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    Tropical Storm Tour: Sumatra Part 15

    Tuesday, August 18, 2015
    Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia

    Sriwijaya Air flight SJ 021 at Kuala Namu airport in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Sriwijaya Air flight SJ 021 at Kuala Namu airport in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    I finally left Medan today, a rather inhospitable city that had me snared by its cluttered charm for over a week–including the obligatory side trips to Danau Toba and Bukit Lawang. To get to Kuala Namu airport, I had planned to take a becak to the train station in central Medan, then catch the Airport Rail Link for a total cost of 120,000 rupiah ($8.89), but the owner of the Gandhi Inn talked me into using his personal driver for 150,000 ($11.12). He said it would be faster and easier, and in a way, it was, as I didn’t have to transfer from one vehicle to the next, etc. It took us about an hour to get there.

    Boarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ 021 at Kuala Namu airport in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Boarding Sriwijaya Air flight SJ 021 at Kuala Namu airport in Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    After killing some time in the Periplus book shop, which had a bunch of great books on Bali, where I’m headed next, I went to my gate to wait for the airplane. At Kuala Namu, there was only one gate for several airplanes, which was odd. I was worried I might miss my flight if I didn’t pay close attention to which line of passengers was boarding which airplane. After I asked a couple of different clerks, I found out my flight was delayed by 20 or 30 minutes.

    Jambatan Limpapeh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Jambatan Limpapeh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Fortunately, I got to sit in the aisle seat in the exit row for the one-hour flight, which meant I enjoyed a full 12 inches of leg room in front of my knees. Right before we landed, a guy sitting by the window two seats away held up his smart phone and snapped a photo of me. I was looking straight ahead, but glanced over right as he clicked it. He must have felt embarrassed that I busted him, because he aimed his face away from me and looked out the window for the rest of the flight all the way up to the gate.

    Bedudal Cafe in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Bedudal Cafe in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Waiting by the luggage carousel for 20 or 30 minutes, I was worried my backpack got lost or stolen. It was a huge relief when it finally appeared through the big rubber flaps as part of the very last batch. Walking outside the airport, I was immediately set upon by a tout for a mini-van to Bukittinggi. For the two-hour ride, he told me I had to pay 120,000 rupiah ($8.89). I knew he was overcharging me, but I didn’t care because I wanted to leave right away, so I’d still have an hour or two of daylight to look for a hotel room.

    A tempe burger and French fries at Bedudal Cafe in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A tempe burger and French fries at Bedudal Cafe in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    After two hours of crazy Indonesian driving (including but not limited to extreme tailgating and passing ultra-slow dump trucks as cars, buses and huge trucks barreled straight toward us from the opposite direction) proceeding through jungles, palm oil plantations and small towns, we finally pulled into Bukittinggi. Situated up in the hills, the temperature in this comparatively pleasant town is considerably more mild than lower elevations. I had the driver drop me off at the Grand Kartini Hotel, but at 350,000 rupiah ($25.94), the price was too steep for me. So, then I tromped around up and down the hill to a few other places, but they were either too expensive or full.

    Some Balinese decor in the Bedudal Cafe in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Some Balinese decor in the Bedudal Cafe in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    I finally managed to check into the last available room at the Hello Guesthouse for 250,000 rupiah ($18.53), with the hope that I could move into a cheaper one the following night. Run by a friendly Chinese woman named Ling, the rooms there were very bright and clean, which was a relief–and the wi-fi even worked in my room, which was a huge plus. The only bummer was the place was located right across the street from a mosque, which meant very loud announcements and singing got blasted over loudspeakers numerous times throughout the day and night. After the mosque noise subsided and the loud guests talking down front went to bed around midnight, I finally got some much-needed shut eye.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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