Again, found this on Thorn tree. Posts on that forum disappear within 6-8 weeks and such valuable info' as below is lost forever.
Posted: 18 Apr 2006
Indo - Ferries from Dumai to North Sumatra?
Hello all, and thank you in advance.
I have a slightly off-beat travel plan, and I can't seem to plan one of the links in the itinerary correctly. My goal is to get from Batam's Sekupang domestic terminal to Medan by both ferry and train. I know that there is a simple way to do this, but I cannot find the ideal plan. Of course, I can take the Wednesday ferry directly to Belewan and catch a commuter train to Medan, but I was hoping for more time on a train.
There are also daily ferries from Sekupang to Dumai. From Dumai, I'm hoping to find a ferry to Tanjung Balai Asahan, where I can get the intercity train to Medan. Are there any ferries from Dumai or Sekupang to Tanjung Balai Asahan????
An even more interesting possibility would be, if I can get to Tanjung Balai Asahan by ferry, to take another ferry up the Asahan River to Rantauprapat to get a train to Medan from there. Are there ferries up the Asahan River???? Is the river even navigable???
I would love to make this all happen on my upcoming trip. I speak Bahasa well enough to do this, if it is possible. If ferries aren't available, what is the possibility of hiring a speedboat of some sort to make the connections?
Posted: 18 Apr 2006
Train Travel in Indonesia
I did find the above, which if you look at the Sumatra section suggests that one can do it it the other direction. So I would suspect that a Batam <>Tanjung Balai Asahan (=Teluk Nibung) ferry link exists. No schedule for the train is given...however.
Another possibility is to go to Dumai and try from there. Definitely make sure that you impress on the ticket sellers in the loket that you are going to Tanjung Balai ASAHAN...not Tanjung Balai KARIMUN. If there are no up coast ferries you can easily take a bus towards Medan and get out in Rantauprapat.
In fact, you might consider departing in Kotapinang and making a 1.5 hr. sidetrip to the rarely visited Padanglawas Hindu Temples just south of Gunungtua (in the desa Portibi). There's a little guesthouse in Portibi or a wisma in Gunungtua. If you could find out the train schedule from someone in Kotapinang...you could then schedule your stay in Portibi to get to Rantauprapat just right. It's probably about 2.5 hrs by bemo.
Posted: 18 Apr 2006
Seems that there are a couple of trains daily from Rantauprapat to Medan. So it would be possible to do the side trip over to Gunungtua, look around and get an afternoon train. Of course getting to the morning train at 8:15 might be tricky.
You could even go up as far as Brandan 3 hrs north of Medan...and that's actually close to an orangutan/elephant area. I've done the Medan<>Pematangsiantar route. It's okay, but lots of shantytowns and industrail districts and plantations mainly.
Here's the Jadwal Keretapi #1
Jadwal Keretapi #2
Let us know how the adventure goes!
Posted: 18 Apr 2006
Hope this helps; Dumai's Ferry Schedule.
Your Travel - Your Friend
Posted: 19 Apr 2006
Reply to 1.
Red Ape, thank you so much for your reply.
As for the direct Batam - Tanjung Balai Asahan ferry, I'm 99% sure that it doesn't exist. I have a feeling that The Man in Seat 61 made a similar error to the one you've warned against when describing that itinerary, and has confused the train stop at TB Asahan with the ferry terminal at TB Karimun, Riau.
As for the train schedules, I already have them all from infoka.kereta-api. On my last trip, I took trains from Banyuwangi to Merak, then Tanjung Karang to Palembang, and all of the schedules on the web-site were 100% accurate (and the trains were on time!), so I trust that the posted schedules for North Sumatra will be correct. Indeed, I've once taken the train from Siantar to Medan, and I believe that the schedule hasn't changed since then.
As for your suggestions for the Padanglawas Hindu Temples: I may have time to do this, so will research. Is it really worth seeing? Is there much detail left? Or is it just a pile of rubble?
Posted: 19 Apr 2006
Reply to 2.
Question about Brandan to the north of Medan. This looks like it could be an interesting diversion, especially if I take the ferry direct to Belawan. How for is Brandan from Pangkalansusu? This appears to be the farthest train station to the north.
Posted: 19 Apr 2006
Reply to 3.
Thanks for the link, which seems to confirm that there are no ferries dari Dumai ke Tanjung Balai Asahan. However, it looks like you have a travel service. Do you have any contacts in Sumatra? Could I pay your service to arrange water transport from Dumai to TB Asahan, or even up the Asahan river to Rantauprapat?
If you like, you can contact me at my e-mail address in my profile.
