Read part 1 by clicking here.

During the 4-day tour, except for the last day which was a free and easy day, much of our time was spent on the bus, travelling from one location to another.

Basically, apart from Lake Toba which is the main attraction of this trip, and an impressive new Chinese temple in Brastagi, the rest of the attractions are less interesting although of historical values.

Day 1 – Travel from Medan to Parapat (more than 5 hours by bus, with one stop-over at a local tidbits shop)

Local tidbits – Ting Ting and Tong Tong (peanut and sesame sticks) and their varieties.  20 years ago we bought a box of them but this time, we bought only a packet each of Ting Ting and Tong Tong.

First sight of Lake Toba, world’s largest volcanic lake, before arriving at Parapat. Beautiful!

Five-storey Niagara Hotel (visited by President Bambang Susilo Yudhoyono before).  There is no lift or escalator in this hotel.

View from Niagara hotel

These look like okra (lady fingers) but can’t be sure.  It was the first time we saw this plant.

Corn farm near Niagara Hotel

Day 2 – Tour of Samosir Island (on Lake Toba) and transfer to Brastagi.

On our boat ride from Parapat to Tomok Village of Batak Tobanese on Samosir Island.  Beautiful blue sky, sunny day coupled with pleasant wind.

What a charming natural attraction!  The lake is like an oasis of serenity amidst the backward rural settings.  We did not remember it was this enjoyable 20 years ago.  A friend teased that this is because we only had eyes for each other then but I see this as another change in us – a better appreciation for nature as we grow older.  :)  Both of us also share the same view that Lake Toba is far nicer than the well known West Lake in Hangzhou, China which we visited in 2005.

Along the way, we were entertained with Batak songs by these two young enterprising boys and of course, it is not for free.  Towards the end of their performance, one of them came around collecting tips with his cap.

Arriving at Tomok Village

A unique landmark welcoming visitors at the jetty

These shop/stall owners are desperate for business but yet they would always start with a high opening price that could scare the potential buyers off.  According to our tour guide, we must bargain with them and ask for as much as 60-70% off the opening price!  Wow… anyway, we did not buy any souvenir from these attractions at all.  20 years ago, we bought a set of 3 beautifully hand-painted, wood-crafted fish and they are still looking good at home.

Entrance to Ancient Tomb of King Sidabutar, the ancient ruling clan in the Batak Village of Tomok

King Ompu Ni Ujung Barita Sidabutar’s sarcophagus (stone coffin), that has a likeness of the king on the front and the woman Anting Malela at the back.  King Ompu Ni Ujung Barita Sidabutar was an important ruler.

Other stone coffins at the Sidabutar ancient tomb

Yes, we visited the tomb on the first day of Chinese New Year!  Well, DS and I are not the superstitious type but a tour member joked that she has to go to the temple to pray after returning to Singapore!

Can you guess what this is?  It is a museum.  We had to climb up very steep staircase to get into the museum but really, there is nothing much in there.

Interior of the museum

Samosir Villas, one of the hotels available on Samosir Island.  There are quite a number of choices of hotels on this island.  Another one is Toledo Inn which we stayed for a night 20 years ago.  This shot was taken on our way from Tomok Village to Ambarita , another ancient Batak village on Samosir Island.

Saw this at the entrance to the Ambarita Village but not sure what it is.  It was not explained by our tour guide.  Unlike the Malaysian group, our group was just a little unlucky to have a lousy guide.

Traditional Toba Batak houses in Ambarita with its characteristic pointed roof.

Each of these houses has three stories.  The ground floor is for rearing poultry.  According to the guide, these houses do not have toilet but there is a hole made on the floor of the second level for the residents to pass motion directly to the ground level.  The second floor is for adults and it is divided into two areas for men and women.  The top floor is for children.

During the ancient time, enemies caught were put behind the bar under this house

The meeting venue with stone chairs and table.  This is also the venue where the elders would be invited to determine the fate of the enemies.

This is the execution place for enemies found guilty.

Tour guide for the Malaysian group demonstrating the execution with the help of a local boyTools used for execution.  See that little booklet on the left.  It was used to choose a “good” date for the execution.

After lunch, we embarked on our bus ride from Parapat to Brastagi which took more than 6 hours with three brief stops along the way.  It started to rain in the early evening.  With the poor and slow traffic conditions, it was already 8pm by the time we checked into Grand Mutiara Hotel in Brastagi.  I was very tired after a very long day that started from 7am.

Stopped-over at Siantar Hotel (a small and old hotel) on our way to Brastagi to savour ginger tea. The restaurant where we had the ginger tea offers a nice view of Lake Toba.

