Jeff’s second cousin, Robert, who had already left his house (where Harmony is staying in Tainan) to drive to Taizhong for the Chinese New Year holiday, drove back to Tainan to get Harmony’s passport, and met us at the airport in Taoyuan with it on Wednesday morning! He drove about six or seven extra hours (through the night) to do this for her! Thank you Robert!

Then, Jeff was delayed going through immigration. Harmony and I waited for him while the immigration officials took him aside somewhere. We were afraid that he might not be able to leave Taiwan! They finally resolved the issue, and he got through before we missed our flight. Apparently, there was a stamp on his passport, but no record of his entering Taiwan. This greatly confused the officials.

And then I left my camera on plane. We tried to go back and retrieve it, but the plane had already taken off. So we ended up driving into Medan instead of driving straight to Bukit Lawang so we could buy another camera. Do bad things happen in threes? This was not a smooth start, but nothing else went badly wrong on our trip.

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Ann is drinking from a water fountain at the Kuala Lumpur airport. Notice the prominent No Spitting sign!

We had to change planes in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, as there were no direct flights between Taiwan and Sumatra. The Kuala Lumpur airport was very nice. I really liked the large tropical forest tree garden (arboretum?) in the center of the Kuala Lumpur airport terminal building!

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Ann and Harmony are standing on a second floor walkway in front of the tropical tree garden in the Kuala Lumpur airport terminal

We went inside the tree garden. There was a walkway with signs explaining the types of trees planted there. There was also a waterfall in the center.

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Arboretum garden and waterfall in the center of Kuala Lumpur airport terminal

We saw lots of palm oil trees from the airplane windows before we landed in the airport outside of Medan, Sumatra.

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Palm oil trees, as seen from the window of the plane flying into Medan, Sumatra

We were supposed to drive directly from the airport to Bukit Lawang, where we were staying for the night. But because we wanted to replace my lost camera, we drove into Medan instead.. This detour to purchase a new camera ended up taking about 3-4 extra hours because of the Medan traffic!

Medan was very congested with people and vehicles of all types. But it many other ways it did not look like a big city. There were no buildings taller than three stories. So I would guess that there are very few elevators inside buildings in this city. And there were a lot of single family homes mixed in with the apartment buildings. It is kind of a spread-out sprawl of a city.

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Typical apartment houses in Medan

Finding a store that had cameras for sale proved to be challenging! Tian, our driver, and Erwin, our tour guide, finally located a small place that had a Sony sign out front. Inside, they sold mostly clothes and dishes, but Jeff did manage to locate the one Sony camera that they had for sale. He and Erwin negotiated a price for it that used up all of the cash that we had taken out at the airport ATM, 2.1 million rupiahs (or about $169 dollars.) So we had to find another ATM and get more money before we left Medan, because we were told that there would be no ATMs in Bukit Lawang or Tankahan.. It is a very nice, small camera, with a great lens, and you will get to see many photos that I took on the trip with that camera. Naturally, no one returned the camera that I left on the plane.

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A sultan’s palace that we drove by in Medan

It is always interesting trying to get local money from ATMs when we travel. For example, in South Korea, Jeff’s Bank of China and Taisin Taiwan Bank debit cards worked, but not the US bank debit cards. In Sumatra, only the US bank debit cards worked, and not the ones from China and Taiwan. So we have learned to travel with multiple cards!

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Our guest house (the one on the right) in Bukit Lawang.

It was a long drive over very bumpy roads in the dark to get from Medan to Bukit Lawang. Jeff and Harmony fell asleep in the van, but I couldn’t sleep with all the bumpy and twisting roads. So I was very tired when we finally arrived in Bukit Lawang around 9:30 pm that night.Then we learned that we would have to walk about 20 minutes, uphill. on a path along the river to get to our guest houses. Fortunately, we had porters to carry the suitcases, but it seemed like a very long walk because I was so tired!

Our guest house had steps up to the second floor, where the entrance was located. there was a good sized bedroom, with a door that opened onto a balcony with a hammock. The bathroom was underneath the bedroom on the first floor, down a flight of stairs. It had only cold water for the sink and shower. There was  electric power, but no internet or fan. This was a very nice place to stay, even though it lacked some amenities!

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Harmony fell asleep in the hammock that first night!

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