Sights and Nias Island Trivia Along the Road to Gunung Sitoli

Breakfast at Baholo Resort was a large banana pancake for me, omelet for Marine Steve, coffee and we left at 9:00a promptly for a three-hour ride back to Gunung Sitoli for one night before flying back to Medan.

– It rained hard for a while during the ride and we noticed children coming home from school took off shoes and walked barefoot rather than ruin them. Primary grades wear red, Junior High wears grey;

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A Sea of Satellite Dishes and Laundry in Hilisimaetano Village Nias Island

I combined Hilisimaetano Village at the South end of Nias Island with Tumori Village located near Gunung Sitoli in the lengthy video below. Feel free to skim through but both villages were completely unlike in architecture. Nias Island is filled with tribal culture and ancient sights. We just skimmed the surface because the oldest and most intact villages require hiking (actually, trekking) into the interior, for die-hards only.

FYI: Guide Yusman spoke excellent English and teaches English in a Junior High School.


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The Interesting King or Chief’s House in Bawomataluo, Nias Island

Nias is an ancient land but according to legend life originated at the Gomo River where six gods descended and began the human race which is why the people call themselves ono niha or “children of the people.” Nias megalithic cultures were traditionally ruled by a king or chief who heads a council of elders. Society is hierarchical with the aristocratic upper caste at the top, followed by the common people, and below them the slaves.

Bawomataluo Village had an excellent King’s House made from massive teak wood pieces that were fitted together without nails, and we were allowed to walk in and up to the top levels. Descendants of the king’s line still live in the King or Chief’s house which is the only “old” house left here. The house is being reviewed for UNESCO World Heritage Status as it should be.

 

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Stone Jumping in Bawomataluo, Nias Island

It was many stone steps up from Orahili Village to Bawomataluo Village in such heat and humidity we both looked as if we had been standing in a shower. Bawomataluo is the most famous and accessible of Nias’ southern villages, perched on a hill about 400 meters/1,312 feet above sea level. There are several flights of steps connecting the two villages with the final approach up 88 steep stone steps. Houses are arranged along two main stone paved avenues that meet opposite the chief’s house, thought to be the oldest and largest on Nias Island.

Traditional homes were balanced on tall wooden pylons, topped with steep, thatched roofs and adorned with symbolic carvings. Some say the boat motif was inspired by the Dutch spice ships. Villages were typically built on high ground with a stone wall for protection. Stone was also used to carve benches, chairs and memorials. At first sight, these villages reminded me of Toraja land in Sulawesi.


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The Once Warrior Village of Orahili, Nias Island

Nias Island is part of a chain off the western coast of Sumatra, separated from mainland Sumatra by a deep trench. Few early trading ships dared to approach these islands because of its fiercely independent people. Nias became known as a source of slaves until the Nineteenth Century when the Dutch assumed control in 1825. Island population is spread over more than 650 villages, many of which are inaccessible by road.

TIP: The risk of malaria is high so make sure to take adequate precautions and bring mosquito repellent.

 

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New Baholo Resort on South Nias Island, Indonesia

Happy Trails originally intended to accommodate us in either Damai Inn or Lilis Damai Guesthouse, both basic with simple facilities. “Basic” in Indonesia usually means a traditional Indonesia cold shower (bucket shower/mandi) and fan only. But one of their guides returned from Nias shortly before our trip bringing news about Baholo Resort, a spanking new little resort of the beach, and Happy Trails booked us there.

Most “Losman” or guest house are located on the western part of the bay, Pantai Sorake, and guests usually eat meals at their guesthouse. People make an effort to visit Nias Island for one of two reasons: surfing (primarily Australians) or culture (us).

 

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Wings Air ATR 72-500 Medan, Sumatra to Nias Island, Indonesia

Armen drove us back to Kuala Namu Airport, one-hour outside of Medan for a 9:00a flight to Gunung Sitoli, Nias Island on Lion Air/Wings Air. Other airlines that fly to Nias Island are: Merparti who operates two flights a day; Riau Airline who operates one flight a day; and SMAC who flies twice a week from Padang.

Checking in at Kuala Namu Airport took forever. Not because of airline personnel but because almost every single person in line waiting to check in wanted to talk to the only two westerners who were not heading to  Bali. “Where are you going? Where are you from? Have you visited Indonesia before?” Nias Island is way off the beaten track for tourists other than Australian surfers even though it is almost the size of Bali. Though it may be the size of Bali, it is light years away in economic development and tourism. Poor Nias had a tsunami, an earthquake three months later and recovery is still slow. Infrastructure both here and in Sumatra is problematic but we were looking forward to new experiences and, perhaps, new adventures.

 

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Review of Hotel Grand Antares in Medan, Sumatra

I don’t know if the Hotel “Grand” Antares is the “best” in Medan but it is among the “best values” and was booked by our tour operator. Since we arrived late at night and would be leaving before 6:00a the next morning, it really wasn’t important where we stayed. In Hindsight is 20/20, Happy Trails Indonesia really should have just booked a hotel near the new Kuala Namu Airport which is a one-hour drive from Medan rather than all this back and forth.

We would spend a total of two nights at Hotel Grand Antares; tonight and then one last night before flying to Denpasar, Bali at the end of the Nias Island and Sumatra tours.

 

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SilkAir A-320 Economy Class from Singapore to Medan, Sumatra

Many airlines fly to Medan, Sumatra, e.g., JetstarAsia, Garuda, Lion Air, and Malaysian Air. We choose Silk Air, a subsidiary of Singapore Airlines, for the less than one-hour flight.

SilkAir is a wholly owned subsidiary of Singapore Airlines and operates scheduled passenger services from Singapore to 44 cities in Asia and Australia. It also serves short-haul destinations in the Singapore Airlines Group network. Although it was good to know that passengers in Economy Class enjoy a 30 kilo/66 pound check-in luggage limit, we were not happy when SilkAir changed their schedule eliminating our original flight at 12:00p to Medan and booked us on at 7:00p flight. That put the kibosh on any sightseeing at all even though travelers usually spend no more than a day in Medan, primarily used as a transit point to Bukit Lawang, Danau Toba or Malaysia the same as us. Sigh…

Medan (pop: 12 million) is the largest city on Sumatra, and has international flights to Singapore and Malaysia as well as domestic flights to Indonesia destinations. It occupies a strategic point near Sumatra’s northeast coast and the nearby port of Belawan is one of the busiest in the Strait of Malacca.

 


 

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The Easy to Use MRT Subway System in Singapore

Singapore has one of the cleanest, and easy-to-use MRT or Metro or Subway in the world. Even we two dorks mastered it but it is easier if you follow these steps:

Get an MRT map from your hotel, and study it. Decide on a destination and if a transfer is required. Lines are color-coded; double circles indicate interchanges. It is important to remember what the last stop is in the direction you are heading; similar to other Metro systems except Singapore’s trains are air conditioned, clean, smooth and safe. Don’t worry if you forget where you are going. All MRT trains have the following information inside each car:

 

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