Sumatra For The Intrepid

May 12th, 2011, in Featured, IM Posts, Travel, by

Intrepid Travel launches a new tour in Indonesia, covering the highlights of (northern) Sumatra.

Intrepid Travel logoFor many years, Australian-owned tour company Intrepid Travel has operated a slowly declining number of tours in Indonesia. Recently, these were almost entirely based around the tourist hub of Bali and neighbouring Lombok.

However, Intrepid recently launched a new tour: Sumatran Highlights.

According to the brochure, it gives:

the opportunity to travel in areas that few people get to visit and to spend time with the people who call this region home.

and was recently selected as one of National Geographic's Top 50 Tours of a Lifetime.

The Sumatran Highlights visited on this trip include:

The 15-day tour includes flights to and from Kuala Lumpur, transport, accommodation and some meals. The price is $US1825 / € 1395 / $A1995.

However, Intrepid's tour only covers the island's two northern-most provinces: North Sumatra and Aceh.

This suggests there are six other provinces Sumatran provinces seemingly deemed to have nothing special.

Locals may disagree and point to other noteworthy attractions like the remains of the world's most famous volcano: Anak Krakatau; Lonely Planet's other highlight of Sumatra: Bukittinggi, West Sumatra; and the surfing and stone-jumping mecca of Pulau Nias, despite regular flights there.


If you were constructing a tour of the best of Sumatra, what would you keep, drop and change? Or what undiscovered/hidden gems would you recommend?

Also, are you willing to pay a premium price to be able to visit places that are otherwise difficult to see?

Please share your thoughts below.


11 Comments on “Sumatra For The Intrepid”

  1. avatar timdog says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    There are some definite unhidden gems down south – Danua Ranau is absolutely charming, and a very long way “off the beaten track”. The entire coast of Bengkulu province is attractive and has potential (and Bengkulu itself is sleepy and with a certain charm in its old quarters).
    The Pasemah Highlands around Pagar Alam and Gunung Dempo are really nice – this is definitely an area with major potential for tourism. There are some decent beaches on Pulau Bangka (and a bit of palpable history too), and Belitung is reportedly very nice indeed (haven’t been)…
    Further north Jambi is worth a visit for the surrounding countryside and the Muara Jambi temples, which ought to get more visitors…

  2. avatar dirk says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 11:12 pm

    No bikini though. Islamic area !

  3. avatar David says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 7:30 am

    I’m sure you don’t look much good in a bikini anyway Dirk so wer’e not missing much there.

    Speaking of bikinis, when back in Australia last summer was walking around a beachside suburb of Melbourne and had an experience that made me realise I’ve imbibed and internalised some typical Indonesian attitudes to things like this… we were in the central shopping area, about 10 mins walk from the beach, and along came strutting 3 or 4 teenaged girls in nothing but bikinis – I was shocked, and I’m not exaggerating, I was really taken aback by it because of course a bikini is just underwear really, and they’re strutting around on the sidewalk and then later in a mall saw them again, and well, boy… been away too long…

  4. avatar Chris says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 10:02 am

    To continue the conversation:

    Hi Timdog,

    Some people also agree with you about the beaches of Bengkulu:
    http://www.indonesiamatters.com/11351/panjang-beach/

    Likewise David,

    When I saw 2 Aussie guys walking around in Bali in nothing but board shorts and showing a fair bit of “cheek”, my first thought was “Gee, that would upset a few Indonesians”.

    You can see them in the background of the attached picture; click on it for zoom/full-size.

  5. avatar Lairedion says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 11:49 am

    Not typical Indonesian, those attitudes.

    Barcelona City Council bans nudity and semi-nudity on the streets

    In Holland, with its supposedly relaxed outlook towards clothing, you won’t find people walking semi-nude or with bikinis either, except at beach, lake and pool areas.

    And I’m quite positive many locals would disapprove such wear.

  6. avatar Chris says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 12:36 pm

    Hi Lairedion,

    Some Western European countries don’t wear casual clothes (e.g. tracksuit pants, jeans, shorts) much at all, even on a hot Summer’s day.

    However, their TV channels are somewhat different to Indonesia’s in terms of what you can and can’t see… For example, in Germany during a “Die Simpsons” commercial break I once saw an advertisement for butter with female nudity. (No, it wasn’t a recreation of “Last Tango in Paris”.)

  7. avatar Lairedion says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 1:33 pm

    Hi Chris,

    These kinds of commercials are indeed normal in Europe. Especially Fa Cosmetics is “notorious” and it has been like this since the 80′s or so.

    http://youtu.be/lTevbQ0StRg

    It was just a hint, I guess. Not only for spreading on bread but also to be used as a lubricant.

  8. avatar David says:
    May 13th, 2011 at 7:43 pm

    L, they are typical of Indonesians, typical doesn’t mean exclusive. Don’t know about Europe but in Australia it seems to be acceptable behaviour, pretty sure there aren’t any regulations against it at the least, and when I saw these girls nobody seemed to be taking any notice of them, but I don’t know what is in the minds of others of course.

  9. avatar hary says:
    May 24th, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    Ahhhh,
    just searched Fa advertisements on YouTube.
    A welcome distraction indeed …..

  10. avatar Chris says:
    July 27th, 2011 at 6:50 am

    I received this comment via email:

    A Google search revealed that your site mentions the “Sumatra Highlights” trip from Intrepid. I am a travel photographer and I got back from this trip last week.

    I did extensive research before the trip and was unable to find many photos from the Northern part of Sumatra (especially from the Aceh province that is dominated by the Muslims). I believe that some of my photos might be interesting to your readers and might spark interest in travel to that part of the world. The photos I took are available here:

    http://muepla.zenfolio.com/sumatra2011

    Enjoy !
    Christian Mueller-Planitz

    The photos are quite interesting and well done, mostly of Sumatran people (rather than places).

  11. avatar tik tok says:
    May 26th, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    you must go to Mentawai island ‘indonesia of hawaii’ gor worldclass surfing.



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