VLV Updates

Thursday 11 October –Palembang

I arrived about 15:20 at the Palembang airport where I noticed a lot of smoke/fog/pollution when flying down. Santi and her partner, Gary picked me up. This was the hottest I’ve been since arriving in Asia on August 7. We drove to Santhi’s to pack some of her clothes as we would both be staying at Jhonson’s (the head of IVS in Palembang) house. We then drove to Taman Golf where Jhonson and his wife, Aphing (nicknamed Cece) live with their two daughters, Vanni and Cici.

Cece cooked dinner: tofu with sweet soy, soup with tofu skin, curry, kang kong, beans and corn with rice:


With mango and orange for dessert.

At around 19:00 Santhi and I drove to Maha Vihara Maitreya Dutam a Buddhist temple for an IVS info meeting. This was to give information to the contestants for Sunday’s Vegan Cup. I gave a (hopefully) inspiring and motivating talk to the crowd.

Friday 12 October – Food shopping

Tried to sleep in, didn’t work as well as I hoped. Had brunch at Jhonson’s:


and then drove with Santhi to see Joni at his Bakery & Café to organise the ingredients for tomorrow’s baking demos and my food demo at the Vegan Cup on Sunday. Then we went to a bakery goods store a few shops down to get the ingredients.

Lunch was at RM (Rumah Makam – meaning space to eat, bigger than a warung, home-cooked food) Vegetarian Metta (love in Sanskrit) where I had jackfruit, beans, cassava leaf and rice Rp 24 000 (approximately AU$2.40)


for both my meal and Santhi’s.

Dinner later that night was vegetables cooked by Cece:


After dinner, Santhi and I went to PTC the Palembang Trade Centre with Vanni where we looked for cinnamon and white pepper. There was also klepon for Rp 10 000.

Saturday 13 October – Radio Interview, Baking Demos & Talk

Breakfast today was kang kong and noodles with bakkie made from flour and mushroom stem (usually pork)


It’s been said that Cece makes the best bakkie, this maybe right. This is how it's meant to be served:


Also wonderfrul mango and Korean pear for dessert.

Jhonson, Santhi and I then drove to the El John 97.5FM Palembang radio station to be interviewed live on air.Here's Pauzi, myself, Santhi and Jhonson:


The three of us had a great time being interviewed on veganism, health, environment and tomorrow’s Vegan Cup.


Santhi, as always, was m interpreter.


 I even had a few questions from listeners who phoned in.


Here's the crew:



After the interview I recorded a few voiceovers for the station for them to use as promo - haven't done those for years.

After the interview, we picked up Joni and the baking goods, drove to Jhonson’s house and had lunch. I then got all the baking area ready. Robby from IVS was on hand to film the demos. Santhi was my interpreter. We made the following:

Black Forest Cake using a recipe from PETA:


Not as good as Hendro's photos of the cake I made in Surabaya, I know. Here's the video:

Cherry Shortbread using my recipe you can download here & Chocolate Shortbread. These were a bit too burned for a photo, but here's the video tutorial with Indonesian translation:

Bread using my Rye Bread recipe you can download here. This is meant to be a savoury bread, but we added chocolate sauce:


And chocolate sauce with cherries:


Here's the video:

Apple Muffins using an adapted recipe from Trang’s Kitchen. No photo - did these burn as well? Too much was happening in the kitchen that day... Here's the how-to video:

This was quite a few hours of baking and when we’d finished it rained! It was great to hear, smell and see the rain. I then had a shower, we had leftovers for dinner and didn’t get much of a rest before Santhi and I drove to the Maha Vihara Maitreya Duta temple for my talk show. Here’s the meeting room space, do you think I’ll fill it?


There were many bats flying around in the hall before we started and as I gave my talk. I found out later that the Native American Indian symbolisation of bats relates to rebirth, communication and many other things. Also I think it’s amazing that in a Buddhist temple with many bats, one of the main meanings is of being put to spiritual tests: [The Bat] demands only 100% commitment to spiritual growth. The bat will never accept half-hearted or lukewarm attempts at self-improvement.

The talk started at 19:00 and I had quite a lot of people in the hall. It was unusual that the guys were all seated on my left hand side – with many a question, with the gals on the right hand side. The 90-minute talk went really well with a lot of great questions. Even (surprise) some about whether I’m married and single – from the guys.

After the talk, Gary, Santhi and I drove around looking for durian. As we couldn’t find any, it’s pretty near the end of the season, Gary came back to Jhonson’s house for food. We all ate too much.

Sunday 14 October – Vegan Cup & Ampra Bridge

When we woke up it was still raining. This was a bit of a worry as the Vegan Cup would be mostly outside under some covers at a school. For breakfast we had Bihun (rice noodles), gailan and tofu:


Then we drove to the Sekolah (school) Maitreyawire in Patal for the Vegan Cup. Everyone was getting ready for the event. I met some homeless cats:



Pauzi who I'de met at El John yesterday for the radio interview was also there as one of the emcees. I was a judge along with Dedy (a vegan chef, who gave a vegan mayonnaise food demo), Sister Felica and Doctor Liniyati (Lin.) There were 28 contestants who had to make a meal using tempeh and another meal was free choice. They had 1 hour to cook both meals.

I first gave a food demo for my vegan cheese sauce and my raw banana ice cream with Santhi interpreting. Here's Santhi, myself and Pauzi from El John:



Then I walked around taste-testing all of the meals = 56 in total!


There were some really great dishes.


I was interviewed on camera by National station, Sriwijaya TV about the event. All the judges then finalised their scores.

