In contrast to the small island of Bali, the province of
North Sumatera is large with one of the biggest lakes in
the world, Lake Toba, at its navel. The continuous mountain
of Bukit Barisan, which extends from Aceh at the tip of
the island of Sumatera to Lampung at the bottom of the island,
guards the province on the west side, providing home for
thick, tropical jungles and lush vegetations. As you go
down the western mountains towards the beaches of the east,
mountain streams, strong rivers, and gorgeous waterfalls
will accompany you.
Relative to Bali, North Sumatera has very heterogenous
ethnic groups, and thus, cultures. The people of the eastern
coasts, also known as the Malays (Melayu) have markedly
different traditions and culture from the Batak highlanders
who live around Lake Toba and Samosir Island. Further south,
the Mandailings and Angkolas, and the Island of Nias, have
yet more flavors of traditions and culture.
There are many places to see in this cultural salad bowl:
The capital of the province of North Sumatera, Medan houses
the government offices and business centers, effectively
making it the largest city outside of the island of Java.
Medan owes its cultural heritage to the kingdom of Deli,
whose place of worship, Mesjid Agung (Grand Mosque), and
palace, Istana Maimun (The Maimun Palace) undoubtedly show
its past greatness.
Lake Toba, the crater lake in the middle of the province,
is a popular tourist resort, especially the town of Parapat
on its shore. Its cool and dry mountain climate makes it
the perfect place to relax.
The Batak Toba and Batak Simalungun people live around Parapat.
The Batak people, composed of Batak Toba, Simalungun, Pak-Pak,
and Karo, are known for their expression, which is often
materialized in lively and sentimental love songs. If every
person in Bali can carve, every person in Batak can sing
or play the guitar.
The Karo highland
As you drive south from Medan into the Karo highland, the
Great Bukit Barisan Forest Park greets you with its distinctive
Karonese gazebo decorated with ret-ret, a two-headed, lizard-like
animal that is carved on the walls of traditional Karonese
family houses. Along the windy, mountainous road to the
Karo highland, as you pass the Sibolangit National Garden,
chants of monkeys and possibly orang-utans will accompany
you, mysteriously appearing and disappearing from the thick
The town of Berastagi, located at the foot of Mount Sibayak,
will greet you with its lovely flowers. The smell of fresh
vegetables and the colorful and aromatic arrangements of
fruit will etch their place in your memory. Try markisah
Sipiso-piso Waterfall and Tongging
Further south from Berastagi and Kabanjahe, the Karonese
portion of Lake Toba is marked with a thin yet tall waterfall.
Island Off to the west of the island of Sumatera, the island
of Nias provides another item in your cultural plate with
its distinct culture. The water surrounding the island is
a great place to surf and to scubadive.