I spent nine days in northern Sumatra. It was a great experience.
The main attractions were the forests with the wildlife. The Tropical Rainforest Heritage of Sumatra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It includes Gunung Leuser National Park (Tangkahan and Bukit Lawang), Kerinci Seblat National Park and Bukit Barisan Selatan National Park. The Orangutans, Gibbons, and various monkeys were fantastic to see.
Another interesting area was Berastagi with the Sibayak volcano.
The Karo and Batak tribes in north-central Sumatra are mainly Christian (as opposed to most of Indonesia, which is Muslim). I visited the Karo village Dokan to see their traditional houses.
A visit to the King's Palace in Pematang Purba was interesting.
Lake Toba and Samosir Island was the last stop on the tour of Sumatra. There are a lot of historically interesting things to see in that area.
Bukit Lawang. The river was popular for tubing. (805k) The cave near Tangkahan where I stayed overnight. (980k) View of Mount Sinabung from Mount Sibayak. (746k) View of Mount Sibayak. (694k) Steam vent on Mount Sibayak. (809k) Steam vent on Mount Sibayak. (817k) Summit crater on Mount Sibayak. (796k)
Videos of steam vents on Mount Sibayak
Steam vent on Mount Sibayak. (24.7M) Steam vent on Mount Sibayak. (19.7M)
Lake Toba is a large natural lake occupying the caldera of a supervolcano. The lake is about 100 km (60 miles) long, 30 km (19 miles) wide, and up to 505 m (1,657 ft) deep. Located in the middle of the northern part of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, with a surface elevation of about 900 m (2,950 ft), the lake stretches from 2.88°N 98.52°E to 2.35°N 99.1°E. It is the largest lake in Indonesia and also the largest volcanic lake in the world.
Lake Toba is the site of a massive supervolcanic eruption that occurred 69,000 to 77,000 years ago, representing a climate-changing event. It is the largest known explosive eruption on Earth in the last 25 million years. According to the Toba catastrophe theory, it had global consequences for human populations; it killed most humans living at that time and is believed to have created a population bottleneck in central east Africa and India, which affects the genetic make up of the human worldwide population to the present.
It has been accepted that the eruption of Toba led to a volcanic winter with a worldwide decrease in temperature between 3-5°C (37-41°F), and up to 15°C (59°F) in higher latitudes. Additional studies in Lake Malawi in East Africa show significant amounts of ash being deposited from the Toba eruptions, even at that great distance, but little indication of a significant climatic effect in East Africa.
View of Lake Toba. (683k) View of Lake Toba and Samosir Island. (755k) Air Terjun Sipiso Piso waterfall just north of Lake Toba. (936k) The village Parapat, with Samosir Island in the background. In the foreground on the lake are fish farms. (644k)
In each of these traditional houses of the Karo and Batak tribes reside eight families. There are no divisions between the families. The ground floor of the house is for animals, the attic is used for storage. They cook on fires in the houses without chimneys.
The Karo village Dokan. (860k) Traditional house in the Karo village Dokan. (630k) Inside of a traditional house. (767k) A family in a traditional house. (953k) Cooking in a traditional house. (764k) This open house is used for assemblies and parties. (684k) Chiefs house in the open-air museum on Samosir Island. (680k)
Churches, Temples, and Cemeteries
Catholic churches are traditionally raw brick, whereas protestant churches have plastered outside walls.
Individuals that own land are buried in tombs on their own land. Depending on the wealth of the family, the burial tombs can be huge and elaborate for wealthy individuals. Some time after the first burial, the bones are excavated and reburied in another tomb, which can be just as elaborate with multiple levels, with the reburial on the second floor. These reburial tombs are used for the whole family.
Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni, a catholic church in Medan. (548k) Inside Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni. (850k) A statue at Graha Maria Annai Velangkanni. (727k) Taman Alam Lumbini, a Buddhist temple, based on the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar. (894k) Taman Alam Lumbini. (847k) Decorated wall on the grounds of Taman Alam Lumbini. The swastika (as a character 卐 or 卍) is an ancient religious icon used in the Indian subcontinent, East Asia and Southeast Asia, where it has been and remains a symbol of spiritual principles and values. (723k) Nicely manicured grounds in Taman Alam Lumbini. (1077k) Nicely manicured grounds in Taman Alam Lumbini. (1213k) Christian cemetery of the Karo tribe. Less wealthy individuals are buried in such cemeteries. (1043k) Fairly simple tombs on private land. (1370k) Tomb for a wealthy individual. (793k) Tomb for a wealthy individual. (803k) Multi-story reburial building for one family. (1136k) Catholic church with raw brick walls. (540k) Protestant church with plastered walls. (590k)
Tomok is a small Batak village. The tombs of the first Sidabutar kings are located there. The Sidabutar kings, according to legend, were the first to colonize Samosir Island. During the reign of the third Sidabutar king, they converted to Christianity.