The winner was known, but the second place was a tie, so the judges all got together again to go through our scores. Didn’t take long. Then the awards were given – so lovely and humbling to see the excitement on the winners’ faces! Here's me giving the second place winner their trophy:


I also received an award for judging from Jhonson:


Had a lot of photos taken including this one with all of the contestants and judges:


One with all the judges (left to right) LC, Sister Felicia, Lin and Dedy:


One with the IVS Palembang crew:


One with Santhi and I:


Thanks to Izen for the above photos. Here's one of him and I:


Santhi and I then headed back to Jhonson’s where I had a shower and lay down for a rest. Two guys from Sumeks Ekspres, a local newspaper, dropped by to interview Jhonson and myself. Santhi interpreted for me, and it was a great interview with Chuzairine the reporter and Asep the photographer. Here's the interview (PDF) starting on page 21 (Palembang Metropolis) and continuing on page 27. It's in Indonesian, so cut and paste and use Google Translate. I'm only mentioned in the article before you get too excited.

Santhi and I then drove to Santhi’s family’s house in Palembang city where I would be staying for the night. Her Dad, Huang Ing siong; Mum, Cen te mei; and brother, Sandy; along with Santhi and I drove to Ampra bridge. We walked along the Benteng Kuto Besak area near the river, which really reminded me of Brisbane’s Southbank river side back home. My camera takes really bad photos at night, but here’s a somewhat idea of what the bridge looked like from Benteng Kuto Besak:


We then went to the Pondok Pujasera traditional food court on Jl Veteran for dinner. There were many different food places within the one eatery. We sat down close to Q’os 88 Vegetarian and someone came to take our order. We all ordered something and shared the meals. Kwetian Seafood Rp 18 000 (approximately AU$1.80), Nasi Ayan Chi’ toes (fake chicken potatoes) Rp 16 500, Pempek Kecil Pistel x5 Rp 1 500, Pangsit Ikan Rp 12 5000, Nasi Soto ayam Rp 17 500 and followed with Es Kacang Merah for dessert.

Monday 15 October – Punti Kayu and train to Bandar Lampung

At 04:00 I am awakened by the noise from the prayers from the Muslim mosque next door. How do people handle this everyday? Put my earplugs in and went back to sleep.

Santhi’s family have three floors to their house, actually there maybe even more, then there’s the rooftop area. They also have a bathroom on each floor. Today Santhi told me to have my shower in one of the levels with the traditional Indonesian shower. Now, having never done this before I looked at the big concreted and tiled, rectangular, very tall bath and yelled out to Santhi if I was meant to use this like a bath. Santhi yelled back that yes I was. Okay. Hmm. I stepped up high and over the edge wondering what to do next. This water was collected in this space and used to flush the toilet, wash your hands etc. I started thinking about the fact that I wouldn’t be getting very clean submerged in this water. I wasn’t going to sit in this water as I would in a Western bath.

What do I do? Do I drain out all the water and start again? That seemed like a bit of a waste of water. I ended up turning the tap on and trying to fit myself under the stream – not very easy. I was letting the water drain at the same time. This wasn’t working very well. I pretty much made sure I was wet, lathered up and rinsed. I found out later that this is exactly what you’re meant to do – outside of the water collection bit, using the hand bucket.  Read this blog. I filled up the water a bit and Sandy had a great laugh when he realised what I’d tried to do. In my defence, I had asked Santhi how to use the shower/bath/whatever… I know for next time at least. 

I caught up on some computer work before Santhi and I went to Vihara for brunch:


Cost Rp 15 000 for both of our meals. I also bought some takeaway for later and Santhi bought some food for Gary. Santhi and I then went to a small travel agent (CV Safar: Mulya) on Jl Sudirman to book my train for tonight to Bandar Lampung Rp 130 000 (approximately AU$13.)

Driving back home to Santhi’s we became caught in the middle of the big intersection and couldn’t actually move as other cars from other directions started driving around us. Fortunately a policeman walked over and… took Santhi’s ID and told her to come to the Police area. She would probably have to pay a fine. We parked over the other side of the intersection and walked over to the small 1m x 1m police station where other people were arguing about money/fines/bribes. This was where the bargaining began with one of the police officers on what amount Santhi should pay to them. Rp 150 000 was requested. After a lot of carry on, Santhi paid Rp 55 000 (AU$5.50.) And this how the police act in broad daylight. After paying the fine we were on our way again.

We picked up Gary and headed to Punti Kayu Natural Pine Forest to eat. We drove past an elephant, just hanging out a distance from the road into the forest. Not sure if he/she is chained up or not, but probably is.


This is a great place to bring a picnic and chill out. I think it’s the only park/recreational area close to Palembang so I don’t know why more people weren’t there. Okay yes I do: shopping centres.


To me it looked like an abandoned area that would have been a great campsite, rope course:


kids (or big kids) play area and even the potential for an animal sanctuary. Everything looks rundown but Santhi told me it’s still in use, just not open much.

We drove through the area and sat down to watch the monkeys playing. 



It’s really clean and quiet and the trees are lovely. There’s a playground for the kids and supposedly a zoo ;( and more in the 50 hectares. There were a few families around but it was mostly deserted. We stayed and ate until the male monkeys came over and started throwing their weight around.


We were trying to work out what to do for a few hours. Get a massage or see a movie? Santhi and Gary had seen most of the movies showing at the cinema and I’m very selective with movies I watch. We all decided to get reflexology – my first time - at a spa-type place near PTC. I snoozed for most of the 90-minute treatment. It was pretty good. Rp 60 000 each plus tip of Rp 20 000, Santhi paid for all of us – what a doll. Then the three of us decided to see if we could buy any durian for me at the PTC mall. No luck.

