Monday, 30 November 2015

South-East Asian Adventures: Monkeys and milkshakes in Bukit Lawang, Indonesia

After one night very much in the heart of the Sumatran jungle I was happy to be off to somewhere with a tad more civilisation (yes, partly if not solely with the hope of finding wifi.)

The roads tracks were so bumpy and uneven that the only vehicles that could even attempt to tackle them were 4x4s. Old 4x4s. Old 4x4s with no air con. 
It was not the most pleasant three hours of my life - however we did stop to admire a pretty awesome view..
...and in every village we passed through, local people waved and smiled as if we'd just made their weeks by waving back. They only see white people a few times a year so to them we're sort of like celebrities. And now I know how David Beckham feels. (Kinda.)

We also stopped to enjoy some fresh coconuts: the lovely Indonesian woman cut them straight from the tree in her garden! We sipped the coconut water and ate the flesh with brown sugar. Yummmm!

And shortly after, we reached our next destination: Bukit Lawang.
I really liked Bukit Lawang. It's a little town along a river in the middle of the jungle.
We kicked off our day there with a walk through the town...
...a precarious river crossing consisting of a barely-inflated boat attached to some string...
...a trek up the hills into the jungle, reminding me how unfit I am... find some monkeys, and find them we did.
It was really cool to watch them in their natural habitat, just doing what they do, monkeying around.

There must have been at least 15 of them around us, including some adorable baby ones.

However it later became clear that you really don't have to trek up into the jungle to find monkeys - there are plenty of them running around the town.
Suitably exhausted from the monkey-watching and mountain-climbing (-ish), Sarah and I decided a sit-down at one of the many charming jungle-style riverside cafés was in order.

And of course, we chose one with wifi.

After more than two days without internet (and thus zero snapchats added to my story) I'll be honest, I was expecting more messages of concern for my livelihood. Evidemment my family and friends wouldn't actually care if I died in the jungle, Gaaaaad! *flicks hair melodramatically*

Anyway I have no shame in saying that having connection to the rest of the world again made me so happy - there is something about being disconnected from everyone and everything that makes me irrationally nervous, and I didn't love that in the jungle. (Yes, I have issues.)

We sipped on dreamy thick fresh coconut shakes and caught up on our online happenings.
The sun was shining bright though and so Sarah and I were keen to go and soak up some rays. 

Bukit Lawang isn't really a sunbathing kinda town, so we simply sat on some rocks by the river underneath one of the houses - luckily the Indonesian lady who lived there was really friendly and more than happy to have us. 

In fact, while walking around Bukit Lawang, every Indonesian we passed would say "hello" to us, purely because we're white. It was a little bizarre but really very nice. And after a few weeks in Indonesia, I've become very used to it.
As we sat by the river, feeling the strength of the sun on our faces and listening to the roaring of the water over the rapids, our kind Indonesian lady slid into the river beside us, wrapped in a sarong. 

She was there to wash herself and taught us the Indonesian for "wash". We couldn't communicate much, but it's amazing what you can do with a smile. 

She had a little basket for her soap, toothbrush and paste, and laughed as she swam around in the water. 

It was a really nice moment. Sarah and I felt quite privileged actually that she didn't mind us sitting there as she went about her daily business - an everyday routine for her that was so fascinating and so different to us. 

I imagine Bukit Lawang is busier and has more tourists in the summer, but it was quiet and relaxed the November day we were there. Actually, the same could be said for the whole of Sumatra - I've seen approx five other white people, everything is chilled and no one seems to do anything other than sit around all day. 

In Bukit Lawang, we did see some Australians and Indians alongside us in restaurants, but it seemed like there were an unnecessarily large number of restaurants for the current number of people in the town. 

They were all charming though. 

Bukit Lawang ain't exactly a shopping destination, but there are a few local shops selling the usual elephant trousers and whatnot (yes, I bought another pair.)

People tend to come to Bukit Lawang to go and see orangutans or go tubing on the river. 

Sarah and I, however, fancied a bit of a chill after a non-stop few days. 

We ate chicken satay for lunch and spent the afternoon sheltering from a storm in Sam's Bungalow. It was a great little place - the restaurant has a roof but no walls and I loved sitting there all snug and watching the rain pour down into the river and over the mountain around us. 

Teacup in a storm?
We even saw an orangutan up in the trees across the river, that was pretty cool. 

With a steady supply of tea, I was very happy. 

First I had delicious cinnamon tea, then I opted for the most wonderfully-spiced chai I've ever had. 

Alongside our warming beverages, Sarah and I decided to share a portion of the traditional Indonesia speciality, fried bananas.

We tucked in to the pretty plateful as soon as it arrived.

Crisp on the outside and warm inside, drizzled with chocolate sauce and, oh, what is this white stuff? Coconut? White chocolate?

I tried some by itself.

What it was, dear friends, was cheese.

Yes, cheese.

At first we wondered if the restaurant was playing a trick on us but having seen fried bananas with cheese in lots of other places since, it would seem the dish is a legit thing.

And yes, it's weird.

The thing is, before we worked out it was cheese, we were loving it. And we still ate it all after discovering the truth behind our savoury-sweet treat.

I kinda liked it. But it's confusing.

We liked Sam's Bungalow so much that we went back with the rest of the group for dinner that evening. I ate pumpkin curry and drank more tea while chatting and listening to the river rushing past.

And that was the end of our time in Bukit Lawang. The place had charm, and I really liked it. If you ever find yourself in the middle of the Sumatran jungle, do stop by.


  1. I've been loving reading about your Asian adventures - though I'm not hugely jealous of the cheese and chocolate bananas! x

    NINEGRANDSTUDENT: A Student Lifestyle Blog

    1. Thank you! Ha ha, you should totally try it :) x

  2. Looks like a gorgeous place!


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