Tombs of the first Sidabutar kings. (980k) Tomb of the first Sidabutar king. (1149k) Tomb of the second Sidabutar king. (1155k)
Ambarita is a small Batak village. It has some historic relics from the pre-Christian era during the rule of the Siallagan kings. Apparently the people there performed ritual cannibalism in the pre-Christian era. When they captured an enemy, the tribal council would determine his fate. When the enemy was sentenced to death, he was executed in this place and eaten.
The traditional houses were separated for men and women. The men's houses had the stairs to the main floor outside, the women's houses had the stairs inside.
Pangulubalang statue at the entrance to Ambarita. It protects the village from evil spirits. (1045k) Traditional houses in Ambarita. (770k) One of the traditional women\s's houses with the stairs inside. (694k) One of the traditional men's houses with the stairs outside. (887k) Decorated front of one of the traditional houses in Ambarita. (607k) Stone chairs for the tribal council. (1198k) Execution area in Ambarita. (1084k) Ritual staff from the Siallagan kings era. (947k) Burial place of the Siallagan kings of the Christian era. (939k)
In Simanindo is the house of the Toba Batak king, which has been turned into the Huta Bolon Simanindo museum. I watched a traditional Batak dance performance in the museum.
Some of the traditional houses in the museum. This is where we sat to watch the dance performance. (805k) The rice pounding house. In this house the women would pound rice to prepare for meals. (963k) Richly decorated granary house for storing food. (1031k) The king's house. (680k) The musicians in the king's house. (1108k) A water buffalo was brought to the dance performance. It was tied down in the middle of the dance area. (717k) Dance performance. (805k) Dance performance. (914k) Dance performance. (820k) Dance performance. (801k) Dancer with offering. (779k) Dancer. (762k) Dancer. (791k) Dancer. (556k) Dancer. (696k)
Video of the dance performance
Dance performance. (49.7M)
King's Palace in Pematang Purba
In Pematang Purba, a village in northern Sumatra, is the restored king's palace of the Simalungun kings. The Simalungun people are a subgroup of the Batak people. The word "Purba" is the name of the dynasty.
The palace complex is now a museum. The houses are mostly built without nails.
The kings in general had 24 wives (one main wife and 23 concubines).
Kings of the Purba Dynasty:
Tuan Pangultop Ultop (1624-1648)
Tuan Ranjinman (1648-1669)
Tuan Nanggaraja (1670-1692)
Tuan Batiran (1692-1717)
Tuan Bakkaraja (1718-1738)
Tuan Baringin (1738-1769)
Tuan Bona Batu (1769-1780)
Tuan Raja Ulan (1781-1796)
Tuan Atian (1800-1825)
Tuan Horma Bulan (1826-1856)
Tuan Raondop (1856-1886)
Tuan Rahalim (1886-1921)
Tuan Karel Tanjung (1921-1931)
Tuan Mogang (1933-1947)
Entrance to the palace complex. (734k) The Rumah Bolon (long house), the main house of the king. (935k) The Rumah Bolon (long house), the main house of the king. (757k) Decorated support columns under the Rumah Bolon. (1241k) Stairs to the living area in the main house. (774k) Entrance to the wives living area in the main house. (766k) Wives living area with fire places. (673k) Decorated column with water buffalo horns. (768k) Pattangan Puang Bolon, house of the first wife. (1070k) Jambur, the house for the family of the king when they visit. (999k) Pattangan Raja, the king's audience hall. (1016k) Meeting house. (824k) Rice pounding house with 24 pounding sticks for the 24 wives. (862k) House for children. The lizards on the side are guarding the house. (1226k) Monument commemorating the Simalungun kings. (1021k)
I crossed a lot of these bridges. At first I was very uncomfortable because of my fear of heights. But after I crossed a dozen of them I got used to them. (1296k) Tubing in Bukit Lawang. (873k)