Sumatra, Indonesia


My next three weeks were spent in Sumatra.  I met Arina in Yogyakarta in Indonesia in November and she very kindly invited me to her home in Pekanbaru to see her part of Indonesia.

On arrival from Kuala Lumpur to Pekanbaru I got stopped by immigration, at first they asked for my visa.  I explained that I was staying in Indonesia for three weeks, so therefore I did not need a visa; a visa is required if you intend to stay for more than 30 days.  My passport was passed from the immigration officer to his colleague, his colleague told me to follow him and he left me to wait in a room whilst he went off somewhere with my passport.  After everyone else had cleared immigration I was called out of the room and taken to an immigration officer who had my passport in his hand.  The immigration officer asked me ‘Where do you come from? Cameroon?’ I said that I was British and pointed out that he had my British passport in his hand which would confirm this.  Once we had established that I was in actual fact British, he then started a conversation with me about how he had always wanted to go to London and see Buckingham Palace. He then asked me why I was visiting Pekanbaru, I said that I was on holiday.  He told me that there are no beaches in Pekanbaru; I explained that I was visiting a friend.  I had to go into further details as to who my friend was, our history, and provide him with the address where I was staying; which were also on the customs form that was in his hand and I also provided him with details of my friend’s name and number.  Eventually I got let through and went through customs where I handed over my customs form.  A few minutes later the customs officer came back and asked if he could see my passport, which I handed over to him, another officer then asked me where I was staying in Pekanbaru, I explained that the details of my address were on my customs form which had been collected by his colleague.  After my bags went through the x-ray scanner, I stood waiting for my passport which the customs officer had, eventually he handed it back to me but only after I had asked for it back.  As immigration experiences go, that was actually quite funny,  I obviously have had much easier experiences where the immigration officer will say ‘welcome to XXXX’ and really horrible ones where someone has put their face in my face.  It was actually nicer that I was put in a room rather than being made to stand at the side whilst everyone files by.  The question about whether I come from Cameroon was silly.   The customs officer taking my passport off me after he had already taken my customs form I perceived as nosiness and  curiosity rather than a need to check anything.  Anyways I finally cleared immigration and customs and this whole experience also meant that when I flew out of Pekanbaru the immigration officers remembered me, knew that I was English and wished me well.

So the immigration officers was right, there are no beaches in Pekanbaru but I got to do other things like go for an early morning run with a local running group.


51346381_2515938901769579_9161130715125907456_n.jpgI also joined the local Hash House Harriers trek through a palm tree plantation, which was not my first time through a palm tree plantation, I have gotten lost in one before in Malaysia but that was a bit of a scary experience.


The Hash House Harriers (HHHs) were so funny, they are known as being a running club with a drink problem.  My first introduction to HHHs was 20 odd years ago when I lived in Tonga and I always assumed that HHHs were a bunch of ex-pats that ran really fast as this was what I was told they were in Tonga, so I was so pleasantly surprised to find out that it wasn’t necessarily an expat thing.  Also they are a social running club so they waited for everyone.

After a few days in Pekanbaru we caught an eight seater car to West Sumatra.  Arina was hoping that as it was mid week the car would not be full so it would be a more comfortable seven hour journey. Fortunately for the driver the car was full, so he got more money for the journey but this wasn’t fortunate for us as it meant that it was quite a cramped journey especially as the woman sat next to me was ‘manspreading’ when I first got into the car and she did not budge an inch, so I was squashed in the middle for the first part of the journey until we had a break.  I then made sure that I got into the car well before she did, so that I could ‘manspread’ instead – no seriously I would never be so inconsiderate.

So our next 10 days were spent in West Sumatra.  Arina’s mother is originally from this part of Sumatra.  I was taken around the village and shown the traditional houses.



Visited the local market


Arina is a lecturer at one of the government universities.  To work in government in a leadership role it is necessary for students to attend one of Indonesia’s government universities.

The students wear a military style uniform. So one day we were out a day trip visiting a waterfall and bumped into a large group, so I had a photo taken with them.

The scenery was was amazing and my photography does not do it justice in the least.

We went to Padang Pajang for a daytrip where I got dressed up as a Minyang bride.



The part of Indonesia that I visited doesn’t have any foreigners, so I did get a lot of people wanting to have photos with me.  I did also catch a few people trying to do a few sly selfies with me in the background; shame that they did not just ask because I would have obliged.  Poor Arina got a bit fed up of all of the questions that people asked her about me, but she also did say that people were really happy that a foreigner had visited the town or village.  People do stare and there was one time at the market where Arina apologised for the amount of staring; I have found generally that if I smile at someone they usually do actually smile back at me.  I have on a couple of occasions had people stop their car and stop traffic to ask me where I come from, I usually do not answer them because I think that it’s quite dangerous and I do find it quite rude and so I walk away and think well he will most probably think that I’m from the French speaking part of Cameroon and that I didn’t understand the question hence why I didn’t respond.

Thanks to Arina I have again had an amazing time in Indonesia again and hopefully I will go back again soon.

By Susan Doram

I am passionate about cycling and enjoy encouraging others to ride their bicycles. I am a cycle coach and founder member and chair for Leicester Women's Velo and Founder member and club secretary for Ride on Sistas. I love to encourage others to get active. I am an award wining personal trainer and one of Cycling UK's 100 Women in Cycling 2019. I've been on numerous cycle tours and have encouraged others to join me. Part of my cycle touring experience has included cycling around the world for just over 2 1/2 years.


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