Indonesia days 10-12: scooter adventure around Samosir Island, Lake Toba (part 1)

What a wonderful few days it has been. I am currently blogging in Lake Toba, the largest lake in Indonesia and a key site for tourists coming to Sumatra. Lake Toba was one of those rare places that I immediately fell in love with from a photo, and I knew I HAD to come here (look it up and you might feel the same way πŸ˜‰ ). My first 3 days have been just blissful, filled with exploring the lake by motorbike and reenergizing through nature.

Day 10: travel day to Samosir Island

This was one of the few times I actually enjoyed a travel day. Driving from Berastagi took 3.5 hours, and time flew by as I chatted with my driver the entire time. Also, the views were INCREDIBLE as we drove from the highlands down to the lake. We made plenty of stops and enjoyed sipping tea at various viewpoints.

Finally, we arrived at the lake, but I had one more ferry ride as I decided to stay on an island inside the lake called Samosir Island (how cool is that?). The ferry took 30 minutes and I was on an endorphin high enjoying the lake views and fresh air.

After getting to the island, I reached my accommodation, Laster Jony’s. I had my own bungalow with a lakeside view – heaven. I loved staying here as the atmosphere was lively as locals came in and out all day to hang out. They also had bumping jam sessions at night. πŸ™‚

After checking in, I took a walk to get to know the area. Samosir Island is HUGE (around the size of Singapore), and I stayed in a small pocket catered to tourists with plenty of lake-front hotels, restaurant options, and English-speaking natives. Even though this was the tourist hub, it was pretty empty as there were not many tourists and the economy still seemed to be recovering from the pandemic.

The walk was lovely, as everywhere I turned, there was another majestic view of the lake. The air smelled fresh and the weather was perfectly comfortable – it’s rare to get that not-too-hot / not-too-cold weather in SE Asia, another reason Lake Toba is so attractive.

Surrounding the lake, there were mountains, palm trees, and ample greenery. It reminded me of Hawaii mixed with Lake Tahoe…

…But less developed of course. There were also village vibes classic to Southeast Asia.

I headed back to my room and relaxed for a bit. Then, I headed out to find dinner. I saw a whole new side of the island at sunset as it glowed in a new way. From day one, I was entranced with this island and couldn’t wait to spend the next week here.

Day 11: motorbike road trip day 1

The next morning, I decided to see the island by motorbike. Given the size of the island, scooters are a popular way to explore. Most tourists try to tackle all the attractions in one day, but I decided to break up the drive into a few days to go at a slower pace.

From the very start, I thought the roads here were very good with few other drivers around. You won’t find that in Southeast Asia often. πŸ˜‰ The drive was beautiful as I got out of the tourist hub and passed by local villages with similar lake views.

My first stop was an outdoor history museum where they displayed the traditional Batak houses unique to this region of Indonesia. The whole museum was well curated and filled with tourists snapping photos. I thought it was funny they displayed these houses when you could literally see them all over town. πŸ˜›

The key exhibit was the stone chairs, which were previously used to execute enemies and criminals of the village. Practices back then were quite barbaric and the villagers even practiced cannibalism.

After getting a small dose of history, I hopped back on my motorbike and kept going. I decided to get away from the attractions and see the scenery through the back roads. I just love the freedom of the motorbike! I found the scenery to be quite homogenous throughout the island; the only difference was there were no more English speakers past the tourist village.

Next, I reached the part of the island known for its beaches. I found a small beach called Sibolazi Beach that I had all to myself. I took a break here and enjoyed the views.

I was pretty tired by this point, so I headed back to town and called it a day with driving. I had plenty of time on the island, so I didn’t mind saving the other attractions for another day. I got some lunch at a restaurant right by the lake. Overall, the food has been just ok on the island so far – everything seems to be fried and catered to tourists. I’m definitely missing the local food I had in Bukit Lawang. πŸ˜›

As I was looking for a restaurant for lunch, I noticed almost all of them were closed which I found odd. It turned out that everyone in town was attending a ceremony, which they called the “last ceremony of someone’s life.” 10 years after someone in the community dies, they dig up their bones from the grave and perform various rituals. The Batak people believe this releases that person from karma and the circle of life; in that sense, their spirit is free. I watched from a distance, and the whole ceremony was upbeat with dancing and music. I thought the whole ritual and the meaning behind it were beautiful. πŸ™‚

After lunch, I rested in my room, and then I took a late-afternoon stroll when the weather cooled down. I went through a new part of town away from the lake where there were more green vibes.

Another beautiful sunset on the lake. These moments give me life.

Day 12: motorbike road trip day 2

The next morning, I felt more energetic than yesterday, so I created my roadmap for the day and decided to make this my longest driving day yet. I ate breakfast at the hotel, and then I was off!

Today, I headed to the other side of the island. Overall, I loved this drive better than yesterday as there was more diverse scenery and more mountains. I loved the mountain scenery: coupled with the lake, it was epic and reminded me of Big Sur.

My first stop was a viewpoint called Menara Pandang Tele. It sat on top of the mountain which was fun driving up. In total, it took 2.5 hours to reach this from the start, but the reward was well worth it!

There was an observation tower with 360 views.

There were small roadside cafes, so I took a break from driving and grabbed some lunch.

The next stop was down the mountain to Efrata Waterfall – amazing views along the way. The waterfall itself was nice, but as most nice things go, there were lines of tourists taking photos. I waited my turn and snapped a few photos. I have seen SO many waterfalls this year, and I realized they are losing their appeal. Sad how long-term travel does that to you. πŸ˜‰

On my way to the next site, I felt like I was really β€œout there.” I passed local villages with people who seemed shocked to see me drive by (although I’ve encountered this a lot this year, I could tell these people rarely see tourists). It reminded me of when I motorbiked through rural Cebu, Philippines. Everyone waved to me and I did my best to wave or honk back. πŸ™‚

Next, I stopped at Aek Sipitu Dai, a sacred place for locals as they come here to pray and receive blessings. I didn’t really know what to expect, but I got pulled into doing the ritual by a guru-like old man facilitating the place.

This place is known for having 7 taps of water all coming from the same source, but all 7 have a unique taste. The fountains are believed to cure diseases and grant wishes. The ritual itself included washing my hands, taking 3 sips of water, cleaning my face 3 times, and then pouring water over my head 3 times…then repeating at all 7 fountains. I was drenched in water at the end, but I have to say, it felt good! I could also taste subtle differences in the water: some were tasteless but some had a sour taste.

After the ritual, the locals at the fountain proceeded to have a photoshoot with me. One by one, they lined up to get a photo with “the American girl.” πŸ˜‰ They were all so excited to see me as they said tourists rarely visit this spot.

After a packed day, I decided to head back as I had a long drive ahead of me. I broke up the drive at a beach close to the one I stopped at yesterday. I had been on the road for 8 hours, and I was pooped! I had the best night’s sleep. πŸ™‚

What a fabulous first few days! After hyping up Lake Toba for so long, I can happily say that it has been everything I thought it would be, and more. I’m excited to continue exploring the island and soak up the relaxing lake vibes.


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