Hi! I'm going on a trip to Sumatra Indonesia at the end of March (for 5 weeks). I wanted to know if anyone that has been to Indonesia had experienced food poisoning or other illnesses. I've been through the whole food poisoning thing in Peru, it was NOT cool. Of course I'll be as cautious as possible (I even bought a fancy water purifier), I just want to get an idea of what I might encounter.
Also -- I'll be getting my Malaria pills soon, any advice on what other treatments I should get, anything that isn't necessary?
Oh, Lauren, you lucky woman- I am so jealous of you. 5 whole weeks how wonderful!
I just love Sumatra and spent from August 4th till October 28th in Sumatra last year. Went to West Sumatra about my 6th time and northern Sumatra my 4th time.
Re food poisoning- only had once in restaurant on way back from Lake Toba in 2004 and I always eat off the food stalls usually or eat with families.
Would not worry too much. Try to eat hot cooked food and you should be o.k. Re water- all bottled, the best tasting brand is Aqua- bit more expensive than some of the others, but well worth it.
Re: Malaria- I always used to take pills- Larium the first visit and never again- makes many people feel really strange!
Tried Doxycycline which everyone seems to take, easy and cheap, but does have side effects if allergic like sensitive to sunburn, thrush in women ( tho' I never had that problem ever).
I took for a few visits and then suddenly developed an allergery- rash etc sensitive to sunburn.
Now I do not take anything and spent 3 months in Sumatra last year.
Take a pack or two of Malarone with me and if I was sure I felt symptoms I would take the Malarone and get to the nearest medical centre.
Just make sure I wear insect repellant like RID (Australian made) and usually wear jeans or long pants and in the evenings sometimes wear long sleeve cool shirts.
Have not had any problems during my last two visits to Sumatra.
I think you can have a worse time if you catch debgue fever- no preventative medicine for that or there is another one that an English girl I know caught out in the Jungle begins with c but cannot remember how to spell the name.
I believe it is best to try to prevent being bitten rather than take too many pills.
But it is a very personal decision.
Where are you headed- west and north?
For West Sumatra suggest Bukittinggi and Lake Maninjau and surrounds-Padang Panjung, Payakumbuh and south of Padang an absolute paradise Painan. Check out my photos on the links on Lonely Planet Thorn Tree Indonesia forum ( pPamela).
North Sumatra- Lake Toba, Brestagi and Bukit Lawang and Tangkahan, which is a paradise and a 2 hr motor bike ride from Bukit Lawang- spent 5 days there in late Sept 2006 at Jungle Lodge.
If you can squeeze it in, Ketembe a 7 hr bus ride from Medan and a magical place to go- stay at either Pak Mus or Sadar Wisata with Iyuni and family.
Thanks for the reply! This information is really helpful for me. It's really good to hear that you didn't experience much food poisoning, I'm looking forward to experiencing the local cuisine
We're still in the planning process, so I appreciate you're advice on where to go. I know for sure that we're heading to the southern coast, to Krui and Benkulu (we're going to surf and there's a nice wave in Krui). Also we would like to visit Palau Nias most likely. Other than that we haven't decided. It's a huge island! There's so much to see! I'll do some more research on those places you suggested, it all sounds really nice.
I think I stumbled across your lonely planet page when I was doing research! You had some awesome pictures, I'll have to revisit your page again now that I know more about it.
How is the public transport system? Do many people speak English? How much should I expect to be using Bahasa Indonesia?
Transport throughout Sumatra is by bus and the journeys can be very long and tedious for some travellers.
For me, yes I know I am crazy, but I quite enjoy bus travel as long as it is no longer than about 7-9 hrs long. After that it tends to become tedious.
For me I would fly from Padang to Medan and maybe even Jakarta to Padang.
However, you wish to visit Krui and southern Sumatra so I think you can get buses from Jakarta to Bengkulu and then from there to other places.
There has been a couple of guys wanting to go to Krui and having a terrible time trying to get information. One emailed me, but I have not been there so could not offer aany information except what i gleaned off the internet through some other avenues.
Have you found the same thing?
Re Nias, there is an English woman Jo ( NiasSister) there now and hopefully she will post on Thorn Tree about her 6 weeks trip there. She lived there with her Indonesian husband for many years and survived both the Dec 26th Banda Aceh earthquake and the March 27th Nias earthquake.
As soon as I get any information I will post the link or you can pm me with your email and I will get in touch direct.
Re: Language- I know lots of words but cannot speak the language- you will find these days there is always someone who will be able to speak a little English even if it is the local English teacher.
I was left in villages whilst my friend Edi went pig hunting at Kambang in south West Sumatra and every village had an english teacher so I got to speak with them and entertain 60 other people at the same time. It was such a hoot.
Don't worry the Indonesian people are the friendliest people and they will help you in any way they can.