I spent one night in Melaka, which is a really cute UNESCO World Heritage site with a charming Chinatown and plenty of Singaporean tourists. The highlight was walking through the night market, trying some local snacks and watching a world record holder put his finger through a coconut (both shell AND husk). I wanted to included a video of this feat, but unfortunately it’s taking WAY too long.
Then, I hopped on a ferry to the Indonesian island of Sumatra. Waiting to board the ferry, I met my first American, Niki and a Dutch couple, Elric and Monique. The four of us immediately hit it off and we’ve been together ever since. Niki is not only the first American I’ve met, but also happens to be unemployed. She’s quite well-traveled and we definitely have a lot in common. We stayed for a few hours in the town of Dumai and were picked up by the local English teacher who brought us to his school so we could speak English with his students – we were impromptu English teachers! We also helped package some food for poor people in the region. It was a very fulfilling way to spend an afternoon that otherwise would’ve been passed at yet another non-descript bus station. We took the rickety local bus to the town of Bukittingi. The best part was the kids – there were tons of them on a long, overnight bus ride and they were all so obedient and just broke into enormous grins whenever any of us looked at them. The bus ride was advertised as only 10 hours, but ended up being 15 hours, probably due in part to the frequent stops.
It’s Ramadan (it ends on Sept. 20th!) and Indonesia is the world’s most populous Islamic nation. Our bus ride included stops at 4 in the morning for everyone to eat before sunrise… and a stop at 5 something in the morning for the first of their required 5 daily prayers. It’s quite loud – in the mornings, at my hotel, I’ve been woken by the 5am prayer session that is broadcast throughout the entire town.
Mom and Dad – skip this paragraph. Once we got settled in Bukittingi, we rented motorbikes. I’ve been on them before, but have never driven one. We rented two, and I got to drive. It was manual, so it took some getting used to, but in the end, I was fine. We rode out through a nearby canyon and out into the countryside. We stopped at a little roadside shack for a drink and the drink was only $0.20! Gotta love Indonesia! The next day we did the same thing, but rode to see some waterfalls and go swimming. After getting a flat tire (from running over a nail), I managed to give myself a nice large Indonesian tattoo as Niki and I were trying to back our motorbike off the road. I treated it for a bit on my own and finally went to the “hospital.” My trip to the ER cost me a whopping $12 dollars (including antibiotics). At least with wounds of this nature, they’re quite accoustomed to dealing with them.