Sumatra:: The high hills of Bukittinggi

West Sumatra, Bukittinggi. Sianok canyon (Ngarai Sianok) is a steep valley (ravine) located in Bukittinggi, about 15 km long. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

West Sumatra, Bukittinggi. Sianok canyon (Ngarai Sianok) is a steep valley (ravine) located in Bukittinggi, about 15 km long. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bukittinggi, north of Padang in the Minangkabau highlands, sits at an altitude of approx. 920 m. The name Bukittinggi means high hill or top. This is a charming city with a cooler climate than Padang, and is one of the most important cities of the Minang people, greatly influenced by their traditional culture. The name “Minangkabau” is put together by “menang” (victory) and “kerbau” (ox or water buffalo).

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Sumatra:: The Siberut experience

A river on Siberut island in Indonesia.

A river on Siberut island in Indonesia.

The first thing I saw was green. Green grass, green leaves, green trees, there was earth everywhere. Between short scraggly grasses and luxuriant ferns, palm trees rose from the ground, uniformly arched; their leaves languidly reaching to the sky in perfect circles. Enhanced by the pale steamy sky, the smell of rain and grass emanated from the air, tingling my taste buds, filling my lungs and sending cool, flowing shivers down my spine.

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Wildlife:: The Orangutan

Indonesia, Sumatra. Bukit Lawang. Gunung Leuser National Park. The orangutan sanctuary of Bukit Lawang is located inside the park. At the feeding platform eating bananas. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Indonesia, Sumatra. Bukit Lawang. At the feeding platform eating bananas. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The name Orangutan can be translated to “man from the forest”. In the Malay language (the official language of Malaysia and Indonesia) “orang” means man and “hutan” means forest. Today the orangutans are only found on the islands of Sumatra and Borneo, but once they probably inhabited all of South-East Asia. Their natural habitat is the rainforest, and in contrast to other great apes they spend most of their life in the trees.

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Sumatra:: The North Sumatra Triangle

Indonesia, Sumatra. Samosir. A Batak house is built on stilts, made of wood (without nails) and roofed with sugar palm fibre, or unfortunately today more often rusting corrugated iron. The style vary from region to region, but the basics are the same. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Indonesia, Sumatra. Samosir. A Batak house is built on stilts, made of wood (without nails) and roofed with sugar palm fibre, or unfortunately today more often rusting corrugated iron. The style vary from region to region, but the basics are the same. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The North Sumatra Triangle — a paradise for budget tourists. “Unity in Diversity” is the national motto of Indonesia. There are over 300 tribal-ethnic groups living on 6,000 islands. The remaining 11,000 islands are uninhabited. The larger islands are Java, Sumatra, Irian Jaya and Kalimantan. Kalimantan comprises two-thirds of the island of Borneo, the other one-third being East Malaysia (Sarawak and Sabah) and the Sultanate of Brunei.

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Sumatra:: Minangkabau identity

West Sumatra, Bukittinggi. Rumah gadang (Minangkabau: big house with horn-like roof). Traditional Minangkabau home at the museum. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

West Sumatra, Bukittinggi. Rumah gadang (Minangkabau: big house with horn-like roof). Traditional Minangkabau home at the museum. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The Minangkabau–who predominate along the coasts of Sumatera Utara and Sumatera Barat, interior Riau, and northern Bengkulu provinces–in the early 1990s numbered more than 3.5 million. Like the Batak, they have large corporate descent groups, but unlike the Batak, the Minangkabau traditionally reckon descent matrilineally. In this system, a child is regarded as descended from his mother, not his father.

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Sumatra:: Facts

West Sumatra, Padang. Rainbow west of the Teluk Bayur port. (Bjorn Grotting)

West Sumatra, Padang. Rainbow west of the Teluk Bayur port. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Sumatra is the fifth largest island in the world and the third largest in Indonesia. Population is about 40 million. The island is divided in the Aceh, Riau, Jambi, Bengkulu and Lampung provinces, and North, South and West Sumatra. It borders the Indian Ocean to the west and Malaysia to the east, separated from the Malay peninsula by the Malacca strait. Area is about 425.000 square kilometers.

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Sumatra:: Trekking in Gunung Leuser National Park

Indonesia, Sumatra. Bukit Lawang. Gunung Leuser nasjonalpark. The Bohorok river continue further down through Bukit Lawang. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Indonesia, Sumatra. Bukit Lawang. Gunung Leuser nasjonalpark. The Bohorok river continue further down through Bukit Lawang. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

The Gunung Leuser national park is covering an area of about 9.000 sq km, and Bukit Lawang is today the main point of access to this impressive habitat, which wildlife includes tigers, rhinos, tapirs, elephants, gibbons, reptiles and of course the orangutan. There are more than 380 species of birds and a huge number of flowers, trees and other plants.

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Sumatra:: Going ape in Bukit Lawang

Indonesia, Sumatra. Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang is a small tourist village at the bank of Bahorok River. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Indonesia, Sumatra. Bukit Lawang. Bukit Lawang is a small tourist village at the bank of Bahorok River. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Bukit Lawang is a pleasant getaway from the polluted streets of Medan. The village sits on the eastern outskirts of Gunung Leuser National Park, a huge sanctuary for the flora and fauna of the region, but BL is maybe most famous for the Bohorok Orangutan Rehabilitation Center. These attractions has made Bukit Lawang one of the most popular destinations in northern Sumatra, and today the town exists almost only for the purpose of serving the tourists.

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Sumatra:: Lake Toba

Indonesia, Sumatra. Toba. View of the Toba Lake from the mainland, Parapat side looking north-west. Samosir to the left, this island was created around 30-75.000 years ago. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Indonesia, Sumatra. Toba. View of the Toba Lake from the mainland, Parapat side looking north-west. Samosir to the left, this island was created around 30-75.000 years ago. (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Lake Toba (or Danau Toba in Indonesian) is a lake and former supervolcano, 100 kilometres long and 30 kilometres wide, and 505 metres at its deepest point. Toba is located in the middle of the northern part of Sumatra with a surface elevation of about 900 metres. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world. In addition it is the site of a supervolcanic eruption that occurred 69,000-77,000 years ago, a massive climate-changing event. This eruption is believed to have been the largest anywhere on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory to which some anthropologists and archeologists subscribe, it had global consequences, killing most humans then alive and creating a population bottleneck in Central Eastern Africa and India that affected the genetic inheritance of all humans today.

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Sumatra:: Aceh

Sumatra, Aceh, Banda Aceh. Beach just outside Banda Aceh, (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Sumatra, Aceh, Banda Aceh. Beach just outside Banda Aceh, (Photo Bjorn Grotting)

Aceh is the northernmost province on Sumatra and in Indonesia, the provincial capital is Banda Aceh with a population of approx. 150.000. The province is rich on resources, mainly oil and natural gas. The most important agricultural products are rice, coconuts, rubber, tea and coffee. Aceh has because of it’s location always been one the first points of contact with foreigners, with both positive and negative consequences

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