Time for travelling again. The week from 31st of October to the 6th of November had 2 holidays in Singapore (the Indian festival of light ‘Deepavali’, and the Muslim ‘Hari Raya’). So why not take one day of leave (I do not have too many during my internship..what a bummer! Singapore is such a fantastic hub for so many Asian destinations) and visit the supposedly beautiful Indonesian Island of Sumatra for four days? We were a group of 7 German speaking interns..thanks for the organising, Thomas!
Sumatra is actually the second largest island in the world (it is indeed difficult to keep up with Greenland..). Of the total population of about 230m roughly 37m live in Sumatra (btw, did you know that the population density on the island of Java is more than twice as much as in Holland? ok..useless information ) It is the last big Indonesian island that still provides the experience of rough tropical jungle plus creepy and in many places almost non-existing infrastructure.
Our destination was Medan, in the northern region of Sumatra. It is pretty close to Banda Aceh, which I guess is a quite well-known region after it was struck so badly in last years Tsunami. Furthermore the region is also ‘famous’ for fightings betweens rebels and the government. As many of you certainly know the open ‘war’ stopped after the Tsunami, especially to make foreign help possible. A peace treaty was put into force just in August this year..taken into consideration that we did not experience any danger (common sense rules!), it seems to work But after all, we were still miles and miles away from the very north of the island where the fightings took place and we had Indonesian guides with us. nooo dangerous.
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?
The first challenge was to handle the money. Each of us carried about 2.3m Indonesian Rupiahs, which equals about 200 Euro. Since we were given only 50000IDR notes, the weight of everyones wallet was enormous. Just imagine..a normal Indonesian earns maybe 27.000IDR per day (which is less than 3 Euro). Why would we take the risk of carrying so much money with us? We had organised a tour guide, inclusive aircon-bus, driver, security and bus-door-opener (no kidding). And this had to be paid in cash..(about 80€). And as you can see in the potp, the ATMs were kind of funny (in case they worked at all). ‘Trust’ is the key here..
One nice expample, to illustrate the Indonesian price level: One day we made a break in a medium-sized town..Georg and me went to a little grocery store to get something to drink. We chose a normal coke, which was ‘only’ about 20 Eurocents (and this was the tourist price..which is usually 2-10times higher than the local price). I was wondering why there was a layer of dirt on top of the can. When I emptied the can I realised a football-advertisment on it. Unfortunately is was for the world championship 2002 in Japan/Korea, so the coke was only ‘best before May 2003′. Well, too late, but it tasted ok..which speaks in favor of Coca Cola Inc.’s ability to put lots of sophisticated, conservating ingredients in their beverages..
The point here is that this can was waiting for its customer in this little store for almost 4 years, because no local Indonesian could ever afford to buy a coke for about 10 Eurocents. I still see the owners face when I emptied the can in just a few hasty gulps. Drinking Champagne in front of him would have had no more effect, I guess. Well, that short experience spoke volumes about the almost inconceivable difference in life standard..but more of that later.
There is too much to tell, so I am gonna split this report.
To be continued..