Indonesia: Medan, Parapat and Lake Toba

We were greeted with pouring rain once we arrived in Medan. After we made it through the Indonesian version of customs, we grabbed a cab out to our hotel. That evening, we decided to venture out into the pouring rain to see what we could find for food. Having ordered a rather disappointing meal at the hotel, we were still hungry and eager to try some real Indonesian food. We ended up in an area called Merdeka Walk where we found a nice little restaurant sheltered from the rain. This meal on the other hand, was an entirely different experience from that of our hotel. Aside from the customers being outnumbered 10:1 at all times, the second we sat down we were under such immense pressure to order that we picked the first few things that caught our eye. Although stressful, the ordeal was quite comical and even after our food arrived, we were still being stared at by no less than 5 restaurant staff at all times.

The next morning, Pat and I hired a van to take us to the town of Parapat to catch the 6 o’ clock ferry to Samosir island. Although long, the ride out to Parapat was quite fun. Our driver was more than willing to help me practise the little Bahasa I had learned on the plane and we got to experience driving, Indo style.  There were a couple times during the 4 hour trip that I found myself grinding my teeth and jamming my foot through the floor mats. One blind corner in particular was burned into my memory. We were driving along swerving between lanes, which is custom on any Indonesian highway, when we found ourselves caught behind a cargo truck belching enough black exhaust to power the city of Terrace for a fortnight. The fumes coming in through the dash began to get rather annoying so the driver edged out to take a look and before long we were in oncoming (moped) traffic. It was Cecil who later pointed out the noticeable hierarchy on the road in that pedestrians are at the bottom, mopeds are just above that and your rights as a driver improve as you move up in weight class. Anyway, we made to pass on a corner that at first appeared clear so the driver laid on the horn and started to edge forward. It wasn’t until we were about halfway around when a boulder the size of a Smartcar appeared in the middle of the oncoming lane. Luckily, the cargo truck had seen that we were coming and slowed down to let us pass. That set the precedent for most of our land excursions in Indonesia.

After reaching Parapat, a small town right on the edge of Lake Toba, it was a short ferry ride across to Samosir Island. Erin was there to meet us on the other side at Tabo cottages, a hotel we were to stay at in a town called Tuk Tuk. It was a nice spot right on the water complete with several gazeboes and a rather large restaurant serving all kinds of delicious soups, open-faced sandwiches and a variety of Indonesian dishes. I rather enjoyed the chicken satay but my favourite was definitely the lemon cake muffins put out by the hotel’s German bakery!

The people we met on Samosir island were quite friendly, waving to us as we drove by on mopeds and even inviting Patrick and I into their house for the Indonesian delicacy of durian fruit… Indonesia is not the only place to find durian, it is all over Southeast Asia but this was the first time I had the privilege of tasting it. I’m glad I did for the sole reason that it gets to come off the bucket list. Other than that, it was a mixture of slimy, fruity cheese with a faint hint of holy shit what did I get myself into. I ate a few small bites as Patrick and I ask about the man’s family. The house was a concrete floor with a tin roof of about 400 square feet. The man of the house and his friend from up the road were carving small, ornate wooden guitars which could be found in the shops at the bottom of the hill while his wife, son and daughter were sitting in the corner watching us. It was a pretty cool experience and as soon as the man’s English was exhausted, we thanked him and took our leave to continue up the road on mopeds. The narrow, winding and, in some places, collapsed road led us up and up past waterfalls and farms until eventually it plateaued and we decided to turn around.

The ride down was great as we could shut the motors off and coast down in silence. The livestock we found along the way were not entertained by the silence as we could get within feet of them before they would take notice and flip out! There were a few cows, some bush turkeys and even a couple of adorable little pigs but the funniest were the sketchy road goats we encountered. They seemed entirely content to chew their grass and hang out in the ditch but as soon as you stopped to take a picture, you could see them start to stress and before long they would retreat further into the limited bush.

We also met 2 Swedish girls (Caroline and Linnea) whom Erin and Cecil had met a few days before. We spent lots of time chillin, the 6 of us, and hanging out on the resort relaxing. Cecil and Erin had been there a few days before us and we were ready to get a move on so we packed our things, said farewell to the Swedes and headed out to the dock to catch the afternoon ferry back to Parapat.

All in all, my first few days in Indo were eye-openers. There was definitely a noticeable difference from Thailand and, in its own rugged way, Indonesia had a charm all its own. Anyway, thank you for the read everyone! By next entry I should be caught up to New Zealand and I will do my best to stay on top of it all from there! Cheers

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