Of all the regions in Indonesia, Aceh, at the northwestern end of Sumatra, is the first to have come into contact with the world outside. Chinese chronicles of as early as the sixth century A.D. spoke of a kingdom on the northern tip of Sumatra named Po-Li. Several Arabic writings of the early ninth century, and later inscriptions found in India also mentioned the area. In 1292, Marco Polo, the famous Venetian adventurer, on a voyage from China to Persia visited Sumatra and reported that on the northern part of Sumatera there were as many as six trading ports including Ferlec, Samudera and Lambri. The irony is that this area, which had for so many centuries maintained contact with others, is at present one of the least known of Indonesia even among Indonesians.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Around Banda Aceh
Banda Aceh is the capital of Aceh and also the main gateway to the province. The Governor’s Residence, was built by the Dutch in 1880 on the spot where the palace of the sultan once stood. This building is known as one of the historical sites with a unique architecture and completed with traditional house equipments.
This place is of course a restricted area and entering it must be with a kind of permission from the security guard.
Grand Mosque is one of the most out-standing landmarks in the capital city. The old mosque that stood there before it was burnt down at the beginning of the Aceh War, was rebuilt in 1875, taking its present shape after a number of renovations and expansions
is another charm of the city. The museum is filled with antiques. Among the exhibits is a big clock, a gift from the Emperor of China and brought to Aceh by the famed Admiral Cheng Ho in 1414.
Gunongan and Pinto Khop which are located at a few steps from the Pendopo are also charms of the city.
Gunongan was erected around the 16th century during the reign of Sultan Iskandar Muda.
Kerkhof or Churchyard is a much visited site especially by Dutch visitors where the remains of more then 2,000 Dutch soldiers lie buried.
The Syiah Kuala Grave
is another popular visitor’s object. Teungku Syiah Kuala was one of Aceh’s great Moslem Ulamas of the past. His grave stands near the mouth of Krueng Aceh River about 2 kilometers from the city, visited by local visitors and other parts of Indonesia and Malaysia.
Indra Patra Fortress. This old fort was built during the time of Iskandar Muda. It probably functioned as a defense against invaders.
Museum Cut Nyak Dhien is a historical object. The house is a replica of the heroine Cut Nyak Dhien, from the Aceh War. The house was burnt down by the colonial forces but a replica was built later, after Indonesia’s independence. This house in Lam Pisang, about 6 kilometers from Banda Aceh, is now a museum.
Un-crowded Banda Aceh has many beautiful beaches. The most popular ones are Ujong Batee beach, Lam Puuk beach and Lhok Nga beach. Those beaches are located about 16 kilometers from Banda Aceh. They have clean waters and white sands. Sunsets are quite impressive there.
Sea Gardens are located offshore from Banda Aceh at about 45 minutes by speed boat. Some can be enjoyed around Rubiah island in Sabang, and the others are around Beras, and other small islands around them.
Lhokseumawe is a town located 274 km from Banda Aceh which is now being developed as an industrial zone. Many gigantic plants are constructed following the discovery of huge LNG resources in the area. Touristic features of the town is a.o. Samudera Pasai. It was the first great Islamic kingdom of Indonesia. All that remains of it, however, is a graveyard 18 km east of the town. One of the graves belongs to Malikussaleh, as Samudera Pasai’s first king. Other objects for visitors are Blang Kolam Falls and Ujung Blang beach.
Takengon is a town located in the central area of Aceh. The main feature of the town is Lake Laut Tawar. It offers soaring cliffs around the shore which are ideal for rock hiking. The lake is also stocked with trout.
The National Park of Gunung Leuser is probably the wildest in Indonesia, located in Southeast Aceh, can be reached from either Kutacane, or Takengon. This magnificent national park has a wealth of flora and fauna. The park also has research facilities for the study of primates, birds, insects, and other animals. Basic accommodation facilities are available at Ketambe. The rapids-infested Krueng Alas river inside the park is popular with rafters.
