7-Day North Sumatra Travel Itinerary

The trip to North Sumatra was one of my personal favorite so far.

Dense jungles, sky of the bluest hue, dreamy colonial towns up above the hills, thousands of sparkling stars, and a lake so beautiful that will leave you at a loss for words. It definitely felt like I have traveled through a few countries within a week.

Despite all the warnings, I did not feel threatened at all being in this part of Indonesia. I've met some of the nicest people who have offered me the warmest hospitality during my stay. Although at least ten men tried to get me to marry them or their sons, the people here are genuinely good-natured. I definitely felt a lot safer here than in Cambodia, where I was constantly harassed almost everywhere that I go.

It took me a long time to come up with a satisfying itinerary as there are limited information on the internet about North Sumatra in 2014/2015. (I would never rely on information older than 3 years because the prices of the fares may have changed and certain public transportation may have been discontinued. Last minute surprises are the worst)

The map below shows the places that I initially planned on going. I couldn't make it to Kawah Putih as it is on an entirely different direction. Aceh on the far north was out of the question since I only had a week. I have also left Tangkahan out (a place famous for its elephants) because there is no way I am paying €95 to ride an elephant for an hour or €70 to wash an elephant. People in the tourism industry should really learn how to price their services reasonably.

where to go in sumatra
I've picked out the best places to visit in North Sumatra

Since I travel alone, I always make sure that everything has been thoroughly planned out before I set forth. For that to happen, I've contacted a few people (a few locals and a few foreigners who have been living there for years) to help me out. Thanks Pamela, An, Syaiful, Adin, Martinus, and Tazkia!

Here's a quick sneak peek of the beautiful places in North Sumatra:

what to see in north sumatra
Beautiful places in North Sumatra


7-Day North Sumatra Travel Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at Kualanamu International Airport - Parapat - Pulau Samosir
Day 2-3: Pulau Samosir - Pangururan
Day 4: Berastagi 
Day 5: Bukit Lawang
Day 6: Medan
Day 7: Try not to cry when you bid farewell to the country and its beautiful people

Since I only had a week to spend, I unfortunately had to rush through most of the places. It is recommended to spend at least three days in Bukit Lawang and do the 2-day jungle trekking in Gunung Leuser. There is nothing much to see in Berastagi so two days is just right. Medan, the capital of North Sumatra surprisingly lacks of worthy attractions and landmarks so a lengthy stay is not advisable.

For detailed itinerary and complete information on which public transportation to take when getting around North Sumatra, follow me on Google+ or Rolling Grace's 1-day old Facebook page to receive the latest updates!

Exploring Roluos on a Bicycle

villages in cambodia
Children of Rolous

Roluos is a small Cambodian village located about 20 minutes away from Siem Reap via National Highway  6. After hours of researching, I've made up my mind that Roluos was worth a visit. Thankfully, it was.

There are probably other means of getting there, but this time around I've decided to hire a private driver and guide instead to save time (I only had two days left in Cambodia so I did not want to waste another second on sluggish public transport). I also figured that having a guide is necessary since people living outside of the town cannot speak English.

The journey was pleasant and quick. Shortly after a very deep and engaging conversation with the guide about the politics and the poverty of the country, we have arrived at our destination. We paid a short visit to Wat Bakong, one of the more famous temples in the region, before moving on to the village.

what to see in cambodia
Cycling home after schooling hours

Being here made me feel like a curious 10-year old again. Everything was new and foreign to me, and I had so many questions to ask.

children in cambodia

Children are everywhere. Playing, walking home from school in their slightly soiled white uniforms, helping their parents out with chores, or just silently lurking in the corners. They all have beautiful brown tanned skin, which matches their big inquisitive eyes and sweet smiles perfectly.

It is hardly possible to walk past the children here without stopping to appreciate their beauty.

cycling in cambodia
Exploring the village of Roluos on a bicycle

The roads are paved with red mud, and big trucks occasionally go through here to transport goods. Other times, there would just be bicycles, motorbikes, and unswerving pedestrians braving the long walk under the scorching sun.

things to do in cambodia

"I love you! I love you!" the kids shouted, perhaps more enthusiastically than any of my previous boyfriends ever did.

what to see in cambodia
top attractions in cambodia

Played with a piggy!

what to see in cambodia

Getting a trim from dad

what to see in cambodia

Look at those kids! Could hardly take my eyes off them!

roluos cambodia
roluos cambodia
roluos cambodia
roluos cambodia

There is also a market along the way:

markets in siem reap
markets in siem reap
markets in cambodia
markets in cambodia

what to see in cambodia

Bean snacks

Palm sugar - the "Cambodian chocolate" that might give you three cavities

Manpower of two people and an elementary machine for the production of more than 1500 bricks a day. We should all be ashamed.

This is where the bricks are left to burn and harden overnight 

And are left under the sun to dry further for days.

Ending the tour with the freshest coconut water and tastiest flesh.

Got some time left from your Siem Reap trip? Why not go on a Roluos tour? It's a great opportunity to learn more about the local culture and way of living!

Diageo Reserve World Class Competition, Hilton KL

Diageo Reserve World Class bartenders Malaysia

Some of Malaysia’s best bartenders who are competing for a place in the 2015 World Class Global Finals in South Africa

Diageo Reserve World Class, one of the world's most prestigious mixology competition was held in Zeta Bar, Hilton Kuala Lumpur last April. The esteemed, by-invitation only event which goal is to redefine fine drinking experiences featured the ever versatile Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Blended Scotch Whiskey, one of the most well crafted spirits from the Diageo Reserve luxury collection.

