Abdi Homestay in the Harau Valley

One of the things I enjoyed most about the Harau Valley was Abdi Homestay, owned and operated by the friendly chef Ikbal. He was employee #1 at the bigger, more expensive nearby homestay, Echo, but he quit a few years ago to go into business for himself. His philosophy, as he is happy to tell anyone, is ‘money is not number one, happy is number one’. In other words, he wants you to be happy more than he wants your money. He follows through too; he gave me great prices and let me pay what I wanted for some things like meals and short term use of his motorbike.

Of course, it is also good business strategy for him. With an attitude like that he will get great reviews from travelers and guarantee lots of eager new customers. Even now he’s busy sometimes.  On my first night in Harau, I stayed at a REAL homestay, with Ikbal’s brother Riki, because his huts were all full. Of course, by the time I left I was the only one there, so he has a ways to go before the money is really rolling in.

Ikbal cooks up some of the best Indonesian food I’ve had. Now I don’t like Indonesian food (a.k.a. fried stuff) too much generally, especially compared to other Asian cuisines. But even up against food in general, not just other Indonesian food, I’d call Ikbal’s cooking very good. Lots of vegetables, not too much oil, just the right amount of spice. His veggie gulai dishes were especially good. His wife Noni cooked instead of Ikbal for at least one night, and it was equally good. Ikbal tells me that once business picks up sufficiently he will build a kitchen hut and run a cooking school.

Ikbal and Noni have two kids, and one of the reasons Ikbal told me he started Abdi Homestay is that he wants the good habits of westerners, like caring for the environment and speaking English, to rub off on his kids. Unlike most other guest houses in the area, Ikbal caters exclusively to westerners and not domestic Indonesian tourists. It may seem like a negative for some westerners, especially if you haven’t been here, to be segregated from the local travelers, but I think he is right; the Indonesians tend to throw their trash everywhere and prefer to be herded to the most ‘important’ tourist spots regardless of how commercial they have become.  It’s not compatible with my travel philosophy. I love interacting with locals, but not local tourists, in Indonesia.   Even Ikbal has a ways to go before he reaches Western hippie standards of cleanliness/earth-friendliness. He tosses his cigarette butts anywhere when he’s finished, and the ground around the huts is not 100% trash free (though compared to other places in Indonesia I’d call it pristine).

Hut prices are as low as 60,000 (~$7) per night, which is what I paid for the most basic hut, in the low season, for an extended stay. I’m not sure what the others go for, but I doubt any are above 150,000 or 200,000, even in the busy season.

IMG_6829.JPG

View over the hammock on the porch of one of the huts at Abdi Homestay.

IMG_6875.JPG

Looking back toward Abdi from on top of a nearby ridge. The huts are hidden behind the trees just at the base of the cliff to the right of the waterfall.

IMG_6931.JPG

View from the porch of my hut, the cheaper one, which faced back toward the cliff instead of out into the rice paddies.

IMG_6935.JPG

The huts at Abdi. Mine is on the left, then a nice two story job with a balcony porch on the second floor next to it, and another nicer one in the middle right position. The newest, not quite finished, is the one on the far right. Each time I walked around this pond, I saw at least one frog jump into the water in front of me.

IMG_7015.JPG

The two middle huts at Abdi, with nicer light.

IMG_7019.JPG

No electricity here, but the kerosene lanterns and loud insect noise make a great atmosphere in the evenings. The cold water mandi is no problem either, since it gets hot during the day (mandi are water reservoirs used as a sink, shower, and toilet flusher. You never get the water in the mandi dirty, but ladle it out with a giant scoop for cleaning or flushing).

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “Abdi Homestay in the Harau Valley

  1. This is my favorite journal entry so far, both for the written descriptions and the photographs. I see some nuance among the people now: the locals vs the native travelers vs the outward looking innkeeper. I see the backward nature of their attitude toward trash and smoking. (I recall reading an Edward Abbey account of Ayers Rock with the trail up littered with beer cans, which belied the pristine looking photos.) Still, a few cig butts and trash can’t hide this beauty.

    • Glad you liked this one. The Harau valley is still pretty clean, but I’ve seen other naturally beautiful places in Indonesia that are absolutely disgusting with litter. I hope this valley can avoid that fate. I spoke to a guy who was visiting the valley as an advance scout for a school group. His job is to organize outdoor treks for international schools. He always has the school groups pick up trash where they go to teach them about the environment and to try to inspire others to start the same habit. It was inspiring – I picked up a few pieces of trash on my next hike.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s