Along the length of this province crosses the Bukit Barisan mountains with peaks of numerous volcanoes. In between are several lakes, one among them is the famous Toba Lake. The land has thick virgin forests, lush vegetation, rice fields, mountain streams, rivers, waterfalls and sandy beaches.
It has a rich flora and fauna. An abundance of birds, butterflies, buffaloes, deer, mouse deer, orang utans and many other export commodities make North Sumatra one of the richest provinces in Indonesia, as it produces more than 30 % of Indonesia’s exports. The province offers the visitors, especially nature lovers, beautiful tropical panoramas, terraced rice fields, blue mountains, jungle covered hills, white sandy beaches, music, dance and folk arts.
PLACES OF INTEREST
Medan was once the site of a battlefield between the Aceh people and the neighboring Deli Kingdom. Medan is the capital of North Sumatra Province, a trading center and important harbor.
Once Medan was part of the Deli Sultanate. What is historically most interesting is the Mesjid Besar (Grand Mosque) and the Palace of the Sultan of Deli which has been restored to revive its past grandeur.
Medan’s harbor town is called Belawan, which is the sea link to Penang, Malaysia. Medan, Indonesia’s western international gateway maintains regular flight to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Amsterdam and Vienna. Additionally, there are several air connections between Medan and Jakarta, and other destinations in Sumatra.
Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park
Located at Tongkoh village in the district of the Karo highlands, approx. 59 km from Medan. Formerly Tahura Bukit Barisan since 1916, known for its location called Arboretum Tongkoh Berastagi , however since 1989 renovated and renamed Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park.
Found there is the zoological museum and a gazebo with Karo ornaments designed on the top of the roof, painted with various writings of typical welcome greetings in Tapanuli, which is “Horas”.
Berastagi, a tourist town, is another lovely town located in the Karo highlands. The town is known for its plantations and various kinds of flowers, vegetables and fruit, most famous of which is the Marquisa passion fruit.
It’s 66 km southwest of Medan and is 4.594 feet above sea level. There is a pleasant colonial-style hotel with a golf course. Other new hotels can also be found. From Gundaling Hill a clear view of Mt. Sibayak and Mt. Sinabung volcanoes can be seen.
Lake Toba – Parapat
The town of Parapat is the main tourist resort and lies on the very shore of Lake Toba. This lake is about 50 miles long and 16 miles across, with a depth of about 1,400 feet.
In Parapat live Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun tribes, and are happy and easy going people. They are known for their lively and sentimental love songs.
Recreational sports in Parapat are among others swimming, water skiing, motor boating, canoeing, fishing. Golf is at Sally golf course (19 holes), about 5 km from Parapat.
Parapat is 176 from Medan and can be reached in 4 hours by bus. The climate in Parapat is cool and dry, making Parapat an ideal place to relax. Many hotels, bungalows, villas, rest-houses welcome visitors. Small shops sell souvenirs such as Ulos (local woven cloths) and specific fruits locally grown.
The island of Samosir is right in the middle of Lake Toba, covering an area of 329 square miles. This island is the original home of the fiercest but kind hearted Toba Bataks. It can be reached in half an hour by boat from Parapat. The villages of Tomok, Tuk-tuk, Siallagan, Ambarita are recommended for traditional Batak Toba houses, and local dances. This island has many hotels, bungalows, and rest houses.
Pematang Siantar is the second largest city, lying 128 km to the South of Medan. On the way, you will pass through many rubber, cocoa, palm oil, tobacco and tea plantations. This is the richest part of North Sumatera, because these plantations produce the main export commodities.
Then onward to Lake Toba you will see a vast stretch of land covered with thick forests, plantations, terraced rice fields, lush vegetation, green hills and mountains.
This island lies off West Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. The villages of Bawomataluo and Hilisimae are curions places to visit, where visitors can see performances of traditional war-dances and thrilling high- jump sports, i.e. people making dangerous leaps over 2 meter-high stones. Typical scenes are dancers clad in traditional costumes with bird feathers on their heads, a hall for the Chief-of Tribe built on wooden logs with stone chairs weighing up to 18 tons. There are daily flights from Medan to Nias island.
