Sumatra's

BUKIT LAWANG

Global Mark : 18.08 /20

 

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
5 5 5 4 4 3 5 5 5 18.22

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
17 100% 94% (16) 100% ? 17.94


Description :
A village, stretched out along the river Bohorok, with the famous (but overrated ?) Bohorok Orang-utan ("men from the forest") Rehabilitation Centre and plenty of treks in the jungle. 

Comments : Only 80km from Medan, this is a very popular spot with tourists and local people during WE. 

What to do ? Trek inside the jungle of the Gunung Leuser National Park / Tube on the river / Be moved by Orang-utan sights / Visit a bat cave (500m after Bukit Lawang Cottage)  / Listen to the "Acoustic cave" : guitars, singing and drinks every evening /  Relax ! / After relaxing go meet the locals on Saturday night at the disco / Spot long tailed monkeys

What you may not like ? The touts jumping on you at your arrival and during your whole stay (trek, batiks, guesthouses,... You name it, they annoy you with it !)  / The crowd during WE / The local people using the river as a fast flowing rubbish dump / The "feeding" of the semi-sauvage Orang-utan  turned into a "feeding" of the cameras of the tourists / The trekking costs (US$35 for 2 days) / Being surprised by heavy rain while tubing on the river (danger ! get out !) / The smell of bats / The consequences of too much alcohol within some locals / The fluctuating and rather poor exchange rates / The mosquitoes in the jungle / Some GH which accept local people only 

How long ? A few days to relax and enjoy ! 


Where to stay ? 
Do not believe if told that the bus will stop in front of your GH.  Plenty of touts will wait for you at the stop of the bus. Be aware that touts who bring you to a GH are somehow "tied" to you : if you go on a trek with someone else, he will have to give something to the first guide. If no MN in the room, ask at the reception (they sometimes take them away when local people show up on WE as they tend to destroy them)

- On the right riverbank, going upstream : 

  • ® Wisma Leuser Sibayak (55 0576), the first GH from the bus stop, one of the biggest in town / Rooms w. fan and shower from 10000 to 20000 / MN on request / Good restaurant / Go there to slide down to the river (two toboggans), for the friendly family atmosphere, to meet plenty of guides and for the WE craze w. local people and live singers / What you may not like : the noise during WE (loud music still 2-3am)
  • ® Wisma Bukit Lawang Inda, 150 m upstream from above / Rooms w. fan, shower and mosquito net (MN) from 7000 to 10000 / Same as above : friendly and tasty 
  • Anggrek Leuser Inn, after the above / Expensive basic rooms by the river w. bucket shower 15000 / Acceptable rooms a bit away from the river, by a nice garden w. fan, shower and MN 20000 / Restaurant
  • Second Hand / Basic room w. bucket shower, MN and breakfast 20000 / Restaurant / Go there for the only disco on Saturday night, if you are scared falling into the river while heading home
  • Wisma Bukit Lawang Cottage (54 5061), after Sibayak, going downstream / Basic rooms w. shower 10000, better w. fan around the garden 25000, even better w. big "jungle" bathroom 30000 / Go there for the nice setting with the big garden and to visit the original green mandy / What you may not like : it is the biggest GH, there are no mosquito nets (MN) and the restaurant is good but a bit expensive 
  • ® ??? GH, just after the above, dowstream, 300m before Bat Cave / French manager / Rooms w. shower, fan and MN 25000 / Go there for the clean rooms, the intimate atmosphere (7 rooms only) and the nice little garden / What you may not like : I forgot the name and this French guy does not speak too much English


- On the left riverbank, going upstream from the bus station :

