JIPP's WORLD

…….The World Without Boundaries

A Day Tour to Tomok

Written By: jipp - Mar• 25•19

If I may reverse on my blog sequence a little, I did mention about a 70-year-old man from Klang in Malaysia who happened to stay in the next room from mine. It started with a simple hello, then a little bit of conversation ensued, and before I knew it he was already tagging behind me to a body massage at an adjacent massage parlor. Heh.

Our hello did not end there, apparently. I offered him to come with me on a day tour to Tomok, which was located about 5 kilometers from our hostel in Tuk Tuk. Tomok is more like a little town – or even a village – which is dominated by wooden shoplots and houses that flank the main road on both sides.

After asking around, and did a few wrong turns at wrong junctions, we finally managed to get to the Batak Museum – our first destination of the day.

Batak Museum was a real Batak house which had been turned into a museum. They had put things here in there – and declared it a museum, which it is. On the display is a combination of stuffs, ranging from traditional cookware to clothes, wooden statues and a fleet of artifacts. Dominating the middle section of the house is a King’s bed, which I was told was designed to bed the king only, while the wife had to sleep somewhere else. I found it quite bizarre but I’m sure there must be a reason behind it. Heh.

From the museum, we walked over to the adjacent Tomb of Sidabutar King. I was taken aback by how they forced me to wear a sling shawl, thinking that they might ask for money out of it (but they didn’t and I instantly felt ashamed of myself). I remember how I was forced to wear sarong before I was allowed to enter the Agung temple in Bali, only to find Western tourists strutting their way around the temple in their shorts. Apparently they knew things that I didn’t. Urghh.

The tomb of Sidabutar king was nothing grand (compared to so many other tombs on Samosir island and beyond), but it was placed together with his other members of family and even his body guards, forming quite of a complex of cemetery. But of course the grandness of the tomb does not lie in the structural presentation, but more on the fact that he was the first person (or probably one of. I am sure he did not come alone) to have set foot on Samosir island. He died before Christianity was brought in by Western colonists and missionaries, hence the absence of a cross on his tomb and a few of the others’. But those who have died quite recently have had their tombs adorned with a cross.

Just down the stairs from the tomb was the Batak traditional village, although it was more like a museum now without anybody residing in the houses (I could be wrong). I was told that there’d be Batak traditional dance performances on the front yard if there was sufficient audience but since there was only me and my new-found friend Mr. Loh around, I didn’t see any chance of witnessing any (of the performances).

Having done with pretty much all the things that we wanted to do in Tomok which was not much anyway since neither of us were into shopping, we returned to Tuk Tuk to explore more of this place that I had been calling home for past one week. There was one place that Mr. Loh wanted to check out – a place called Laster Jony’s – a budget hostel that was recommended to him by one of his friends.

Wheeling off to this place had made me realize that there was more to Tuk Tuk that I had yet to explore. Apparently, there were more choices of accommodation on the other side of the bay, and I could see there were more bars and shops. How I wish I knew about them earlier, and not on my last day on Samosir island.

Laster Jony’s apparently a spread of chalets that nestles on a hillside that overlooks the beautiful bay of Tuk Tuk. The fact that there was no room available pretty much cemented the fact that it was indeed popular among budget travelers. There was a bar and a lounge area which was heavily decorated with Rasta elements. A little hello to the young lad who was probably in charge of looking after the bar led to a lengthy conversation about tourism prospects of Danau Toba – which was once at the top of the list of Indonesia’s top tourist destinations before other places like Bali, Komodo Islands and now Lombok took over.

View of the bay from Laster Jony’s

Mr. Loh was very eager to compare the tourism industry in Indonesia with (that of) Thailand, which he said is 30 years ahead. I was beginning to get quite uncomfortable when he kept singing praises for the tourism industry in Thailand, which according to him is very well managed and the reason why Thailand remains the top tourist destination in South East Asia, while hoping that Indonesia could do better than how it is doing now. Although the lad seemed to be taking in all the criticism with admirable calmness, I had to literally drag Mr. Loh out of the place before things got nasty.

We returned to the hostel from there, and prepared to enjoy our last night on Samosir island. Wanting to have a bit of me-time that night, I tip-toed my way to a restaurant called Casa di Manurung and ordered fried rice for dinner. As a bit of tradition for me to have a little bit of celebratory drink on the last day of my travel trip every time (although I still had one night in Parapat the night after), I ordered one big bottle of Bintang – the Indonesian famous local beer to come with the meal.

I was on my second bottle of Bintang when the band group took to the stage and performed a fleet of songs, ranging from local Batak songs, to Indonesian mainstream songs, and even English songs. I was baffled because I pretty much had the whole place all to myself so they were literally performing to me, and no one else but to me alone.

Never had I ever experienced anywhere else before where a full band performed for me without the presence of any other person in the audience but me (apart from the staff members of course). In a way it felt awkward but in another it was quite a privilege. But then, I still felt quite relieved when a group of local youngsters came in later after which I felt free to tip-toe my way back to the hostel and immersed myself in the tipsiness that was beginning to demand for recognition in my sorry head.

It was sad that I would have to say goodbye to the beautiful Samosir island the next morning.

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Completing my Full Round of Solo Ride around Samosir Island

Written By: jipp - Mar• 23•19

I woke up to a bright morning. I remember how I got woken up by the silence of the night at least a few times, and questioned how in the world I ended up spending the night in the middle of nowhere, which was totally unplanned.

