Travel

The Rumble And Tumble Of Family Travel, And A Bit Of Langkawi

You know school holidays are here when your Facebook feed is inundated with pictures of friends holidaying overseas. How envious I feel when I see my friends’ kids licking ice-cream in Hokkaido, strolling on cobblestone streets in Spain, journeying in the wilderness of Scandinavia, feeding emus in Australia or basking in sunny California.

Such is the danger of social media that men as old as me might fall into its trap of envy and start to keep up with the Joneses. I count myself lucky not to play this game because financial circumstances dictate that I do not have the means to take my family on long holidays to Europe or the Americas. 

Even though I have to be careful with money, that does not mean my family should be denied a fun and relaxing holiday. From excursions within Singapore, staycations or regional trips, we just have to be wiser and work within our budget.

Our family travel was restricted to just Melbourne, and that was a work trip which my wife and daughter tagged along on. It was fun for the parents because it was some sort of getaway to a temperate country and provided an excuse for us to wrap our then-6-month-old in thick and cute warm clothing. However, we soon realised that we could have attained the same level of happiness anywhere, as long as the family is intact and together.

We resumed our travels more extensively after the second child was born. When I said "extensively", I meant we travelled more frequently but always focused on Southeast Asia.

We went to Kota Kinabalu to savour the seafood and cool, fresh air. In Kuching, we shared river taxis with locals and rode speedboats to a national park to see wild proboscis monkeys and free-roaming bearded pigs. Punctuating the two Borneo adventures was a winter trekking trip in Sapa, where I nearly slipped and rolled down a steep mountain with our then-two-year-old boy on my back.

Undeterred, we continued to challenge the mountains by peering into the crater of Mount Bromo, soaking in sulphuric volcanic mud in Bandung, and trekking through the jungle in Bukit Lawang to meet semi-wild orangutans.

We also witnessed the splendour of Angkor Wat and the ingenuity of the Cu Chi tunnels dug by the Vietnamese soldiers. We bathed elephants in Kanchanaburi and marvelled at large sunflower fields in Khao Yai.

The furthest my family has been to is Hong Kong and Taiwan; the former for her Disneyland theme park and the latter for her less visited eastern coast, which I laud as a poor man's Hokkaido in summer (in a complimentary way).

Then there were the many short road trips to my birth country, Malaysia. Beside the perennial favourites Penang, Kuala Lumpur and Malacca, we had boarded the train to Temerloh in Pahang, sampled good food and slow life in Ipoh and Taiping. As I am typing this, my daughter is in a hammock reading a book while my son is playing with sand, on a small island off Pulau Langkawi.

It sounds like a lot of overseas trips, but they were all done on a shoe-string budget. Fun can come in different forms, and at different budgets. It can also happen anywhere. To a child, fun goes beyond ranking based on the amount of money spent.

I see it as my personal mission to make sure my kids are not pampered with luxuries. The “hardship” holidays have trained them to make do with basic amenities, and there were a few times they even had to placate their rather “traumatised” mother. They have learned to enjoy itinerary-free holidays and we can dump them anywhere and they can entertain themselves. 

They have learned to enjoy the simple pleasures – blowing gigantic bubbles at a playground next to Taiping Lake; playing table tennis with cousins at a cottage in Malang; soaking in icy rivers in the Sumatran jungle.

If parents have to constantly plan "exciting" activities to do with their children, then the holidays might be saddled with so much stress and expectations that any popping of balloons may result in major disappointments. 

I have no doubt as they grow older, they will be asking for more exotic locations. Lately, the elder one has indicated her preference for somewhere with snow. My reply to her? “Your father only got to see snow for the first time when he was 20. You have nine more years to go.” By delaying her gratification, I think the kids can be kept hungry and motivated. My job as a father is not to satisfy all their wishes. My job is to train them such that they are better equipped to make their own dreams come true after they grow up. 

Today, my kids naturally cannot remember every single trip. In fact, they can only remember the darnest details; they still laugh at the mention of my being dragged away from the shore by strong currents on a Phuket beach. I do not want to sound like sour grapes by stating that it may be a waste of money to go on big-ticket trips with young kids because they may not remember much. But I have to stress that everyone can do whatever makes them happy.

