Medan North Sumatra
Sumatra covers the area of 70,687 sq. km. Medan is the capital city
of the province. It becomes the largest city in Sumatra and the
third largest city in Indonesia. The native people of this province
are the Bataks. Other ethnic groups who live here including
Javanese, Acehnese, Arabians, Riau Islanders, Chinese, Indians, and
Melayus. These people migrated to North Sumatra to seek fortune,
since the province has many commercial centers and plantations. Some
sites of interest in this province are Gang Bangkok Mosque (Medan’s
oldest mosque), Parisada Hindu Dharma Temple, Vihara Gunung Timur,
Roman Catholic and Protestant churches. In addition, the capital
city of Medan has several buildings in colonial-styled
architectures. These buildings include the central post office and
the Dutch Church. In contrast to the small island of Bali, the
province of North Sumatra is large with one of the biggest lakes in
the world, Lake Toba, at its navel. The continuous mountain of Bukit
Barisan, which extends from Aceh at the tip of the island of Sumatra
to Lampung at the bottom of the island, guards the province on the
west side, providing home for thick, tropical jungles and lush
vegetations. As you go down the western mountains towards the
beaches of the east, mountain streams, strong rivers, and gorgeous
waterfalls will accompany you.
Relative to Bali, North Sumatra has very heterogeneous ethnic groups, and thus, cultures. The people of the eastern coasts, also known as the Malays (Melayu) have markedly different traditions and culture from the Batak highlanders who live around Lake Toba and Samosir Island. Further south, the Mandailings and Angkolas, and the Island of Nias, have yet more flavors of traditions and culture.
Medan North Sumatra tour program:
Places of Interest
There are many places to see in this cultural salad bowl:
The capital of the province of North Sumatra, Medan houses the government offices and business centers, effectively making it the largest city outside of the island of Java. Medan owes its cultural heritage to the kingdom of Deli, whose place of worship, Mesjid Agung (Grand Mosque), and palace, Istana Maimun (The Maimun Palace) undoubtedly show its past greatness.
About Lake Toba
Lake Toba, the crater lake in the middle of the province, is a popular tourist resort, especially the town of Parapat on its shore. Its cool and dry mountain climate makes it the perfect place to relax.The Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia, once created by an enormous eruption less than 100,000 years ago. The eruption was approximately 8,000 times more powerful than the eruption of Mount St.Helen in 1981.here are of course legends on how Lake Toba was formed. The traditional Batak canoe, the solu, was 10-15 meters long. All had the same width. The canoes were decorated with carvings, the captain, the chief, sat in front and gave orders. The solu had its own spirit and when a new canoe was built offerings were made for both teh canoe spirit and to Boru Saniang Naga, the Goddess of the water. Batak feared her ad disasters could easily happen when she was angry.
Place of Interest
1. Samosir Island
Samosir is approximately 50 km long and 15 km wide island in Lake Toba, almost as big as Singapore. It is often described as the hearthland of Batak culture. Samosir is actually a peninsula and not an island, as it is divided from Sumatera only by a narrow man-made canal, the Pusuk Buhit Canal between Samosir and mainland, once made by the Dutch. Samosir is a perfect place to relax and cool down. It is beautiful and scenic and very relaxing. Accommodation is extremely cheap, but food rather expensive (according to Indonesian standard). In the end it evens out compared to other major tourist destinations in Indonesia. The island is small enough for visiting everything of interest from any place you choose to stay in.
2. Jangga Village
A traditional Batak village 24 km from Parapat. Here visitors can watch the weaving of the traditional Batak ulos textiles and wander amongst traditional houses and historical monuments of the olf Batak kings.
Samosir Island is accessible by ferry from Ajibata or Parapat. One of the main inhabited areas on the island, Tuktuk has been described as Samosir’s answer to Bali’s Kuta Beach. This popular destination offers scenic views at very low prices. People come here to relax, enjoy the sceneries, eat well and cool down fronm tougher travelling in other areas. Culture is available on certain days and in other nearby villages anyway. Western tunes have replaced the harmonic popular songs of the well-singing Bataks. The whole little peninsula is full of restaurants, hotels and souvenir shops. There are a few discotheques, bars and hotels, one of the best hotel in Tuktuk is Toledo Inn.
A traditional village with beautiful houses and ancient tombs. Tomok is gateway to Samosir and one of the main landing-points on the island. Rows of stalls sell an array of handicraft, traditional ulos cloth and Batak musical instruments. The 200-year-old stone sarcophagus of King Sidabutar built in the shape of a ship is its most famous sight. It is located a short walk away from the lake. Tomok is also known for the Sigale-gale dance.
