“On the twenty-third day of the month of September,
in an early year of a decade not too long before our own,
the human race suddenly encountered a deadly threat to its very existence.
And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do, in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places…”
-prologue to Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
September always has a hint of change and danger. On September 30, 2009, my first full year of travel in Asia had just finished. I was tired. I was also in northern Sumatra- the largest, and most wild island that makes up the dramatic archipelago of Indonesia.
Specifically, I was on a bumpy bus from the amazing Lake Toba to Bukittinggi exactly one year after I had first flown into Tokyo and found my apartment there. I was reflecting on the year, when … Read More »
“I was driving myself, pounding out the miles because I was no longer hearing or seeing. I had passed my limit of taking in or, like a man who goes on stuffing in food after he is filled, I felt helpless to assimilate what was fed in through my eyes. Each hill looked like the one just passed. I have felt this way in the Prado in Madrid after looking at a hundred paintings—the stuffed and helpless inability to see more. This would be a time to find a sheltered place beside a stream to rest and refurbish.”
–John Steinbeck, Travels with Charley (1962)
Travel can be hard work. Adrenaline may keep our heads spinning and our feet moving, but it’s important to consider the hidden exhaustion of long trips. Weeks of momentum, scheduling and packing/unpacking will take its toll on your body and dull … Read More »
Lake Toba is a place where people come for a week but end up staying for a month, sometimes never leaving at all. Located in northern Sumatra, the largest of Indonesia’s many islands, Lake Toba sits at a high altitude that gives it a year-round cool and comfortable climate. One hundred kilometers long and thirty kilometers wide, Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. Not only is the lake of importance in archeological history, it is also a spectacularly beautiful and peaceful travel destination which offers an alternative to the thumping pop music and traffic-filled beach destinations of southeast Asia.
My trip to Lake Toba offered me the chance to take a break from the hectic pace and thick air of many Asian cities. The lake water is clean, warm and perfectly inviting for swimming. The lake also … Read More »
My month in Sumatra, in September of 2009, could not have been more relaxing and uneventful. I remember long afternoons with various books, sitting by Lake Toba and thinking of what kind of fish to have for dinner after the sun made its way down. There were days spent building a makeshift fishing pole and making failed attempts at catching my own fish. I had little else to do. Eventually, it was time to leave the fantasy and head down to Jakarta overland from Lake Toba. I anticipated a bit more excitement in the 30-hour journey ahead. It wouldn’t take long for things to get tumultuous.
On the evening of September 30, I made my way back to the lobby of the Orchid Hotel in Bukittingi, a pleasantly-sloped town in which I had stopped for a few days to check out Rafflesia, the world’s largest flower (another … Read More »