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
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 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.
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.”