Exploring North Sumatra

Around end July-early August, I went for a trip with my family to visit places around North Sumatra in 5 days. We started from Medan and my dad drove us around to visit (in order): Siantar, Samosir, Sapo Juma, and Berastagi.

Day 1: To Samosir

The day started early. We left Medan at 8 am. Our goal was to take the 2 pm Ferry from Ajibata port (next to Parapat) to Samosir Island. Using expressway, we reached Tebing Tinggi in less than an hour, but due to the bad traffic and road conditions, we only reached Siantar at 10:30. After a stop at the snack shop Asli, we had early lunch and left Siantar around 11:30.

Badak“, a carbonated soft drink manufactured in Siantar. It tastes like A&W’s root beer. It has been in production way before Coca-Cola entered Indonesia.

We reached Parapat around 1:30 pm, but was surprised by the queue. There were two ferry ports, and we intend to take the public port. However we’re informed that the queue has been full for the trips till 6 pm. So we had no choice but to queue for the older ferry at the other port (which is privately owned). We queued and waited for a long time, and our luck wasn’t that good either, as we missed the 7 pm ferry just by one car. We’re only allowed to enter the port area only at around 7 pm. We ate the snacks that we brought over as “dinner”. While waiting, I saw a group of youth singing and strumming guitar on the benches nearby. It’s a pretty good entertainment to all of us. I also spotted several stray cats and dogs seeking for food in the trash bins.

KMP Tao Toba II ferry over sunset

Our ferry only left at 9 pm. The ride was smooth but the surrounding sky and water were very dark. Looking up, the sky was full of stars! Too bad we didn’t leave our car and hence only have limited view of the sky.

The view of Prapat from the ferry trip

We arrived at Tomok ferry port at 10 pm. After disembarking, we’re surprised that our hotel was located at a very secluded area. We settled down and straightaway took our rest. It was such a tiring day.

Day 2: Samosir

View of Lake Toba from our hotel in the morning.

In the morning, we had privilege of 2 free buffet breakfast and my dad & I went for it. The breakfast was pretty chaotic. The hotel was understaffed and there were too many guests there. The dishes were almost always empty and when it was topped up, it was quickly snatched up by the guests.

In the morning we visited Huta Siallagan, near Ambarita village. It was a traditional Batak cultural site. There were several Bolon houses (traditional Batak houses) with the main attractions being “Batu Persidangan”, which is believed to be the place to hold trials. The place for criminal execution was just next to the it. The village king’s tomb was nearby too. This site was only recently renovated, which was why it was very nice when we visited.

Next we went to the site for Tari Sigale-Gale, near Tomok village. It was a traditional Batak dance, accompanied by dancing wooden dolls that is believed to be of hundred of years old. Quite interesting that at one point, the dancers had to dance with money in their hand and in the end deposit them into the doll.

Site for Tari Sigale-Gale at Tomok village

We also visited Batak Museum, which is one gallery on a Bolon house facade. The gallery contains several Batak artifacts, but they’re quite sad as the room was dimly lit and not much explanations were given. The gallery actually reminds me of a section in Singapore’s Asian Civilization Museum that carries Batak artifacts.

We headed for lunch at Orari restaurant, at Tuk-Tuk village. The pizza there was really good. The base was thin and crispy!

Afternoon was really warm and we went back to hotel to rest. I even had a nice nap.

At this point, the hotel was mostly empty as the guests have checked out. We went for a swim at the hotel’s swimming pool. I didn’t really enjoy it since the water was cold and quite dirty.

We spent the night at the hotel’s restaurant for dinner. Then we went for karaoke! The hotel operated karaoke service in a room that seemed like a non-functional bar. They projected YouTube and the operator searched for karaoke version of the songs that we requested. We spent around 2 hours there. It was really enjoyable!

View of the lake from the hotel at night.

It was quite funny that on the other night the hotel was full of guests, but this night they only had 2-3 group of guests.

Day 3: To Sapo Juma

Today’s breakfast was not crowded, but still kind of disappointing, since the number of dishes were reduced as there weren’t many hotel guests left.

We checked out from hotel around 10 am and headed for ferry port at Ambarita village. There weren’t much crowd here. The port building looks very good, but most of it was closed off from public use. There only things that were open are a desk for ticketing and a waiting area.

Our ferry, KMP Ihan Batak, departed at 11 and the condition was pretty good. Apart from several instances of broken seats and dirty environment, they still seem pretty new. The view from the decks was nice too, seeing Samosir getting smaller and smaller as we went further.

We reached Parapat at 12 and had lunch there.

After lunch, we headed to Sapo Juma. Apparently we wasted some time cause we missed a turn and didn’t realize it till 20 mins later. The road condition was mostly good, but several sections were really bad. It’s as if they were about to be repaired (the first layer have been shaved off) but were left off at that stage.

We reached Sapo Juma around 4 pm. And it started to rain.

After dinner, the night was so rainy and foggy. It was quite chilly too. There’s nothing much to do at night, so I mostly read book in our room and then sleep early.

Day 4: To Berastagi

The morning started with light rain but it cleared up later on. No beautiful sunrise over Lake Toba though.

We visited Loken Barn next door, which had a theme park vibe. Many elements were still under construction and the park was well maintained. It felt like it lacked shades as sometimes it could feel quite warm.

We headed back to Sapo Juma for lunch and the view of Lake Toba now is much clearer.

After lunch, we drove to Berastagi. The road was mostly fine. However we encountered a bad traffic jam near’s Berastagi town center due to a bad road section. Everyone slowed down and causes a massive jam.

We reached Hotel Grand Mutiara around 3 pm. After settling down, we walked around the hotel’s back yard, which is really huge. They even had a mini zoo that consists of turkeys, rabbits, chickens, and even silkies.

We had steamboat package for dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. We spent the evening watching TV in our room.

Steamboat dinner

Day 5: Back to Medan

It was another rainy morning. After a good buffet breakfast at the hotel restaurant, we spent the morning chilling at our room.

The hotel’s pool and garden

We left the hotel around 11 and visited Gundaling Farmstead. We had ice cream and pizza at the restaurant. The restaurant atmosphere was very nice. The ice cream was very nice, as the milk used was really fresh. The pizza was also well done, as it was baked with a specialized pizza stove. We also visited the dairy farm and bought some milk & yogurt.

After this, we headed to Juma Lau, at Sibolangit. It was surprisingly crowded. We had lunch there and then hang out in the cottage. The weather was pretty warm.

We left around 3:30 pm and reached Medan around 5.


Overall, it has been quite fun journey to visit these places. It was such a shame that the accessibility of these places weren’t great as most places requires ride via private transport. The information of such places weren’t that widely known too. For instance, we got conflicting information when we try to find the ferry schedule on the Internet.

Despite some setbacks, it has been really enjoyable trip. Besides nature, I also enjoyed the various food served, especially the fishes, which were really fresh.

Let’s see where our next adventure be :)

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