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Last plane ride for the day! Hurrah! We get to go into the city! Hurrah! We’re going to Sumatra tomorrow! Hurrah!

No, we were exhausted. The plane ride to Jakarta was the final straw on this very tired camel’s back. We sat next to tiny little girl, around 16 years old, who was on her first flight and she was terrified. She clutched a bible to her chest the entire flight, and prayed for the take-off and landing. She was gorgeous.

We arrived in Jakarta fairly late, I think it was close to 1030/11ish. Somehow, there were still 1,000 taxi drivers eager to take us wherever we wanted. It was clear Benny Mac’s exhaustion and eagerness to try his hand at bargaining were fighting inside him once we exited the airport. In the end we went with the first guy we spoke with, and spent 150,000 rph to get to our hotel.

And then our first experience with Indonesian traffic. INSANITY. Four cars pushing to get on a single lane on ramp. An entire family, no one with helmets, riding a scooter. (Mom, Dad, INFANT, and TODDLER) Lanes? What are lanes? It took us ~45-1hr to reach the hotel, at one point sitting right in front of it but surrounded by cars with scooters running between us so we couldn’t move. I pride myself in being an amazing, aggressive driver- raised in Colorado winters on mountain passes and acquisition of super city skills in Chicago, Newark, New York and Tampa – however, I would never go behind the wheel in Jakarta.

Driving in Jakarta-Picture is blurry, but in all honesty, that is what makes it accurate.

We stayed at the Hotel Ciptura, reccomended by Mau Ke Mana. It was a touch far from the airport, or so we thought on the way there. The next morning it took us ~15 min to get to the airport! So clearly, it wasn’t too far. The place is pretty snazzy, very comfortable, and that was very welcome after our long layover. I can’t remember what we did for food that night- and I’m pretty sure I could tell you every meal we ate on this entire trip from memory, so I’m thinking we didn’t have dinner because we were too exhausted. I had made an insane amount of highly transportable ANZAC cookies, which we had been nibbling on all day, so that was probably the “meal”.

Sitting in front of the Hotel Ciptura

Hotel Ciptura

The hotel also arranged our taxi so we could catch our early morning flight. Funny- Benny Mac cannot bargain. Remember the 150,000rph price to get to the hotel? Right. 60,000 to get back. Valuable lesson learned- walk away, no matter how tired you are, they’ll come back.

Early morning departure, breakfast at the airport, uneventful plane ride into Medan, Sumatra. We were a bit worried that our set up driver, Ramadan, wouldn’t able to find us or that his English would be so stunted that we won’t be able to communicate during the long drive to Kedah. We shouldn’t have worried. While we were waiting for our bags, our height worked to our advantage and as we gazed across the crowd, we could see a small man waving directly at us, smile when we made eye contact, and gesture wildly to come to him. Once our bags arrived we did just that and started our adventure into the middle of this beautiful island.

The drive was exciting, tons of busy streets, blind turns and flooded/beat up passes. Ramadan was fantastic- we had tons of questions and he had all the answers. Perhaps a bit over zealous with suggestions on things to do, but that was okay as well. The drive took ~10-12 hours, and we didn’t really notice the time going by as there was so much to see.

Part of the drive to Kedah, Sumatra

Half way through the trip we had lunch in a small village in the mountains. We tried all kinds of curries (not nearly as hot, in my opinion, as everyone warned) including fish head. I surprised our driver by actually being excited to try it and happily sucking the eye balls out if its head. If you haven’t tried it, do.


While everyone was doing bathroom breaks, I wandered next door to buy some snacks for the road. A few men down the street yelled things and made gestures that were clearly rude. Sumatra, particularly the province of Aceh which follows sharia (Muslim law), is strongly conservative. I had been self conscience all day given my bare legs, and felt very visible with my exposed blonde hair. All day locals had been yelling words at the car, “Hey Mister!!” and something that meant tourist in a not-friendly sort of way. I had the impression that Ramadan was glazing over what they were saying and was uncomfortable discussing that we really weren’t wanted. Even the kids stared at us with venom.

My not-so-nice friends. Yes, I took a picture.

I slipped into the next door shop and grabbed some dried cassava and nori (seaweed) chips. Ramadan came in very suddenly asking what I wanted and where I had gone. He warned me that I shouldn’t wander by myself. As we walked out the men said nothing to me as Ramadan didn’t leave my side. I was embarrassed, like I should have known better, but Ramadan let it go the minute we got into the car.