We stopped at Vegetarian Kantin Lotte Mart for some traditional model gandum: deep fried wheat flour served with soup


Plus I posed for some photos with the owner. Then we went back to Santhi’s where I had a shower, properly this time.

Gary, Santhi and I drove to Kedai Vegetarian Happy on Jl Rajawali for something in particular, but they had just sold out. We settled for some noodles instead. Gary ordered the Lo Mie – noodles with thick sauce for Rp 12 000:


while Santhi and I both ordered the Mie Pangsit Rp 10 000:


While we were sitting there you could hear the prayers/noise from a mosque close to the restaurant. No one else seems to mind – it’s really intrusive, I honestly can’t get over it.

Gary and Santhi then dropped me off at the station to catch a train from Palembang to Bandar Lampung. I was meant to depart at 21:00 and arrive tomorrow at 05:10 though a lot of people said it would take longer than that. Santhi came onto the train with me to make sure I was okay and between the two of us we still managed to get the seat wrong!


One of the staff moved my bag for me later when I had to move to my correct seat. Annoying to get my big backpack to stow above where I sit (it just fits), but it can be done. I was in the Eksekutif Coach 2 on Seat 4A Train S1. I paid Rp 120 000 plus reservation fee of Rp 10 000 equating to Rp 130 000 (approximately AU$13.) Unfortunately this is no longer a sleeper train and not as good as other trains I’ve been on. The seat cover was dirty, there were a few small cockroaches running around and there was a squat toilet. There were pillows and blankets though. Trains always get cold especially at night.

The train left at 21:20 and I had the two chairs to myself for a couple of hours so I could curl up and sleep somewhat. A lass came by at 23:30 and I had to sit up so she could sit on her chair. She only lasted half an hour there before she left to sleep on one of the spare double chairs – there were a few. I learned that I could position myself in many ways to try to sleep. Try to being the key words. Not much luck. The lights were dimmed about 00:30.

Tuesday 16 October – Disappointment in Bandar Lampung

The train arrived at the Bandar Lampung station at 08:20 – 3 hours and 10 minutes after it was meant to - not a surprise over here at all.

Jhonson had gone out of his way to help me when I stayed at his place by organising one of the local IVS ladies to accompany me when I was in Bandar Lampung and take me to Taman Nasional Way Kambas. I was really looking forward to seeing the wild Sumatran tigers, white rhinoceroses and elephants. There were a lot more animals who lived there as well. I had done a bit of research online and was looking forward to meeting the new baby white rhino. There was an elephant training centre near the place, but I wasn’t planning on going there. I had come quite a distance to get to Bandar Lampung and the park was still a few hours away, I was tired but excited.

I was picked up by Yovie from IVS and Sobirin, the driver she had organised for the next 12 hours for Rp 500 000 (approximately AU$50 – the most I’ve paid for a driver yet!) Sobirin drove us to Yovie’s house where I had a shower and her maid cooked me corn soup for breakfast:


One of Yovie’s friends had made Pau so also had that and some mango. Then we were ready to go. We first stopped at 88 Vegetarian Restaurant at Talukbatung to get takeaway for lunch later:


The terrain on the drive was pretty bad.


It took two and a half hours to get to Way Kambas. Entry was Rp 5 000 for the car, Rp 20 000 for me, another Rp 6 000 for the car (?) and Rp 2 500 each for Yovie and Sobirin as they are locals. We looked around a bit and didn’t really see much of anything. There were viewing/watching posts that you could stay at, I climbed a couple, but didn’t see any elephants, rhinos or tigers.

Then I found out: the rhinos are in isolation because of the newborn and I would not be able to see them. At all. I would have to stay at least overnight to see the tigers, they don’t just hang out waiting to be seen – who would have thought? And the only way to see the wild elephants was to ride one of the elephants over to the area, or walk an hour. Riding the elephant was obviously not an option for me. Yovie really couldn’t understand this. Sobirin the driver and one of the guides who worked there thought I was mad.

We had been sitting down eating our lunch, it was hot as it was the middle of the day and I could see elephants being ridden around. The guide said enthusiastically that they also did tricks – like play football (because that’s obviously what I want to see from a wild elephant, grr.) I thought that the training centre wasn’t part of Way Kambas. Wrong. Yovie is vegan, due to being a Buddhist. She doesn’t understand the ethical reasons involved with me not wanting to ride the elephants. The four of us speak in circles for quite awhile. They think they can talk me into riding a elephant to see the wild elephants. I feel as though not only am I not being listened to, but if they are listening, I’m not being understood. About this time I get really annoyed and walk to the bathroom to have a break.

When Yovie and I were leaving the toilet block I saw an elephant walking distance away (I thought you had to ride to see them?) so walked over to say hi to him or her. This is when I notice that this elephant had chains around his/her front feet. I go over and speak to her amidst the dried grass and no water or shade.


She is miserable. I have that moment - I suppose similar to Paul Watson’s oft-told story of when he looked into the eye of a harpooned whale – where she’s looking at me asking for help and I can’t do a thing.


I pick up some green grass and feed her a bit. The guide comes over and warns me about getting too close, as she’s dangerous. Obviously. Whatever. At this moment I am devastated, annoyed, angry and upset. I had travelled 9 hours on train and 2.5 hours in a car to see wild animals; and was completely heartbroken that what I had been looking forward to was completely the opposite. It was devastating – for me and my elephant friends.  


I asked if all the elephants were chained like this and was given a story about wild vs. man and something about them being dangerous. I wandered a bit further to meet a baby who was also so “dangerous” that she slobbered all over my hand.