Ambarita, just north of Tuktuk is one of the musts when visiting Samosir. The traditional village with King Siallagan’s stone chairs is of interest, There are many souvenir stands between this historical object and the boat landing. There are however not so many boats anymore, but now and then there are direct connections with Parapat, normally early morning. Ambarita is also a good starting point for treks across the island. There are many nice and quiet places to stay between Tuktuk and Ambarita and along the coast north of Ambarita.
Simanindo is a picturesque village and has some of the best-kept traditional houses, incl the house of Raja Sidauruk, now a museum. This nice museum also has daily cultural performances. The market and the boat landing are 150 metres before the Museum, down to the right coming from Tuktuk. There are some nice local coffee shops here. Opposite Simanindo is the island Pulau Maulau, or more commonly known Pulau Tao. There is a restaurant on the island. The island is 800 meters from the boat landing below the museum but you need a boat to get there. Several boats go there from the hotels on Tuktuk. The clan Maulau owns the island according to adat (traditions), but the clan Sidauruk is living there and they built the restaurant and the hotel and changed the name to Pulau Tao. The Maulau clan protested and after negotiations an agreement was reached in June 2001. The islands belong to the Maulau clan, but is managed by Sidauruk. The proper name is Pulau Maulau.
Pangururan is the only proper town on Samosir and also the administrative center of the island. There are a few hotels here. The town has a strategic location next to the bridge between Samosir and the mainland. Most foreigners just pass through on their drive around the island or on their visit to the hot springs an the mainland. The town itself is nicely located along the shore of Lake Toba. There are a few nice old colonial buildings to admire. Besides the hot springs a visit to the summit of Pusuk Buhit can also be nice.
The Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun people live around Parapat. The Batak people, composed of Batak Toba, Simalungun, Pak-Pak, and Karo, are known for their expression, which is often materialized in lively and sentimental love songs. If every person in Bali can carve, every person in Batak can sing or play the guitar.
The Karo highland
As you drive south from Medan into the Karo highland, the Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park greets you with its distinctive Karonese gazebo decorated with ret-ret, a two-headed, lizard-like animal that is carved on the walls of traditional Karonese family houses. Along the windy, mountainous road to the Karo highland, as you pass the Sibolangit National Garden, chants of monkeys and possibly orang-utans will accompany you, mysteriously appearing and disappearing from the thick jungle.
The town of Berastagi, located at the foot of Mount Sibayak, will greet you with its lovely flowers. The smell of fresh vegetables and the colorful and aromatic arrangements of fruit will etch their place in your memory. Try markisah (Passion Fruit)…
Sipiso-piso Waterfall and Tongging
Further south from Berastagi and Kabanjahe, the Karonese portion of Lake Toba is marked with a thin yet tall waterfall.
Island Off to the west of the island of Sumatera, the island of Nias provides another item in your cultural plate with its distinct culture. The water surrounding the island is a great place to surf and to scuba dive.
Parapat has developed for and with tourism. It has a huge selection of hotels and restaurants but, unfortunately, the last five years have been very quiet and many establishment have closed down, either temporary or for good. Most tourist are local or from neighboring countries. Westerners normally just pass through on their way to Pulau Samosir in Lake Toba. The town offers scenic surroundings, good eating, and souvenir shopping. As it is only a 3-4 hours ride from Medan the weekends are rather lively. Especially the Saturdays where there is market day in Parapat and from the surrounding countryside. They bring in coffee, tea, ginger, clove and cinnamon. There is also a minor market day on Thursday. The town has three major parts. One area is along the highway with the bus terminal and where many restaurants are open 24 hours. The main part is on the western. Here are most hotels, the market, and the passenger boats for Tuktuk. The third part is to the south and is called Ajibata. it is administratively a part of the regency Toba Samosir. Here are the car ferry and passenger boats for Tomok. There is also a market here, but many roads have recently changed names and there is confusion in addresses. There are many souvenir shops along the road down to the market. “Antiques”, hand woven blankets (ulos), carvings, T-shirts, ceramics, cheap clothes, souvenirs are plentiful. It can be cheaper to shop on Samosir, though.
There are some beaches in Parapat. Swimming, however, is much better off Samosir. The Ajibata beach beyond the car ferry harbous has been improved, but is still not very nice. The public beach on the Parapat peninsula is nice, but very crowded with food stalls, paddle boats, etc. The varied landscape of Parapat creates many nice views. One great view is from the camping ground on Dolok Bangun north of town. Also the hill Dolok Pangulu, in the middle of the town on the Peninsula, has nice views. Out on the point of the Peninsula is a beautiful and well-kept old Dutch-built villa. The Dutch kept the Indonesian President to be, Ir. Soekarno, here under house arrest for two months in 1948. It is now a guesthouse for government people. The view over the lake is also nice from here.
