Friday, May 21, 2010

Cinnamon trees and big-ass lizards

I'm back and that means it's finally time to post about Bukittinggi! It's been a week since I left Bukittinggi; talk about stringing you along mercilessly, huh? 

Not too long after my arrival in Bukittinggi I met a local by the name of Lala. He suggested a hotel for me which, honestly, was kinda crap, but he still turned out to be a pretty cool guy. He told me about a hangout cafe that was nice and very much needed after my long overnight bus ride from Lake Toba and then he offered to walk around with me and show me some of the sights. We went to Panorama Vista with very good views of the mountains Singgalang, Sago, and Merapi (a still active volcano). Next we checked out a couple of the markets (one of my very favorite things to do in a new place) and scoped the old clock tower in the center of town. When I finally decided I was so tired I couldn't possibly walk another step, Lala and I went back to the cafe for a coffee and some chatting. (Lala, btw, is a pretty interesting character and I'll have to tell you more about him some time. Someone remind me!) I was trying to figure out my game plan for the rest of my time in Bukittinggi and made arrangements to spend the following day with Lala on the back of a motorbike checking out the surrounding areas of Bukittinggi (it means "tall hill" in case you were wondering).

The next morning Lala had something come up and he couldn't do the tour after all, but he introduced me to Roni (as in the San Francisco treat) and I went with him instead. There were a number of scheduled stops for the day and after the amount of time that's passed, I honestly can't even remember the order of things, but it doesn't matter much. We started out by checking out a couple of villages, making stops along the way to take pictures. For one of these stops, Roni pulled some bark off of a tree and told me I could chew it if I wanted. The last time this happened was in Bukit Lawang when my guide handed me some bark from a quinine tree. It was very bitter and took forever to get that horrible, medicinal taste out of my mouth, so I wasn't in such a hurry to go tasting random tree barks. I smelled it first and immediately recognized it to be cinnamon. I tried it, expecting it to be at least a little bit bitter, but it was quite pleasant actually. Did YOU know cinnamon came from trees? Because it honestly never even occurred to me. Cinnamon wasn't the only plant I got a lesson on, either. Next Roni handed me a tiny, slightly closed up yellow flower bud that almost looked like a smaller-than-pinky-fingernail version of a chrysanthemum and told me to chew it. He hadn't steered me wrong yet so I didn't even hesitate this time and was only slightly surprised when my mouth started to go numb. Apparently this flower is used by locals for toothaches and other mouth injuries. And finally in the area of plants, Roni pointed out a type of fern that is sensitive to touch and actually closes up when you get near it (I'd also seen this in Malaysia and it's so cool), and we chatted with a guy who was harvesting coffee cherries.

Alright, so enough about the plants. We also saw lots of water buffalo (some super close to the road and making funny faces at us), flying fox bats, and monitor lizards. Now, monitor lizards aren't nearly as big as Komodo dragons (which live on the island of Komodo in Indonesia and isn't an island I'll get to before my visa runs out), but they're still pretty big, hence the "big-ass" descriptor in the title. And though we did see two of them, only one truly lived up to that, the other was downright tiny in comparison.

In addition to seeing more of the mountains I mentioned above, we also went to Lake Maninjou and Sianok Canyon. The lake was absolutely stunning and made for an awesome place to stop for coffee. But the road surrounding it, 44 Bends (or so called by Roni anyway), definitely added to it and was a lot of fun on a motorbike. Sianok was no Grand Canyon, but it was cool, too. 

And the villages. One was known for their brown sugar making and one for their silver making; we watched both activities for awhile before moving on. At lunch time we stopped at a place where I met the little guy in the picture. He was super shy at first, but he came around. :-) He must've been about four or so and in between spurts of playing he was working in a school book, the kind that preps you for reading and writing. It was with him that I learned (at least) four new Bahasa Indonesian words and had a great time doing it. If I'd stuck around even longer, I'm sure I'd know more.

The tour ended around 7pm, I took a quick shower, and went out for my last dinner in Bukittinggi. It was an earlyish night since I had to catch an 8:30am bus to Padang for a flight.

You're probably not keeping track of the amount of travel involved between Lake Toba and the Gili Islands. Let me recap for you. It started with the 17 hour bus trip from Lake Toba to Bukittinggi. A 17 hour bus trip made much worse by the fact that Indonesian roads are pretty horrible. You'll be tooling along and then all of a sudden have to come to a dead stop because the roads are rutted and rocky and, well, non-existent, actually. Two days later I spent the better part of nine hours on the back of a motorbike. The day after that I went two hours by bus to Padang, flew to Jakarta (two hours), had a one hour layover then flew to Bali (two hours). Two days after THAT, I rode 1 1/2 hours by bus to Padangbai, took a five hour ferry to Senggigi, rode one hour by bus to Bangsal, and (finally) took a 45 minute shuttle boat to Gili Trawangan. Is it any wonder that I wanted to do nothing for a few days (or weeks!) after all of that??


  1. Wow! Shan that was alot of travel time. You sure are looking nice and tan and you look
    great! Did you ever get to go diving?

    Love you!

  2. They actually have those closing plants in Hawaii too and I agree they are super cool! Glad we got to chat tonight/day :-)

  3. I know you'll eat just about anything, but tree bark? Girl, you need to come HOME.

  4. ToadMama - I didn't eat the tree bark! I just chewed it and tasted it a little, LOL.