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7 Reasons To Explore Sumatra And Don’t Miss Number 4 It’s Amazing!

Reading Time: 10 minutes
We love Sumatra and that is why we call it home there is no place like it on the planet. Sumatra has something for just about everyone for the global adventurers, foodies, scholars, families, to adventure explorers. Sumatra is famous for its eco-tourism, adventures in the rugged and majestic highlands of western Indonesia, to the tropical rainforests of Gunung Leuser national park. You can even recharge and just relax and unwind in the white sandy beaches.

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

Are You Ready For Adventure?

Why not explore, trek, dive, raft, and see the impressive Sumatran jungle like the habitat of the wildlife of the Tigers of Sumatra in the Kerinci Seblat Natural Reserve. Or see the Elephants of Tangkahan or get up close and personal with most intelligent primates in the rainforest the orangutans.

There are so many reasons why you should tour Sumatra here are just a few highlights:

The unspoiled and untouched nature of Sumatra jungles and scenery with its tropical flora and fauna. The Orangutans native only to Sumatra and Malaysia and only found in the true natural habitats in the rainforests of Sumatra and Borneo. Chilling out next to the impressive volcanic Lake Toba, the world’s biggest crater Lake or gaze at the views the mysterious lake Maninjau.

The white sands beaches, snorkel and see the beautiful coral reefs while diving. Visit the ancient Batak village and other small friendly villages and immerse yourself in the authentic Batak culture, with its unique dances and music.
Watch the traditional Batak Dance and surround yourself in the traditional music
Sumatra has so much to offer from the delicious food, the sunny days, the relaxed atmosphere, the Sumatran tigers and elephants, the different ethnic tribes. Her unique cultures, history, architecture, handcrafts, languages, exotic cuisine, religion, and fashion.

We are sure that you can understand why we are so passionate about the Island of Sumatra. It is definitely one of the most picturesque exotic destinations you must have on your bucket list of places to visit in life. You can experience it all this on the Island called Sumatra, the sixth largest island in the world and this is why you need to visit Sumatra now!

I do not know a country so productive as Delli,(on Sumatra) considering the number of its inhabitants; nor is there perhaps one on the face of the globe possessing so many natural advantages

(Anderson J. Mission to the East Coast of Sumatra in 1823: 278)

Why Travel To Sumatra?

1) The Rich History, From Colonialism To Now

The rich historical influences can still be heard, felt and seen in the language, and architecture today. One of the earliest accounts from a European about Sumatra was from the Italian discoverer Marco Polo who visited the island in the year 1292. Marco Polo referred to Sumatra as he named the kingdom “Samara or Samarcha” in the late 13th century, while the 14th-century traveler Odoric of Pordenone referred to the Island as “Sumoltra for Samudra”. Subsequent European writers then used similar forms of the name for the entire island to what we know it as today.

Before that the Sriwijaya Kingdom in Southern Sumatra had already been in contact with Java, China, and India. In the sixteenth century came the Arab traders, then the British, and from the middle of the 19th century till 1942 the colonial Dutch ruled the island. In later history, the Japanese ruled for about three years, and consequently followed Indonesia’s independence in 1945. The rich diverse history is reflected in the architecture and historical past which connects many to the Island and it can still be seen today.

2. The Native Cultural Diversity From North Sumatra, West To South Sumatra

Sumatra has a rich and fascinating history from the Malay coastal population, the Batak tribes from the highlands and the Minangkabau people from Western Sumatra with their unique matrilineal system combined with Islam.

The Batak highlands around the crater lake Toba with the island of Samosir in the center is a place of unforgettable natural majestic beauty. The indigenous Batak people who reside in these regions had little contact until the mid-19th century with the outer world which preserved their ancient animist culture and traditions. It wasn’t until half of the 19th century, German missionaries managed to enter these interior regions and converted many Batak into Christianity, where nowadays many Batak people adhere to the Protestant religion.

The local Batak culture is divided among the unique Karo, Toba, Mandailing and Pak Pak Batak tribes. Each small village has their own language, textiles, the so-called ‘ulos’, with each region adopting exclusive coloring and weaving techniques, which once more also differed from the Minangkabau ethnic group in Western Sumatra.

The same goes for their music, dances and visual arts. Each ethnic tribe has its own characteristics that make them special and unique. Musically the Toba Batak are famous singers, probably the lake plays a factor in this, as you can hear the Batak singing their songs carrying over for many kilometers over the wide Toba waters.

In the nineteenth-century hundreds of thousands of Chinese and Javanese people were recruited by plantation companies to work in the tobacco fields, later rubber and palm oil plantations in the districts of Deli, Serdang, Langkat, and Asahan.

The Chinese, from the end of the nineteenth century, experienced a so called Chinese diaspora, whereby many fled hunger and poverty struck southern China and left for countries like the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia, including Sumatra. In some cases, the Chinese settlers became the dominant ethnic group much like in the city-state of Singapore. In Medan, the Chinese ethnic group still consists of around 10% of the population.

The Chinese and Javanese were simply searching for a better life and many of them found it on Sumatra. That is why today there are many Javanese and Chinese people in Northern Sumatra. The economic and job opportunities were the main reason for the historical migration and many of their descendants still reside here today.

You can also see their influences in the architectural styles such as the traditional Malay houses on stilts, the Batak and Minangkabau houses on stilts with their characteristic protruding saddle roof structures, Chinese classic architecture and colonial buildings. All these different architectural styles on Sumatra can still be seen today and make up the fabric of our cultural and ethnic diversity.

