Sumatra Stories and Tips

Treasures of North Sumatra

Fisherman Photo, Sumatra, Indonesia

Samosir Island & Lake Toba

Samosir was a fisherman. One day he caught a goldfish. Once he kissed her, as most fishermen do, she turned into a beautiful girl. " Samosir," she said, " I will marry you only if you promise not to ever tell our son that I used to be a fish." However, Samosir had an angry moment and forgot his promise. So that is how the story of creation of Samosir Island goes, told by the Batak people. The beautiful girl turned back to being a fish and Samosir became an island on the lake, Lake Toba.

The eruption of Mt Toba some 75 000 years ago is a more scientific explanation of the creation of Lake Toba and Samosir Island. Both are the result of the eruption. But that story is nowhere near as romantic as Samosir’s fishing adventure.

The fact is, that Lake Toba, being the world’s largest and deepest crater lake and Samosir Island are considered to be the most scenic and unique natural wonder of Sumatra and maybe of all South East Asia. Both are hidden in the wilderness of North Sumatra, accessible from Medan, mere 190 km away, by four to five hour road trip to Parapat and then 40 minutes ferry trip to Tuktuk.

The not too comfortable road trip (roads and potholes are synonymous words in Sumatra) is a small price to pay to reach absolute paradise of natural beauty. The warm water of the lake invites for a swim after the ordeal.

The best way to explore Samosir Island is by bike. It can be a painful experience though since long stretches of roads are rough. However, the magnificent views of the lake soothe all discomfort. A dip in the Hot Springs, Kolamerang Air Panas near Pangururan, is also a great way to smooth all travel on a bike inflicted discomfort.

Samosir Island has its characteristic Batak architecture, lots of history dating back to the 11th century, Stone Chairs at the King’s Meeting Place in Ambarita, Execution Stone, King’s grave in Tomok.

However, it is not just history that captures visitor’s attention. The local people still live in Batak style houses. They are kind and friendly. Some speak English. "Horas" is a universal Batak word that has many meanings and is used to this day. " Horas "can mean good morning, hello, thank you, good bye.

One will never go wrong using "horas" as a greeting. It certainly puts a smile on all the faces. "Horas" from Lake Toba and Samosir Island.

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