Studies have shown that we are happier when we go for shorter but more frequent holidays, as compared to one or two major ones. Personally, I can attest to this because as a child, I always looked forward to our yearly drive to Desaru and the waterfalls. Even though they were not particularly spectacular, the experience was pleasant and stuck with me.

I will not have any property worthy to bequeath my children, but I hope I can leave behind some heartwarming childhood memories for them. They need not cost a lot. In fact, they will be priceless.

*The above article first appeared on the Goguru website, in a bi-weekly "Dad Talk" column.

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Our latest adventure took us to Pulau Dayang Bunting, a smaller island off Pulau Langkawi. I read about a rustic, back-to-basics but appealing homestay called Langkawi Barkat Chalets on this island. It is far away from the tourist thoroughfare of Langkawi, and yet retains the "kampung" charms a tropical island has to offer.

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A first hint of a non-touristy trip: we were to board a ferry used by locals at a pier that is a kilometre away from the main ferry terminal. Accompanying us is a spanking new refrigerator meant to be delivered to one of the hundreds of households on the islands Pulau Danang Bunting and its smaller and connected neighbour Pulau Tuba.

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The ferry service was not very frequent. Together with the other island residents who were going home after work, we waited for close to one hour before it finally arrived.

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The islands are almost completely populated by Malay-Muslims, except for one Scottish who built the largest kampung house on Pulau Tuba after he fell in love with the place.

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There were altogether three stops. The journey that took about 25 mins cost us 5 ringgit each.

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Some family is going to be very happy that day.

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Upon arriving at the airport to taking the taxi to the pier and then boarding this ferry, we were inevitably forced to slow our own Singapore island-city pace to match that of the kampung-island rhythm.

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The host, Shades, a genuine and hospitable man, came to the pier to fetch us in his trusty Proton missing a rear windscreen and door handles. Transportation on the islands is mainly scooters, bicycles, or a handful of cars.

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The warmest reception we got was actually dished out by these three resident dogs.

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My choice of this chalet was motivated by a desire to make my son happy. He is the chill-type who likes free play and knows how to entertain himself. I know he likes fishing (even though he has only tried it once), sand, cycling and doing nothing. Barkat Chalets is perfect for him.

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Recently, Shades rescued an injured bird from the sea. It has the beak of a sea gull and odour of a penguin (according to Shades, for I have no idea how a penguin really smells like). Apparently it cannot fly at this moment, and they planned to nurse it back to health and see what happens.

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Shades is seen here catching live prawns to be used as bait for our fishing trip.

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We went fishing on two consecutive days (because we only caught two fish on the first day). On the first day, Shades took us southeast, where the channel meanders out to meet the Straits of Malacca. On the second day, we stayed closer to home and tried our luck at a few of Shades' favourite spots, which were near the mangrove forest.

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True enough, we had better luck and the catch was not bad for about three hours of work. I was very distraught after the first day because Shades actually hooked a 2-kg threadfin (It looked terribly like one). He excitedly asked me to use the net to scoop the fish. With trembling and tragically inexperienced hands, I failed to net the fellow, which allowed it the split second to snag the line and escaped.

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Our homestay package included all three meals. Dinner was always the most sumptuous with different types of seafood fighting for our attention.

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Accommodation was basic and in line with the theme of the holiday.  Fortunately we came well prepared with insect spray and repellant.

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If at night we tried to repel some creatures, then early in the morning, we welcomed others. These buffaloes would bask in the muddy beach just in front of the chalet every morning.

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After spending three nights at the chalet, we opted for a change on our last night by checking into Temple Tree Resort in Langkawi island. The various accommodation options were built in the style of traditional kampung houses, colonial bungalows or Chinese houses. They are not luxurious, but full of character and charm. It is actually owned by the Bon Ton group, which has a namesake resort just next to Temple Tree. Their main objective is actually to run an animal shelter (cats and dogs)----to rescue, rehabilitate, and re-house them. Profits from the the resort business are actually ploughed back into funding the programme.

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The cats that roam freely around the estate are the oldest residents on site. They are tame and very used to the place, hence they are given the freedom and space.

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The shelter is staffed by volunteers, both local and foreign. Here, one of them is walking the dogs.

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So, finally, it's time for the touristy stuff!

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This cable car ride made the Sentosa cable car ride feel like a stroll in the park. The steep climb and its height can seriously cause panic attacks in passengers, as seen here......

