The International Steam Pages

Karo Highlands 2017

We like to base ourselves in our Penang flat for 4 months each year to escape the worst of the UK winter. As we get 'only' 90 days a time in Malaysia. that means we need a 'visa run' in mid-January to keep things sweet with 'Immigration'. Last year we hiked up Doi Chiang Dao, Northern Thailand, this year I thought to go to Southern Thailand but that sounded like 'beach, beach and beach' which isn't really our style and in the end the unseasonable rains brought heavy flooding.

So we turned instead to North Sumatra and the Karo Highlands south of Medan, basing ourselves in the hill station of Berastagi for several days. It was a happy choice, it reminded us how much we like Indonesia. Air Asia offers good fares from Penang to Medan (the new airport at Kualanamu) and noting the rather ordinary weather forecast I played safe and booked us into the 4* Hotel Sibayak International which had good reviews and good discounts midweek, especially as we had chosen a slot between the Christmas and Chinese New Year holidays. When I enquired of the hotel about the availability of public buses from Kualanamu to Kabanjahe mentioned on the web, they came up instead with bespoke transport for Rp 260,000. Of course, we could have beaten that on the buses but it would have taken twice as long and we wouldn't have had the benefit of a durian stop on the way up. Coming down, we had a shared 'taxi' with two locals which took us direct to our hotel in Medan for Rp 140,000. I've travelled in enough local buses in Indonesia over the years not to need to do it more than strictly necessary. We sampled the new dedicated train service from Medan to Kualanamu, it runs roughly every hour or slightly less and is superior to most Indonesian trains I have used over the years. It's faster than the bus or taxi, but at Rp 100,000 per person, it's not a bargain compared to the bus. 

The first evening was memorable because 'the earth moved', not once but several times with a magnitude 5.7 earthquake the epicentre of which was just 10km away, it was rather scary but fortunately not quite strong enough to cause any structural damage.

Click on the links below for my view of the area, there's more to do than this, but at the moment we fancy doing it again next year, so we're keeping some things back for then.

I'm not sure which was the more impressive, the view from our hotel:

or these reported 2000 durians being unloaded at the local market on a daily basis:

Yuehong was equally impressed by both.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson