North Sumatra: From Kuala Deli To Tapanuli
The province of North Sumatra is often thought to be almost identical with the Batak Lands - homeland of the people who make up the majority of the population.
In fact, a number of ethnic Indonesian population groups inhabit this great province, bordering Aceh to its northwest, and Riau and West Sumatra to its southeast. Among the most important among them are Malays, Acehnese, Minangkabaus and Javanese.
The city of Medan, one of biggest in Indonesia, is a great melting pot of races and cultures, although the modern Indonesian flavor dominates. Generally speaking, however, it is true to say that throughout the province it is the Batak culture and traditions that predominate, particularlyin the Lake Toba area, in the Karo highlands, Simalungun, Dairi and Mandailing regions in central and southern Tapanuli.
Those are fertile agricultural lands that extend from the mountainous hinterland down to the coasts. The other parts of North Sumatra consist mostly of less fertile plains, which nevertheless are being made productive with the help of fertilizers and an extensive irrigation system. The less fertile lots are planted with onions, peas, aromatic herbs, fruits and other crops.
The Batak population of North Sumatra consist of several sub-groups, such as the Karo, the Simalungun, the Pakpak, the Toba, the Angkola, and the Mandailing Batak. The Karo Batak inhabit the karo and Dairi highlands and the plains and highlands around Langkat Hulu, Deli Hulu and Serdang Hulu. The Simalungun Batak live in the Simalungun area, the Pakpak in Pakpak, and the Toba Batak around Lake Toba and Samosir Island and the region between Barus and Sibolga.
Old Cultures And Traditions
The name Deli immediately brings to mind the cultural traditions of the Malays - their customs, their dances and their colorful traditional customes. The peculiar Malay custom of reciting quatrains as a means of formal expression is still kept alive among the Malay people of North Sumatra. North Sumatra is a treasure-house of old cultures and traditions. Ancient graves of Batak kings and other relics of history can still be found around villages on Samosir Island, in the middle of Lake Toba, which is considered the heartland of Batak civilization. Even older remains are found on Nias Island at the rim of the Indian Ocean, where even today large groups of the population adhere to the old ancestral traditions, living in surroundings that have changed little over the centuries. For those reasons, North Sumatra is often regarded as constituting a natural museum of Indonesia's proto-Malay heritage in which ancient customsand traditions have been preserved, presumably as a result of centuries of isolation.
Along the east coast of North Sumatra the Malay influence is dominant. The daily customs, the language that is spoken, family life, the food and artistic expressions, all are closely related to those of the Malay population of Riau.
While the province's cultural wealth is impressive, North Sumatra's scenic allure and natural assets are not less outstanding. White palm-fringed beaches grace its shorelines, and some of the best surfing spots in Indonesia are found on the islands off the Sumatran mainland, such as Nias. Dense rainforests provide a haven for wide range of indigenous species of plants and wildlife.
In this verdant setting of hills and mountains, Lake Toba and nearby Sipiso-piso waterfall are the powerful magnets that have for many decades lured visitors.
Commercial crop plantations have since long exploited the region's great fertility. Up to World War II, the area was world famous for its Deli tobacco cigar wrappers. At present the major export crop is palm oil. Vast plantations as such are found in the Pematang Siantar area are still among the area's biggest visitor attractions.
In the past few decades, however, modern industry has come to North Sumatra to tap the province's wealth of natural resources. A huge aluminum smelter and hydro-power plant, for example, have risen on the Asahan river which carriers the water from Lake Toba towards the Malacca Strait.
The provincial capital, Medan is separated by relatively short distance from Belawan harbor, on the Strait of Malacca. Medan is a bustling modern city with population of about two million. Thousands of cars, bycicle-taxis, motor-bicycles and buses of all sizes ply the city's roads. Once the center of the island's plantation-based economy, Medan is at present the center of commerce and industry of Sumatra.
In the pre-war days, Medan was also a center of learning in Sumatra. Some of the first modern machine printed books, newspapers and magazine in Indonesian are published in this city for distribution not only on the island, but also in Java.
The word medan means "field". According to tradition, the city was founded by certain Datuk Guru Patimpus, a man of noble birth. Modern historical records state that it was born out of small village, whose dramatic growth was caused by the rise of the tobacco industry at around the turn of the last century. In 1910 it had a population of about 17,500. Ten years later, that number had grown to 45,250 and it kept growing until it had reached the present level of roughly two million.
