People heading to Sumatra instead of Bali are probably in search of a more outdoorsy experience than a party vacay. The town of Bukit Lawang, a four-hour car trip from the airport in Medan, is a popular jumping off point for jungle treks, rafting adventures, and viewing the famed — and unfortunately critically endangered — wild orangutans of Sumatra.
Visitors especially love the Jungle Inn, an artsy-looking cozy hotel with just 13 rooms and a private waterfall right on the banks of the Borohok River, a spot loved for its rafting adventure opportunities but also as a place to simply take a lazy afternoon dip since it’s only a few steps from Jungle Inn’s deck. The noise the river makes as you drift off to sleep isn’t half-bad, either.
The hotel is near the entrance to Gunung Leuser National Park, a favorite with trekking enthusiasts.
Outings into the park often result in seeing the Sumatran Orangutans, but also Thomas Leaf Monkeys, macaques, black gibbons, white-handed gibbons, monitor lizards, and hornbills. The rare visitor might also be able to spot a Sumatran Tiger or rhinoceros.
However, if you’re feeling lazy, people say that you don’t even need to leave the hotel to see the simians. They often swing down off the nearby trees for a walk on the riverbanks or a dip in the water themselves.
Visitors can simply pull up a bean bag or hammock, read, daydream, order up some tasty food, or sip a Sumatran coffee while waiting for them to stop by. Previous travelers have recommended the hotel’s own blend of Jungle Tea, reported to have cleansing and warming properties.
As the sun goes down, crack a beer while a staffer plays Indonesian folk songs, along with the occasional international pop hit, on his acoustic guitar — an experience one past guest likened to being sung to sleep by lullabies.
Back in the rooms, mosquito nets cover the bed, looking pretty and dramatic but also providing a service. Though people say the surrounding jungle is rife with the annoying little insects, reviewers actually say the places right on the river — like Jungle Inn — have fewer of them.
The downsides of Jungle Inn are few, but some say the rooms feel a bit chilly and damp though they also report loving the atmospheric outdoor stone showers.
Jungle Inn is at Orangutan Street, Bukit Lawang, Sumatra
Rooms from IDR2 million (US$14)