NORTH SUMATRATravelling in Indonesia

Along the length of this province crosses the Bukit Barisan mountains with peaks of numerous volcanoes. In between are several lakes, one among them is the famous Toba Lake. The land has thick virgin forests, lush vegetation, rice fields, mountain streams, rivers, waterfalls and sandy beaches.

It has a rich flora and fauna. An abundance of birds, butterflies, buffaloes, deer, mouse deer, orang utans and many other export commodities make North Sumatra one of the richest provinces in Indonesia, as it produces more than 30 % of Indonesia's exports. The province offers the visitors, especially nature lovers, beautiful tropical panoramas, terraced rice fields, blue mountains, jungle covered hills, white sandy beaches, music, dance and folk arts.

The people are hospitable and warm. The major tribes are the Malays of the eastern coast, the Bataks consisting of sub-tribes such as Toba, Simalungun, Pak Pak (Dairi), Karonese of the highlands around Lake Toba, the Mandailing and Angkolas from the southern part. Nias Island is inhabited by the Nias tribe, off the western coast of the province. Besides them are several ethnic groups who live in Medan and other towns of North Sumatra. Its largest groups are Chinese and Indian, being naturalized Indonesian citizens. Other Indonesian tribes like Acehnese, Minangkabau, Javanese, etc. also live in many parts here. Each of the mentioned tribes as well as the ethnic groups has its own dialect, religion, beliefs, traditional customs, etc. Arts and cultures make this region, a paradise for social scientists. Among the ancient Indonesian cultures which can be seen at Samosir island are the centuries old tombs of Batak Toba kings and a stone-table with its benches, where meetings were formerly held by the Siallagan chiefs.


PLACES OF INTEREST

Medan

Medan was once the site of a battlefield between the Aceh people and the neighboring Deli Kingdom. Medan is the capital of North Sumatra Province, a trading center and important harbor.

Once Medan was part of the Deli Sultanate. What is historically most interesting is the Mesjid Besar (Grand Mosque) and the Palace of the Sultan of Deli which has been restored to revive its past grandeur.

Medan's harbor town is called Belawan, which is the sea link to Penang, Malaysia. Medan, Indonesia's western international gateway maintains regular flight to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Amsterdam and Vienna. Additionally, there are several air connections between Medan and Jakarta, and other destinations in Sumatra.

Crocodile Farm

Medan has the largest crocodile farm in Indonesia. Here one can see how the crocodile eggs are hatched, and then reared somewhere else. This farm is located at Asam Kumbang, 5 km from the heart of the city, and has nearly 2000 crocodiles of different kinds.

Bohorok

This place is for the adventurous, accessible through Sumatra's inland wilderness, crossing rivers and going over steep hills. The area lies south of the Mount Leuser National Park, a rehabilitation center for orang utans in Bahorok, which was inaugurated in 1973,. Orang utans living here are of Sumatra and Kalimantan origin.

Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park

Located at Tongkoh village in the district of the Karo highlands, approx. 59 km from Medan. Formerly Tahura Bukit Barisan since 1916, known for its location called Arboretum Tongkoh Berastagi, however since 1989 renovated and renamed Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park.

Found there is the zoological museum and a gazebo with Karo ornaments designed on the top of the roof, painted with various writings of typical welcome greetings in Tapanuli, which is Horas.

Berastagi

Berastagi, a tourist town, is another lovely town located in the Karo highlands. The town is known for its plantations and various kinds of flowers, vegetables and fruit, most famous of which is the Marquisa passion fruit.

It's 66 km southwest of Medan and is 4.594 feet above sea level. There is a pleasant colonial-style hotel with a golf course. Other new hotels can also be found. From Gundaling Hill a clear view of Mt. Sibayak and Mt. Sinabung volcanoes can be seen.

The Village of Lingga

Located some 15 km from Berastagi, is a unique Batak Karo village where traditional houses are still well-preserved and inhabited today. Five to six families live in each house, un-separated by any partition, while each family have their own stoves.

Sipiso-piso Waterfall and Tongging

Tongging is a place to see a waterfall surrounded by beautiful sights in cool mountain air. It is 24 km from Kabanjahe, located at the north side of Lake Toba. The 360 feet waterfall is visible from a gazebo at one top of a hill.

Rumah Solon

House of Bolon (Rumah Bolon), the long house that belonged to King Simalungun, has now been restored and redesigned into a museum.