  • Eden Inn & Restaurant, 200-300m from the bus stop / Basic rooms (some w. small balcony) 5000, w. bucket shower & riverview 10000 / Go there for the cheapest rooms / What you may not like : it is basic (no fan nor MN) and there are only 2 dirty common bucket showers for 10 rooms. 
  • ® Queen Resort & Restaurant (57 9159), a bit away from the river, 10-15mn walk from bus station / Rooms w. shower & MN 15000 (20000 in HS) / Go there for the nice rooms at good prices, the pool table and the swimming pool / What you may not like : finding an empty swimming pool (when they fill it up is a mystery) 
  • ® Indra Inn & Restaurant, after the above / Basic rooms w. MN, balcony and riverview 5000 / Common shower / Go there for the cheapest room and the family atmosphere
  • ® Back to Nature GH & Restaurant / Dutch & Indonesian management / Rooms w. shower, fan & MN 35000 to 50000 / Good & resonably priced restaurant (home made yogurt, tacos,...) / Rafting plus three meals for US$25 / Massage center by the river in construction / Bakery in construction / Go there for one of the nicest GH in town, the big & beautiful all wooden rooms, the nice view toward the river with the possibility to spot Orang-utan 
  • ® Jungle Inn, near the canoe crossing, about 15mn walk from bus stop / Rooms w. shower 20000 to 50000 depending on look and location / Good restaurant / Go there to admire the timberwork, the acceptable cheapest rooms and for the friendly & charming atmosphere
  • Losmen Bohorok, 50m after the above / Sgl 5000, Dbl w. MN 10000, Trpl without MN 15000, Dbl w. shower & MN 30000 / Clean common shower / Go there for the cheapest rooms but it is basic. 
  • Pongo Resort, accessible by canoe (free) only from Losmen Bohorok / Rooms w.shower 50000 to 85000 / Go there for the isolation, by the river and the jungle and to visit the Orang-utan rehabilitation center (permit cost 45000) / What you may not like : the relative isolation, the lack of mosquito net and the rather pricey restaurant. 
  • ® Arico Inn, the furthest away, about 15mn lovely walk from Losmen Bohorok / Basic rooms 5000 to 10000 / Go there for the cheapest rooms and the isolation & quietness by the river / What you may not like : the distance to walk !

Where to eat ?  Most GH also have an attached restaurant. A few also in the village but they all burned up in August 2000 and were being reconstructed. Back to Nature is particularly good but I did not taste all the places... Other places can be found on the way toward the Rehabilitation Center 

Internet ?  One place near the bus station : Rp20000 and slow !

Change Money ? No Bank nor ATM. Only money changers with rather low rates (negotiables). Rates change daily. Better therefore to change before coming.

Tourist Office ? Next to the Bus Station. Possible to buy the permit for the Rehabilitation Centre. 


Jungle, river and Orang-utan ? 

The Gunung Leuser National Park is spread over 9000km2. It houses 105 species of mammars species, 103 of reptiles, 382 of birds, 3500 of plants (incl. largest raflesia) and 130 species of trees can be found on 1 hectare. If very lucky (or unlucky), you may also spot tigers, elephants or rhinoceros.    

Trekking in Gunung Leuser National Park is a big business but nevertheless a very rewarding experience. It is however not cheap at US$15 for 1 day, US$35 for 2 days and US$50 for 3 days (longer treks also possible), incl. the abundant food, the basic camping in the jungle and the tubing of the river. Negotiation is of course possible. Most, if not all, of the guides are licenced nowadays, knowledgeable and careful with tourists.  Ask for advice at the park office and beware of last minute guide-swapping.  Note that touts who bring you to a GH are somehow "tied" to you : if you go on a trek with someone else, he will have to give something to the first guide.

Spotting Orang-utan without trekking is possible by heading toward the Rehabilitation Center located at the Pondo Resort (2km from bus terminal, walking all the village along the river). The permit cost 45000 and is valid for one day only (two visits allowed). The center is open from 8am to 3pm and you need to bring your passport. This was somehow a disappointment as the center is mainly used only for sick, injured or depressed Orang-Utan : you spot them in cages or slightly in the jungle. Add the tourists on WE and you get a rather depressing experience. 

The rapids of Sungai Bohorok can be enjoyed by tubing. Tubes can be rented everywhere for Rp3000. The descent takes 2 to 3 hours and you catch a bus to come back (Rp500). It is advisable to do it with a local who knows the area (free to a lot of Rp, negotiable as everything else but around Rp10-15000 would be fair). Heading to the river after or during heavy rain would be asking for trouble. Rafting is also possible for US$25 a day (incl. 3 meals) with Back to Nature GH

Backpacker's Tips : Stephanie Thullen, Mexico (August 01)
« If you want to avoid the constant touting of trekking guides, stay at Anggerek Leuser Inn. It is a very quiet guesthouse, mostly catering to Indonesians, right by the river, with very nice rooms, and good location to restaurants and halfway to the Rehab Center. / You will have to pay a 1,500 rupiah entry fee as you go into Bukit Lawang. This is on top of the permit to see the orangutan feeding. / When going to the feeding arrive early and you’ll see Orang-utans coming down from the forest. The boat that takes you across goes pretty much all day. / Don’t believe that Indonesians are the ones making trouble at the feedings! They were the best behaved ones we saw. It was really some western tourists who were loud and clapping as if we were at the circus! » 

Bus Schedules :

To Price Type Duration Time Freq
Berastagi 30K mini      
Medan 3K / 25K ordi / mini 2.5-3    
Lake Toba 42K mini      

(1) Minibus with Tobali Tour & Travel / By public bus to Berastagi via Medan