Posted in bukittinggi, indonesia, sumatra by moonwire on August 1, 2009

Time to leave Padang. At around 9 AM I caught a public minivan (the kind with the sliding door taken out and benches put on both sides)  to the North of the city. Rap music was blasting from the speaker in the back but so far so good. I’ve been in one with packed to the max but this time there were only a few people on board.

When I got to where I said I needed to go, there were ‘guides’ already waiting with other minivans. I was quite happy to have found my way out so quickly and easily. I paid my 20k rupiah (about 2 dollars) and was quickly whisked to a minivan. I sat and waited for about an hour til the van was full and off we went. I felt all smug for being able to do all this so easily.

Well, while we drove through the North end of town, the driver kept on stopping to pick up more people. The van had 7 passenger seats, but quickly there were 12 passengers sharing those 7 seats.

As if being crushed wasn’t bad enough, the driver was an absolute maniac. Speeding like no tomorrow (soon enough there won’t be a tomorrow for him), and zigzagging through traffic. I honestly felt very scared during this trip. Then when we got to the South of Bukittinggi, everybody got off and I was the only passenger who needed to go to the centre, ‘Kampung China’. The maniac driver then proceeded to tell me he wanted another 20K rupiah for the last part of the trip. I had had enough of that asshole so I said no and I got out. He then lowered his price to 15, still no. Then 10. Still no. I had had it with the ripping off. He told me a taxi would cost me at least 25K rupiah. I thought, but didn’t say it out loud, ‘I’ll pay 100K for a taxi rather than you trying to rip me off.’

I said I’d walk the last 2 kilometres, but I ended up taking a public minibus and I was charged 2K, just like the locals. How nice, for a change. I have spent 2 months in Indonesia and I’ve watched and talked to enough locals to have an idea how much things cost. I am seriously sick of getting ripped off or them trying to rip me off. I know that as a tourist I can expect to pay a little more, and I don’t even mind; we’re talking about a few cents here and there but don’t do it blatantly. Not putting up with it; ma’af, ya?

So I told the minibus driver to drop me off at Singgala hotel. I had read a nice review of it in the Lonely Planet guide and as I knew I’d get to Bukittinggi early in the day, I hadn’t booked a room in advance.  So I get there. I had to pee really bad, so I decided to take the room after I had given it a quick glance. I walked into the bathroom… revolting. I got out of the bathroom and saw that there was a colony of mozzies in the room. After having gotten over 70 bites those 2 nights in Padang, I had enough of that, too. I grabbed my bag and walked to the reception where I told the man, his name was ‘Fonzie’, a big lie and that I had to leave as I was supposed to meet friends at another hotel. He then proceeded to tell me he had already booked the room for me and I had to stay. I wasn’t in the mood to be f***ed with, said sorry, smiled and walked out. Now what?

I decided to walk around the neighbourhood to see if there was something better. Most places I saw were disgusting, but eventually I did. I found the Orchid hotel. My first room, with a shared, rather disgusting bathroom, wasn’t so great, but after a little accident with a broken key I was moved into a lovely room with a private balcony. The bathroom was smelly and it had a squat toilet and a barely there shower, but at least this room had a good vibe, and I didn’t need to share a disgusting bathroom anymore.

I didn’t do much there. I felt really bummed out and tired. I walked around town a few times and there wasn’t much going on. Yeah, it’s pretty there. Great views of Mt. Merapi, an active vulcano, it’s very green and not so hot as it’s high in the mountains, but I just wasn’t feeling the place. Great and cheap food, though. That was the highlight of my day. I spent a lot of time reading in my room and I quite enjoyed that, but three days was  enough for me there. The weather was bad, too. Lots of rain. Lots.

Another thing that got to me there were the mosques. Sure, I had heard them in Java and Lombok and even in Lovina. Yogya had its fair share but it wasn’t anything like in Bukittinggi. In Bukittinggi, there are a lot of mosques, all very close together. And the chatter would start just after 4 AM and it would be loud and continous for several hours. Bukittinggi is supposed to be ‘relaxed’. Well, I was so sleep deprived that I didn’t find it exactly relaxing to be woken up that early and then not being able to sleep anymore (and ear plugs are not sufficient). Forget about naps, too. No chance.

View of Mt. Merapi, as seen from the rooftop of the Orchid Hotel.

However, after my drive to Bukittinggi, I knew I wasn’t going to be in the same position for at least 15 hours (instead of 12) in order to get to Lake Toba, my original Sumatran destination. I started to feel burnt out from being on the move (after I left Lovina, I did 1 night Sanur, 4 nights Kuala Lumpur, 6 nights Yogyakarta, 2 nights Jakarta, 2 nights Padang, and then 3 nights Bukittinggi) plus, I didn’t realize it then but I do now, I was coming down with something.

Enough of the hassles. I went online and I booked a ticket with Air Asia from Padang to Kuala Lumpur (only international destination I could find with a direct flight from Padang). I booked a nice room at the Tune Hotel in downtown KL as I had heard their rooms are comfy and their HOT showers are fabulous, then fly to Phuket, Thailand for some much needed chilling out. I’ve had enough of cramped, hot, sweaty, smoggy, crazy cities for now.

One thing I’ve learnt is not to listen to other people when it comes to ‘cool places’. Yogyakarta didn’t really do it for me, neither did the Borobudur, and definitely not Bukittinggi. On the other hand, places like Padang and Jakarta, which aren’t usually favourably talked about, I liked a lot. Those are real places with real people and not overrun with tourists. With the exception of the beaches, I hate tourist attractions. I don’t care what anybody says, when I do visit Cambodia, you won’t be seeing me at Angkor Wat.

The next installment will be a more cheerful one. I’m in Hat Kata, Phuket now. Getting over my exhaustion and cold by indulging in some sunshine, beach and reading. Nothing going on here.  Not too many tourists. Lovely.

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