It lies in the southern part of North Sumatra, bordering the provinces of West Sumatra and Riau. This region has a population of about 900,000 and lies on the way to West Sumatra. The sceneries are attractive all the way. Some of the tourist objects are Candi Portibi, Dolok Simago-mago, Pakantan, Husor Tolang, Sibanggor, Adian Lungun Niroha.
This district is known for its ceramics and handicrafts. The Portibi temple is at Padang Bolak, 78 km from Padang Sidempuan, or 518 km from Medan. There are cultural remnants of a Hindu temple of the Kingdom of Panai, founded in 1039 A.D.
The land of the Minangkabau, West Sumatra has a distinct culture which distinguishes it from the rest of the island. A land of scenic beauty with blue green lakes and mountains, West Sumatra’s Centre of culture and tourism is Bukittinggi in the highlands, north of the provincial capital of Padang.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The capital of West Sumatera, Padang has several houses built in traditional architecture, including the Padang Museum which houses objects of cultural and historical interest.
Its beach on the bay of Bungus with its white sands is good for swimming, boating or just watching the fishing boats going out to sea in the afternoon. Small boats can be hired from here to some small islands nearby: Sirandah, Sikoai, Pagang, Parsumpahan.
The heart of the highlands, Bukittinggi is a two-hours drive through beautiful countryside of the Anai valley and up to the Agam Plateau. A center of attraction is the town’s clock-tower, topped with a horn- shaped roof and referred to by the people as Jam Gadang. It overlooks the market square and the city’s magnificent surroundings.
Located 930 meters above sea level, Bukittinggi, formerly named Fort De Cock by the Dutch, has a cool climate and is surrounded by three volcanoes: Tandikat, Singgalang and Merapi. In the outskirts of the town is the Ngarai Sianok, a canyon separating Bukittinggi from Kota Gadang, 12 km away overland.
Kota Gadang is renowned for its fine silver filigree and hand embroidery.
Also worth visiting is the Museum which is a Rumah Gadang, a traditional extended family house built in the 19th century. There are dance performances at the museum’s open stage every Sunday and on public holidays. Night dance performances are at Sliguri. It is also worth seeing the bullfights at Padang Lawas (6 km south of Bukittinggi) every Tuesday at 5.00 p.m.
Taman Hutan Raya Bung Hatta
It is a botanical garden covering 70,000 ha, with a rare collection of flora and fauna, situated on the way to Solok, about 300 – 1,000 m above sea level.
The cool mountain air and panoramic views make this area a popular resort for both the young and old.
Monkeys and other animals can be seen here, and are protected by the Park Warden. Transportation to Taman Hutan Raya Bung Hatta is easy.
A winding road with 44 sharp turns descends to Lake Maninjau, 36 km from Bukittinggi. A crater lake, it abounds with fish. There are also facilities for swimming and water skiing. The village of Matur, overlooking lakes, arranges dance performances on request.
Another ideal place for recreation and water sport is Singkarak Lake, 36 km from Bukittinggi. There are several motels and restaurants in the area.
A picturesque village and market place. Fine basketry is available here. It is 35 km from Bukittinggi and a little further up is the most dramatic view on the Harau Valley.
Rimba Panti Nature Reserve
Fauna and flora of the Rima Panti Nature Reserve are protected. It is situated 103 km from Bukittinggi. Stop at Batang Palupuh, 16 km from Bukittinggi.
There, in a small reserve is the Rafflesia Arnoldi, the biggest flower in existence, which blooms only once a year. Sixty km from Bukittinggi on this road is a small monument defining the equator at the village of Bonjol.
The reserve’s inhabitants include several species of monkeys, honey bears, tigers, flying squirrels, birds, butterflies, etc. A guide can be obtained from the office at the reserve. The provincial office of the Directorate of Nature Conservation (BKSAA) at Padang can give you complete information.
Four islands make up the Mentawai cluster off the West Sumatra coast: Siberut, Sipora, Pagai Utara and Pagai Selatan. The people of these islands still live in comparative isolation, maintaining their age-old ways. Siberut is well known for its untouched forests, a part of a nature reserve inhabited by a number of animal species not found anywhere else, among them some rare monkey species. Beautiful coral reefs are found offshore.
