The Monaco of Asia

“We live in a won­der­ful world that is full of beauty, charm, and ad­ven­ture. There is no end to the ad­ven­tures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawa­har­lal Nehru

Maxx-M - - 360 - Text by Me­lani Se­muel | Pho­tos by Fe­bri Amar

Iknow what some of you are think­ing when you saw the ti­tle of this ar­ti­cle. To be very hon­est, I was think­ing the same way when I first heard a per­son re­fer to Lake Toba re­gion in North Su­ma­tra as the “Monaco of Asia.” Lit­tle did I know, our jour­ney to Lake Toba would turn out to be one of (if not) the most mem­o­rable and beau­ti­ful jour­ney I have ever had.

Our jour­ney started the mo­ment our Siantar Ex­press train that took us from Medan ar­rived in Pe­man­tang Siantar. We con­tin­ued our jour­ney by car. The car took us on a wind­ing road along pine forests, and sud­denly we were stricken by the most beau­ti­ful view of Lake Toba and the sur­round­ing moun­tains. The once very noisy car was silent as the view has left us speech­less. The tow­er­ing moun­tains stand out against a daz­zling blue sky, cre­at­ing the per­fect back­drop for green foothills and pic­turesque Lake Toba.

Lake Toba has been part of trav­eller folk­lore for decades. It is the largest lake in In­done­sia, the sec­ond-largest in the world after Lake Vic­to­ria in Africa, and the largest vol­canic lake in the world. Lake Toba is also the deep­est lake in the world, which is ap­prox­i­mately 450 me­ters deep. We were so mes­mer­ized by the beauty that we asked our driver to stop in one of the lo­cal cafés along the road. It was around sun­set, and we didn’t want to miss it. We sat there soak­ing in the beauty, watch­ing the beau­ti­ful colour of the sky be­fore fi­nally, the sun set into the lake.

I am not a morn­ing per­son, but we were so cap­ti­vated by the beau­ti­ful scenery that my friend and I woke up early the next morn­ing ea­ger to ex­plore more of the lake. We walked out of the ho­tel and

be­fore us, was the cel­e­brated lake, with its glit­ter­ing sur­face and un­du­lat­ing shore­line. We went straight down to the lake, it was so calm and we could see towns sur­round­ing the lake. I could not be­lieve it; here I was in Lake Toba.

Para­pat

Para­pat is a small town on the shores of Lake Toba that is blessed by this beau­ti­ful scenery where you are pam­pered with magnificent and soul-sooth­ing nat­u­ral views of the ex­pan­sive but calm lake. There are many ways to reach Para­pat, other than tak­ing the 3-hour train jour­ney from Med an like we did, you can take a scenic five-hour

drive there. Or you can also land at Si­lan­git air­port, then con­tinue on a two-hour drive to Lake Toba. Trust me ev­ery minute of the drive is worth it, the view along the way is sim­ply breath-tak­ing.

The best way to ex­plore Para­pat is on foot and in the morn­ing, when lo­cals are start­ing their daily rou­tine. We took a stroll along the lakeshore. Just op­po­site the ho­tel where we stayed is a street lined with sou­venir shops that sell clothes, accessories and ulos (the tra­di­tional cloth of the ‘Batak’ peo­ple of North Su­ma­tra). As we con­tin­ued our walk, we came across an old build­ing that sits on the tip of the penin­sula on very steep cliffs. The build­ing is the silent wit­ness to the long his­tory of the strug­gle of In­done­sia. This is where the first Pres­i­dent of the Re­pub­lic of In­done­sia, Pres­i­dent Soekarno was ex­iled. This build­ing was built in 1820. The neo­clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­tural style is re­ally ma­te­ri­al­ized in the build­ing, and it adds to the beauty of Para­pat City. This build­ing of­fers a per­fect view of Lake Toba. We came across the lo­cal peo­ple do­ing their morn­ing rou­tine, from chil­dren go­ing to school to fish­er­men ready­ing their nets. We then came across a busy tra­di­tional mar­ket nearby a small har­bour. We stopped by at one of the tra­di­tional cof­fee shops and en­joyed the all-fa­mous tra­di­tional drink, teh tarik to­gether with a kaya toast. I love this city; the ar­chi­tec­ture is unique and the old build­ings beau­ti­ful.