I could see a couple more elephants in the distance, also with their front feet chained together, with no water, shade or food. This was really upsetting to see and it was just upsetting me more. I definitely needed to get out of here.


I did however see a wild boar/pig who let me get pretty close to take a photo:


We drove out of the elephant area and I asked if we could try to get into the rhino area again. Not happening. We ended up driving to where I thought was my hotel. We arrived somewhere suspicious looking that Yovie said would “make me feel better.” Yovie paid Rp 27 000 for three of us, plus the car to walk around Bumi Kedaton Resort  after they had closed. Here every animal – and there were many, from all over the world – were caged. I didn’t feel any better, it made me feel worse. I could cry any moment. I asked the guide a lot of questions and commented on a lot of the unnatural behaviour, but no one was paying any attention. There was even a Muslim mosque pretty close that was blaring the prayer over a loudspeaker. The animals were even more distressed by this. We left pretty soon after we arrived. Here’s Yovie (who meant well) and I:


We stopped for dinner at Marga Lie, a halal restaurant on Jl Kartini. I ordered the Kwetiaw Kang kung Veg Rp 25 000

Pangsit (noodle) Bakso Rp 20 000:


Along with Guava juice and Yovie had Bihun (noodles) Vegetarian Rp 25 000


I was finally dropped off at Wisma Charidia on Jl Hayam Wuruk at 20:00. Yuvie had organised the place for me for Rp 26 500 for the night. It was on level 1 of the Chandra Superstore and just over the road from the train station where I’d started this terrible day in Bandar Lampung. I organised Sobirin to pick me up early in the morning and stayed up way too late organising the next part of my journey.

Wednesday 17 October – Bandar Lampung to Bukit Lawang & Orang-utans

Okay, so yesterday was pretty horrible, just reading back what I wrote I feel depressed all over again. I can tell you though, it gets a lot better – just you wait!

I woke up early and was picked up at 05:00 by Sobirin. It took 30 minutes to get to the airport and the trip car cost Rp 100 000. I paid Rp 15 000 airport tax. The flight was to leave Bandar Lampung at 06:30 and arrive in Jakarta at 07:20. We left late but arrived on time and I slept. There was a bus from the plane to the airport that took about 2 minutes. Walked to the right area this time (where the other flight transfers go) so I didn’t have to pay anymore airport tax. As much as I detest Jakarta, I like the airport. My pre-paid SIM card gets me free WIFI for an hour, which is normally just enough time in between flights. You pretty much have to fly from Jakarta to get to most of the places in Sumatra or Java. Plus the bathrooms are clean.

We were meant to board at 08:50 but no one was moving, I asked about this and we boarded soon after. The plane left Jakarta at 09:20 and I slept. We arrived 20 minutes early in Medan at 11:20. I had organised with the place I was staying at tonight, Sam’s Bungalow in Bukit Lawang to arrange a driver to pick me up from the Medan airport at a cost of Rp 450 000. The driver waited for me while I ordered takeaway Mie Goreng – fried rice with vegetables and no egg from the airport Muslim Chinese Restaurant for Rp 22 000:


We left at 12:30 and it took 2.5 hours to get to Bukit Lawang – the gateway to Gunung Leuser National Park where I was hoping to meet some semi-wild orang-utans. I slept a bit of the way and we were soon in Bukit Lawang. One of the guides, Amin from Sam’s Bungalow met me and we drove on his motorbike to the bungalow. We drove over pavements, dirt and concrete down winding, steep laneways that lead to the area where all the bungalows are – parallel to the river. Such a lovely place to be. I arrived at the bungalow at 15:00.

I spoke to Sam’s wife, Ipah who I had been emailing late last night. I told her I came to see the orang-utans. Feeding time was at 15:00 so I put my stuff in my room and met Amin who took me to the park. Him and Ipah weren’t certain that I would see any orang-utans. First we had to cross the river:


You pull the rope to pull the boat across to either side:


We hiked up to the feeding centre


where the workers feed some of the orang-utans who are semi-wild, meaning that they are free to go wherever they want, but if they need to eat at the feeding centre they can. There are over 200 orang-utans in the park but only 7 who come to feed now. The Sumatran Orang-utan Society produced a guidebook to the park that you can read here.


At just about the end of the feeding time, an orang-utan came to feed. I was ever so excited to see her! Then her baby, and then two more.


It’s so great to see these beautiful animals. The guides don’t let anyone else feed the orangutans the coconut milk and bananas, you can’t get too close and it was just great. I had a massive smile on my face.




I filmed a bit of footage of the orang-utans that you can check out:

I found out when getting some information for the video that The Gunung Leuser National Park in north Sumatra is the only place in the world where orangutans, elephants, rhinos and tigers all coexist.


Plus I also found out a lot about palm oil. For example, did you know that the single greatest threat facing orangutans today is the rapidly expanding palm oil trade? Rainforests are being cleared at the rate of 300 football fields per hour to make way for oil palm plantations. Palm Oil is in over 60% of the products we buy, and that number is growing. The problem is that it is not clearly labeled. Many products have it listed as 'vegetable oil' and there is, at last count over 200 alternate names for palm oil. You can find out more information on the following links: Sumatran Orangutan Society (SOS), Palm Oil Facts. Here’s a list of products that don’t contain palm oil and here.