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I thought it would be a novel experience to sit in a glass-bottom capsule. Unfortunately, my wife's eyes remained shut throughout the ride. We reverted to a normal capsule on the return trip. What did we get for braving the ride?

Quite spectacular views all round.

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How To Plan An Overseas Trip For The Whole Extended Family

The short answer to this is I plan it first for myself, then I add little bits and pieces of itinerary to cater to the diverse interest groups.

There are, however, some pre-conditions that need to be met:

1. Stick to a budget that everyone (I am) is comfortable with. That means most of our trips will be centred on Southeast Asia (which I personally like), with short-haul flights (yes!).

2. The holidays are for the kids. There is a common understanding within the family that when the kids enjoy, the adults will too, and we can trust ourselves to entertain ourselves.

3. The trips are more about spending quality time together, and about character-building. We try to cut out the frills and luxuries (we allow ourselves to cheat a little once in a while). In my opinion, what better way to achieve that than to rough it out in the jungles or mountains.

Actually, I added number 3 myself. However, since I have always been the organiser, I think I have every right to pursue my own agenda. The reason why I have been the organiser had its roots in me being a former Malaysian citizen. Our first overseas trip was a road trip to the organic rice farm in Kahang, Johor. Since I was born in JB, the responsibility of putting together this trip just fell on my shoulders. I think the successful reception of the maiden trip bolstered the family members' confidence in me. And hence the birth of the Wong's Travel Agency.

Pony-riding on Mount Bromo: one of the most unforgettable experiences for the kids. It was not riding around circles, but through undulating terrain and sometimes doing steep climbs.

Pony-riding on Mount Bromo: one of the most unforgettable experiences for the kids. It was not riding around circles, but through undulating terrain and sometimes doing steep climbs.

After adhering to the three pre-conditions, I would consider the specific needs of the various groups of people.....which basically, are the mothers. There is a common understanding within the fathers/brothers-in-law that when the wives enjoy, we will too, and we can entertain ourselves.

My wife has five elder sisters and a sister-in-law who is a regular on the tour circuit. They grew up in kampungs and anywhere or any activities that can bring back fond memories of those days will win them over. To sell them a suspiciously "hardship trip", all I needed to do was to include some appealing key phrases like : fruit farm, vegetables and fruit market, shopping for produce etc.

By adopting this strategy, we managed to experience the majestic beauty of Mount Bromo, the cool air of Batu and the unbeatable fun at Batu Secret Zoo; visited more volcanoes and hot springs and tea plantation in Bandung; took one of the last few KTM train journeys to a town in Pahang and spent Christmas morning munching away in a market in Temerloh; and observe semi-wild orang-utans up close in Leuser National park, and river-tubing in Bukit Lawang; and of course the most recent trip to Khao Yai in Thailand.

All these sound fun, but not many people know that it is actually a very stressful and thankless job to be responsible for the well-being and happiness of a "village". It was a first time for me too to all those places, and God knows if reality tallied with the research done online and in books. I had to live and die by the decisions and choices I made.

For example, the bungalows I booked for Bukit Lawang trip received very good reviews. I did not pay much attention to the few comments by travelers on the steep climb up the hill to reach them. How bad can it be, I thought. Boy was it bad for the aunties when they wanted to give up and change bungalows half way up the hill. A ten-km trek through Khao Yai National Park to spot wildlife? We had to call our drivers to help pick us up at the halfway mark.

These are part and parcel of adventure travel, even though they did not really sign up for an adventure package. However, these were also the stories that kept being repeated at dinner tables, (painful) memories that reminded the aunties about our mortality, even though I have received strict directives on what NOT to do on our next trip.

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We enjoyed the chalet-type of atmosphere at the cottage in Batu, Indonesia.

We enjoyed the chalet-type of atmosphere at the cottage in Batu, Indonesia.

Visiting the volcano and having mud baths near Bandung.

Visiting the volcano and having mud baths near Bandung.

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Enduring the tough road conditions from Medan to Bukit Lawang. The van we were in was not of the highest specs, with weak air-conditioning and thinly-cushioned seats. The driver was friendly though.

Enduring the tough road conditions from Medan to Bukit Lawang. The van we were in was not of the highest specs, with weak air-conditioning and thinly-cushioned seats. The driver was friendly though.

