Papua - Ambon - Sulawesi - Kalimantan - Sumatra
October - November 1987
Part IV - Sumatra

If you want to skip directly to the other parts, then just hit
Part I   - Papua or
Part II - Ambon/Sulawesi or
Part III- Kalimantan.


Sumatra is the second largest island in Indonesia after the Kalimantan portion of Borneo. With my limited time left I could visit only a small part in the north, which was around Lake Toba. To get there I had to fly to Medan, the provincial capital of North Sumatra.

Why go to Lake Toba? Also here I wanted to visit the indigenous people of the Bataks in the first place and secondly relax at the shore of the lake. I knew that this was a touristy place and I did not expect the Bataks to live like their ancestors anymore.

From Medan to Lake Toba

On the bus I met a nice guy, Robert, who was going to a wedding of a friend. He invited me to his friend's wedding. That seemed to be perfectly ok: the more guests, the better. It wasn't such a wealthy Indonesian wedding as I have attended before. Also this one seemed to be a very serious event. No happy looking bride. The Indonesian funerals were more fun. The pictures will tell more than thousand words.

Remark: The photos on the right side may not be correctly adjusted if you use Mozilla Firefox or Chrome. I propose to use the Explorer of Microsoft instead.

Click the small picture to get it enlarged

My second invitation to an Indonesian wedding
Not so happy looking on the bride's side maybe it's gone now, the bright side of life
Will the blessing be a guaranty that the marriage will not end in misery
Mostly the wedding guests can't go wrong even if waiting for the feast still so long
The rice has still to be cooked? He may also be sad the way he looked

Lake Toba

After the wedding, I continued my journey to Lake Toba. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world, 100km long and 30km wide and 500m at the deepest point, with an island in the middle. It was created around 74,000 years ago by the largest explosive eruption within the last 25 million years causing a drop of 3 to 3.5 degrees in global temperature for several years (ok, then let's have an eruption to off-set our global warming now).

I arrived in Prabat, the main town along the lake where boats are leaving to Tuk Tuk, the main tourist center on the island Samosir.
My final destination: Lake Toba with the first Batak houses around
The countryside with fertile soil is perfect to grow plenty of rice
I also found a nice traditional Batak guesthouse just right at the lake at Tuk Tuk where I settled down. This is a place where also many travelers are around.

Staying in a Batak style house with a nice view to the lake
I met again my friend Robert in the lake-side town Prabat before he went back to Medan. He wanted to treat me but I told him that it was now my turn. He invited me in his house to stay whenever I come back to Medan, what I gratefully accepted.
The idyllic Prabat at Lake Toba where you can buy nice paintings
Where can I meet the Bataks now? Where can I still see and experience some of the old customs. There are many many Batak villages on Samosir. To find out I had to join a daily tour with a couple of other tourists.
Going on a trip but the way was blocked Thanks God in heaven, nobody was injured
And also thanks God that most of the Bataks became Protestant Christians. Not long ago they practiced ritual cannibalism and headhunting, though that was not as terrible as how they have tortured their caught enemies (also some criminals). For this purpose they had a special (sacred?) torture ground, which was furnished with stony torture blocks in the middle and surrounded by seats for the spectators.
But inflicted injuries led here to death where human beings had been tortured
The aim was to let the victim suffer as long as possible. One procedure was cutting off his belly and taking out his entrails and sprinkle salt, pepper and chilies into the wounds (keeping heart and lungs intact) while making the victim to watch all that (if not fainting). Ok, that's what the guide told us. You can't always believe these guys. But I still would like to add then that they could have barbecued that human being like a pig without the need for seasoning it anymore.
And from the torture stone finally rolled the heads and with the blood the fig tree may have been nurtured
And then we (a Japanese-American and a pure American couple, and a Javanese and me) saw a Batak traditional show just for the tourists in a small Batak village, Huta Lumban Sidauruk, where no Bataks were actually living. And this was a very saddening event. No smile, no laugh, sad faces, boring dances. No pretty girls, just old ugly matrons. The following pictures will speak for themselves.
Here they come the bloody Bataks
Praying forgive-ness for their cruelty?
The following is a dance of women who offer themselves as brides to be married (though didn't look that happy, again).
The women look very sad and even terribly ferocious
This is actually now a dance of men while approaching the women they love and want to marry. As proof of their love they give money to the ladies.
They should be happy to get money either from the tourists or their honey
After that the guests are invited to join their dance. The best dancer is supposed to get a Batak blanket according to the info flier, but nobody of the visitors danced.
And please don't hit me, honey There ain't no more sacrifices
Long time ago there was a king who had only one son, who became sick and passed away. The sad king ordered his folk to create a puppet resembling his son. Every time the king wanted to see his son, he invited everybody to a dance festival in order to forget his bad memories.
Better let the puppets perform and conjure the old demons
This is a prayer to god that the buffalo will behave well before getting slaughtered otherwise it will spell a bad omen on the feast later on during the festival.
With the sound of the gamelan they should take the bull by the horns
Two boys will perform a war dance now. The winner symbolizes right and virtues and the looser symbolizes evil.
Next comes a highlight a traditional boys fight
A prayer to the creator of earth and heaven to give many children and wealth to his people.
They look pretty much bored, me too That guy is already thinking of the loo
Open the gate, let's get out'a here, that's enough for us rather have a look at that antique sarcophagus
Wandering around by myself was more interesting and also relaxing. I found some antique graves and a real working woman peeling nuts and some old traditional houses.
An old stone sculpture Old woman peeling nuts
Houses in traditional architecture ornamented are even the rice storage huts
Then I encountered a small museum where you can see some old carvings and some of the old stuff not used around here anymore so much.
Wooden carvings Cooking stove
Good-bye my Batak domicile within the beautiful Lake Toba country side
Then a last stay at my friend's house and by saying good-bye to Medan, I close

Ok, that was Sumatra, though only a small part of it.

Back in Jakarta

I arrived in Jakarta late afternoon. I took the airport bus to the Gambir Railway Station (fare was 2 USD). From there it's only a 15 minutes ride with a Bajaj (auto rickshaw) to Jalan Jaksa with all the cheap guest houses. Many of these were just holes with no aircon and overpriced with an average of 8 USD for the room. I rather settled down in the
Bali Hotel
Jalan K.H. Wahid Hasyim
The room with bathroom and aircon was only 10 USD. It also was conveniently located just around the corner from Jalan Jaksa in the direction to Jalan Thamrin.

That's the end now of my Indonesian trip. There could have been seen and done a lot more. Also I could have written more. If you want to know more all about the places I have visited, then just look up any of the many guidebooks or in the internet.

If you want to skip now to the other parts, then just hit
Part I   - Papua or
Part II - Ambon/Sulawesi or
Part III- Kalimantan.

© WEW Tours