Para­pat and its sur­round­ing have some of the most beau­ti­ful scener­ies I have ever seen. I have to say that Lake Toba re­gion is blessed with the most beau­ti­ful nat­u­ral scenery, the rich tra­di­tion that this re­gion has is very in­ter­est­ing, and the food is sim­ply de­li­cious. Durian lovers would love com­ing here, as you can find durian eas­ily, it tastes good and the price is very rea­son­able.

As we were driv­ing along ex­plor­ing the re­gion, one of my friends who lived most of his life in Europe said, “This place re­minds me of home.” At that mo­ment I re­alised the ex­tent of the beauty that Lake Toba re­gion are com­pa­ra­ble to some des­ti­na­tions over­seas, if not bet­ter. I know for some of you it might be hard to be­lieve it. I ad­mit that I didn’t be­lieve un­til I went and saw it with my own eyes. Bukit Doa There are many places that are beau­ti­ful here, but you must visit Bukit Doa. A few hours’ drive from Para­pat , Bukit Doa is lo­cated 1550 me­ters above sea level. It has be­come one of the best at­trac­tions in North Su­ma­tra and a land­mark of the Muara District. Once you reach the lo­ca­tion, you will see an iconic mon­u­ment, in the shape of pray­ing hands. There you can see a post­card per­fect view of Lake Toba and the sur­round­ings. The weather can be very cold so make sure you bring some warm cloth­ing. There are small ‘ warungs’

(lo­cal stalls) around so you can have a warm cup of tea while en­joy­ing the scenery. It has a serene and peace­ful am­bi­ence, while I was admiring the beau­ti­ful land­scape; I heard our guide say to our driver, “do you re­al­ize how amaz­ing God is? When you look at this scenery ev­ery­thing is so per­fect. He has placed ev­ery­thing so beau­ti­fully per­fect that none, not even the clever­est pain­ter can do a bet­ter job than this.” I could not agree more.

Samosir Is­land

While in Para­pat you have to go to Samosir Is­land. It takes 45 min­utes by ferry to cross from Para­pat to Samosir, but the ferry is not avail­able ev­ery hour. You can also take a speed­boat to the is­land. We were up for some ad­ven­tures owe de­cided to drive along Lake Toba to Samosir Is­land. The jour­ney it­self took around 7 hours, but it was worth ev­ery sin­gle minute of it. It is a good idea to bring along some snack and wa­ter with you.

There area lot of beau­ti­ful spots lo­cated along the way such as Me­nara Tele (Tele tower), air ter­jun

Sip­iso Piso (Sip­iso piso water­fall), but the truth is the view along the way is so beau­ti­ful that we just had to take some stops along the way for pic­tures of the stun­ning views. The roads are wind­ing but the streets are quite empty, some­times it took us al­most an hour to see an­other ve­hi­cle. Luck­ily for us, we found a very sim­ple wooden warung on top of a hill that sells durian. We parked the car and en­joyed the best durian ever.

After driv­ing for about four hours from Para­pat, we ar­rived at the stun­ning Sip­iso-piso Water­fall. This long but nar­row water­fall drops 120 me­ters into an im­pres­sive gorge below, it is said to be one of the high­est water­falls in In­done­sia. This thun­der­ing water­fall is pop­u­lar with guests who come to pho­to­graph this magnificent nat­u­ral won­der. Sur­rounded by a lush green moun­tains cape and with a rain­bow form­ing at the base of the water­fall, it’s hard to imag­ine a more im­pres­sive sub­ject for a pho­to­graph.

Our next stop was the Me­nara Pan­dang Tele (Tele Tower). It was built in 1988 and has 4 dif­fer­ent lev­els. The high­est level is the favourite place for a bet­ter view of the land­scape. As we climbed up to the high­est level, we couldn’t stop ooooh and aaaah-ing at the ma­jes­tic scenery. Ev­ery­where you turn takes your breath away. Tele Tower fea­tures many beau­ti­ful views aside from the lake; it of­fers stun­ning rice fields and the Pusuk Buhit Moun­tain.

I know that I have said it many times be­fore but ever since I ar­rived at Para­pat, ev­ery where I turned was noth­ing but a breath­tak­ing scenery. Sim­ply en­joy the beauty, the cul­ture and the peace of North Su­ma­tra, soak in the beauty of “The Monaco of Asia.”

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