Medan offers plenty of sight and experiences for the visitor. One of the city's best known landmarks is Maimoon Palace, the former residence of the Sultan of Deli. It was built in 1888 by Sultan Makmun Al-Rasyid. Remains of the sultanate, mostly relics bearing the marks of the Malay nature of the area, can still be found in the vicinity of the palace.
Not far from the palace is the Grand Mosque, one of the most striking anywhere in Indonesia, built in 1906. The mosque's grounds contains a graveyard where a number of sultans of Deli and members of the nobilty are buried.
Bukit Barisan War Museum
The Bukit Barisan War Museum on Jalan H. Zainal Arifin has collection of weapons and equipment used by the Indonesian freedom fighters during the war of independence in the late 1940s.
Museum Of North Sumatra
The largest and finest museum in Medan, however is the Museum of North Sumatra, where many objects of historical and cultural interest from all over the region kept.
North Sumatra Fair Arena
The North Sumatra Fair Arena presents permanent displays of educational and cultural interest. In the complex can be found various buildings in the traditional architectural style of the region. Once every year, a month-long trade and industrial fair is held on these grounds.
Taman Margasatwa Zoo
In Kampung Baru is the Taman Margasatwa Zoo, which has collection of animals both indigenous and foreign to Indonesia. The Crocodile Park is located in the village Asam Kumbang. Here, hundreds of crocodiles are hatched and raised in pools. Perfomances of men fighting the animals are regularly staged.
Near the fair grounds is the Recreation Park, offering all sorts of entertainment for children, and on Jalan Melati is the city's Culture Park, a center of instruction of the traditional arts where perfomances are often held.
Belawan Ocean Habour
Belawan's ocean harbour is located a little outside this North Sumatran port town, which is known for its fresh and dried fish and other products of the sea, and for its typical local seafood.
Azizi Grand Mosque
Binjai, about 6.5 kilometers away from Medan, is known for its delectable rambutan fruits. Here, also, is found the Tapian Daya art center. The land along the way between Binjai and Langka is lined with cocoa trees. In Tanjung Pura, in the Langkat regency, is the Azizi Grand Mosque, which was built by the sultan of Tanjung Pura. Further ahead the road leads into Pangkal Brandan, an oil town with a seaport named Pangkalan Susu.
Bahorok orang Utan Rehabilation Center
The Bahorok Orang Utan Rehabilation Center is located at Bukit Lawang, about 84 kilometers from Medan, inside a protected forest reserve with camping grounds for visitors. A river with crystal-clear water in which many fishes dart and swim runs alongside the rim of the reserve.
Sikundur Tourist Park
Gunung Leuser National Park
On the main road to Banda Aceh is the Sikundur Tourist Park, where elephants, gibbons, deer and the other wildlife species live, among them many rare ones. Sikundur is part of the huge Gunung Leuser National Park.
Sibolangit Nature Reservation
Sibolangit Camping Grounds
In this area, especially round Perbaungan, mats are made. The village is located on the main road, about 37 kilometers from Medan in the direction of Pematang Siantar. Further along the road is the Sibolangit Nature Reservation, 40 kilometers from Medan, are Sibolangit Camping Grounds, which has restaurants and other facilities as well as a cool mountain climate. About 35 kilometers from Brastagi is Sembahe, a village on the Betimus River, which is a popular resort for swimming and bathing.
Along the road towards Pematang Siantar, about 37 kilometers from Medan, is the Adolina palm oil plantation where visitors are processed.
Sialang Buah Beach
About 60 kilometers from Medan towards Brastagi is the scenic Sikulikap Waterfall. Sialang Buah Beach is a clean beach resort on the road to Tebingtinggi, about six kilometers from Medan.
Sixty-six kilometers towards the south of the North Sumatra Provincial capital the Karo Highlands begin. The spot is marked by a monumentt depecting the fight of the Karo people, armed with bamboo spear, against the Duch during the war of indenpendence.
Near, Kabanjahe, is the village Lingga, where the remains of an old Karo kingdom are preserved. The houses and halls are said to be about 250 years old. The complex has a geriten, a place where the skulls and bones of dead kings are kept.
