6 Offbeat Travel Experiences Had in Sumatra, Indonesia

Orang hair

I tend to have some offbeat/quirky experiences wherever and whenever I travel. And here in Sumatra, Indonesia (Payakumbuh specifically), it’s been happening yet again.

And know what? I’m really enjoying it. I’ve gotten many laughs out of these situations (especially #5) and I hope you do, too.

Without further ado, here are 6 of the most offbeat experiences I’ve had so far on this trip:

1. Being flirted with by a reclusive mountain man who loves Westerns

Augus is a smart, funny and cool 56-year-old dude who says “I’m just a farmer who lives in a hut on the mountain.” (He’s actually super intelligent and helps many of the local kids do their homework.)

I hiked up and visited him there, with my friend Eti and some local students, and thought it was a great place to visit. It’s a gorgeous spot with lovely views of some serious mountains. And it’s quite far from town, so his solitude and privacy are guaranteed.

Anyway, Augus likes American TV (he watches it when he stays at his mother’s house down in the village) and says he calls himself “Augus Eastwood.”

Watch out, Clint!

'Augus Eastwood'--mountain man and flirt

And he loves to memorize and use American idioms–even if they don’t always make sense in a given context. When he discovered that I’m single, as he is, he began to flirt. There were many entertaining lines he used on me, but here’s one of my favorites:

“I’d walk barefoot on broken glass to see your face again.”

Thanks, and if you do, I think you should wear some shoes.

(PS: I suspect I’ll be writing a full post about him at some point.)

2. Being told (by a 15-year-old) that I “walk like a man”

I was hiking with Afdhal, an English teacher from one of the local schools, and—Dino—a 15-year-old student of his. The hike got pretty rough and at one point, I opted to use a stick. Personally, I thought I resembled Moses in the “10 Commandments” movie, but, according to Dino, I was…

…“walking like a man.”

Me, Afdhal and Dino

I asked him to explain, perhaps by showing me what a woman walks like. And he did.

He gently placed one foot in front of the other, almost like a model might. Or someone walking on a balance beam. I mimicked him and he and Afdhal laughed.

And then, I resumed “walking like a man.” It was easier.

3. Getting pseudo kidnapped by an English Teacher/club owner

Early on during my time here, I went for a walk and got lost. Met a man named Hanafie. He invited me to speak to his students at his English club somewhere in the area. I said maybe, but I wasn’t sure. I already had quite a few things planned and didn’t want to over-extend myself.

Hanafie, the Pseudo Kidnapper

Later that day, after a few texts were exchanged (in one, I said I was not available…not sure if it went through), he showed up. At Eti’s house. Unannounced. He sent a student to the door to lure me outside. Then, once I was outside, another student somehow got me over to the car.

“Come on out for a little while…just a drive,” they said. Why I agreed, I’m not sure. (My bad, I know…)

An hour later, we somehow ended up at the English club. Hanafie’s place. The driver disappeared. Now it was me, him and some students. They were nice kids, but I wanted to return to Eti’s house ( I had other work to do) and couldn’t. I was felt trapped. And I didn’t like it.

And it was raining hard….and some mosquitoes had found their way inside. Fun, right?

Felt like I’d been kidnapped. No ransom required, fortunately. Just my time being taken.

Finally, a few hours later, I was freed from captivity. The driver returned and drove everyone home. (Hanafie has since apologized and I’ve accepted…he’s even invited me to his wedding!)

4. Visiting a “beautiful cave” that was…full of bats!

Eti, the English teacher and friend I’m staying with, told me that I really had to see the “beautiful cave” nearby—at a place called Ngalau Indah.

Sure, I said. Why not? We took her motorbike to get there and when we arrived, I thought the place was lovely. Rolling green hills and mountains. My kind of place.

“Come see the cave,” she said. “It’s beautiful.”

And when I did, I wasn’t sure what to think. Yes, technically, it was beautiful. And trippy.

