This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

KL to Rantepao in 21 Hrs.

It is September 13, and we are in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the third time. We are only here again for the sole purpose of getting a 60 day visa to Indonesia, where we are flying to on the 17th. We want to spend our final two months in Asia in Indonesia. Indonesia only gives 30 days on arrival and leaving the country again or trying to extend would be a real hassle.

The embassy opens again tomorrow after the long holiday weekend. We arrive at the embassy at 10:45 AM and get our numbers, 7072 and 7073 to just turn in our application materials. They are on 7015. I do not bring anything to read so I pass the time by eavesdropping on people‘s visa issues. 1:00 PM is lunch time. They are at number 7048 at the break. The three workers are each averaging less than four visa applications per hour. I have plenty of time to figure this out. We return precisely at 2:00 PM to resume our waiting. At 3:30 PM our numbers are finally called. We give them the application and pay the fee. Lately, we have been hearing and reading that getting a 60 day tourist visa to Indonesia is a bit iffy, so we ask the people at the window what are our chances. They tell us that they do not know. It is up to their boss, and it changes from day to day. It depends on his mood. So essentially the government of Indonesia’s visa granting process boils down to the personal feelings of the guy with his hand on the stamp. I hope he is having a good day. Our moment in the spotlight is just six minutes. I feel jilted and want to spend more time at the window.

Kuala Lumpur
I return the next afternoon to pick up our passports. With only a short 45 minute wait, I get the news. Either the boss’ favorite badminton player won a big match, or he is just happy to be eating lunch again now that Ramadan is finished, but whatever the reason we got our visas and are ready to go. We spend the next day and a half not really doing anything in KL and on the 17th at 10 AM we board an airport bound bus to the the plane bound for Makassar in Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Ronald McDonald is happy Ramadan is over and to get his lunch crowd back.
We arrive at the airport and it is early evening. We are soon reminded that we are in Indonesia by the flooded waiting area outside the airport and the tourist touts providing us with misinformation so that we will hire their services. We make a game time decision and elect to go to the bus station to take the eleven hour trip to Rentapao. This is obviously not a bad choice because we see other tourists who were on our flight. Our bus leaves at 10 PM. The air-conditioned ride is cold of course, and long. Southern Sulawesi passes by seen only from our buses headlights.

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We arrive in Tana Toraja - the Highlands of Southern Sulawesi around 7 AM. The majority of Torajans are Christians, but they have traditional architecture and extremely unique burial rituals and ceremonies that predate the arrival of missionaries and continue today. Also, (and what is important for us) everything is open for foreigners to visit.

A church

Traditional Tongkonan style

Tana Toraja is a very lush region. Rice fields and green vegetation abound. While on the bus dozing in and out I noticed that we are going up and up very windy small roads. There is quite some significant elevation here too. The early morning air is noticeably more cooler and fresher, Though having just come from the cement jungle that is Kuala Lumpur almost anywhere the air would be cooler and fresher.

A rice field

Piong Ikan (Fish in bamboo). A Torajan dish that is fish, (koi, carp) chicken or pork wrapped in a banana leaf with a spinach like vegetable and then inserted into a bamboo tube and roasted on a fire.
People make their base around the large town of Rantepao and spend the days in Tana Toraja exploring the numerous villages and visiting the funeral ceremonies. And like other tourist locals in Indonesia there is a plethora of guides who will gladly show you the sites and take you to ceremonies for a tidy sum. In Rentapao the guides hang around the lobbies of  hotels. The first guide we speak with, before even checking in, says, "you cannot visit the ceremonies by yourself", with shifty eyes, we know he is full of crap and the first thing we will try to do is visit places by ourselves.

Stay Tuned...

A little girl that should be in class and not posing for photos


  1. What an exhausting journey...ten hours in a cold bus. I think you both need some TLC..treat yourselves to a nice place to stay for a while. You need a break!!!

  2. Thanks. We have been relaxing. Very long bus and boat rides are unavoidable in this part of Indonesia. We just took a 14 hour ferry then straight to an 8 hr. car ride.