About eigth kilometers from Kabanjahe is Barusjahe, where old traditional Karo's houses, are found. Not far away is Peceran, an old village with many historical relics, among them some beautifully preserved old Karo houses.
Lake Lau Kawar
From Kabanjahe it is another 25 kilometers to Lake lau Kawar, which is a good place for camping, boating or fishing. From this sport the road continues towards Raja Berneh, a resort some 40 kilometers from Kabanjahe which boasts hot water springs.
About 15 kilometers from the main road from Kabanjahe is Tongging, a scenic spot on the northern shores of Lake Toba. The road to Sipiso-piso waterfall, 94 kilometers from Tonnging, overlooks the lake and offers magnificent views. It is a mere three kilometers from the main road to the waterfall.
Some 57 kilometers from Medan in the direction of Brastagi is Kampung Dolu. The village is good starting point for hikers climbing Sibayak volcano. Brastagi is a pleasant little town with a cool, invigorating mountain climate in the Karo heartland, which is known for its fresh fruits, flowers and vegetables. There are a number of bungalows and swimming pools catering to visitors.
Further away on the Brastagi road is Bukit Gundaling, a hill offering great open views of the surrounding landscape and the volcanoes Sinabung and Sibayak in the distance. Between Bandar Baru and Brastagi is Lau Debuk-debuk, a pond filled with hot water for bathing, located just about one kilometer from the main road.
Sidikalang is the capital of the Dairi Regency, a town with cool climate, 153 kilometers from Medan. The Dairi Museum contains many objects of historical and cultural interest related to the area.
Lau Pondom, Paropo and Silalahi are three pleasant places not far from the Lake Toba shore.
This is one of the most prosperous areas of North Sumatra, and tea and tobacco plantations are the main sources of its wealth. At Pematang Purba, at the fringe of the Karo Highlands at about 1,200 meters above sea level, is a complex called the Rumah Bolon, the "Big House", which is the residence of a former local ruler.
The town Pematang Siantar, 130 kilometers from Medan, has a Simalungun Museum, the oldest of such institutions in North Sumatra. In it is kept a large and rare collection of rare items related to the culture and the history of the area. There is also a traditional building in the Simalungun style, which is at least 200 years old.
Sidamanik Marjanji Tea Plantation
The Siantar Zoo, one of the oldest of North Sumatra, is a good place for the visitor to familiarize himself with the natural history of the area. It was built during the Dutch colonial era. About 30 kilometers from Pematang Siantar, is the Sidamanik Marjanji tea plantation. The views in the area are impressive and the climate is cool.
About 48 kilometers From Pematang Siantar, or 181 kilometers from Medan, finally is Parapat, the well known resort town on the shores of Lake Toba. The road from Medan towards this cool little town passes through tea, palmoil and rubber plantations and green fields, as well as Batak craftsmen's villages offering their wares to passing travelers.
Being one of the foremost and oldest holiday spots in the province, Parapat has many bungalows, restaurants and recreation facilities that cater to visitors. A curiously shaped rock at the lakeside, known as the "Hanging Stone", greets visitors to Sibaganding village on the northeast side of the lake.
The stone is shaped like a human being hanging from the gallows, the head bent and the legs touching the cliff. Legend has it that the figure is that of a beautiful young woman of the village who committed suicide because her parents forced her to marry against her will.
Bangun Dolok Camping Grounds
About two kilometers from Parapat are the Bangun Dolok camping grounds. From the peak of hill, campers can view the breath-taking panoramas. It is also an execellent spot for hang-gliding.
Sihaporas is an isolated village in the forest about 15 kilometers from Parapat where age-old ceremonies are still held on certain occasions. The people of the village still believe in a form of animism, known locally as the Parmalim faith, or the Creed of the Batak Kings.
Some 62 kilometers from Pematang Siantar is the village Simajarunjung in the Dolok Pardamean district. Nearby is a peaceful nature reserve offering wide vistas over Lake Toba and Samosir Island.
In the Purba district, 73 kilometers from Pematang Siantar, is the resort village Haranggaol, at the Toba lakeside. The village has a number of old traditional Simalungun Batak houses.
The roads skirting the lake offer beautiful vistas. The nothern shores of Toba belonging to the Dolok Pardamean district, 30 kilometers from Siantar. The village Tiga Ras with its stone cave is popular holiday resort for local youngsters.
It takes four hours to travel the 185 kilometers distance from Medan to Parapat - a venture which is, however, amply compensated by many alternating and interesting sights. The road cuts through paddies, plantations and open fields, passing numerous villages before the landscape changes and becomes more virgin as its climb into the highlands. The final reward of the rather long journey is the sight of Toba, Indonesia's biggest lake, glistening under the sun far down below the road.
The Batak people refer to Toba as Tapian Nauli, which literally means "the beautiful lake". Lake Toba is located at an elevation of 906 meters above sea level, which make it one of the highest major lakes in the world.
Its surface covers an area of roughly 1,700 square kilometers, and its greatest depth is 450 meters. According to geologists, lake Toba is actually a water-filled caldera - a basin created by the collapse, during a catalysmic eruption, of a volcano that existed on that spot in prehostoric times. The island of Samosir in the middle of the lake is what is left of that volcano's peak.
Samosir maybe regarded as the center of the Batak heartland. Here, some of the oldest remains of the ancestral culture of the Batak people are preserved, and the heritage of Batak lore is kept alive.
Tuk-tuk is a little cape on Samosir Island, located about halfway between Ambarita and Tomok. The lakeside setting in alluring. Camping facilities as well as low-cost lodgings and restaurants are available to visitors.
About five kilometers away from Tuk-tuk is Ambarita, in the former
domain of the ancient Siallagan kingdom. In front of the old chieftain's house, built in original Toba Batak design, are some stone chairs and tables where the ruler and his advisers held counsel. Nine kilometers to the southeast of Ambarita is Tomok, where the stone tomb of the King Sidabutar is found. The massive tomb is adorned at the top with a statue of Aning Malela, who according to tradition was probably the ruler's unfaithful fiancee.
A few ttraditional Batak houses stand in a clearing not far removed from the graveyard. Their present occupants are descendants of the King Sidabutar, who look after the heirlooms left by the ruler, among which are some spears and machetes, some porcelain dishes and several other items.
Alam Hutabolon Museum
More old relics can be seen at Simanindo, a village near the northwestern end of the island. There is also the Alam Hutabolon Museum, occupying an area of about one hectare, surrounded by a 2.5 meter-high wall of earth. In the old days, this was the residence of the King Sidauruk of Simanindo kingdom. His old royal quarters still stand, flanked by four other old buildings. In front of the main building are three more traditional houses, called Sopo Batak. Traditional tor-tor, sigale-gale, tunggal, and haonaran dances are on occasion performed in the yard.
Sigale-gale are wooden puppets, or effigies, of human beings which were accorded supernatural powers. Strings are attached to the arms, hands and eyes so that during the tor-tor dance they can be made to move to the rythm of the music by a puppeteer sitting cross-legged behind the effigy.
A short distance from Simanindo is Tao Island, at the northwestern end of Samosir. Cottages and restasurant are available. Access is usually by solu bolon, the larger type of boat which often take passengers for excursions on the lake.
There are also small fishing boats called solu persada-sada, which can take just one passenger. When not taking passengers, locals go out fishing in the lake, using either nets or spears.
Other intersting villages to visit are Pangururan, on Samosir's western shore, and Bakara, where successive kings of the Sisingamangaraja dynasty had their seat of power. There is a hot water spring between Pangururan and Palipi, another village in the area.
Balige, 234 kilometers from Medan on the road Tarutung, is known for traditional Batak cloths and carved wooden panels. Here, too, is the grave of Sisingamangaraja XII, the last Batak king of the dynasty who became an Indonesian national hero because of his resistance againts the Dutch. He died in 1907.
On the Porsea-Balige road is Laguboti village, which is famous for wood carvings. There is a well in the village which according to local lore was created by Mual Sisinga, a king of Simalungun simply by sinking the end of a stick into the ground.
Aek Sigeaon Adolina
Tarutung is the approximately 300-year-old capital of the regency of North Tapanuli. It is surrounded by mountain ranges and hence is blessed with cool mountain climate. Nearby flows the Aek Sigeaon river, which further enhances the town's scenic surroundings. In the 1960s, the central goverment in Jakarta proclaimed Tarutung the cleanest town in Indonesia.
Siborong-borong, not far from Tarutung, is known for its hot water spring Sipolon, and the sulphur-rich valleys in its vicinity. Traditional horse races are held each year in Siborong-borong.