But it was also full of creepy sounding bats and the smell of their poop. And the electricity happened to be off when we were there, so we had to walk through with my iPhone as a flashlight.

Bat cave

A couple times, when I felt a bat flying a little too close (this didn’t happen too many times), I wigged a bit. Fortunately, we weren’t in there for too long.

And once outside again, I felt better. The scenery was lovely. And no more bats. Phew.

5. Being told ‘Your hair looks like orangutang hair.’

I was in Bukkitinggi with Eti. We were at the zoo, checking out a wide variety of animals, including the orangs. Sure enough, one of them had its hairy paw sticking out of the cage; it was red, orange and blonde.

Orang hair

Eti glanced over at it, then at my hair, then back again and said, “Your hair looks like orangutang hair.” She smiled, then laughed hysterically and I, well, I didn’t know what to think. At first.

Then, I started laughing, too. Why? I think she was right! My dad’s a hairdresser and has, over the past few years, led me into the realm of red/multi-colored hair.

My hair

If you look closely, you may see the resemblance. Or perhaps not…

6. Being reacted to with extreme fear…by children

Mostly, people (adults and children) here in this village are shocked and fascinated by my presence here–the fact that I’m foreign and that I’m even here. I haven’t seen one tourist in a few weeks (only when I went to Bukkitinggi, a tourist town that’s 1 hour away.) I’m the only one.

And so, many people look (and stare) at me. Kids sometimes follow me. “Hi, miss,” they say. Lots of people try to have extended chats in English and/or Indonesian. And they’re so friendly that I usually participate even if not in the mood.

On occasion, however, children are frightened by me. No joke here. One girl made some peculiar faces –really fearful ones–at me and touched my back and arm a few times—almost as if she didn’t think I was real.

Then, yesterday, a little boy burst into tears when I made eye contact with him. He ran to his mother and hid his face.

Scared baby

I’m not used to this, as you can imagine. It makes me feel a bit like Damien in “The Omen”. At least, the orangutangs didn’t run when I stood near their cage.

Oh wait, in that movie, I think it was the baboons that freaked and made a run for it.

Oh well. Close enough.


Have you been to Indonesia? Any quirky/offbeat experiences you’d like to share? Any thoughts/reactions re: those I’ve shared?

Ever had a child cry at the mere sight of you?

Does my hair look like an orangutang’s hair? :)

Wherever you’ve traveled, I’d love to hear about your offbeat experiences with people/situations. Feel free to link to a relevant post if you’d like.

And if you’re still reading this post, I thank you for hanging in there. It’s now around 1260 words. :)


27 Responses to 6 Offbeat Travel Experiences Had in Sumatra, Indonesia
  1. Robert Watson
    June 18, 2012 | 9:21 am

    Ha! You are really getting deep down ‘in the moment’ in Sumatra. Glad you can laugh at these.

    Orangutang hair! *snortchuckle*

    • CB Driver
      June 19, 2012 | 10:34 am

      Merhaba, Robert. Yes, very in the moment…and very funny! #girlwithorangcoloredhair

  2. Dyanne@TravelnLass
    June 18, 2012 | 10:44 am

    Yup. Preeeecisely the color of a Sumatran orangutan. It’s really uncanny!
    Dyanne@TravelnLass recently posted..Newbie EFL Teaching: A Rollercoaster of Highs ‘n LowsMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 19, 2012 | 10:33 am

      LOL–hilarious, no? I can’t wait to share this with my dad, the hairdresser responsible for my multiple “orang-like” colors. He’ll get a kick out of it, I’m sure!

