I’ve just returned to Medan from spending three days at Danau Toba (Lake Toba) in North Sumatra, which is a five hour car trip from the city. Wow. It’s the world’s largest volcanic lake, set 900m above sea level, and in the middle of the lake is an island the size of Singapore. So I stayed in the town of Tuk-Tuk, set on a peninsula on this island-within-an-island, and spent my days swimming, relaxing and walking around the village, spying the pointy curvy roofs and traditional Christian churches of the local Batak people.
You’d never guess that the erupting volcano that created this stunning, peaceful lake some 70,000 years ago apparently changed the world’s climate and, according to some scientists, killed most of the humans alive at that time.
The Bataks are extremely hospitable and friendly, and are very happy when tourists come to see the place they call home. Not just to get money out of them (though of course there are many people trying to make a living out of not-enough tourists here, like in many parts of Indonesia), but also because it broadens the range of hearty conversations had in the cafes and bars in the little towns on the edge of this huge lake. Batak men seem to be permanently attached to their guitars, so in the evenings, it is possible to hear acoustic music floating on the breeze off the lake, down the streets and through the village, from boats, piers or shops. At one warung I went past, a large group of men sat singing together, two on guitars, the others singing in absolutely beautiful harmonies. I asked one if they were in a choir and he said (impeccable English is spoken by so many here too) “nah, we just like to hang out and sing.”
Many of the Batak boys are bold and cheeky, and rather flirty, so for groups of women or solo women travelers they might seem a bit forward, especially compared to the manners in some other parts of Indonesia, but I didn’t have any problems at all and found them very respectful, even in their cheeky way.
I got so much into the chilled vibe in Tuk-Tuk that I forgot to take my camera out with me most days (also because I swam a lot). So I was a bad photographer. But it is a beautiful place (as well as very affordable) and I’d highly recommend it as a very relaxing holiday destination.