Sigura-gura and the Asahan River now provide the water power for the island's biggest power generating installation. Nearby Adian Koting offers beautiful panoramas, as well as a couple of old and venerated graves.
To get Sibolga, the overland traveler must pass a winding road with as many as 2,000 bends. Pause at Bonan Dolok, a highly scenic spot on the road between Tarutung and Sibolga.
Sibolga is the old capital of the Central Tapanuli regency. Although small, its harbor is one of the most important on the North Sumatra west coast. The distance from Sibolga to Medan is 349 kilometers. Pandan, on the coast, is about 20 kilometers from Sibolga, towards Padang Sidempuan.
The beach is good for swimming, bathing and boating. Not far away is Hajoran, a beach known for its long vistas and and beautiful sunsets. Offshore, near Sibolga, Mursala Island offers beach recreation facilities. The island is inhabited by fishermen and their families. ever more popular, especially among younger holiday makers, is Poncan Island.
The old port of Barus is 68 kilometers towards the northwest of Sibolga, or 418 kilometers from Medan. The remnants of a Portuguese fort and the graves of a number of the Gurajati traders of old who introduced Islam into Indonesia are found in the vicinity.
About 80 kilometers off the west coast, in the Indian Ocean, is the island of Nias - better known among the local people as Tano Niha, which literally means "the land of the people". It is biggest in a group of islands on this side of Sumatra that is part of the province of North Sumatra. The capital is Gunung Sitoli, on the northeast coast of the island.
Big waves wash the island's shore, especially along the western coastline which faces the open sea. It is coincidence that it is on this side of the island that some of the best surfers' beaches of Indonesia are found. The central parts of the island are mountainous.
The highest peak is 866-meter-tall Hili Lolomatua. Virgin forest blanket most of those hills and mountains, and rivers-mostly shallow and unnavigable-traverse the lanscape. Villages are generally located in the hinterland.
The culture of Nias is of the megalithic tradition, dates back to the late stone age or the begining of the bronze age, and can be traced back to the Southeast Asian mainland. The people of the island call themselves "ono niha", which simply means "the children of the people". Of proto-Malay stock, the Nias islanders have over the centuries undergone little inter-mixing with other Indonesian ethnic population groups, due to the island's isolation.
The Nias native tongue belongs to the Malay Polynesian group of languages, and knows two distinct dialects, one in the south. The first is spoken along the north, west and east coasts of the island, while the latter, also known as the tello dialect, is spoken by people of the central parts and those Batu Island.
In the official vernacular, the name Nias refers to entire regency which includes the island of Nias itself plus the smaller islands in its vicinity, the most important of which are Hinako, Senau, Lafau and Batu.
In the past, the only way of reaching Nias was by boat. Communications have improved significantly since opening of a modest airport for light aircraft, Binaka, near Gunung Sitoli. The availability of daily fligths between Medan and Gunung Sitoli have now as good as ended the island's isolation.
In addition, there are regular boat services from Sibolga, although the facilities available are very basic and crossing time-consuming at best, hazardous at worst, especially during rough weather.
Traditional villages on Nias are usually laid out in a U-shaped pattern. The houses of the most prominent village elders and dignitaries are built along the short end, while commoners and the lower ranks of the village bureaucracy have their houses along the two longer parallel sides, facing each other.
Two types of houses are known; ordinary houses, or omo pasisir, and adat or traditional houses, which are known as omo hada. The latter are for the village leaders, or tuhenori/salawa, and are made of wood, with thatch roof. In front of the house of menhir can often be found. This upright standing stone monument is called saitagari in the south, behu in the southeast, and goezalava in the east, north and west. A daro-daro or harefa stone seat is also placed in front of the house. The presence of such objects is an indication that the occupants have raised their social standing by holding a certain feast.
The majority of the people of Nias are Christians. Some, however, are Buddhist, and still others are followers of either Islam or the old Pele-begu cult of ancestor worship. Among the Nias people, that cult is also known as Malehe Aud or Fanemba Adu - the worship of Adu.
The main sources of livehood are agriculture, fishing and hunting.