After paying for the room, I vroomed my way out of the hotel and continued East towards Pangururan – the biggest town on Samosir island. The morning was so bright and the views of paddy fields with the blue lake in the background and the beautiful range of caldera beyond it – they were simply breath-taking. I’ve been to quite a number of places in my years of traveling but the views on Samosir island are just so unique and different.

Every now and then I’d stop to give myself more time to take in the views – and of course more selfies.  As the sun rose, the lake sparkled in its reflection. It really was mesmerizing.

It was all flat until I arrived at the town of Pangururan which again is the biggest town on the island of Samosir, and probably the most populated. It is here where the island of Samosir is connected to the main land by a small bridge. In fact, it is the only land access to the island of Samosir from the main land. The bridge crosses over a narrow channel (wouldn’t call it a river because I don’t think it is) which reminds me of Sungai Golok that separates Kelantan in Malaysia from the neighboring Golok in Thailand.

I rode onto the main land – aiming to reach Tele Samosir tower, which is said to be the place from where people could see the whole of the island. But checking back the distance and the road conditions on my phone, I had to say no to it and returned to Pangururan.

My random ride around Pangururan town led me to St. Mikhael church, whose architectures are so different from any other church that I have seen anywhere else before. For a starter the roof has the shape of a buffalo’s horns – which is the distinctive feature in Batak architectures. Then on closer looks, there were apparently much more to the architectures than the horn-shaped roof.

The carvings on the walls are a fusion of Batak and Christian elements. It’s safe to say that it is heavy with animism elements, which would have been frowned upon back in my country Malaysia. (I was raised to believe that any non-Christian elements in churches or even homes are against the will of God, until I went to Europe and found the Gothic architectures at churches there). I wish the church was opened but it was not so I could only marvel at what were offered from the outside.

After having fried noodles for breakfast at a roadside restaurant, I continued my ride around the island by heading further East. Checking on the list of places that I wanted to go to on Samosir island, I came upon this place called Menara Pandang Tele.

It required me to get off the main road and go further and further up the hills and when road kept on worsening and the tower was still nowhere to be seen, I had to drag down my ego and turned back. I did manage to see some fantastic scenery though so that little detour did not really go futile.

Once back on the main road, I took a good rest after the butt-hurting ride on the gravel road and had iced coffee with banana fritters for lunch. The iced coffee was too sweet for my bladder and the fritters were too cold and damp but of course some situations do require you to compromise on your demand and take whatever there is on the table. I was in one of those situations. With a refueled energy, I continued East and almost on an impulse I stopped when I came upon a place called Pasir Putih.

Pasir Putih turned out to be a beach – only this one is a lakeside beach. It was quite packed with people when I went there, and I was having fun watching people having fun. People really seemed to be enjoying the moment and I couldn’t help but enjoying myself too. Everything really was so family-oriented and I could feel lots of love hanging over the air.

The adults were sitting around a spread of food while the kids were making sand castles. The teenagers on the other hand seemed to be dominating the space in the water. Good thing about being on the beach of a freshwater lake is the lack of tackiness and saltiness that you’d feel when you are on a seaside beach. But it was so damn hot all the same.

I continued my journey, and bumped into a large gathering of people on the roadside. Quite within sight was a large canopy under which another large group of people were seated. I noticed that some of them were performing some kind of ritual. I stopped to watch more, and realized that it was a ritual for somebody who had just passed away.

One thing that I quickly noticed was that they really mourned the passing of somebody as a community and still very much full of tradition. They’ll wear their traditional Batak costumes and perform their traditional rituals which involved among others dancing and singing (or chanting) and gift offering.

I couldn’t help but noticing the presence of big boards that they put on the side of the road. On the boards were obituary words, which were nicely decorated and adorned with flowers. They seem to take the passing of somebody in their community very seriously.

I wish I could stay longer to see more of the rituals but the sun really was scorching hot so I had to continue riding or I’ll get roasted. Towards the end of my ride back to my hostel in Tuk Tuk, things were going quite monotonous – villages after villages after villages. I did stop to get onto a viewing tower at one of the villages, for which I got charged by a lady who had suddenly come out of nowhere the moment I stepped onto the tower.

I approached in silence, only to bump into a couple who was about or probably was done making out so I hastily apologized. I found it funny that they were apologetic too. Later on the top flight of the multi-storey tower I bumped into another couple who was in each other’s arms. Loneliness suddenly washed over me. Heh.

But seriously, there was something so romantic about the viewing tower and the surrounding. People keep saying about how romantic the Jeju island in South Korea is (thanks to the likes of Winter Sonata etc.) and I’ve never been there so standing at the viewing tower while looking down at the beautiful spread of Lake Toba and the outer range of caldera beyond it, it was how I imagined the Jeju island would be. Heh.

A beautiful Batak village seen from the tower

From the tower onwards, it was all villages with nothing so exceptional that was worth stopping for. In fact I couldn’t wait to reach back at my hostel and have a nice hot shower – something that I had been deprived of since I started my ride the day before. So when I finally arrived at my hostel, I had a jubilant feeling, a sense of accomplishment, a deep satisfaction that I made a one full round around the island of Samosir on a motorbike. And I did it alone of course.

Cooling off after two days of riding

Once I reached my room, I changed into my swimming shorts, got a hold of my towel and walked over to the lake where I let myself be immersed in the water to soothe my muscles down and my whole physical beings. Later at night, I went to a get a nice body massage at a massage parlor that I happened to bump into the night before. It was such a perfect wrap-up to my 2-day biking adventure all around Samonsir Island.                                                                                                                                

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