Lake Toba - Samosir Island

Tuk Tuk Travel Blog

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View from the boat crossing Lake Toba

People i met here who contributed to, and improved my trip: Juliana (Russia), Ash (England), Stephen and Nicki (England)

Lake Toba is not only an impressive sight to the eye, but it also holds a number of statistics that can truly show the enormity and importance of it. Its most recent evolution occured 100,000 years ago when a massive eruption caused the caldera to collapse on itself and thus form the largest lake in the whole of South East Asia. With depths reaching a staggering 450 metres, the lake covers a massive 1707sq km, bigger than several well known countries! To emphasise this point, Samosir Island, which is a prominent sight on the lake is the size of Singapore! With mountains rising on all sides and traditional Sumatran houses on the lake side, this is really one stop that is essential to any visit to Indonesia.

View of Tuk Tuk from our guesthouse

Arriving into the town of Parapat, we were greeted by the usual throng of touts, but these guys struck me as a little different. The first thing that they did was to give us information on boat times to the village of tuk tuk, on Samosir and help us with our bags into a nearby cafe. We ordered some food and drinks and had a chat with them, at which point i asked for some info on the island and each guesthouse that they represented. The guys were courteous to us and each other, not at all pushy and a pleasure to be around. If only all touts could behave like this i'd never have a problem in engaging each and every one of them!

When the boat arrived we decided to follow one guy to Samosir Guesthouse and from there walk to a couple of others and check them out.

View of Tuk Tuk from our guesthouse
Each tout took this with a smile and informed us that if they could help at any other point of our stay then they'd do their best. Sure they would get something out of it, but i'd rather give my money to someone friendly, than someone pushy, any day of the week. The small boat did a loop around the peninsula of tuk tuk and dropped each passenger at their requested hotel - all of which had small landing docks!

Sadly Samosir Guesthouse had no hot water rooms, so we walked around tuk tuk for 20 minutes checking each guesthouse in turn. The last place we ended in was Reggae Hotel, where the lovely owner showed us her rooms. When we told her we were still deciding, she told us that it was no problem if we didn't want to stay that night, but maybe it would be best to come back the following day to see the views from the room, as it was already pitch black.

Traditional houses in Tuk Tuk
As she wasn't pushy and her rooms were excellent value, i decided that this was where i wanted to stay. For $3 we got a room on the lakeside with a huge bed, hot water en suite bathroom and balcony with hammock, chairs and table. Pretty amazing value for money by any standards!

Having showered and changed into some warmer clothes - Toba is 600m above sea level and a bit chilly at night - we went to the attached hotel restaurant for our Dinner. The food proved to be just as good value as we were served up a huge portion of sweet and sour chicken with rice and 3 large pieces of chicken and chips all for $3. Due to the fall in tourism at Toba and the abundance of businesses set up purely for tourists, prices have plummeted, making it just about the best value for money you will find anywhere in Asia.

Tomb of King Sidabutar

After Dinner drinks were taken in Samosir Guesthouse, which had a free pool table and table tennis table as well as a huge screen TV for sports and movies. With beer costing less than $2 for a 660ml Bintang, you would normally find such places packed, but Julia and I were the only guests that evening. Around midnight we began to walk home through the dark, yet pretty little streets, passing beautiful Batak style hotels, most of which stood empty. When we had nearly reached our hotel, i heard a thick Yorkshire accent approaching us in a group, along with 4 other guys. Jokingly i said to Julia that it was Ash, a guy from Bradford who we met in Manila several months ago. As the group approached i saw the long hair and began to wonder if fate really could throw us together again like this! As we passed i said 'Hi Ash', just to see if it was him and clearly by his bemused look of 'how can someone know my name in the middle of the night, on an island with about as many toursists as fingers on my hand' i knew it was! I swear, this World is smaller than any of us imagine :) Obviously it was decided to go to the nightclub up the road, where about 10 people were doing their best at having a good time.

Stone Chairs of Ambarita
After a few nightcaps, it was agreed to meet the following day.

The next morning i heard the lapping of the water against the wall outside our room and as i opened my eyes and peered out, i had a breathtaking view of Lake Toba in front of me. When the lady had said that maybe we would want to see the room in the daytime, she had not been kidding, this was a million dollar view and i felt almost guilty to be paying only $3.

For the next 2 days Julia, Ash and I hung out together and just enjoyed the tranquility of the environment. The food in our restaurant was amazing, the little walks we took were relaxing and not once were we hassled by anyone. On a night time our evenings were spent down at Samosir Guesthouse, where we met a nice English couple called Stephen and Nicki and chatted into the early hours setting the World to rights.

Grazing cows on Samosir Island

On Wednesday we set out on motorbikes to take a look around the rest of the island and see the little tourist attractions. These included the Tomb of King Sidabutar located at Tomok, some stone chairs and furnishings at Ambarita, where criminals were beheaded in the olden days and eventually ending up in some hot springs at Pangururan on the opposite side of the island. Along the road we passed many traditional Batak houses and were blessed with beautiful views and good weather throughout. Back in tuk tuk that night, we rounded off a fantastic stay with a fantastic meal, at a little restaurant with an attached trout farm! A couple of fish with chunky chips were ordered and followed up with the traditional bintangs and a movie at Samosir Guesthouse.

Julia and Ash preparing for the Carp supper

The following day the boat picked us up to transport us back to Parapat, where we caught a connecting bus back to Medan. It ended a marvellous stay in a magical place and i can't recommend this place highly enough. Hopefully tourism will pick back up in the near future and certainly the quality and value for money on offer were second to none. Anyone reading this, go there now, whilst its still like this and not full to bursting like the beaches in Thailand, you won't regret it, i promise!!!

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View from the boat crossing Lake T…
View from the boat crossing Lake …
View of Tuk Tuk from our guesthouse
View of Tuk Tuk from our guesthouse
View of Tuk Tuk from our guesthouse
View of Tuk Tuk from our guesthouse
Traditional houses in Tuk Tuk
Traditional houses in Tuk Tuk
Tomb of King Sidabutar
Tomb of King Sidabutar
Stone Chairs of Ambarita
Stone Chairs of Ambarita
Grazing cows on Samosir Island
Grazing cows on Samosir Island
Julia and Ash preparing for the Ca…
Julia and Ash preparing for the C…
View from the boat crossing Lake T…
View from the boat crossing Lake …
View of Tuk Tuk from our guesthouse
View of Tuk Tuk from our guesthouse
Tuk Tuk
Tuk Tuk
Traditional house in Tuk Tuk
Traditional house in Tuk Tuk
Julia doing the washing on our bal…
Julia doing the washing on our ba…
Coconut tree
Coconut tree
View from our balcony
View from our balcony
Building on Samosir Island
Building on Samosir Island
Tuk Tuk peninsula sticks out of Sa…
Tuk Tuk peninsula sticks out of S…
Tomb of King Sidabutar
Tomb of King Sidabutar
Traditional Batak House at Ambarita
Traditional Batak House at Ambarita
Traditional Batak houses
Traditional Batak houses
Batak House on Samosir Island
Batak House on Samosir Island
View of Butik Pusuk
View of Butik Pusuk
Julia making a mess of Ashs hair
Julia making a mess of Ash's hair
View of Parapat
View of Parapat
Tuk Tuk
photo by: alexchan