Here's a photo of a mum feeding her baby, just like human mothers do:


Then all the orangutans came over to the area where a few of us were - over the path from the feeding station:



I love these photos:





After taking a lot of photos of the orangutans, Armin and I walked back to the river and he went to get tyres for tubing. Here's some fungi:


Ipah was worried about the safely of tubing when it rained, but it was only sprinkling from the sky when we started the walk up the hill. Here's where we would be walking up the river:


Coming down this area (near where we crossed the river)



Where all the bungalows were:


And going down the stream, past the bungalows and past the monkeys:


I left my camera behind so you can’t see how beautiful the forest area along the river was that we walked through. It took about 30 minutes to get to the start of the tubing area. It was raining when we were tubing along the river and it was awesome. If yesterday was the worst, this afternoon was the best. I had just met some semi-wild orangutans and was now tubing in the rain down a gorgeous river in North Sumatra where we passed by monkeys and locals bathing. It was truly wonderful. I felt amazing. The rain cleared all the negative energies from yesterday. It was a bit cold though so I was looking forward to a hot shower at the bungalow.

It cost me Rp 450 000 (approximately AU$45) for the trek, tubing and to see the orangutans (including permits) and it was worth every penny/cent/rupiah. Amin and I walked back to the bungalow. Unfortunately, they don’t actually have hot showers, which was my only complaint for the whole time I was at Sam’s Bungalow. I will hopefully sleep well tonight.

I had an early dinner at the bungalow restaurant where Amin and two of his friends joined me. Everyone kept saying how lucky I was to have seen the orangutans - I definitely felt very lucky. I had papaya juice Rp 13 000 and Gado Gado Rp 20 000:


I went to bed early at 21:00.


I slept okay considering all the unusual noises including mice in the roof and the constant running of rain and the river.

Thursday 18 October – Bukit Lawang to Danau Toba

I woke early to various noises including the sound of gibbons. There were also a few cats jumping from bungalow to bungalow and a lot of monkeys that decided to all swarm to a different area at the same time. Such a noise on tin and bamboo roofs. For breakfast I had Lemon pancake with no egg or milk for Rp 14 000.

Then Amin drove me on a motorbike into town on the windy lanes. There were a few other travellers walking around, some of them were struggling to wheel their suitcases over the stones. It was about this time I was thankful that I had listened to Jackson and Clint when they told me to bring a backpack. As heavy and annoying as the backpack is, it’s the best way to travel on all modes of transport.

I had organised to catch a tour bus for Rp 150 000 to Danau Toba (Lake Toba) – the largest lake in SE Asia and the deepest volcanic crater lake in the world. There’s even an island in the middle called Samosir, where I will be catching a ferry to stay at tonight. It will take at least four hours by car to get to the lake.

I was dropped off in town where I met others who would accompany me in the mini van to Lake Toba: an English couple teaching in Bandung for 6 months and a Barcelona couple who were travelling for a year with 6 months already passed.  We left about 08:30 and I got to sit in the front seat near the driver. We passed huge areas of palm oil plantations:



We stopped at a rest stop about 13:15 for lunch. There were a lot of snacks with ingredients I couldn’t read. Luckily there was a warung type food stall and I bought eggplant and chilli, water spinach in coconut milk and rice for Rp 5 000 (50 cents for those playing at home.)


I also bought some red rice savoury snacks for Rp 7 000. We drove a lot on windy roads and everything was starting to look the same. I think after my Indonesian veg events are finished I really need to stay in one place for longer than a night or two. It’s starting to do my head in a bit.

We arrived at Parapat, Lake Toba at 17:15. There were two boats: the one I was going on went to Tomok and the one most people (and my travel companions) went on was heading to Tuk Tuk. The boat left at 18:00 so we sat around for a while talking to the locals who were really lovely. I organised a 2-hour tour for the next morning along with my trip back to Medan by van - to get me there by 15:00 tomorrow.

The ferry ride took about 30 minutes. I shared the trip with only a few people – the other ferry was full.



Looking back at Parapat:



More views from the ferry:





There were three guys who I spoke to on the trip. One was late 50s and going to Tomok to see his family. He grew up there and works about an hour from Parapat. The other two were in their 40s. One of them was laying fibre optic cable over on Samosir and the other lives in Ambarita where I would be staying.

I had organised with Tina, the owner of the Thyesza guesthouse to be picked up by her husband. He picked me up from Tomok and we drove about 15 minutes to Ambarita where the guesthouse was right on the water. It was dark by the time I arrived, but I noticed that the entry had cornfields. I would explore the area in the morning.

It was a massive guesthouse. Tina and I sat down chatting for a while, which was good. Her and her husband built the place and they have 7 children who help them out. I spoke to her about cooking and the food demos I’d been giving and we had a good time getting to know each other a bit. I walked over to the restaurant area for dinner. I ordered carrot and pineapple juice Rp 20 000 and Tina made me tempeh and tofu sambal:


and kang kong:


that were both really delicious. Best food I’ve had at my lodgings so far in my journey. 16 other people were also at the restaurant in a tour group and a busload of people arrived as well.

Tina’s husband joined me for dinner and we had a good chat. They don’t get many people out here since the Bali bombings. It’s also a bit far to travel here – especially just for the night like me. They’re working on getting WIFI here, something they don’t have. I said I’d not stay longer than 2 nights somewhere if they didn’t have WIFI.

I was in bed early again tonight.

Friday 19 October – Danau Toba to Medan

I didn’t sleep well last night. I could smell a fire and smoke before midnight and then after that the mosquitoes were bighting me. Loud music started at 06:30 so I pretty much got up then. Which is really unfortunate as everything else has been great about the place. I ordered carrot and pineapple juice Rp 20 000 along with banana and coconut pancake without egg and milk for Rp 20 000 for breakfast:


Then I wandered around for a while to explore the area in the daytime. We were right near the water:



There was a traditional batak house on site:



I like this map of Samosir Island:


Around Thyesza guesthouse:


I was in the bottom room in the middle. Here's the entry/exit near the cane fields:



I had a lovely dog friend who I’d met yesterday (along with her puppies) to escort me beyond the buildings.



