Arriving by ferry to Sumatra
Getting around and leaving Jakarta was hard work. The taxi drivers didn't seem to know where major train stations bus terminals were. One even had to stop and ask a policeman for directions to the main westbound bus station. When I got to a train station there weren't any heading to Sumatra for hours so I had to go to a bus terminal, and there I finally got on my way to Merak which is where ferries leave Java for Sumatra. The ferry ride was fine, although I got a little sick of being stared at by others. I don't think they get many tourists in these parts (apparently north Sumatra is the more popular place for visitors).
The ferry got to Sumatra at 6.30pm last night, during a fantastic sunset. Rather than make the two hour bus trip to the nearest centre of Banderlumpung, I chose to stop at a seaside town called Kalianda. Big mistake. Not only was it further from the main highway than I thought, but the first thing I saw in the room of my hotel (which was recommended in lonely planet guide) was a cockroach scuttling across the floor. And the fan didn't work. It was a hot, uncomfortable night and I left that place as early as I could. I got aboard a shuttle to go to Banderlumpung but it seemed to wait for ages before leaving. The driver and the other passengers also kept making mocking comments about me that I didn't understand.
All of this, plus the hard work of Jakarta has left me feeling pretty tired, so once I finally arrived in Bandarlumpung I checked into a Sheraton-style hotel for a few days of rest. Air-conditioned room, room service, etc. I had my first hot shower in two weeks since leaving Australia! There is a national park nearby called Way Kampas which I will make a day trip to perhaps the day after tomorrow. Today and tomorrow are rest days.
I've been watching CNN's coverage of the situation in Thailand. My route was going to take me through Bangkok but I will try to go around and avoid the city completely. It'll be another three weeks before I get close, so if things escalate to a civil war, I will probably skip the country completely and see if I can take a ferry from Singapore to Hong Kong.