  3. Gray
    June 18, 2012 | 12:25 pm

    These are great memories, Lisa! Except #3–AUGH! I can’t believe you did that. For shame. I wouldn’t take the kid thing too personally. I’ve seen lots of shy kids get freaked out by strangers. I think you should write more about Augus–he sounds like a cool character.
    Gray recently posted..Getting Creative with Self-PhotographyMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 19, 2012 | 10:33 am

      Hi, Gray. Thanks–yes, fun memories! And 3 did suck just a tiny bit. LOL But now, it’s all cool. Re: Augus…yes, for sure. And there’s also “Mr. Tommy,” an 86-year-old who’s been married 7 times. He’s really fascinating because he’s the opposite of Augus!

  4. Linda
    June 18, 2012 | 3:23 pm

    I agree with Gray – Augus sounds fascinating! He and his home both sound like something out of a movie! It sounds exactly like the sort of place someone who is educated and clever, but a loner would live!

    The rest of the stories are most cool, and I wouldn’t worry about the kids. It’s quite normal, but isn’t is incongruous that they find your appearance strange, and yet have modern stuff like internet and foreign movies. Makes you think.
    Linda recently posted..Crossing the CalderaMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 19, 2012 | 10:32 am

      Hi, Linda. Cool to hear that you also want to hear more re: Augus. He’s a unique one, for sure! I will definitely write about him and, you’ll love this–”Mr Tommy,” an 86-year-old who’s been married 7 times!

      Re: the kids…it’s been a bit odd/unsettling, but fortunately, it’s only happened twice, so no prob. 99.9% of the time, they’ve been all smiles and giggles. Re: Internet/movies…not sure what to think. Some have it, but others (those who live in bamboo houses) don’t (I think).

  5. Jenna
    June 19, 2012 | 1:28 am

    It sounds like you are having a really interesting experience in Indonesia. I love that you are visiting places so far off the beaten track. The orangutan hair comparison made me laugh :) I’m sure they’ve never seen red hair like yours before! I hope you have a wonderful rest of your trip.

    • CB Driver
      June 19, 2012 | 10:28 am

      Hey, Jenna. So true re: red hair like mine! LOL Thanks for the feedback…it’s really far off the beaten path this time and it’s been mind-blowing. Just saw some tourists today for the first time in a few weeks!

      • Jenna
        August 6, 2012 | 2:09 pm

        I just read through this again–so fun. I love that you had such fun experiences with local people there. About walking like a man, I remember being told when I first arrived in the Czech Republic that I looked like a cow while eating dinner. Lovely.
        Jenna recently posted..Sunset over São Paulo — Photo of the WeekMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          August 7, 2012 | 12:20 am

          Thanks, Jenna…it was a blast! The people were there were really nice–and certain ones were real characters. I don’t think I’ve even mentioned the 86-year-old who’s been married 7 times. He–Mr. Tommy–is a real trip!

          So someone told you that you looked like a cow? Holy crap (was tempted to say ‘cow,’ but fought the temptation). That is hilarious!!!

  6. [...] do, it seems, is make jokes, tease people and laugh about anything and everything. (Check out the offbeat experiences I’ve had [...]

  7. Naomi
    June 20, 2012 | 7:53 am

    yes to the orang-utan hair, though I’ve seen a few with less dreadlocks than that zoo one. almost blow dried!!
    I’ve caused a lot of kids to cry, but I’m also “the bubble lady” so the tears don’t last long.
    my wackiest experience has to be the midget bar proposal in Bangkok

    and the older man (and younger ones!) flirting is pretty common in Indo too – amusing if you keep it in perspective.
    Naomi recently posted..Things you do…My Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 24, 2012 | 10:48 am

      Hey, Naomi. I’m up North now–in Lake Toba! Anyway…good point re: the dreas…he, he, he…. Will check out the post. Sounds hilarious!! Yes re: the flirting…I’ve been noticing it a lot. :)

  8. jan
    June 21, 2012 | 10:10 pm

    Hey that orangutan’s hair looks nothing like yours… lol
    jan recently posted..Fantastic Friday – The Australian Stockman’s Hall of FameMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 24, 2012 | 10:09 am

      Ha, ha, Jan–exactly–nothing like the orang! Or maybe the orang copied from me?