Each cup of ginger tea costs about S$2 and comes with a piece of banana fritter.  Not sure what’s so special about the tea though!

A mobile hawker was selling satay outside the hotel.  I specially asked this girl to let me have a photo shot.  The satay looked delicious but I would definitely not be adventurous enough to try them.

House of the tribal chiefs of Simalungun Bataks at Pematang Purba.  This was built in 1629.

Painted wood pillars supporting the house

Tribal Chiefs’ Meeting Room and on the right, the wife’s resting place.

120m-high Sipiso-piso Waterfall in the Karo Highlands

Karo Highlands is also a place to enjoy a great panoramic view of Lake Toba.  However, it was very hazy when we were there, perhaps due to forest fire somewhere? Haha…

Day 3 – Tour of Brastagi and transfer to Medan

View from our room at Grand Mutiara Hotel in the early morning

A big lobby at the reception floor.  The guest rooms are big too but the maintenance was poor.  I described it as 5-star hotel (as told by our tour guide) with 3-star guest rooms!  The basin in our room was leaking and our bathroom was “flooded” after we used the basin.

Brastagi (meaning “rice store”) is a town situated between the Karo Highlands and the city of Medan.  The main attractions of the town are the two active volcanoes, Gunung Sibayak and Gunung Sinabung.  According to our tour guide, the temperature in Brastagi used to be very cool (below 10 degrees Celcius) when he was a kid (more than 25 years ago) but it is no longer so nowadays after too much of deforestation.

A landmark in Brastagi town, taken from the bus.

The local market which DS and I did not find interesting at all as compared to the local markets in Japan (like Tsukiji Market in Tokyo and Kuromon Market in Osaka).  However, I was glad to see some beautiful flowers in the flower stalls. :)  20 years ago, this market was not included in the itinerary.

They also sell rabbit and puppies too!  Wonder if these are sold as pets or as food?  We have heard that the locals do eat dog meat!

Vihara Dharma Shanti (香山寺)which was opened only more than a year ago.  We found this temple the most impressive building we have seen throughout our trip!

Staircase lined with wishing trees on both sides.  A very popular photo spots for the visitors.

Our journey to Medan took us less than three 3 hours.  In Medan, we visited Maimoon Palace, home of the Sultan of Deli and a well known landmark in the city that was built in 1888.  The Sultanate of Deli is one of the Sultanate in northern Sumatra in the 19th century but they no longer hold office powers these days.  The current sultan is only 11 years old and residing in Sulawesi with his mother.  His dad died in the Medan plane crash in 2005.

There was a Palace guide who showed us around and spoke very fluent English.  He claimed that he knows five languages including German and French.  His mum is residing in Bishan, Singapore!

Interior of the palace.  There was a power failure at the time of our visit, so it was dark.  What a coincidence!

The chandelier in the main hall.  If I remember correctly, this old chandelier came from Holland.  The ceiling and walls are decorated in Islamic motif.

Throne Ceremonial Chairs

Visitors can sit on these chairs (at the back of the main hall) for photography but not the one above.

The rest of the day was spent shopping at a Batik shop and Medan Fair shopping mall.

After a very dissatisfied Nasi Padang lunch earlier the day, we decided to find some food in Medan Fair shopping mall to soothe ourselves. However, it turned out to be yet another disappointment!

Avacado Ice-cream (recommended by the staff!), chocolate and durian pudding and baked cheese cake

Day 4 – Free and Easy Day

I like this day the best as there was no more 6am morning call, and we were free to do whatever we like!  As there were not much interesting sightseeing to do, we decided to spend the day at Sun Plaza, the largest and newest shopping mall in the city of Medan, which is just a short walk away from Danao Toba hotel.

The 5-Star Danao Toba International Hotel, the same hotel that we stayed 20 years ago! Although they look nice outwardly, some of the things in the guest rooms are already very old.

Sun Plaza shopping mall

Motorized Becaks (trishaw) are a common means of transportation in Medan, apart from taxis and mini buses. A few members of our tour group were brave enough to try them but not us.

Goodbye Lake Toba and Medan

Do we want to visit Lake Toba for the third  time, perhaps another 20 years later?  Well, before the trip, I thought it would be wonderful to do so again if by God’s grace, both of us are still alive and healthy then.  However, after this trip, we are certain that we will not want to return anymore although this place holds some special memories for us, unless there will be helicopters that fly directly from Medan to Lake Toba in future!   It is also not usual for us to repeat our holiday destinations since there are still many places that we have not been to.

Nevertheless, this second visit to Lake Toba is certainly very meaningful to us.  I count this a great blessing.  I pray that DS and I will have many more blissful years ahead, and also be able to accumulate a lot of wonderful travel experiences and memories together the rest of our lives.

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