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Unexplored Corners of Indochina: Sumatra

Imagine you’re planning the trip of a lifetime to visit the countries of South East Asia. You’ve done plenty of important gastronomic ‘research’ through a Thai takeaway in West Hampstead, and now you’re scouring the web for suggestions on places to go. With a few strokes of your keyboard, you discover a variety of highly clickable lists counting down bustling markets, world-renowned museums, popular restaurants and stunning temples.

But what if you want to step off the beaten path? Where should you travel to explore sites that are less well known, but still brimming with beauty, intrigue, history, culture and of course pan-Asian cuisine? In Banana Tree’s ‘Unexplored Corners’ blog series, we’re investigating unique aspects of Indochina that might be new to you, so you can paint an even richer mental picture of this incredible region – and lengthen your must-visit list!

An Island of Orangutan Filled Jungles

In our second instalment, we’re headed to Indonesia, to the luscious island of Sumatra, the sixth largest island in the world and Indonesia’s largest producer of coffee. The island is quite unique in the fact that it is located in equal halves on each side of the equator.

Sumatra plays host to a variety of wildlife, including tigers, rhinoceros, elephants and orangutans. If you want to catch a glimpse of the Sumatran Orangutan, a visit to Bukit Lawang is necessary, where they live in the Gunung Leuser National Park.

Climb with Caution

A distinctive feature of Sumatra is that it features 34 volcanos, of which some are active, making for an adventurous trip. A popular activity therefore is trekking, with a popular volcano to hike being Mount Kerinci, the tallest volcano in Indonesia – it is located inside Kerinci Seblat National Park, which is home to the Sumatran Tiger and Sumatran Rhinoceros. 

Exploring Below the Surface

Another popular activity in Sumatra is diving and the place to do it is Sabang, a city at the northern tip of the island with around 20 dive spots. The city is quite undeveloped and as such, the reefs remain relatively untouched offering a breath-taking experience for divers who do make it out there. On top of its pristine diving conditions, the island also plays host to some idyllic beaches, including the famous granite beaches of Belitung.

A Taste of the Region

What is a visit to a country in Asia without trying some of the delicious pan-Asian cuisine? In Indonesia, the reigning cuisine is a blend of Malay and Chinese food, which is usually quite spicy. A signature dish is beef Rendang, which you can sample for yourself in an Asian restaurant. London has many, including Banana Tree, where we’ve whipped up our own take on the dish in the form of the Legendary Rendang – an authentic Indonesian dish served with beef or chicken and packed with some, okay, a lot of spice.

The island of Sumatra may play host to over 50 million people, however due to the size of its land and the fact that it includes more than 10 national parks, you’ll mostly find yourself wondering where everyone is as you enjoy its incredible splendour.