Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bukit Lawang - trip report

I've been here in Bukit Lawang for about 10 days now and have been collecting a bit of information and photos of some accommodation and yummy food options.  I'm staying up the top end of the path, so I'm just writing about this area.

Getting here:

I booked a driver to pick me up from Medan airport which cost 400,000.  When we arrived, a motorbike met the car and took me and my backpack up to the place I'd booked (Jungle Tribe).  It is a solid 10 to 15 min walk up to the guesthouses at the top of the path, and the path is kind of steep and crumbly in stages - if you have any kind of difficulty walking or carrying heavy things (which I do) then it would be a really good idea to organise for a motorbike to take you up the path.  (You do have to get off and walk at one stage, because the path is too steep.)

The overall vibe: 

About a month ago I read a post on TT where the poster described Bukit Lawang as a kind of backpacker hangout and said he didn't like it.  (Can't remember the exact words, but that's what I remember.)  When I arrived I could see what he/she was talking about - there's no real town here - there's a kind of settlement with shops, and a housing estate (on high ground) where locals live, then a string of tokos, guesthouses and restaurants going up the river.

 So, yes, it does feel like a bit of a backpacker ghetto in that way (reminded me a little of Kuta at the bottom of the path).  But, the setting is just so beautiful, with the jungle and the river, that the similarity to Kuta ends pretty quickly.  Especially up the top end of the path, it is so quiet and peaceful here - no cars, few bikes, and no mosque noise once you are up the path a bit.   At night all I hear is the river and the sounds of the jungle - it's just gorgeous.  Also, the locals are really friendly and laid-back - very warm, and not tourist-jaded.

I notice there are quite a few families here with children, and this would be a fantastic place for a holiday with kids.  There's just so much to interest them - lots of wildlife, tubing and swimming in the river, and very friendly locals who are great with kids.

Most backpackers seems to just come for 3 days - they do a trek, then leave.  But, if you were looking for somewhere to just hang out and relax for a few weeks, you probably couldn't get many places as beautiful and serene as Bukit Lawang!


Jungle Tribe

I am staying at the Jungle Tribe  It's a small place right up the top of the path, with just 2 rooms, one above the other.  It faces right onto the river.  I'm in the bottom room, which is large and clean and has a beautiful private balcony and garden area with steps leading right down to the river.  I love it.  I just booked in for 2 nights, thinking I'd look around once I arrived and move somewhere else (I'm staying a month), but I liked it so much I just stayed.

Private garden from lower room, looking over river

Bed area in lower room. 
Jungle tribe - from the river

The top room is beautiful - large, light, with a sitting area inside the room, and a really big balcony with a hammock and chaise-lounge on it that looks out over the river.  The bottom room is 150,000 a night, and the top room is 250,000.  (They do give discounts for long-term stay).

Top room - balcony and hammock (with manager, Bowo). 

Top room - sitting area

Jungle tribe - top room balcony

(I am almost tempted not to recommend the Jungle Tribe, because there are only two rooms and I want to come back one day, but that would be selfish!!)

The tribe also has a restaurant with excellent curries, particularly the pumpkin and pineapple curries (both 30,000).  The gado gado is also very good (also 30,000).  

Jungle Inn

Jungle Inn - landscaping
The Jungle Inn has some really lovely landscaping and designs to its rooms.  They are building 2 new rooms which look out over the river and should be ready in a few months.  They are large, and really light and one has a beautiful outdoor shower.  Both have large balconies.  The rooms are connected, so they can be used as one big family area.  They'll cost 300 to 350,000.
Jungle Inn - new room, still under construction
At the Jungle Inn restaurant they make yummy fresh yoghurt. Yoghurt lassies are 15,000 and delicious! 

Cheap rooms

Directly across from Green Hill are some cheap rooms built above the laundry.  They look very basic, just a rickety wooden building with shared bathroom but hey - they're cheap!  (Around 60 - 70,000).

In between Green Hill and Garden Inn is a new guesthouse run by Paden and his French wife Maree.  This place is really solidly built - lots of concrete and tiles and is 3 stories. 

New guesthouse, next to Garden Inn. 
The windows have good screens on them, so if you are someone who is bothered by mosquitos this might be a good option.  The rooms are large, clean, and have some nice comfy chairs outside for lounging as well as big balconies which look over the path to the river.  There is a family room as well as normal sized rooms.  Prices - 100 to 200,000.

OK...onto the food!

The food in Bukit Lawang is a bit more expensive than other places I've been to in Sumatra, but, the standards are also pretty high.  Most places do a lovely curry with cinnamon, star anise etc - very tasty!

One of the cheapest places to eat is a new restaurant called Rumah Makan Lexman.  It is just after the internet cafe, and before Green Hill.  The people that run it are lovely, and the food is anywhere from 30% to 50% than at the guesthouses.  I really enjoy the coconut pancakes (8000rp), banana porridge (8000), and vegetable curry (10,000).  They also do takeaway. They are open from 7am to 5pm. 

Rumah Makan Lexman


tas nixon said...

realy like in heaven ... so beauty and warm. i like to travel on west java also ... btw nice information

webhound said...

Maybe a silly question (as i've never been backpacking before) but do you need to book rooms in advance or simply turn up and ask for a room?

Emma said...

Hi there webhound,

Unless you are travelling in peak season, you'll probably have no trouble getting a room if you just turn up, especially if you are arriving earlier in the day.