The surroundings of the Anai Valley are magnificent. The dense tropical forest all around is most impressive and is a nature reserve.
Below runs the river Anai with its crystal clear water. Just on the side of the road is a 40 m high waterfall.
An old small town, 50 km southeast of Bukit-tinggi, it is a centre of the ancient Minangkabau culture. Pagaruyung is the historical site of a Minangkabau kingdom in the 14th century. Nearby is where some archaeological vestiges, such as the Written Stone, the Stabbed Stone and some other relics can be found.
It is said that this little village came into being at the time of the big deluge. It is situated on the slopes of Mt. Merapi, thought to be the cradle of the Minangkabau culture. This historical village still reflects the pure social structure of the Minangkabau conception of a village. A mosque, a council house and traditional house with rice-barns form the nucleus of the village.
The conservatory of Padangpanjang is a national institute specializing in the Minangkabau music and dances.
Solok, Diatas and Dibawah Lakes
Solok lies on the Trans-Sumatra Highway, 64 km from Padang and 76 km from Bukittinggi. The town has some fine examples of Minangkabau architecture with horn-shaped roofs and outer walls of wood, completely carved and painted in brilliant colors. Sixty km from Solok are the Twin Lakes (Danau Diatas and Danau Dibawah) which are becoming popular as a holiday resort.
Cool mountain air and beautiful landscapes seen from the hill between the two lakes have made this spot extraordinary.
Set only about 1 km apart, one of the lakes is on a slightly higher elevation than the other.
The spot offers an impressive panorama of the surrounding countryside and offers itself excellently to hiking or camping.
The territory of this rich province includes a sizable slice of the eastern Sumatran coast and more than 3,000 islands of all sizes.
Riau, although comparatively small in both size and population (about 2.5 million), is the heartland of the Malays and the cradle of Indonesia’s Malay-based national language and culture. The first book of Malay grammar, the Bustanul Katibin, was written and published here in 1857. Its links with Johor on the West Malaysian mainland have been long and strong.
Sitting astride one of the world’s oldest and busiest trade routes, the Strait of Malacca, the Riau islands have for many centuries provided a safe haven to ships plying the sea lanes between Europe, India and China. The rise of Malay power, however, began somewhere around the 13th century, when that of the Buddhist kingdom of Sriwijaya began to crumble. Malay kingdoms emerged on both sides of the Malacca Strait.
PLACES OF INTEREST
About 160 km upstream on the Siak river, Pekanbaru, Riau’s provincial capital, has a number of buildings in the traditional style of the area, among them the Balai Dang Merdu, the Balai Adat and Taman Budaya Riau or Riau Cultural Park.
The Siak Sultanate’s Park
This Moorish style palace of the Sultan of Siak, 120 km upstream from Pekanbaru on the siak river, was built in 1889 by Sultan Syarif Hasyim Abduljalil Syarifuddin. Now a museum, the palace contains the sultanate’s royal paraphernalia and other items of historical interest. Established during the 16th century, the Siak Seri Inderapura sultanate lasted until 1946, when it became victim to the popular upheavals following the Japanese surrender at the close of World War II.
Candi Muara Takus
Like many other structures of its kind in Sumatra, this Buddhist stupa near the village of Muara Takus in the Tigabelas Koto district, was built with red bricks and sand. The temple is believed to have been built at around the 9th or 10th century A.D. when the power of the South Sumatra-based Sriwijaya empire was at its peak. Excavations are still being made to determine the precise age and function of the stupa.
A busy little town on Bintan Island, visited by traders from Jakarta, Medan, Palembang and other big cities in Indonesia. Tanjung Pinang is only a two-hour boat ride away from Singapore. The town has a Museum located on jl. Katamso.
A large section of the old part of the town was built in traditional local fashion, on stilts, over the water. Bintan is a good point of departure to other islands in the area.