Crossing the unexpectedly long suspension bridge over a river in Bukit Wayang....I mean Lawang.

Crossing the unexpectedly long suspension bridge over a river in Bukit Wayang....I mean Lawang.

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Next time I will spare a thought for senior citizens when planning the trips. This was the climb up a steep hill to our lovely bungalows in Bukit Lawang.

Next time I will spare a thought for senior citizens when planning the trips. This was the climb up a steep hill to our lovely bungalows in Bukit Lawang.

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Some of the most enjoyable times for the kids are times when they have free play.

Some of the most enjoyable times for the kids are times when they have free play.

Or soaking in cold jungle rivers.

Or soaking in cold jungle rivers.

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The guides prepared nasi and fruit picnic on the trek.

The guides prepared nasi and fruit picnic on the trek.

Tubing down the river after the trek. 

Tubing down the river after the trek. 

Curry puff hairstyle vs candy floss hairstyle.

Curry puff hairstyle vs candy floss hairstyle.

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Eating fresh durians inside the durian plantation.

Eating fresh durians inside the durian plantation.

We are off to pick some durians!

We are off to pick some durians!

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I am glad my children are blessed with a lovely extended family, and having the chance to grow up with so many cousins. Until the day the family decided to swap agency, I will continue to plan these trips, regardless if they make a profit or not, so that I can continue to gift them such memories. 

Family Holiday In Khao Yai, Thailand

Someone somewhere must have been aggressively marketing Khao Yai (about 2.5 hours' drive from Bangkok) outside of Thailand because for the past few months, I have been seeing pictures and read stories about Khao Yai and its numerous sometimes-kitschy, sometimes-fascinating points of interests: from the replicas of an Italian piazza, a Santorini windmill to the Hobbit House, and the more commercialised Jim Thompson farm, Chok Chai farm and the sunflower farm.

To me, the highlight of the trip has always been Khao Yai National Park because of my romantic and voyeuristic fascination for wildlife-watching at its natural habitat. It was not difficult selling this destination to the other family members the moment they saw those online travel articles and upon realising Khao Yai offers highland cool weather in December. There were also countless number of cool accommodation choices, but I eventually settled on Raintree Residences. The price per night relative to the calming hilly scenery it offers really made it a no-brainer. It is located in a secluded part of Khao Yai, which in this case is an attraction on its own. The layout is also spread over a sprawling ground and the the five rooms we were assigned were clustered under one roof in a separate wing, which the whole 21 of us had all to ourselves! The big and small kids were so excited that they gathered enough courage to explore the place even in the dark.

Our relatively early bedtime was accompanied by a symphony of weird bird/amphibian/insect calls, much to my delight.

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The early morning chill nudged us along the gentle slope uphill, towards a lookout point just a few hundred metres away from the hotel.

The early morning chill nudged us along the gentle slope uphill, towards a lookout point just a few hundred metres away from the hotel.

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Like all our past family trips, the itinerary is never packed. We like a more leisurely pace. We intend to enjoy those few attractions we decide on and not think about the others we do not. On the first day, there were only Hobbit House and Jim Thompson Farm on the list. Actually I have already warned the others on visiting Hobbit House. I knew beforehand it was just a nondescript resort in the middle of nowhere and all it had going for it were the replicas of Hobbit houses, and some other whitewashed structures similar to those found on Santorini. To put it bluntly, it was just a photo opp in front of some "styled backdrops", symptomatic of the times we are living in right now. Nothing else matters, as long as the pictures look good on Instagram.

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However, I must admit that even though there was nothing to shout about the whole experience in the Hobbit House resort, the way the structures were built and styled was very commendable. That we did not have to pay any entrance fees helped it score some points.

After another 90 minutes' drive, we finally arrived at Jim Thompson Farm. I was a bit shocked to see bus-loads of local students and local tourists jamming the car park and the ticket counters. It was just not my idea of a farm. Inside, I saw glimpses of Tomita Farm in Hokkaido. If you like the sight of vast flower fields set against rolling hills, then you will go on a selfie/wefie rampage.  Unfortunately, our experience was marred by the surprisingly scorching heat on the day of our visit.

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After spending most of the day under the hot sun, the kids were dying to take a dip in the hotel pool, even though the thermometre reading was in the high tens. I was impressed they could stay in the icy water for more than 30 minutes.