At 08:00, I was picked on a motorbike up by Luka, one of the guys I had met yesterday when I arrived in Parapat. He took me to see some batak houses in a community:


Here's what the inside of the visitors one looks like. The others were all lived in. Cooking area:


Weaving and products:



Musical instruments:


View from above:


We walked over to the stone chairs area:


where people used to assemble to judge wrong doings



and then punish with executions in this area:


Other places:

Batak-style_area graves_at_Batak_area

Here's some of the wonderful views from the motorbike:





(just so you know, Door Smeer means “car wash for motor bikes”)




Then we left my backpack at a local store and drove up the hill to see the view:






Here's the view to Tuk Tuk - the area most people live and where the others had gone to stay:


Then we went back into town, left the bike at the store, walked over the road and up the stairs


to the King’s grave:




Then we went back to get my backpack and finished earlier than expected. So I rang the guys in Parapat - who I had organised my mini van trip to Medan with – and changed my trip to leave an hour before. The ferry left Tomok at 09:20. Here's some photos of where I was leaving:



And where I was heading to:




And a photo of me the guy I was chatting to took:


I just arrived in time to got to the toilet and get on the 10:00 mini van to Medan – with the same driver who had driven me here from Bukit Lawang. We were meant to get to Medan at 15:00... we'll see.

We started the long trip to Medan. We dropped a couple off in a quaint little town called Brastagi and it was still 3 hours to go. We had the option of stopping for lunch somewhere, but we all said to keep going. I arrived in Medan at 15:30, not too much off schedule. It’s such a busy city. Waited for over 30 minutes for the IVS people to pick me up. They would be looking after me for the event and for the weekend. The driver, lovely chap that he is, waited with me until they arrived. He’s driving back home to Bukit Lawang this afternoon and then back to Lake Toba again tomorrow afternoon.

The IVS crew finally picked me up. I was met with Listia the secretary in Medan, Herman (Zhang) and Gia Wei (pronounced “Ja Why”) The guys were both living at the Buddhist temple were the Medan event would take place starting from tomorrow, some of them stay there for years.

The four of us headed to Socrates – the Vegan’s Hut on Jl Airlangga. We all ordered something different and shared our meals. I ordered Terong Belanda – tamarillo juice, which was just as amazing as it sounds, I even ordered another one later Rp 13 000.

Kailan Tumis Polos (plain) Rp 15 000:


Sambal Hati Pete (Bean) Kaki Jamur:


Kroket (potato) Rp 12 000:


Fried Rice Mongolian Rp 15 000:


Pao and Papaya Flower (divine):


After late lunch/early dinner, Gia Wei drove us to Brastagi Shopping Centre – not in the town where I was a few hours ago – to get ingredients for tomorrow night’s food demos. Then I was dropped off at Anna and Rina’s place where I would be staying for a couple of nights. They lived in a complex where the Buddhist temple I would be at tomorrow is situated. At night it looked mighty impressive. I had a shower and was in bed very early.            

Saturday 20 October – Food Demonstration

I slept quite well and caught up on a bit of computer work I hadn’t been able to the past few nights without WIFI. Though Anna and Rina’s WIFI didn’t work either, so I ended up bringing my laptop to the temple later to work. I ate leftovers that Anna and Rina had cooked for dinner last night. Their maid had washed all my laundry by the time I woke. I called Herman when I was ready to be picked up around midday, and Listia met me on her bike to drive me to Maha Vihara Maitreya at Complex Cemara Asri (Nature) the biggest complex in Medan and the biggest temple.

For breakfast, I wandered around to all the food stalls and found freshly made juice with greens, carrot and pineapple. I also found a place serving jackfruit, tempeh, greens, beans and chilli:


Ferdy and Zhang Jin came over to sit with Herman and I for lunch. Ferdy would be my interpreter tonight. Listia, Herman, Ferdy and I organised a few of the utensils I would need from the massive kitchen, then Herman gave me a tour of the temple.




A lot of my Chinese and Buddhist friends wear a watch that instead of having numbers has positive words like the following:



It's meant to be all about positive reinforcements rather than the whole time equals money ethos the Chinese people are brought up with. Here's another Buddhist temple across the road near the back entrance:


There was a pond area inside with a lot of stone carvings:



Laughing Buddha carved into a large stone:


Then we walked outside to see the lake with many cranes. Cranes are an ancient Chinese symbol of longevity. Here's how beautiful the area looked:




And here's a photo with the temple in the background:


A lot of people live, volunteer and work here. There are massive meeting rooms, function rooms, a cafeteria and more. I caught up on computer work before an afternoon snack:


Around 18:00 we started preparing for the food demo. I had made a CD of some of my songs for the IVS crew including songs from my first EP Inspiration Relocation and others from another EP, plus I also added a song friends' of mine, Oh Tragic Vinyl Night had asked me to do guest vocals on and be in the music video for. You can listen to all of these on MySpace or iTunes.

They played the CD of my songs for the 30 minutes before I came on stage, which was lovely.


There were a lot of people and more came over when I started.



I first explained why I am vegan and how I became a vegan. Plugged my What Do Vegans Eat? and My USA Adventures books:


And explained all of the ingredients to the audience:


I made Cherry Shortbread first.



A few audience members came to help - thanks ladies:


shortbread before baking:


Up next was the vegan cheese sauce


Where I burned myself with cheese spitting out from the saucepan at my arms and hands.