Posted: 19 Apr 2006
Provenzano- You might want to contact the port in Dumai directly. port1dmi
dumai.wasantara.net.id but in any case you could certainly get to Dumai from Batam then ponder your options once there. At the worst you'd have to take a few hours of bus to Rantauprapat.
I would recommend going to Padang Lawas since you would be so close. Very few travellers ever go there...perhaps one or two non-Indonesians a year. I went out of my way to see the temples from Padangsidempuan a few years back, having to get out of a through bus and stay overnight there. It was, in my opinion worthwhile. But don't expect a Borobodur or even temple architecture in the level of Bali. These are simply chandis, some 30 meters high. There are some Hindu friezes in the Sivaitic style that was apparently common in the Srivijayan Kingdom (unusual in Bali/Java, though)...more reminiscent of Tibetan Buddhism. About 4-5 temples were reconstructed back in the 1970's, there are about a score more that are simply piles of rubble in the area...which was apparently a major of schools for the Srivijayan Hindu/Buddhist cultures.
No one really knows why this particular spot was used but it does sit at the lowest point in the Bukit Barisan range and at the headwaters of the the Barumun River. The area is swept by warm dry winds from the west coast through the "gap" and this has led to a more savannah grassland environment. Directly to the west is Sibolga and Barus...the latter once a major Indian Ocean port. It may be that the site is positioned on an overland portage that evaded areas within the Straits of Malacca infested with pirates or rival kingdoms.
A good overview on Padang Lawas is "Forgotten Kingdoms of Sumatra" by F.M. Schnitger (1939, reprinted Oxford In Asia Paperbacks, OUP Singapore) which has an excerpt in Anthony Reid's "Witnesses To Sumatra: A Travellers' Anthology" ( 1995 Oxford In Asia Paperbacks, OUP Singapore).
Posted: 20 Apr 2006
According to my "Handbook To North Sumatra" (which is VERY authoritatative ;-) the end of the line to the North is Pangkalan Brandan not Pangkalan Susu (about 23 km further on). Both towns are dominated by Pertamina, since this used to be a successful oil region. Not much to see in these towns AFAIK. There are accomodations however.
To get to Tangkahan, which is the "alternative" to Bukit Lawang you could either get out in either the Stabat or Tanjung Pura. If there is a stop between the two that might be the better place to hop off and try to get a RBT (ojek) to Tangkahan...otherwise go into Tj. Pura. Then take an oplet "Pembangunan Semesta" to either Simpang Robert or through to Tangkahan. There are two Guesthouses just across the river ("Tangkahan" means "crossing"
...Wisma Alex (aka Hot Spring) and Bambu River. One can hike to Bukit Lawang from here...one full day quickly or two days more leisurely through more jungle. Orangutans, rusa and gajah are sometimes seen.
There is also a big bird reserve called Karang Gading mangrove not very far from Tanjung Pura...but toward the coast. Boats can be hired at Karang Gading to go out to the beaches at Kuala Besar and back for about Rp. 100,000.
Posted: 21 Apr 2006
Thanks again for all of the advice, you are an incredibly knowledgeable person.
I've yet to decide on the specifics of the itinerary between Dumai and the rest of it, but will happily give a description of my travels when they are complete. In particular, if there does indeed exist a ferry from Dumai to Tanjung Balai Asahan, it would connect Bali - North Sumatra in a contiguous line on trains and ferries:
Bali - Banyuwangi ferry
Banywangi - Surabaya - Jakarta - Merak trains
Merak - Tanjung Karang ferry (with a bit of transport mixed in)
Tanjung Karang - Palembang train
Palembang - Batam ferry
Batam - Dumai - Tanjung Balai Asaham ferry
TBA - Medan train
Of course, this is possible anyway by taking a ferry directly from Batam to Belawan, but then one would miss the trains in North Sumatra. Will let you know.
Posted: 21 Apr 2006
Interesting that this would be possible...so I can see why you migbt want to do it ;-) I suppose one could cheat and leave the country and take the Singapore/JB to Penang train...then to Medan.
It's a pity that the rail line to Banda Aceh has deteriorated. It was active at least through the end of WW2...as were many of the lines in West Sumatra. I took the coal train from Padang to Sawahlunto a few years back...riding in the locomotive with the engineer and his assistant...for free (well some coins from the US as a gift)...but even that route is sadly defunct. That one really should be kept up...as it simply is spectacular. It gains 3000 meters elevation in a little over 20 km through some spectacular forest over white water canyons and high trestles. Monkeys walking on the tracks, waterfalls, you name it! Heads up to the looming volcanoes of Gunung Merapi and and Singgalang, then along the east shore of the crater lake Singkarak. Past traditional houses, fishing villages and then up through another forested and rice padied canyon and a long tunnel to the picturesque little coal town of Sawahlunto. That town is like something of a Dutch gingerbread town...with Dutch style houses and buildings all over, and even some Christian schools that have become Muslim YET RETAIN their Christian name. Imagine that there is a Muslim school named St. Elizabeth! In Sawalunto there IS! And there still a cross on the portal! Yet this town has a mosque with a 120 foot minaret!