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

3. Food! The street food, slow-cooked curries, and spices of Sumatra

Sumatra is located right on the equator and has an abundance of rainfall mix that with the mineral-rich volcanic soil, just about every tropical agricultural crop can flourish on the island. The climate is perfect for fruits and vegetables combine that with sweet rainfall, and the fertile volcanic soil you get the freshest most amazing ingredients possible. Aromatic, and tasty Sumatran coffees, the famous Mandheling coffee from middle Sumatra, and the Gayo coffee from the Aceh province where Robusta and Arabica coffees are grown. Countless tropical fruits such as pineapples, mangosteen, passion fruit, papaya, bananas and many more grow abundantly.

Rice and Noodles! A meal without it isn’t a meal! Indonesians love their rice. Most restaurants serve “Minangkabau,” but most people just say “Nasi Padang” cuisine which is a vast array of curries from chicken, to beef to fish even the jackfruit. When you eat at a Nasi Padang restaurant you won’t be ordering. Instead, they bring all their choice dishes to you and set them on your table, simply take what you want to enjoy you are only charged for what you eat.

If Nasi Padang cuisine isn’t your thing or you fear anything spicy don’t worry there is so much to choose from and the culinary experience is as diverse as the people. West Sumatra is home to the world’s most delicious dish, the famous beef Rendang. In 2011, Rendang, the scrumptious meat dish from West Sumatra, was crowned the Best dish in CNN’s World’s 50 Best Foods.

From traditional Indonesian style steaks to Nasi and Mie Goreng (Fried Rice and Fried Noodles) to the street vendors barbecue sticks “sate” (sate kacang and sate Madura) a peanut-based sauce. Or have your chicken, beef or fish smothered with a yellow sauce called (sate biasa).

Are you a vegan or vegetarian they got you covered too. Don’t miss out on the experience that is Martabak a very yummy pancake dessert filled with just about anything from chocolate to bananas to peanuts or all of the above!

Veggie or meat don’t leave without trying the fried foods “Risoles” or what you might know as eggrolls, then move onto the soups and here the possibilities never end. Mie Bakso is soup with egg noodles or rice vermicelli with veggies and meatballs. You can also just omit the Bakso and go veggies all the way.

A foodie’s paradise is simply what Sumatra is. Don’t leave without tasting and exploring the exotic fruits and spices and curries and why not bring a few recipes home to remind you of your once in a lifetime experience.

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

4. The Landscape, The Scenery, and The Destinations

People often don’t know the difference between the 3 islands “Java, Bali, and Sumatra” Bali is most famous for its luxury hotels, beautiful beaches the kind you see in the movies and dream luxury vacations in addition to the unique Hindu culture and Hindu temples.

Java is also known all over the world for its temples such as the impressive Buddhist Borobudur and Prambanan Hindu temple. With Jogyakarta and the Kraton as the cultural center of Java, with its iconic beautiful rice fields and lovely landscapes, contrasted to the metropolis like Jakarta and Surabaya which are important political, economic and cultural centers.

Sumatra, on the other hand, is most famous for its vast unspoiled jungle, the largest volcanic crater lake in the world, the Lake Toba, and the highest volcano in Indonesia, The Kerinci (3850 m.)

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

Photograph by Frederick Buiskool

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

Photograph by Diana, Dirk and Roderick Buiskool

5. Mother Nature “The Flora & Fauna” and Ecosystem

Sumatra with its lush jungles and mountains and valleys is the last place on mother earth where Elephants, Tigers, Rhinos, and the critically endangered Orangutans still coexist in the wild. Managed and protected in the most breathtaking nature reserves such as the Bohorok / Bukit Lawang and Mount Leuser National Park. The Orangutan Rehabilitation center in Bohorok / Bukit Lawang near the Bohorok River is a unique experience! And something not to miss.

Sumatra is also home to the tallest, rarest and biggest flower in the world, the Rafflesia which can grow until 3 feet across and weigh up to 15 pounds! The Rafflesia emits a unique smell to attract pollinators and ward off pray aside from its majestic beauty and rarity it’s a stunning site and extremely difficult to grow. The botanic gardens in Singapore have yet to successfully grow one and it only stays in bloom for just a few days. It can be seen in the botanical reserve in Palupu near Bukittinggi. That is a picture of our son Roderick next to the Rafflesia in Palupu near Bukittinggi in West Sumatra next to the Rafflesia.

6. A Shopping paradise

From traditional markets and shops to world class shopping malls, Sumatra is home to boundless shopping opportunities in between explorations, relaxing and taking in everything Sumatra has to offer. Here are Trip advisors top rated shopping centers in Sumatra.

7. Where is Sumatra? Getting Here Locality And Accessibility

Sumatra sounds just far off and exotic and brings into imagination the images of jungle expeditions, wild volcanoes, cute intelligent orangutans, and indigenous villagers. It’s not far off how you see it in the movies or national geographic in fact it might even better!

Sumatra has all of those things and more, and once you escape the modern urban jungles you will understand its diversity.

How do you get here?

Sumatra is located south of Thailand, west of Malaysia and Singapore and close to metropoles such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Jakarta.

It is very easy to come to Sumatra as it is only one hour away from the two important South East Asian hubs, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. If you fly from all over the world, just take a plane to KL or S’pore and from there to Medan or Padang, and you will enter a different world. An hour flight from Singapore or Malaysia can be as low as $20.

These are some of the things you can expect to see upon your visit to Sumatra. Come see, explore and discover the natural wonder of Sumatra

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