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Day 2 saw us visiting the Primo Piazza en route to the national park. Besides the realistic-looking Italian piazza, there were merino sheeps and alpacas to entertain visitors. It was our first encounter with an alpaca!

Again, it's just a photo-stop and again, the owners paid attention to details and Primo Piazza is a photogenic venue albeit a little small.

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My sister-in-law (in orange) shouting for my wife (on the phone) to help carry her food while she is having her picture taken, to the oblivion of the latter. Love comical moments like this.

My sister-in-law (in orange) shouting for my wife (on the phone) to help carry her food while she is having her picture taken, to the oblivion of the latter. Love comical moments like this.

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Next came the destination I have been longing for: Khao Yai National Park. Not every one shared my enthusiasm for jungle trekking to hopefully spot some wild elephants or gibbons. In fact, most of them probably were groaning inside their hearts when they heard the trek would take 10 km in total (this was the second rainforest trek in two years done by the family).

One of the most rewarding experience of a trek is the camaraderie built when circumventing the various challenge----upslope, downhill, climb over boulders, tread over rivers, balancing on logs-----and helping one another out, egging one another on, and cracking silly jokes to keep everyone's spirits up. In the end, we didn't manage to spot any mammals bigger than a macaque. The elephants were probably shunning away from the groaning, and whining rag-tag group of trekkers from Singapore. Even the Thai rangers were smiling, albeit politely, at our ineptness. In the end, we stopped short of radioing for help; we made a call to our drivers to pick us up at the halfway point.

Needless to say, I'd be having a earful for the subsequent months for proposing the trek, and I'd be hearing lots of funny anecdotes too, when the aunties start to recall their gruesome experience.

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(Left) Calling for help? Nay....one's doing business deal, and the other probably catching Pokemon. (Right) One of the more sedentary relatives is experiencing some muscle spasms (legs keep shaking) for the second time in two years.

(Left) Calling for help? Nay....one's doing business deal, and the other probably catching Pokemon. (Right) One of the more sedentary relatives is experiencing some muscle spasms (legs keep shaking) for the second time in two years.

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The objective is to reach the observation tower that overlooks a lake and salt lick to spot wildlife.

The objective is to reach the observation tower that overlooks a lake and salt lick to spot wildlife.

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"Weird men" at the "waterfalls". Some of them were disappointed that they could not see any waterfalls at the trek, so the drivers suggested a waterfall that is free. It turned out to be a "water floor" as it looks more like a canal that channels mountain runoffs. However, the water is pretty clear. All of them except one boy is either tired or turned off, so in order not to disappoint the boy, I got into the water with him.

"Weird men" at the "waterfalls". Some of them were disappointed that they could not see any waterfalls at the trek, so the drivers suggested a waterfall that is free. It turned out to be a "water floor" as it looks more like a canal that channels mountain runoffs. However, the water is pretty clear. All of them except one boy is either tired or turned off, so in order not to disappoint the boy, I got into the water with him.

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The hotel resident dog comes and bid us adieu as we prepare to check out of the hotel.

The hotel resident dog comes and bid us adieu as we prepare to check out of the hotel.

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Our last stop before Bangkok. The sunflower field. Visually quite a sight, it makes for a good backdrop for photos.

Our last stop before Bangkok. The sunflower field. Visually quite a sight, it makes for a good backdrop for photos.

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Rounding off with two of my favourite group pictures taken on this trip.

Rounding off with two of my favourite group pictures taken on this trip.

350 Steps To Heaven

My wife comes from a big family. She has two elder brothers and five elder sisters, and many nephews and nieces, resulting in my children having many cousins (good logical thinking). One of the greatest joys is our family travels, usually comprising groups of not fewer than eight persons, with the largest ever turnout being 23. Malaysia and Indonesia are our perennial favourites because they offer some amazing attractions, landscape and culture which fit nicely into our budget.

As you know, I am The Family Man, but not many know I am also The Tour Operator. Ever since I first planned a "well-received" road trip to Malaysia, I have become the de facto family travel agent. I have to check everyone's schedule, research and suggest itineraries according to the budget, and also make sure the destinations have something for people from age 5 (age of my son back then) to near 60. For those of you who are interested/curious, you can check out some of our trips on my facebook album.

