Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Accomodation in Maninjau, West Sumatra (Indonesia)

The best of the budget accomodation in Lake Maninjau (Danau Maninjau) is Muaro Beach Bungalows in Maninjau Town.


  • cheap at 50000 Rp
  • near the lake
  • has own restaurant on edge of lake
  • bungalows and restaurant just renovated
  • convenience of being in town
As there is nothing much to do in Maninjau once darkness falls, it's vital to have a restaurant where you can eat and socialise.

A popular travel guide raves over Riak Danau, but when I checked it out it was run-down, lacks a restaurant and had hardly any guests unlike Muaro Beach Bungalows which was full during the three days I stayed there.

The best accomodation in Maninjau costs from 175000 Rp to 350000 Rp. The cheaper rooms don't face the lake.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bukit Tinggi to Lake Maninjau by "Harmonius" bus Part 2

Descending down to Lake Maninjau the bus driver had to negotiate 44 hair-pin bends. One misjudgment would have sent the bus hurling down the steep hillside and crushed us to bits as easily as King Kong crushing hostile fighter jets, and onto the frontpages of newspapers.

Pic: "Harmonius" bus speeding in Maninjau.

Signage at each bend with huge numbers painted on them helped in the countdown to the bottom of the hill.

As the driver swung his ageing and overloaded bus round each bend with nonchalant aplomb, I grew anxious and glanced worryingly at the plastic bags swinging from the grab handle above.

The spectacular view of the lake below took my mind off my discomfort.

At 4.30 pm the ancient bus roared into the sleepy town of Maninjau. Phew!

Bukit Tinggi to Lake Maninjau by "Harmonius" bus

Like most Indonesian bus terminals, Aur Kuning Terminal, is rundown, badly in need of an upgrade. "Harmonius" buses ply the Bukit Tinggi-Lake Maninjau route for 18,000Rp or about SGD $2.40 for the hour-long journey.

Once again, it was a waiting game in the bus as in Padang and at Padang airport. However, there was the customary Indonesian "entertainment" as an assortment of characters trooped into the bus. Hawkers offered me snacks, drinks, fish crackers, skinny chicken parts and so on.

A small boy entered and gave everyone a slip of paper. An appeal for money. After reading it I did what others were doing -placed it on the seat. No one donated. Wordlessly he collected back his papers, left and boarded another waiting bus.

Next, a dark wizened old man came in with a plastic bag, and pushed it in front of me. Not a word was spoken. Nobody gave him anything.I was startled by someone singing and strumming the guitar. A young man sang lustily for a good three minutes at the end of which out came his plastic bag. For his sterling performance I gave him a donation.

My misery was compounded by the stink of urine coming from the renovation debris piled high next to my bus.

Another sampling of the famed Indonesian rubber time.

Padang to Bukit Tinggi (West Sumatra, Indonesia)

The Indonesian uncle drove like a speed demon. Any crash would have sent us to the mortuary! Fortunately the road from Padang to Bukit Tinggi 90 km away was good with few potholes unlike the roads to Lake Toba.

Anything that moved earned a blast of the horn from the driver. Anyone too tardy to get out of the driver's way attracted a torrent of verbal abuse. His favourite term of abuse was "Dog!"

In about an hour we arrived in Bukit Tinggi which at an elevation of 930m is slightly cooler than the lowlands.

The Indonesian guy next to me in the MPV was kind enough to take me to the bus terminal, Aur Kuning, from where there were mini-buses going to Lake Maninjau.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Padang to Lake Maninjau via Bukit Tinggi (West Sumatra)

At Minang Plaza, Padang, someone grabbed my bag and said, "Come, we're going to leave." He led me to his MPV but on realising that he wanted to squash me between three other passengers in a bench seat at the back, I beat a hasty retreat.

The MPV behind looked more promising, half full. Someone took my bag and placed in at the back of the MPV. I chatted with the friendly old man beside me.

I asked him, "What do you do?"

"Saya supir," he said offhandedly (I'm the driver).The coin dropped.

Someone outside kept shouting "Bukit Tinggi" at anything that moved. Gradually, the MPV filled up but to my surprise some passengers were vacating their seats!

Then it dawned on me that these "passengers" were part of the driver's clique to give the impression that their MPV was full, and therefore poised for departure.

A common practice in Indonesia.

After 45 minutes of waiting, we departed for Bukit Tinggi. About time. Aha, rubber time - part of Indonesian culture.

TIP: Padang to Bukit Tinggi costs 18,000 Rp by MPV (shared) SGD$1=7500Rp (apppro)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Padang to Bukit Tinggi (West Sumatra, Indonesia)

At Minang Plaza in Padang, I crossed the congested road packed with bikes and anglots (mini-vans), impatient to catch some form of transport to Lake Maninjau.

MPVs lined the roadside waiting for passengers. A guy grabbed my arm and said, “Come, we're almost full.”

When I realised he wanted to squash me between three passengers in one row of seat, I protested, “Hey, too people. There's no space for me” , and walked away.

The MPV behind looked more promising, almost full. An old man said, “Put your bag here.” I sat with him in the last row, glad I'd be having an amiable character as a fellow passenger.I chatted with him while waiting for the MPV to fill up.

I asked him, “What do you do?

I'm the driver.” The coin dropped.

Some 'passengers' left. Then it dawned on me that these people were the driver's clique, sitting in the MPV to give the erroneous impression that the vehicle was full and thus poised to leave. A scam.

A local man, short with curly hair and moustache, carrying a brief case made a timely appearance as the day was heating up.

The MPV finally left for Bukit Tinggi. Another hour wasted.

Padang to Lake Maninjau

Man in blue shirt on right hustling for passengers for airport bus

Wanderings in West Sumatra, Indonesia
(Singapore to Padang, Bukit Tinggi and Lake Maninjau)

After immigration clearance at Padang airport in West Sumatra, which was hassle-free and fast, I poppped into a toilet to do my usual "Superman" act -changing out of my formal long-sleeved shirt and long pants into my casual cargo shorts and sleeveless T-shirt. The toilet attendant stared at me, perhaps wondering what this lunatic was up to.

Afraid I might miss the airport bus, I hurried out. Taxi touts shouted "taxi?" but I ignored them and acted as though I've lived in Padang for 20 years. Fortunately, the Damri bus was parked next to the airport.

"Minang Plaza?" I asked a uniformed guy leaning against the bus. He nodded.

"Ongkos-nya berapa?"(How much is the fare?).

"Tiga belas ribu," the guy said. (13,000 Rp)

I hopped energetically on board, relieved that I'd made it on time.

Glancing at my cheap Casio watch (bought specifically for the trip), I noticed it was still very early. Hmm...good, still 9.30AM. I like to arrive in a foreign land early.

After 30 minutes, we were still going no where. All that haste wasted. I could have had my breakfast or explored the airport or something.

Only when the bus was full after about an hour did the driver materialise, and drive away.

This perfectly gives meaning to the Indonesian culture of "rubber time".

On Tiger from Singapore to Lake Maninjau, West Sumatra

Would you believe it? Thanks to Tiger Airways, my return ticket from Singapore to Padang in West Sumatra cost me the "princely" sum of SGD $58!
Padang is the nearest airport to Lake Maninjau or Danau Maninjau to give it its Indonesian name.

Before you realise it in just under an hour the pilot jolted me with the terse announcement that we'd be landing in Padang which in Indonesian means "field". But we'd not be arriving in a god-forsaken place but the capital of west Sumatra.

Like all small airports the world over, the welcoming folks enjoyed the excitement of an incoming flight. For them it's more exciting as they are not spared the roar of jet engines unlike those cocooned in huge modern airports.