  9. Chiew
    June 27, 2012 | 8:16 am

    Yea, the Indonesians are quite fond of “kidnapping”; well, teaching English is better than getting introduced to the whole village and ‘forced’ to part with some rupiahs on services such as a massage by the village elder, for example ;)

    They do have a totally different concept of time, so the only way to travel there is to adapt to that. Sounds like you’re having a hell of a time. Isn’t Sumatra just great? Miss their rendang!

    Thanks for sharing your stories!

    Chiew aka acliltoclimb
    Chiew recently posted..Luke Meddings: unplugged subversionMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      June 28, 2012 | 10:15 pm

      Hi, Chiew. You are so right about the different concept of time. I’ve totally noticed that here–especially when I was in West Sumatra. Here in Lake Toba, it’s a little different (but still not what I’m used to). I’m adapting now, after almost 1 month.

      Re: massage…I just had something like this happen a few days ago. It was a Batak dude, an older man, who started massaging us–as if a spontaneous thing. When the massage lasted for a while, I knew I’d have to pay. Fortunately, it was a) an excellent massage and b) the amount to pay was left to me. Phew.

      As for the rendang…now that I’m n W Sumatra, I really miss it. And I’m not sure I want to try it here because my friend Eti’s (the friend/teacher I stayed with) was so good that I don’t think anyone else’s will compare. :( I really wish I’d had the time to watch her prepare it…

      • Naomi
        July 2, 2012 | 3:54 am

        I’ve tried to make rendang at home, but I haven’t yet managed to make anything as good as west sumatran rendang. just gives me an excuse to go back!!
        Naomi recently posted..Counting downMy Profile

        • CB Driver
          July 2, 2012 | 7:59 am

          Hi, Naomi. I hear you…I think theirs is the best! I may ask Eti for her recipe. If she reveals her secret and gives me permission to share it, I’ll post it at some point! :)

  10. Daniel McBane
    July 13, 2012 | 6:14 am

    I’ve been to Sumatra, but I spent most of my time at Lake Toba. I did take local buses and made a few stops in some towns along the way, even spending the night in one. You’re right, very few foreigners seem to pass through some of these areas.

    I have to say, you handled the “kidnapping” better than I would have. If there’s one thing I can’t forgive, it’s when someone tries to take advantage of me and especially when they do it in an underhanded fashion.
    Daniel McBane recently posted..Singapore Jungle–Exploring the Heart of DarknessMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      July 17, 2012 | 6:42 am

      Hi, Daniel. Cool that you were in Sumatra, too!

      Re: the kidnapping…thanks. I was pretty annoyed, but…I didn’t freak out on the guy. But I never accepted any future invitations, either. :)

  11. Waegook Tom
    July 19, 2012 | 8:43 am

    Awwww how cute is that little guy in the last photo! I tend to have the opposite effect on kids – they laugh at me when I make eye contact, but maybe because I make silly faces.

    Not sure how I’d have reacted to the bats, though – and I’d have instigated a full-on flirting contest with Augus to see how much he has in his repertoire!
    Waegook Tom recently posted..Feeling Like A Loser On A MountainMy Profile

    • CB Driver
      July 24, 2012 | 8:57 am

      You are hilarious, Tom! A ‘full-on flirting contest’….ha, ha, ha!! He was pretty good, I must say. He almost made me blush…

  12. Putri Erdisa J
    June 14, 2013 | 2:45 am

    Wow seems like you were having a great fun in Sumatra! Next time you come again you should check this place, a little village called Little Holland in Sumatra’s hinterland. Check this post, I bet you gotta like it!

    Nice post! :D

    • CB Driver
      June 16, 2013 | 11:12 pm

      Hi, Putri. Are you Indonesian? If so, you’re lucky. It’s a fascinating/unique country!

      When I return to Sumatra, I will definitely visit Little Holland. Looks like a cool place! Thanks for telling me about it.

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