Often, I go to a place because it gets stuck in my head … really it gets stuck in my imagination.  Sometimes it is triggered by a book, a movie, a conversation, a photograph, a song …  But Sumatra is probably the most unusual.  I have wanted to go to Sumatra since the mid 1980’s because of the VCR game Clue.  I received it as a Christmas gift in the 5th grade and played it a hundred times with my parents and my cousin.  In one scene, Ms. Scarlett (by far my favorite character) and Mr. Mustard have a discussion about “the winds of Sumatra”.  At the end of the scene, Ms. Scarlett says, “I was never in Sumatra.”  And from that point on, I wanted to visit Sumatra.

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I almost went when in Jakarta and Borneo this past summer but chose to stay in Java instead and then visit the temples in Borobudur. But I couldn’t let the opportunity pass again when revisiting Singapore early this year.

Sumatra is my third of Indonesia’s over 17,000 islands.  Sumatra can really be divided into three areas of the North, Central and South.  Our visit was limited to central Sumatra (although I’d like to return and visit the south).

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The above three photos are from SpokenLight.

Unfortunately, I lost my notes from my research and my trip so I will have to limit this post to just photos of Lake Toba and a few impressions:

-Lake Toba was beautiful and I highly recommend spending 2 full days there. One day to take a day tour around the island and one day to hang out and enjoy the lake.

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-We stayed at Zoe’s Paradise Waterfall Hotel.  I have mixed reviews.  Breakfast was good.  Rooms were basic but more than adequate.  There are a lot of stairs so make sure you are fit enough to walk up to your room.  It is in a great location with a beautiful view from every room.  The staff was very friendly.  Water was hot and plentiful.  They had drinking water available for use.  However, on the flip side — The restaurant was out of several items our entire stay (even items on the chalk specials board).  And we took a day tour and arranged transportation back to Medan through the hotel.  Both of these were over-priced and did not meet advertised expectations.

-Sipisopiso Waterfall is beautiful and can be done on the way to Lake Toba or as a side trip from Lake Toba.  Frankly, I think I recommend as a 1/2 day side trip from Lake Toba.  Plan on about 90 minutes each way (traffic was better than from Medan) and then 90 minutes there if you want to walk down and back.  The “hike” is paved but I still saw someone injured and being carried back up the hill.

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-Traffic from Medan was horrific.  Whether you are just seeing Lake Toba or you combine it with waterfalls and Orangutans, consider a flight into Medan and then out of Lake Toba.  Next time I will look harder at Bandar Udara Sisingamangaraja XII Silangit for our flight out.  

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-Sumatra is one of three locations in the world where you can see wild Orangutans.  When I researched the options, I chose Boreno instead of Sumatra but know it is an option.

-Hiring a car within Sumatra was easy but make sure expectations are clear.  We ran into challenges both directions.

-I love Indonesia and will return again and again – but the food and traffic are both horrific!

-Sumatra was a wonderful combination with Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.  They had a shared history that was great to learn about in a single trip.

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