For those of you who know nothing about Islam like I did (and still do for that matter) Idul Fitri is the end of Ramadan, the month of the year when Muslim people fast during the day. I happened to arrive in Indonesia exactly at the beginning of Ramadan and I’m about to leave it as the fasting period is over.
I crossed from Java to Sumatra by ferry in about an hour and then in 2 hours I arrived at my following destination: Bandar Lampun where my host agreed to pick me up from the station and drive me to his place.
While waiting for Ageng and eating an entire tube of Pringles many people approached me just to say hi or to enquire where I was going. One of these people is a very shy man called Christo (in a Muslim country!!! 😀). We exchanged a few phrases and in the meantime I said hello to some 10 people looking at me with a smile on their face.
Ageng arrived and drove me to his home where I met all is close family : mother, father, little sister and his uncle that is only 4 years older than he is. Aziz’s English is pretty good and we managed to have a decent conversation. Ageng’s mom cooked dinner for me and then I went to bed as I was pretty tired. Ageng left his bed to me and slept on a mattress on the floor.
The following morning we woke up at sunrise and at 7.30 we were already on the road to go to Angeng’s grandmother. But before we made a pit stop at his aunt’s house to get more family in the van. It took us almost 2 hours to get there. But the road passed through towns and parts of forest so it was nice.
Once arrived to destination we found more family waiting for us and everyone was super interested in me. I was at the center of attention, the first to get the right to eat, the one to have the right to the best food, and was served tea, water and everything that was available to eat. In Sumatra (but I imagine it’s the same more or less all around Indonesia) every house is always ready to receive guests. They have always a table set up with cookies and biscuits, some water and tea (very sweet of course). So there I was, stuffing my face with all the food that had been prepared to celebrate the end of Ramadan and in the meantime receiving the complete attention of the all family that was getting larger and larger every moment. At one point I asked if I could have a picture with all the family. They agreed and it took a while to organize but in the end I managed to get my picture with part of the family, and it was already a big part. But then the whole family wanted a picture with me. One by one. I felt like like a monkey at the zoo but it was funny. After the photo call we were on the road again direction Way Kambas that I thought was a sanctuary for elephants. The entrance is 7500RP for the locals and 250000RP for the tourists… The worst money ever spent.
To get to the actual sanctuary it takes 40min from the check point by car on a VERY bad road . Once there it’s easy to realize that the place couldn’t be further from a sanctuary. It’s more like a circus where the poor animals have to do the clowns so people can laugh. As I didn’t want to disappoint my host I didn’t say anything and tried to watch the show but it got to a point when I started crying so I decided to go to the toilet not to see the rest of the horror show and not to show my host my disappointment. Luckily they were in a rush to be back with the rest of the family and since it was raining they decided that it was time to leave and that way I could put an end to my agony.
Back at grandma’s home there was still the family and still waiting for me and take some more pictures. One of the relatives (don’t know what kind of relationship, here were at least 40 people in the house!) asked me if I liked coconut and when I said yes he offered to get one for me. A few of us left to get the coconut from the jungle behind the house and the relative climed on a palm tree and got some coconuts for us that we drank and ate there and then. (and in the meantime we gave a good reason to mosquitoes to stick around!) Back home we were really exhausted and went straight to bed. Idul fitri is something like Christmas for Christians so there is always good a gathering to attend to. And just like Christmas it can be pretty exhausting.
The following morning Ageng and part of his family took me to the airport but before we made a pit stop to introduce me to another branch of the family and do some other photo call. Ageng and all his relatives have been amazing. They have treated me like a prince and also adapted the cooking to my diet restrictions. They made me feel the most important person in the world and walked the extra mile to make me feel at home. They also gave me presents and made my stay in Lampun unforgettable.
My plane to Padang was more a bus than a plane. It took three hours to get to destination and due to the fact that we stopped in Jambi to let passengers out and pick need ones… Weird…
We got to Padang with an hour delay and at the airport I found Alfano, a couchsurfer, to pick me up. I didn’t find any host so I booked at Brigitte’s home (Jl. Kp. Sebelah X, Kp. Pd., Padang Bar., Kota Padang, Sumatera Barat) and Alfano although could not host me was so nice to take me there on his motorbike. Brigitte’s house is a very small hostel where I got a room for myself. The place is more than decent but the fact that there is only one bathroom for the entire place can be sometimes really uncomfortable.
Padang is a very nice city by the sea surrounded by beautiful mountains and jungles. With Alfano we had dinner in a sushi place and then I called it a night.
The following day Alfano came and pick me up and together we went to the beach some 20min far from the city. Honestly it was nothing special as a recent storm had torn down many tree on the beach and the water is not crystal clear due to the movement of the sands. Besides to get to a depth decent enough to swim you have to walk around 100m from the shore. But it was still nice. The area is still very wild, with animals walking around free and I tried to get an interaction with some of the goats walking around but they always ran from me…
After a nap in the afternoon Alfano invited me to spend the night at the hostel where he works (as he was doing the night shift and could easily sneaking me in) and so I was able to spend the night in a four star hotel and in the morning I had a gigantic breakfast and all this for free!!!
The night before we had dinner at this street food place called Waroeng Koki-koki where I had kwetiau goreng, some kind of really thick rice noodles with vegetables and afterwards we had an ice-cream at Es Durian – Ganti Nan Lamo. At the restaurant there were these two kids singing and they were pretty amazing. Little Indonesia got talent
The night rained cats and dogs but this morning the sun is shining.
I really loved Sumatra even though I just spent a few days here. Despite the fact that is the more Muslim compared to Bali and Java I found the people very friendly and very open. White persons are still something to look at with great interest, but they always say hello and smile to you. I’m not sure that if they knew that I’m gay they would be still so nice, but I can’t really complain.
Now I’m at the airport again ready to leave Indonesia as my visa expires tomorrow. New destination Malaysia.