My friend David & I have been traveling in Java and Sumatra. As soon as I get my images worked out (I’m using a new computer, and still learning to use Xubuntu Linux) I’ll post photos.

We popped by the island of Nias for a couple of days, and paid a surprise visit to [info]vasco_pyjamaand Tofu. Very cool to meet in person, and make some new geeky friends (or, rather, make real-life friends out of virtual world friends). Had a long conversation, which might prompt another blog post. Looking forward to hearing a lot more (blog posts? book?) from Vasco about her experiences.

I won’t be recommending Nias as a travel destination though. Travel within the island is difficult, and those who deal with tourists very much have the idea that Westerners are rich and should pay high prices for everything.

We much preferred Toba – gorgeous, peaceful and cheap. I was stunned when I first caught sight of Toba from the bus – by its size and beauty. The island in the middle of the lake is about the size of Singapore. For now, I’m still in Toba, on a slow and expensive (by Indonesian standards) internet connection, so I can’t do much about photos for now. Actually, if they got cheap broadband here, I may never leave…

Restaurants here on Samosir Island offer mostly standard Western tourist fare, and standard Indonesian dishes. I eat a lot of vegetables, so by now I’m quite sick of cap cay, and not all that enthusiastic about gado-gado either. But we asked to have local batak style food cooked specially, and (after David went home yesterday) I went looking for the kind of restaurants/food stalls that locals eat at. And wow – Batak food is great. I’m asking for recipes, too. (Garlic, onion, lemongrass, ginger, candlenut – nothing too difficult, if you’ve got a good Asian shop that sells candlenut – a.k.a. kemiri, in Indonesian). I also had a delicious Acehnese fish and potato curry – which makes me look forward even more to visiting Aceh.

One ingredient will be a little trickly to find though, when I’m back in Oz. While eating “gold fish” (carp) curry two nights ago, I found a few lengths of some kind of vegetable matter. I bit it, and found it quite soft, but strongly flavored and delicious.

“What’s this?” I asked.
“Just eat it, it’s all good.”
“Yes, it’s delicious. But my hobby is cooking – I’d like to know what it is.”
“It’s special Batak spice” (bumbu khas Batak)
“What’s the name?”
“Ganja stem” (batang ganja)

Aha… well, it didn’t seem to be enough to make me stoned in the slightest, but it was enough to be delicious. That’s a recipe for when I visit Nimbin, I think


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