The Japanese tried to extend the Railway East to Pekanbaru to evade the subs sinking the coal shipping out of Padang...and some still working (semi-working?) tracks run to the town of Sijunjung. But the allies blew up the bridge over the river at Maura...and the locals have stripped the line of the rails further east from there. The Japanese actually got the line all the way to Pekanbaru, resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands of romusha and POW's (Indonesia's unheralded "Bridge on the River Kwai"
...but apparently the war ended the very week the line was completed and not a single lump of coal was ever exported. I've hiked the trail about 10 miles in...through a very deep, breathtaking limestone canyon honeycombed with caves.
Some trainspotters should get some money to invest on keeping this line open. The loss of the specialized Swiss tri-wheel locomotives would be sad...and there is still some old 1930's carriages that could be retrofitted for some amazing trips. There's a great old hotel in Sawahlunto that would be quite comfy for Western visitors, too.
Posted: 22 Apr 2006
This has been such an interesting and refreshing thread to read. Thanks for the great info and stories RedApe! OP, your journey sounds fantastic. Please come back and tell us all about it when you return!
Posted: 25 Apr 2006
Again, thank you for your deep insight. If you haven't already, I hope that you are writing books on Indonesian culture and history.
I'm not exactly a train buff, but I am a bit addicted to train travel. If I had the time, I would have stopped along the way in Java and rode the historic Ambara Rack (Cog) Railway, and the Cepu and Tasikmadu commodity lines in Jawa, for history's sake, but life is only so long and least I can say that I've made it across Jawa by train. I'm often surprised by the reviews I see on various web-sites of the rail service in Indonesia, I find it to be just fine, and the Argo class trains are as good as any US Amtrak or Eastern European IC train (except for the WC).
I would say that the most indah bit of line I've seen as of yet in Indonesia is the run from Solo to Bandung, which I took in November while the stretch so close to the sea was flooded, and got many interesting photos of flooded villages with children playing on makeshift rafts. But the last part, rising up to Bandung, with views of the valleys and and little, Dutch rooftops was the most spectacular. Too bad that it was dusk by this time, and I could barely get a photo of any of this.
So, in regard to your description of the Padang to Sawahlunto line in Sumatra Barat, I've never been on that line, but I've seen it, as part of a relatively interesting story. At that time, I was working in Batam, and had bought a Vespa for my pleasure and rides to Barelang. I took a long weekend flight to Padang with the intention of hiring transport to Bukittinggi, but along the way felt compelled to take the trip on a Vespa instead of in a van, with the typical, exaggerated tinting and that opaque air deflector thing that they always put by the front windows which doesn't allow you sit straight up and see a thing, so you find yourself sitting for hours in a bumpy van ride, cocked sideways to enjoy the view, all the while twisting your back out of shape... So, at the airport I had a taxi bring me to the nearest Vespa mechanic, and old Peranakan Cina, who I tried to convince to rent me a Vespa for a weekend. He agreed on the condition that I let one of his employees, and part time mechanic and Engineering student, ride ahead of me on another Vespa as a guide, which was perfect as I had no idea how to get to Bukittinggi, nor did I have any tools with me if anything had gone wrong with the Vespa. The deal cost me 150,000 crowns, plus the cost of the hotel and meals for the guide.
On the way up, I enjoyed many views (as you obviously know) of valleys and waterfalls and snake-like switchbacks. The traffic was heavy and my guide was ready to make some very daring passes. One of the main problems was that, with the tight queue of cars, I could never see any of the many potholes until they were immediately in front of me, and was at least twice launched off the rod trying to avoid them. There was also the trash being hurled from car windows to contend with, and at least one glass bottle hit the Vespa I was driving. The traffic cleared a bit at higher elevation, which meant that the monkeys were braver on the road, and I nearly ran down a pack of them.
By the time we took the ride down two days later I was much more confident on the Vespa and we pushed our way back quite quickly. As we got back into the city of Padang, with goats eating piles of trash at every corner, my guide ahead (seemingly on purpose) hit a kid in its hindquarters (a goat kid, not a human kid), which sent it spinning in place on its hooves on the pavement. As I approached, I watched it run in confusion to the train line along the road directly into an oncoming train, by which was finished off.
There, that is my story of the trains in Sumatra Barat!
I leave for Indo on Saturday, more when I return.
By the way, if anyone would like, I could write a more detailed description of the train journey across Java.