Lake Toba - Parapat

The town of Parapat is the main tourist resort and lies on the very shore of Lake Toba. This lake is about 50 miles long and 16 miles across, with a depth of about 1,400 feet.

In Parapat live Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun tribes, and are happy and easy going people. They are known for their lively and sentimental love songs.

Recreational sports in Parapat are among others swimming, water skiing, motor boating, canoeing, fishing. Golf is at Sally golf course (19 holes), about 5 km from Parapat.

Parapat is 176 from Medan and can be reached in 4 hours by bus. The climate in Parapat is cool and dry, making Parapat an ideal place to relax. Many hotels, bungalows, villas, rest-houses welcome visitors. Small shops sell souvenirs such as Ulos (local woven cloths) and specific fruits locally grown.

Samosir Island

The island of Samosir is right in the middle of Lake Toba, covering an area of 329 square miles. This island is the original home of the fiercest but kind hearted Toba Bataks. It can be reached in half an hour by boat from Parapat. The villages of Tomok, Tuk-tuk, Siallagan, Ambarita are recommended for traditional Batak Toba houses, and local dances. This island has many hotels, bungalows, and rest houses.

Jangga

Jangga is a village of native Bataks, located in the hills, on the main road to other Batak communities living separately there, like Lumban Nabolon, Tonga-Tonga Sirait Uruk, Janji Matogu, Sihubak hubak, Siregar, Sigaol, Silalahi Toruan Muara and Tomok Sihotang. There are monuments of King Tambun and King Manurung, traditional houses, cultural and other historical remains left by Batak kings centuries ago. This original native Batak village has complete ornamentation, and is much visited by domestic and foreign visitors. Visitors can watch young girls or old women weaving the beautiful ulos cloth inside the booths their principle livelihood beside agriculture.

Pematang Siantar

Pematang Siantar is the second largest city, lying 128 km to the South of Medan. On the way, you will pass through many rubber, cocoa, palm oil, tobacco and tea plantations. This is the richest part of North Sumatera, because these plantations produce the main export commodities.

Then onward to Lake Toba you will see a vast stretch of land covered with thick forests, plantations, terraced rice fields, lush vegetation, green hills and mountains.

Pandan Beach

A seaside resort with white sandy beaches where a fishing village can be found 11 km from Sibolga.

Here the visitors can enjoy the magnificent view of the Indian Ocean and see fishermen in their sailing boats from the beach to the open sea. The restaurants offer you the grilled fresh fish just caught from the sea. Small souvenir shops selling sea shells, corals, ring-stones, etc. are available here.

Nias Island

This island lies off West Sumatra in the Indian Ocean. The villages of Bawomataluo and Hilisimae are curions places to visit, where visitors can see performances of traditional war-dances and thrilling high- jump sports, i.e. people making dangerous leaps over 2 meter-high stones. Typical scenes are dancers clad in traditional costumes with bird feathers on their heads, a hall for the Chief-of Tribe built on wooden logs with stone chairs weighing up to 18 tons. There are daily flights from Medan to Nias island.

South Tapanuli

It lies in the southern part of North Sumatra, bordering the provinces of West Sumatra and Riau. This region has a population of about 900,000 and lies on the way to West Sumatra. The sceneries are attractive all the way. Some of the tourist objects are Candi Portibi, Dolok Simago-mago, Pakantan, Husor Tolang, Sibanggor, Adian Lungun Niroha.

There are also hot springs and a good hotel available at Tor Sibohi.

This district is known for its ceramics and handicrafts. The Portibi temple is at Padang Bolak, 78 km from Padang Sidempuan, or 518 km from Medan. There are cultural remnants of a Hindu temple of the Kingdom of Panai, founded in 1039 A.D.

Shopping Hints

Thick cotton hand-woven cloth for sarongs, headdress and stoles. Also available are wood carved panels, wall decorations and statues from Samosir and Nias, mainly of a primitive style. There are also accessories made of sea-shells, boar tusks and buffalo horn.

ACCOMMODATION

Hotels are concentrated in the provincial capital of Medan and in the lake resort town of Parapat. Leading the list in Medan are Danau Toba International and Tiara, both classified as four-star hotels. These hotels have convention facilities, health centers, restaurants and night clubs.

All three and two-star hotels in Medan have air conditioning. All have attached bathrooms, restaurants, phones in the rooms and some have TV sets.

One-star hotels do not have all rooms with attached bathrooms or air conditioning in all rooms.