Kerumutan Nature Reserve
Located on mainland Riau in the Kuala Kampar district, this 120,000 hectares (30,000 acres) nature reserve can be reached in 18 hours by motor boat from Pekanbaru. The boat sails up a calm river surrounded by virgin forests.
The Island of Batam
A very strategic island in Indonesia, Batam lies close to Singapore, designated as a center of not only industry, but also tourism and trade. It is one among Indonesia’s key locations of industrial growth.
The Batuampar area is called a pioneer area and is being rapidly developed. While in the region of Sekupang significant projects have been in progress.
The Nongsa region has been set aside as a recreation area. Four golf courses, hotels, motels and marina sports facilities are there as well as a forest reserve managed by the Batam Industrial Development Authority.
The Batam Center is designed for the administrative and commercial centre of Batam island.
Riau with its thousands of islands has plenty of scenic beaches and diving spots, among them Trikora on Bintan and Pasir Panjang on Rupat Island. The first is about 50 kilometers south of Tanjung Pinang on the eastern side of the island. Pasir Panjang, on the northern side of Rupat facing the Strait of Malacca, is a stretched out natural beach with waves that make it attractive for surfing. Good beaches are also found on the islands of Terkulai and Soreh, about an hour’s distance by boat from Tanjung Pinang. One of the most popular beaches is Nongsa on Batam Island. From here one can see the Singapore skyline.
Situated on the eastern side of the Bukit Barisan mountain range the province of South Sumatra is relatively flat, nevertheless fertile, as numerous rivers crisscross and meander through out the region. Part of this province are two sizable islands called Bangka and Belitung, off Sumatra’s east coast in the South China Sea. Palembang, its capital city and gateway to the province, lies right on the banks of the great Musi river, 60 km upstream and navigable by oceangoing vessels. No wonder that most major social and economic activities should center in and around Palembang and the Musi river where the region’s pride, the Ampera Bridge, is found as well.
Because of its sheer location on the southernmost rim of the South China Sea and close to one of world’s busiest sea lanes linking the Far East with Europe, the region’s historical background is undoubtedly rich and colorful. Once the very site of the Buddhist Kingdom of Sriwijaya, it practiced a bustling trade with then ancient China during its era of dynasties.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The Musi River
By Javanese standards the Musi river is both very broad as well as long, comparable to those found on the big island of Kalimantan, formerly Borneo. The river flows right through the city, cutting it in two halves called the Ulu bank and the Ilir bank and linked by a bridge of considerable size and length, called the Ampera Bridge. If visitors do not care to make an interesting or unique boat trip down the river, they could still take a walk halfway over the bridge to see the vast panorama surrounding them, rare at any other place in Indonesia. Down below they will see unbelievable traffic of boats, big and small, crisscrossing water lines without accidents as if steered by the most able navigators. From the same spot both halves of the city are clearly visible as well. And if the time is right, sunrises and sunsets as witnessed from the bridge would be an unforgettable sight of beauty. Worthwhile noticing are the floating restaurants and shops on both sides of the river, and other curious scenes of daily habits of the city’s inhabitants.
An annual event is the Bidar Race, held on or around Independence Day, each 17th of August. Measurements of the competing boats are 24 1/2 m long and only 0.75 m wide, each boat carrying as many as 50 oarsmen.
“Limas”, the traditional house
Another interesting item to see is the Limas house which are still found scattered over the province, most of them built on riversides, however, not facing the waterfront. One explanation could be that daily household activities can be done in full privacy, out of sight of passers-by. These very ornate wooden houses built on stilts have rather sizable measurements: from 15 to 20 m in width and from 30 to 60 m in length. A good part of the house has hand-carved columns, door and window frames and cross ventilation between the rooms by placing wooden panels with flow-through carvings just below the ceilings. Indeed, it would almost be a must to observe the architecture and style of these Limas houses, some of them open to the public.
Bangka Island’s Matras Beach
Bangka can best be reached by air from Jakarta by scheduled flight in just about an hour by jet. However, boat service from Palembang to either Muntok or Pangkal Pinang is adequate and should not take more than an overnight voyage. This island lies right at the mouth of the Musi River in the South China Sea and is one of world’s major producers of tin.