This June holidays, we went to Bukit Lawang in Sumatra for a 3D3N eco-retreat. My original suggestion was Lake Toba, but after reading that the car ride there from Medan is 5 hours, I switched my attention to Bkt Lawang, a place I have never heard before but popped up during my research, and a "mere" 90 km from Medan. To my horror, I later found out the ride was 4 hours despite the short distance because of the conditions of the roads leading to the tiny village on the edge of Gunung Leuser National Park. Its main attraction is the tropical rainforest, clean air and wild orang utans.

Medan's new Kualanamu International Airport.

Medan's new Kualanamu International Airport.

A typical road which we drove on.

A typical road which we drove on.

The suspension bridge that links the village centre to the opposite bank. Some of my in-laws changed their minds about not having a porter after a few steps on the bridge.

The suspension bridge that links the village centre to the opposite bank. Some of my in-laws changed their minds about not having a porter after a few steps on the bridge.

 

If the ride there was butt-crunching (potholes covering a few stretches of the 2-lane road), then the walk to our bungalow retreat was quads-burning. When we alighted from our bus at the village centre, the bungalow's porters were there to welcome us. The one who spoke English wasted no time in describing the daunting journey ahead. "We have to cross a suspension bridge, then walk up a very steep mountain.....350 steps! You carry luggage, very heavy!" They would help carry our bags for IDR50,000 per head. Always not one who fall for such ruse, I politely declined their offer (my luggage wasn't too heavy anyway). Understandably, the aunties and pre-teens succumbed and wisely paid the <S$5 porter's fee. Still, climbing up the 350 steps hands-free still proved too much for some of them. As we walked past the numerous bungalows on the foothill next to the river, I could see my relatives throwing envious glances at them. "Up there, there are no strangers and tourists loitering around," was what I read and that was how I defended myself.

Mother and son playing in the river below.

Mother and son playing in the river below.

Some of these city kids probably have never crossed a suspension bridge before. The tree top walk is actually higher, but the few missing wooden planks on this bridge make the walk a bit more interesting.

Some of these city kids probably have never crossed a suspension bridge before. The tree top walk is actually higher, but the few missing wooden planks on this bridge make the walk a bit more interesting.

The woman in red is my eldest sister-in-law. And she is looking at me in a way that might make me mistake her proud, over-achieving expression as a more accusing look.

The woman in red is my eldest sister-in-law. And she is looking at me in a way that might make me mistake her proud, over-achieving expression as a more accusing look.

Kids did not think much about the climb and sprang into action immediately afterwards.

Kids did not think much about the climb and sprang into action immediately afterwards.

He's a natural kampung boy.

He's a natural kampung boy.

One of our non-Bahasa-Indonesia-speaking neighbours. According to the staff, this snake is poisonous, but its venom only causes fever.

One of our non-Bahasa-Indonesia-speaking neighbours. According to the staff, this snake is poisonous, but its venom only causes fever.

The view from the bungalow retreat---On The Rocks.

The view from the bungalow retreat---On The Rocks.

The Bukit Lawang River is clean, shallow and cool. Perfect for the kids.

The Bukit Lawang River is clean, shallow and cool. Perfect for the kids.

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I always believe kids are happiest when they have unstructured playtime.

I always believe kids are happiest when they have unstructured playtime.

The main reception-restaurant-gathering area.

The main reception-restaurant-gathering area.

In the evening, the temperature in the jungle dropped quite drastically. From not sleeping with a blanket to everyone fighting for one, it was a cool and restful first night. The only challenge was the army of mosquitoes which took a liking to novel Singaporean blood. One of the single biggest expenditure here was arguably insect repellant. We later learned that locals would pluck lemongrass, rub and crush the leaves with their palms and then smear their skin with the broken bits and pieces to ward off the mosquitoes.

The next day, it was the trek into Gunung Leuser national Park. It became well-known after an Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre was set up decades ago. The apes that are nearer the village and tourist trails are inevitably semi-wild, with some guides feeding them with sugar canes and fruits. I see it as a necessary evil for the bigger good. With tourist money come better relationship with these great apes, to an extent that certain boundaries are not crossed.

I tend to wake up very early when I am on holidays, away from cities.

I tend to wake up very early when I am on holidays, away from cities.

Mother and child duo of orang utans. Seeing them in Mandai Zoo is one thing, admiring them in their natural habitat is magical.

