The other day we ferried from Malaysia to Sumatra. On the ferry ride, I struck up a conversation with an Irish guy who had been though Medan, the port city, several times. He gave me a rundown on many snags and scams to look out for as soon as we got off the bus. I nodded my head, thinking I was absorbing it all, but then I seemed to forget it as soon as we left customs. Outside the building we were accosted by taxi drivers like I never had been before. You may think that their over-zealous pestering would only dissuade tourists from accepting their services. Wrong. They actually do wear you down, and we ended up taking a ride from one of them. Before we knew it, we were being taken to a place we didn't want to go, and forced into a ride we didn't want. It was only in the midst of it that I realized that all of the Irish guy's warnings had come true. It was a stressful few hours, but we eventually were able to get what we wanted out of the swindlers and the swindlers were able to get what they wanted out of us.
We made it to a place called Lake Toba. It's a very large volcanic lake, and in the middle is a very large island. Some 20 years ago, this place was a thriving tourist attraction, but earthquakes, tsunamis, and civil unrest have reduced tourism to a trickle, which has rendered this place a thriving tourist attraction, without the tourist. It's like a backpackers' ghost town. There are vacant beach front hotels, stores open late into the night without customers, and restaurants that are dying to cook anybody a meal. The only tourists there are at this place band together like survivors of the Apocalypse. Last night we went to a nice bar overlooking the lake, and the 5 of us were the only patrons during the 2 hours we stayed there. Today, with the same group and one more, we rented motorbikes and cruised across the island. We took the beaten road over the middle of the island and got a glimpse of how the average Sumatran lives. It is experiences like today that give me fuel to travel for weeks.
Tomorrow is my birthday here. We're going to celebrate it in the ghost town with our new international friends by taking over the local disco.
I have some good photos and video from this place, but these computers can't handle them. I'll add them when I can, because you want to see them, trust me. One of the photos is of a small island on a small lake, which is on a bigger island on a bigger lake, which is on an even bigger island, in the ocean.