And then my raw banana ice cream:


There were a few questions from the audience:


with even Rina helping out:


I had a really great night. Thanks to various IVS members who took all the photos for me. All the IVS crew were really helpful and enthusiastic all day. I had a lot of photos taken after that. Here's one with the emcee:


With the IVS gals:


with the IVS guys:


and all of us together:


A lady who runs a vegan bakery, V Bread, just down the road ended up giving me a lot of bread as a gift. I hoped Malar would eat it in Butterworth.

Later that night, Anna and Rina took me to finally find durian in Medan along with Ferdy, Gia Wei and Zhang Jin. The first place we drove to actually said their durian wasn’t that good - so we didn’t stop there. The second place we stopped at said their durians were great – and they were:


I had a great end to a great day with my Medan friends eating wonderful durian on the side of the road late at night. From L-R: Anna (back), Ferdy, Rina, LC, Zhang Jin and Gia Wei:


Anna forced me to pose with the durians:



And even the owner got in some photos:


Great end to a great night. We dropped the guys off at their temple home then Anna, Rina and I went home. Anna and Rina are the first Chinese people I’ve stayed with who don’t have every door and window locked in their place and even have the windows open for fresh air! A lot of Chinese people lock themselves in their houses/fortresses for fear of persecution from the locals – it has happened before.

The three of us chatted for a while and I noticed Anna had on a Sonic Youth t-shirt. I thought this was a bit odd as the music the two of them loved listening to and singing in their car was more adult contemporary than distorted electric. I asked Anna about it and she had no idea who they were. There are a lot of people over here who wear music shirts – actually a lot who wear questionable phrases on their shirts – and I don’t think the majority would know what they are wearing.

Sunday 21 October – Annai Velangkanni and flight to Penang

Packed when I woke up this morning and had breakfast with Anna and Rina from food bought at the market:


Rina was busy with her acting class today, so Anna and I would spend a few hours together to see the sights before I would head back to the temple. Luckily neither of us is into shopping. When we were driving around, I noticed this tuk tuk with a great vegan message on it:


We drove to Annai Velangkanni (Our Lady of Lourdes/Fatima) at Tanjung Selamat, a Catholic church with Indo-Mughal architecture and design:


There were two supposed miracles that the designer, Father James Bharataputra had witnessed in relation to the building of his temple. The first was when someone had given him Rp 10 million for the building and he’d left it at a friend’s place where he had been staying. Father James found out that the place had gone up in a house fire, well all except his money, two bibles and a hymnal. The second was when clear, drinkable water started coming out of the tiles at the temple – now a spring/holy water feature:


You could make a donation to fill a plastic bottle with the water. It was good water.

There are two levels to the temple. The community hall is on the ground floor. Two ramps lead to the place of worship on the first floor with a balcony and a seven-storey tower with various colours relating to various things. Gold means Glory, Blue means Heaven, Green means Life, Red means Sacrifice, White means Holiness, Grey means Repentance and Black means Darkness/Sinfulness.

There are the statues of the Apostles on 12 pillars inside the church:


The church ceiling has paintings of the sacraments:


And the ceiling above the altar represents the Sistine Chapel at the Vatican:


It was a very hot day. Anna had told me about a place that used to be in Medan, where people would sell second-hand clothing and items in a particular area of the town centre. The stores who sold new items soon were annoyed with this, so the seconds shops have since moved out of the centre but it’s still known as Monza seconds on Jl Flamboyan Kaya. I normally love sorting through these sorts of places back home and in the USA, but it looked completely overwhelming when we drove past. So much to search through.

My favourite sister, Louise called me from home when Anna and I were driving to lunch and we had a great chat for about half an hour. Louie rings every now and then which is great. We arrived at Vihara (temple) Prajna Maitreya in Kesawan where they were celebrating their 20th anniversary. There were a lot of people and we didn’t have to pay for food. We sat at a round table with six others, and shared the food laid out. Most of it was vegan. Here's what I had:


After lunch, Anna drove me to get a mango juice at Strawberry, a shop in Medan Plaza shopping centre, the oldest shopping centre in Medan. Then we went to the temple to see the Pagelaran Senan Kasih Semesta – performance and exercise by Love of Nature – all about protecting, loving and glorifying life. We got seats right at the front of the massive hall. It was wonderful. Various kids from various groups/schools performed enthusiastic and positive dance/exercise routines. There was a massive cheer squad who yelled out encouragement at the beginning and end of all of the performances.

I got some food at the cafeteria to takeaway with me for later:


Rina and Anna then dropped me off at the airport. Airport tax was Rp 75 000. I then changed my money to Malaysian Ringgit. As I had overstayed my visa one day I had to pay Rp 200 000. I had just changed all my money to Ringgit so paid RM 70, which was probably meant to be RM 60. I was now flying to Penang, Malaysia and would be staying with Malar (Gnanma’s niece) for the next few days. It will be good to see her and have one place to stay for a few nights in a row.

Malaysia - Penang & Butterworth

Sunday 21 October – Flight from Medan, Sumatra, Indonesia to Penang, Malaysia

The flight left Medan at 18:30 and I arrived in Penang at 19:10 (20:10 Malaysian time.) Immigration was easy. I bought a ticket for the taxi to the ferry for RM 44.70. I didn’t realise that I could have got a driver to drive me directly to Butterworth instead of drive me to the ferry and then catch that to Butterworth. I found this out when I got talking to the driver and he missed the exit to the ferry – went to Butterworth instead. He reversed a few hundred metres to get on the right road. I was dropped off at the ferry and didn’t have to wait long. As I was travelling to Butterworth I didn’t have to pay anything on the ferry - only have to pay when heading to Penang.  The taxi drove around for ages, getting us completely lost for RM15 before I arrived safely at Malar’s. It was good to see her.