Mother and child duo of orang utans. Seeing them in Mandai Zoo is one thing, admiring them in their natural habitat is magical.

Our guide Putra fashioning a crown out of some jungle ferns.

Our guide Putra fashioning a crown out of some jungle ferns.

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Generally speaking, the trek wasn't very difficult. We actually can choose the different levels of difficulty according to our own abilities. There are some steep ascents and descents, but not something my 8-year-old son couldn't manage.

Generally speaking, the trek wasn't very difficult. We actually can choose the different levels of difficulty according to our own abilities. There are some steep ascents and descents, but not something my 8-year-old son couldn't manage.

Wefie with the orang utans.

Wefie with the orang utans.

Lunch was packed nasi goreng, eaten with our bare hands.

Lunch was packed nasi goreng, eaten with our bare hands.

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Of course, no jungle is complete without the common long-tailed macaques. Mother and child seen here sharing remains of a pineapple.

Of course, no jungle is complete without the common long-tailed macaques. Mother and child seen here sharing remains of a pineapple.

The kids' highlight of the trek-----river tubing downstream. Even though the rapids were mild, the nature of the vessel exaggerates the ferocity of them. My butt actually hit the river bed of pebbles a couple of times.

The kids' highlight of the trek-----river tubing downstream. Even though the rapids were mild, the nature of the vessel exaggerates the ferocity of them. My butt actually hit the river bed of pebbles a couple of times.

One of the best parts of such holidays is actually just relax and do the things that we want or not do anything at all.

One of the best parts of such holidays is actually just relax and do the things that we want or not do anything at all.

The future boss of the bungalow-----the beautiful baby girl of the Indonesian dad Wawan and his German wife Corinna. A girl's name is Aurora.

The future boss of the bungalow-----the beautiful baby girl of the Indonesian dad Wawan and his German wife Corinna. A girl's name is Aurora.

On the third day, we hired a few becaks to take us to a family durian plantation, a palm sugar factory and a tofu making factory.

On the third day, we hired a few becaks to take us to a family durian plantation, a palm sugar factory and a tofu making factory.

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More walking after we disembark from the becaks.

More walking after we disembark from the becaks.

We had a bad experience at a touristy durian plantation in Segamat, Malaysia. We did not bear high hopes but surprisingly, these durians actually tasted rather good.

We had a bad experience at a touristy durian plantation in Segamat, Malaysia. We did not bear high hopes but surprisingly, these durians actually tasted rather good.

Some lazy bums decided to hitch a ride out of the plantation.

Some lazy bums decided to hitch a ride out of the plantation.

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We had lunch by the river, thoughtfully arranged by our guide, who thought it was a good idea. We really appreciate their effort at providing us with a pleasant experience.

We had lunch by the river, thoughtfully arranged by our guide, who thought it was a good idea. We really appreciate their effort at providing us with a pleasant experience.

The chickens are also eyeing our lunch, of ironically, fried chicken.

The chickens are also eyeing our lunch, of ironically, fried chicken.

After-lunch siesta. By the river, no less. Indonesia-style!

After-lunch siesta. By the river, no less. Indonesia-style!

The tofu "factory" is just a backyard of a home. I am not sure if he will ever obtain his license from NEA, but I tried the tofu on the spot, bought some to add to my gado gado dinner and they were fresh and problem-free.

The tofu "factory" is just a backyard of a home. I am not sure if he will ever obtain his license from NEA, but I tried the tofu on the spot, bought some to add to my gado gado dinner and they were fresh and problem-free.

A typical scene in the late afternoon, when villagers enjoy what their environment offers.

A typical scene in the late afternoon, when villagers enjoy what their environment offers.

A slice of kampung life: the staple game of sepak takraw.

A slice of kampung life: the staple game of sepak takraw.

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Their last chance to play in the river. The next morning, we have to wake up at 3.15am, set off by 4 a.m. for airport to catch our flight at 10.30 a.m..

Their last chance to play in the river. The next morning, we have to wake up at 3.15am, set off by 4 a.m. for airport to catch our flight at 10.30 a.m..

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It takes very little to be happy.

It takes very little to be happy.

All in all, the feedback I gathered from those under 14 was very favourable, saying the trip was fun and amazing. I have not managed to get a response from the other age group yet because they have not spoken to me since we got home. Doesn't matter. I am already plotting the next trip.