Diageo Reserve World Class competition
easy cocktail recipes

Forget fine dining - fine drinking is evidently a lot more exciting

The fifteen talented mixologists vying for the title of Best Bartender in Malaysia are:
  1. Arsenio Mariano Jr., Nobu
  2. Daniel Eman, Las Caretas
  3. Dedi Pranata, Souled Out
  4. Edward Tang, Skybar
  5. Hafiz Hisham, Chamber’s Bar
  6. M.Hanafi, Qba
  7. Insan Sharily, Tate
  8. Jeffri Sulaiman, Mr. Brooks
  9. Joel Timis, The View
  10. John Yap, Majestic
  11. Khir Johari, CuBen
  12. Naresh Kumar, Qba
  13. Osmund Illah, Hubba Hubba
  14. Samuel Mesol, Hubba Hubba 
  15. Shawn Chong, Omakase+Appreciate

These competing bartenders have a similar objective in mind - to bring about sophistication and innovation in their drinks by pushing the boundaries of the contemporary cocktail culture. They need to undertake two challenges that will put their skills to test: (1) Fundamental of Flavors, using Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Blended Scotch Whiskey, and (2) A History of London, using Tanqueray No. Ten Gin. Judging criteria is based on the aroma, flavor, presentation, technique, and the use of spirits.

I used to think that being a bartender is an easy job, but it actually takes plenty of effort, trials, and artistry to concoct a remarkable glass of cocktail which can leave a lasting impression.

Diageo Reserve World Class bartender
Diageo Reserve World Class
Diageo Reserve World Class competition
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Blended Scotch Whiskey
Diageo Reserve World Class
Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve Blended Scotch Whiskey

Bartenders in action, juggling and flipping shakers and bottles. What a sight!

Diageo Reserve World Class event

We want more! We want more!

hilton hotel kuala lumpur

Great performances by Transit that got everyone grooving

zeta bar, hilton kuala lumpur

Had a great night!

Best bartender in the world
Diageo Reserve World Class

Some of the iconic cocktails presented that night which incorporated JW Gold Label Reserve. Yums!

Drinks prepared that evening were:

  • GOLD RUSH by Sam from Hubba Hubba - JW Gold Label Reserve, fresh lemon juice, velvety egg white and sugar syrup strained into ice
  • SMOKEY APPLE JULEP by Jeffri from Mr. Brooks - JW Gold Label Reserve,apples, lemons, sparkling apple juice and fresh mint leaves
  • GOLD FASHIONED by Joel from The View - JW Gold Label Reserve, bitters, a muddled sugar cube with a dash of water and an orange peel
  • LEMONGRASS SOUR by Angel from Hit & Mrs - JW Gold Label Reserve, lemon juice, homemade lemongrass syrup, egg whites, lemongrass and orange bitters
  • GOLDEN APPLE by Eddie from Zeta Bar - JW Gold Label Reserve, clear apple juice, soda water and apple slices

My personal favorite? Probably the Smokey Apple Julep :) Can't wait to see the progress of the competition!

Special thanks to Johnnie Walker and Alex.

Top 10 Things to do in Siem Reap

Siem Reap may seem like it is only worth stopping over for a few days of temple-hopping but it surprisingly has so much more to offer than just ancient Khmer temples. Below are a list of the things that you can do while in Siem Reap aside from visiting the temples, in order to make the most out of your trip:

1. Visit Street No. 8

Better known as Pub Street, this stretch of bars, restaurants, and clubs is where travelers mingle or just to sit back to enjoy a bottle of Angkor beer after spending the entire day visiting temples under the scorching sun.


2. Go for a day trip to the floating village

There are many floating villages that you can visit while in Siem Reap considering its proximity to the Tonlé Sap lake. The three most popular ones are Kampung Phluk, Kampung Khleang, and Chong Kneas.

Pictures taken at Roluos village

3. See the countryside on a horse

There are many ways in which you can appreciate a country, and horseback riding is one of them. Depending on your level of skills and experience, the guide will decide how fast you should go, and if you need someone to walk alongside you while you are on the horse.

I've had a great time galloping on the field!

4. Try the tuk-tuk

Cambodian tuk-tuks are different from those of Thailand. These are carts being pulled by motorcycles hence maneuvering them take more effort and skills, and a lot of fun to ride on!

5. Discover hidden gems

Traveling is all about being adventurous. Take the back alleys while wandering around the town and have your courage rewarded with mouth-watering food and an awesome view. (Every facet of the buildings here has a business running in it, so do not worry about not being able to find food)

Had the best local dinner here with a touch of modernity and a cozy ambiance.

6. Try the exotic food

From BBQ snake to stir-fry crocodile à la Khmer, Siem Reap has it all. You just need to be brave enough to try them. Prices start from $8 for a plate of rice with your meat of choice.

So I tried crocodile meat. Tasted very much like chicken, really.

7. Massages and beauty treatments

I am never one who spends on massages and facials but such services are offered at an exceedingly low price here so I was very tempted to give it a try. After a one-hour session of nerve-settling Khmer massage and a complimentary facial, I found myself completely addicted and soon, I began to visit a massage parlor at every chance that I got. Prices start from $4 per hour.

Those must be some really gifted fishes.

8. Take a nap on a hammock

Hammocks are everywhere here so why not just get onto one and fall asleep? (No one would mind!)

Picture taken in Kampung Khleang

9. Talk to a kid

Contrary to everything that you have read on travel forums and blogs, the children in Cambodia are actually some of the most innocent and contented kids you will ever come across. They don't want your money, unless they are being pressured by their parents to go out to beg. All that they want is just some attention and love - something that we can easily spare some time to offer.

10. Explore the town on a bicycle

Go on the national highway. Have breakfast on the other side of town. Go food-hunting and don't stop until you have finally found something that is nothing like what you have eaten before, and have all that done using a bicycle. The experience could come with a little risks, but it's very exciting nonetheless.

The further away you are from town, the better and cheaper the food gets!