We love Sumatra and in Sumatra, we love Lake Toba so much so that we ended up spending about 60% of the month we had in Indonesia in Lake Toba which also meant we could not move to other parts of Indonesia besides Sumatra.
Now you must think, since we were in Lake Toba for 17 days, we must have seen all that was there to be seen, done all that was there to be done many times over. But our laziness was at its peak in Lake Toba, we managed to tick a few things of our list. We present to you the 5 things we really enjoyed in Lake Toba.
Almost all the accommodation in Lake Toba is in Tuk-Tuk village in Samosir Island and there is only one connection to the mainland, and if you are here in the off-season you are likely to know most tourists. We bumped in most of them at the many sites that are scattered in various parts of the island.
Lake Toba is the largest lake in Indonesia and the world’s largest volcanic lake and Sumatra is home to Bataks, the natives of Indonesia. The setting is very pretty, people are nice (this applies to all places in Sumatra, all of them love Indians and they are big fans of SRK) food will please your taste buds if you don’t experiment too much, and you can walk for weeks and are likely to find some hidden corner to sit and admire the view.
Here are the top 5 things we enjoyed in Lake Toba.
- Walks around the Island –
It takes about an hour to walk its circumference of the island. You can sit any guest towards the lakeside, and enjoy a nice cup of tea, coffee (both with condensed milk) or the Bintang Beer, which is one of the best in South East Asia. After 2-3 days of walking, we could gauge the length of the walk remaining based on the guesthouse / restaurant we were passing.
- Not the Ambaretta Stone Chair –
The most famous attraction on this island is the Ambaretta Stone Chair. The first time we went in search of this one, we ended up at a fake one. Some Indonesians have come up with ideas of putting up wrong signposts, so that they can make that extra buck. We made an entry in a fake register paying 10,000IDR for two people; in return we were given two keychains and shown the way to the stone chair. The moment he gave us the keychains, we realized we had been tricked. But we could not complain as there was a stone chair but it was not the famous one.
- Ambaretta Stone Chair –
A few days later we set out again with full determination to find the real stone chair and we found it. The real indication was that there is a Batak museum next to the Stone Chair. The Stone Chairs weren’t very different from what we had seen a few days ago. We had learnt that you need to bargain hard in Indonesia, and our guide seemed to have learnt the same. It took us over 10 minutes to bring the price down from 50000IDR to 35000IDR. He gave us a deep insight into Batak culture with his rehearsed stories and anecdotes about the traditional symbols, lifestyle, eating habits, law and order etc. In brief, the Bataks were cannibals but they would not kill people for their meat, but someone who was being punished was left out in the open after his punishment and people could eat his meat. They would torture the criminal based on his crime, and then kill him. For smaller crimes like stealing some food, minor accidents etc, you had to stay with the hens during your punishment. The aim of this being humiliation and not physical punishment. Bataks love buffalo meat and offer the head of a buffalo as a sign of respect.
- Walk to Tomok Village –
The neighboring village to Tuk-Tuk is Tomok, which boasts of being a commercial hub with the virtue of having a computerized Bank. The walk will take you over an hour. We did this walk five to six times as we were “preparing for a Muay Thai” course and we soon realized we were being too ambitious. We dropped the idea before reaching Thailand, which was the next country on our itinerary. In Tomok, you get to see Royal Tombs of King Sidabatur, another museum and loads of shopkeepers who try to emotionally trick you into buy things.
If you are interested in buying handicraft items, then bargain hard, really hard. If you are not the trick is don’t window shop at least in the off-season. The handicraft items are good value for money, and if you are heading home after Indonesia, they will make very nice gifts. We had a few months left in South East Asia, so we did not shop much.
- Watching the Sunsets –
Our love affair with sunsets never ends, and if they sunsets are as beautiful as they are here, your love affair will definitely begin here. As a ritual we rushed back from whatever part of the island to our guesthouse or a nearby spot if we were too far. It happened only once that we could not get back to our guest when it rained heavily, so there was no sunset to be seen. On all other evenings, we were at our spot watching the sun go down, like it went down and rose each day only for us. Now we present the Sunsets that lured us every evening.
There were people who came and left the island in 2-3 days, and they gave us puzzled looks, when they found out how long we had been staying for. These ambitious folks rented motorbikes, went around the island, saw some hot springs, a waterfall but we never got around to doing that, as it was not possible to get there on foot. Some people also told us about another connection to the mainland which the motorbike renters would seek out for and tell us in the evening during dinner time but we kept all these things for next time. As a principle, we always leave something for the next time especially in places we love.