A beach of exceptional measurements, 300 – 400 m wide and 6 1/2 km long, called Matras Beach is located 44 km north of Pangkal Pinang, the island’s capital. Fine, white and clean sands make this beach area most attractive to sun and beach lovers.
On the other side of the island at Muntok you can find the Ranggam House built in 1921 on the hill overlooking the sea.
It is like a big lodging house where at one time the first Indonesian president was held captive along with some of his close followers during the nation’s physical revolution.
The President’s car at the time has still been kept in tact and can be seen by the public at the House’s opening hours.
Closer to the capital is the Pasir Padi Beach, just 7 km from Pangkal Pinang and is merely a place to rest or swim and sunbathe.
Adjacent to Bangka island is Belitung island, another tin producer, with its capital city called Tanjung Pandan. If you are interested in visiting both islands, the best way to do it is to leave by air from Jakarta to either island first, and then cross over to the other one by boat and onward to Palembang to visit the rest of South Sumatera.
To save time, energy and money, it would not be recommended to make a special side trip to either Bangka or Belitung out of Palembang, but rather these three destinations should best be covered in a single line of direction.
Punti Kayu – Natural Pine Forest
This recently built recreational complex covers an area of 50 hectares, consisting of four parts: an amusement park, a recreation park, an natural forest, and a man-made lake.
In this complex are to be found a children’s playground, a cultural park, a souvenirs shop, restaurants and an information booth. Because of its proximity to the capital and easy accessibility, this complex actually caters mainly to the local inhabitants of the city of Palembang, however, international tourists may enjoy passing a calm day here to watch urbanites amuse themselves.
Lampung is strategically located and easily accessible, particularly from Jakarta. Bandar Lampung, its capital, was formerly two separate towns, Tanjungkarang and Telukbetung. In the course of development these towns have spread out to one an other to become one single city. Lampung has its own traditions, high valued handicraft and art creations such as woven cloth, interwoven by gold threads called “tapis”.
Sumatran elephants, tigers and hundreds of species of birds can be watched at the Way Kambas nature reserve. Rafflesia, the biggest flower in the world can be seen when it is blooming at Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park, on the southern coastline of Sumatra. The province has a great potential in agriculture, however, its population is small.
PLACES OF INTEREST
The capital of Lampung has several interesting places such as the Museum and the Monument of the Krakatau Eruption. Worth while seeing or doing is the weaving process of Tapis textile, art and dance performances or just sunbathing on the beach.
Way Kambas Reserve and Way Wako River
Way Kambas is a 2-hour drive from Bandar Lampung. 130,000 hectares of area on Lampung’s East coast, Way Kambas is the best place to watch wild Sumatran elephants, tigers and many species of birds. Motorboats can be hired at Way Kanan for cruising around and up the river.
Way Kanan River
Here we can sail along Way Kanan and Way Kambas by canoe or boat to watch the surrounding flora and fauna while in the mouth of Way Kambas, it’s good for fishing and swimming. In the morning, we can safari for 2 hours through the prepared track and listen to wild animals roaring and birds singing.
Elephant Training Centre
Way Kambas Elephant Training is an international project which is partly funded by the World Wildlife Fund. The aim of training them is to make the captured elephant be useful to mankind.
Most visitors come to Way Kambas to see the training centre and to have an opportunity to ride on an elephant.
Simple tourist facilities are available at Way Kanan such as lodges, wooden houses on poles, river boats and an observation centre. Way Kambas is accessible by car from Bandar Lampung. The activities and special interests are bird watching, jungle tracking, elephants safari, and river cruises.
An uninhabited island Krakatoa is located on the southern part of the Bay of Lampung. Krakatoa is reachable in three hours by boat from Canti, a fisherman village near Kalianda, South Lampung. This group of islands consists of four islands, one of them is called Anak Krakatau (Child of Krakatoa) which has grown higher every year.
Anak Krakatau has emerged from the bottom of the sea between three other islands by early 1928 or 45 years after Krakatoa’s 1883 formidable eruption.