After living in Bali for 10 months, I was excited to venture further afield and spend 10 days in Sumatra. I went with two friends and we planned a relaxed itinerary visiting Lake Toba and Bukit Lawang. Usually my holidays are a bit of a rushed affair, trying to squeeze in as much as possible in case I never get the chance to go back, so this was a welcome change.
Following a short conference in Jakarta, I had popped over to Bogor overnight to see other friends, so arrived a day after my friends. I'd caught the dreaded 'Conference Cold' so was feeling worse for wear and looking forward to a few days of reading and relaxing by the lake. But first I had to get there...
I took 4 modes of transport to arrive at our accommodation for the next few days. First I had to get a taxi from Bogor to Jakarta airport at about 5.30am, then fly to Medan, then get a private driver to take me to Parapat where I jumped on a colourful local ferry to Tuk Tuk and finally walked over to Horas Family Home just as the sun had set. What a day!
Horas Family Home was an ideal base for us. We were happy to spend a little more money than the backpackers I had heard arguing over a $3 room versus a $20 room on the ferry and Horas came highly recommended to us by fellow travellers. Fortunately traveling as a group of 3 helped us save money and for a room that could have slept 5 or 6, we paid 200,000 rupiah each!
Horas Family Home is, like many resorts in Tuk Tuk, set right on the banks of Lake Toba. The grounds are beautifully maintained, with a stunning collection of orchids just begging to be photographed, cute bunny rabbits to entertain the kids (and big kids like me!), an impressive organic vegetable and herb garden leading down to the water's edge where guests can swim in temperate waters. As the only guests during our stay, we had full run of the place and parked ourselves down on the banks of the river with a kayak, camera and books to while away the days. Delicious breakfasts, fast wifi and delightful staff only added to the experience. The rest of our time was spent eating delicious avocado & tempe open sandwiches and pumpkin soup at nearby Tabo Cottages before relaxing in their hammocks by the lake's edge.
While staying in Tuk Tuk, we dined at Bagus Bay Homestay (average food, nothing to write home about) where we took in a free Batak dancing and folk music show. The Batak people are the local ethnic group in the area. They are known for their colourful weavings and (often false) rumours of ritual cannibalism. Eek! Apparently Sir Thomas Stanford Raffles studied the people and wrote, "It is usual for the people to eat their parents when too old to work." What was I getting myself into? Fortunately we weren't on the menu. The dancing wasn't great - the girls looked like they would rather be anywhere but there - but the folk music was world class. If you find yourself in the area, please do take the time to see this impressive group perform! There's a short youtube video here (skip to halfway for the music).
In the evenings, our gracious hosts organised a bonfire for us, so we could continue relaxing by the lake. Such a stunning location and fun to see so many other bonfires around the lake. Unfortunately, some people at the next-door bonfire decided to choose that moment to ruin the serenity by attempting to sing 'Hit The Road Jack'. It was pretty horrendous and I hope they don't give up their day job to pursue a singing career.
Lake Toba is a must-visit for anyone looking to get away from it all. The mountain vistas, friendly locals and 'island time' vibe make for the perfect relaxing vacation. We spent 4 nights but I could have easily done a week. It can be a bit of a mission to get to, so well-worth staying a few extra days to make the trip worthwhile. To find out how to get there, check out the Wonderful Indonesia post on the area.
Check out more of my photos from Lake Toba on Flickr.