Monday 22 October – Dentist in Butterworth

One of the main reasons I came to Butterworth was so that I could get some much-needed fillings replaced at a dentist that Malar recommended. Malar had organised an appointment for me to see Dr Wong who runs the Butterworth Dental Surgery on Jl Bagan Luar, about a 15-minute walk from Malar’s place.

My biggest issue – other than the fact I’m normally petrified of dentists - was a filling that had fallen out March 2011 – the night before my Green Earth Day festival to be exact – and needed to be replaced. I also had another hole that I could feel that needed to be filled. I also wear a splint/retainer to bed as I have bruxism (grind my teeth) and my splint had broken in half when I arrived in Malaysia the first time. I could still use it, so it wasn’t a dire issue but it would be good to have a new splint made or my old one repaired.

I walked to the clinic for my 10:00 appointment and waited a bit outside as the doctor was running late. I had thought that in the past I had been told that fillings are meant to last a lifetime and I couldn’t work out why the past few years the same fillings of mine keep getting replaced. Dr Wong actually explained to me that the amalgam fillings (the silver Mercury ones that aren’t good for your health) do actually last forever. When they are filled into your teeth they actually expand in the hole a bit and can last forever. However, the resin (white) ones that are better for your health – and look better – retract somewhat when filled, so only really last 3 years as decay can get into the little that retracts in your teeth.

I was worried that I might have to have a lot done on my teeth as I hadn’t been to the dentist for a few years. I had to get my top right molar filled, replace a bottom right molar filling and a new ones on my left side. Dr Wong would also express create a new splint for me (the other one can’t be fixed) to be ready in two days. So for the 4 fillings, mould and splint it would all come to a total of RM 700 which is approximately AU$222! That’s pretty impressive.

I had two fillings completed on my right hand side – the main culprits – and wasn’t too scared. I was actually very brave indeed. Maybe I’m getting over my fear of dentists. Or maybe it’s just because Dr Wong explained things properly to me.  We had been working on my teeth from 10:30 - 12 midday. I went for an hour break and had lunch a few doors down at Restoran Wanjib Ali. Was a bit weird to eat when I couldn’t feel what I was eating. I ordered Nasi Goreng RM 3.50 and Grape Ice blended:


I walked around the area that was pretty much the industrial area, not much to see around here. I walked back for 13:00 and we finished off one of the fillings and a repaired one on my left. I walked back to Malar’s and caught up on computer work until she came home from work at 17:00.

Malar was leaving for India in a few days so wasn’t cooking at home and as she’d had a big lunch she was just having fruit for dinner. I went downstairs to have dinner at Rern Thai Restaurant. I ordered Thai-style fried koay-teo RM4 and a carrot juice:


Went back upstairs where I watched Indian soapies with Malar and read my Lonely Planet book.

Tuesday 23 October – Restoran Daun Pisang & 9-Day Goddess Festival

Today I had a few Skype appointments with clients and a potential client in the morning before I walked to meet Malar for lunch. We went to Restoran Daun Pisang Sri Anada Bahwan in the centre part of Butterworth.  RM12 for both our meals:


Malar drove me to the train station to buy by ticket for Thursday to Bangkok RM111.90 then she dropped me off and I caught up on more computer work.

Malar arrived home and we left for the temple at 17:30 - only a couple of minutes walk to the end of the road she lives on. We were there for prayers for the 9-day goddess festival, that had just finished.


As she was the Goddess of Education there were a few business people and families who had donated reading and writing materials for the kids. There was a lot of people in particular kids there and it was still going at 21:00. We were hoping to eat at the temple, but I’m not sure when we would have actually been fed. We walked back to the condo and I ordered Koay–teo that I’d had last night:


Malar ordered vegetable fried rice:


Wednesday 24 October – Majalir Restaurant & Golden Claypot Restaurant

Today I got to sleep in and I walked to pick up my splint from Dr Wong. I then walked to the EconSave shopping centre to go to the supermarket and buy some snacks for my train trip tomorrow. I bought HoGoMa’s Black Sesame Crackers, Dragon Horse brand of A1 rice crackers, Lee Biscuits Nutri Mulit-grain biscuits, Ping Ping Coconut biscuits; plus various dried fruit and nuts that I mixed together to make a trail mix. I dropped all my goodies off at Malar’s and walked to meet her for lunch. We drove to Majalir (ladies) Restaurant where it cost RM 11.40 for both our meals:


On the side of the road a lady was selling Kueh Dadar – green pancakes. So I bought a couple for RM 0.80

For dinner Malar and I went to Golden Claypot Restaurant where we ordered Vegetables with Bao Bean:


Vegetable Fried Rice:


And Vegetable Fried Noodles:


Total of RM 22.30 for all.

Thursday 25 October – Butterworth to Bangkok by train

I caught up on some computer work in the morning and then Malar picked me up to go to lunch at Sing Joyee Vegetarian Restaurant. RM 16.30 for mine, Malar’s, takeaway food for the train and drinks.


We drove back to Malar’s, picked up my bag and then Malar dropped me off at the train station. I changed my money to Baht and waited for the train that was meant to arrive at 14:20 and get to Bangkok at 11:24 tomorrow. I’ve been looking forward to this train trip for awhile.

Leigh-Chantelle is an International Speaker & Consultant; Author, Singer/Songwriter and Blogger.

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