Sun Hill, Bawomataluo
The interim destination on the journey from Gunung Sitoli to Bawomataluo is the tiny port of Teluk Dalam, which can be reached over land in six to eight hours. The distance from Teluk Dalam to Bawomataluo is only 14 kilometers, but the trip takes a whole hour or more due to the hilly terrain and the cliffs and gorges that line the roadside.
Bawomataluo means "Sun Hill" and indeed, the village is built on the top a hill. Four-hundred and eighty stone steps lead up from the foot of the hill to the village entrance, where a big surprise awaits the visitor. A row of magnificient stilted wooden houses at the far end. It has been said that those are perhaps the finest examples of traditional houses in Indonesia.
Most of the houses are least 200 years old and are made of very durable kind of wood. The pillars are made of huge whole tree trunks and the thick, densely plaited palm leaves provide the roofing material.
Similar houses exist in Hilisimaetano, another old village in the central highlnds of the island. Villagers will on request stage a demonstration of one or two of their age-old rituals, the most spectacular of which are stone jumping, or hombo batu, and war dances. The first is believed to have originated as a sort of military training exercise, and involves youths jumping over a two-meters high stone block. Once required of all males, stone jumping is nowdays performed to luster up village feasts.
In the war dance, about a hundred males of varying ages line up in the square, dressed in colorful costumes, and stamp their feet on the ground while they sing and yell. The war dance is usually followed by a victory dance, in which the women participate.
More well-preserved traditional houses can be found in Tomori and Onawaembo, not far from Gunung Sitoli, where the northern building style prevails.
A popular surfers beach is Lagundri, about 13 kilometers from Teluk Dalam on the island's south coast.
Culture and history have left deep imprints on South Tapanuli. There are, for instance, the ruins of Candi Portibi in the Padang Bolak area, Gunungtua regency. This old temple site stands witness to the past great influence of the Buddhist faith, which once dominated this region. Nearby, there are three more old temple ruins. Standing next to each other, they are referred to simply as Bahala I, Bahala II and Bahala III. At the distance of about six kilometers from Portibi there is a bigger temple site called Candi Sipamatung.
In Panyabungan Tonga, there are a couple of traditional housess of the Mandaililng type, known as Bagas Godang and Sopo Godang. In the front yard of the Bagas Godang are several ancient stone statues and an old canon. Panyabungan Tonga is located about 85 kilometers from Padang Sidempuan. On the road to Padang, West Sumatra, is Husor Tolang, a Mandailing traditional village, looking neat and clean, and orderly laid out.
About 12 kilometers down the road away from Muara Sipongi is Pakatan, an old village in the Mandailing Julu highlands which boasts a number of traditional houses and some historical relics.
For simple recreation and the enjoyment of nature, there is Padang Balangnka, a park in scenic surroundings. At the roadside between Tano Bato and Natal, 20 kilometers from Panyabungan, is Lungun Roha, where one can enjoy the beauty of the Mandailing Godang landscape. A few kilometers further again from Lungun Roha are the hot water springs of Sibanggor.
Natal is a small port town on the west coast of South Tapanuli. Natal is rich in both history and natural beauty. Natal's population is a mixture of Minangkabau and Mandailing Batak. A cluster of small islands guards the approached to the old port: Pini, Tanagmasa, Tanah Bala, Boyo and Simuk Island.
Istana Lima Laras
In the Tanjung Tiram district, 200 kilometers from Medan, are the remains of the Istana Lima Laras (the "Palace of Five Rifle Barrels"), a leftover from the time of the Asahan sultanate. Near Tanjung Tiram is Bogak Beach, which is a popular holiday refuge for local youngsters.
Pantai Cermin is a very nice recreation beach. Another one in the area is Pantai Percut. At Labuhan Batu, 19 kilometers from Rantau Parapat, is a huge rubber estate, managed by PTP III, a government-owned plantation company.
The Sigura-gura Waterfall harnesess the water of the Asahan river for the generation electricity. The river channels the water from Lake Toba and disgorges it into Malacca Strait. Panorama Hutanginjang is a resort which Dutch planters of government officials built during the pre-war days. It still serves as a popular mountain holiday resort. In its surroundings are many bungalows that the cater to visitors. The resort is located not far from the Sigura-gura waterfall, at a distance of about 250 kilometers from Medan.
Mau Belajar Aksara Batak?? Klik Di sini
North Sumatra: From Kuala Deli To Tapanuli