Approximately 3-4 km outside Parapat along the road towards Medan is protected forest with many monkeys, mainly short tailed macaques. It be came a popular hangout of monkeys when a local person started to feed them. He used to call teh monkey with a horn. After a while it became a popular attraction and the local government took over. Then came the economic crisis and the tourist disappeared.. The first person was asked to take over again. Today not many people visit the monkeys and they have become rather wild. They live in the area and are often visible. The location is in a sharp bend where there are both a new and an old bridge.
Once upon a time there was a king with a very beautiful. Many rich princes came to propose to her. The family of the princes chose the prince, whom the princess preferred, and invited his family to negotiate about dowry and wedding arrangements. However, the King secretly preferred another man to marry his daughter, his aunt’s son, the Pariban. As the Pariban was a relative he often visited the palace and gradually he fell in love with the princess. His family was very happy to hear that. The Pariban discussed the matter with all his relatives, including the King and finally the King changed his mind and chose the Pariban for his daughter. The princess was utterly shocked, but the King did not want to change his mind again. Everyone showed up the wedding party, except the princess. They had to search for her and eventually she was found, The princess together with her dog and her cat turned into stones. They can today be seen as relief’s on a mountainside near Lake Toba below the monkeys forest. It can only be seen from the Lake.
Girsang I Waterfall
This waterfall is approximately 10 metres high and maybe 3-4 metres wide. It falls into a natural pool where it is nice to take a bath. Above the fall there is a forest and below it are rice paddies. It is located 12 km from Parapat towards Balige.
Lake Toba Festival
THe regency government arranges teh yearly Lake Toba Festival for one week in June or July. There are cultural performances and traditional sports, for example Solu Bolon racing (traditional big canoes).
Bahorok is the administrative unit that contains Bukit Lawang. Indonesians normally say Bahorok when they refer to Bukit Lawang. The area of Bahorok has many plantations like cocoa, palm oil, natural rubber, oranges, etc. Bukit Lawang started as an orangutan rehabilitation center, but quickly developed into a major tourist destination of North Sumatera. Without tourist there would not be much in Bukit Lawang. Tourists come to see orangutans, it is a convenient first stop for travels in Sumatera with lots of activities, nice nature, tourist adapted food, convenient accommodation, and friendly people. Here one can get adjusted to Sumatera before onward travels. Bukit Lawang and its many restaurants and accommodation are nicely located along the clear and clean Bahorok river on the outskirts of the huge national park, Gunung Leuser. Besides seeing orangutans, Bukit Lawang has has a long range of other out-door activities. Bukit Lawang is easily accessible and has a huge selection of losmens, hotels and restaurants that make it a very lively and touristy place. On Sundays’s it’s particularly crowded as hundreds of Indonesians come to picnic along the river. It is perfect for relaxing in comfort and for families. It is easy to see orangutans, even if you are in a hurry. There is also a tourist information services here and it can be worthwhile to visit it.
Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser
Taman Nasional Gunung Leuser is an approximately 890,000 hectares big national park. The main part of the park is in the province of Aceh, but the park stretches into North Sumatera in the regencies of Langkat, Karo and Dairi. Leuser is the last place on earth where elephants, rhinos, tigers, clouded, leopards and orangutans are found within one area. Leuser has two major river system, two major volcanoes and three lakes. The Alas river cuts the park in the western and an eastern half. The driest months are February and June/July and the wettest March/April and September to November.455 of all recorded plant species in the West Indo-Malayan region are found in Leuser. There are around 700 animal species living in the park. Between 300 and 400 them are birds. About 8,500 plant species grow in the park, including the biggest flower in the world, Raflesia Arnoldi. Two million people depend on the area as their water resource.
The orangutans where once living in almost all of Southeast Asia, between South China and Java. Today, however, they are only left in Borneo an Sumatera. Ninety percent of the total orangutan population lives within the borders of Indonesia. Habitat loss and illegal pet trade seriously threaten their existence. The orangutan has, as a species, recently been classified. The two former sub-species are now considered to be two distinct species of orangutans. There several sub-species. The densest area for orangutan is in Aceh Singkil, in the part of Leuser National Park called Singkil Barat. In this area orangutans use tools (sticks) to open fruits, a sign of basic culture. The operations is partly financed by entranced. Orangutans arriving to the center are quarantined, treated for diseases, and trained to survive to the wild. When the training is finished they are released near the center where they are fed twice daily. The diet is monotonous in order to make them start looking for other food and eventually become independent of humans. The feedings are major tourist attraction.