Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lake Toba is Beautiful Culture

This is one of the highest lakes in South East Asia 853m (2,800ft) above sea-level, created by enormous volcanic eruption. Glittering aquamarine when the sun shines, green and menacing under a stormy sky, it is the largest lake in Indonesia. Even so, it serves in effect as a mere moat for huge Samosir Island, which with an area of 630 sq km (243 sq miles) is bigger than Singapore. Parapat is the lake shore resort town where you can embark for the island, half an hour away by boat.
Most visitors stop first at Tomok to see the royal cemetery, with stone tombs 400 years old. Huge banyan trees shelter the ancient graves.

On the eastern side of Samosir, the village has some fine old Batak Houses, extraordinary structures set high on poles and built without a single nail, using a notch method, wooden pegs and ropes. The front and back walls slope outward and are ornamented with woodcarvings. Only the Batak colours white, red and black are used. The huge sway-backed roofs are made of palm fibre or neat sheets of corrugated iron, and a carved buffalo head is set at each of the gable ends. The sopo or rice storehouse is designed in the same way.
Inside these communal houses there are no rooms, but mats are hung to give privacy. About eight related families live in each house, but when a boy reaches puberty, he moves to a special bachelors’ house with others of his age.
Ambarita also has an ancient judgment place with stone table and seats where chiefs used to meet to settle the fate of tribe members accused of a crime. If things went badly, it was off with their heads on the spot.

At the northern tip of Samosir, an outstanding Batak house, once a palace, is now a museum and the place, is now a museum and place to see Batak dancing. The musicians sit up in a gallery while men and women dance in the courtyard below. They may demonstrate is gale gale puppets, almost like-size marionettes which are made to peform with uncannily like-like movements.

There are a number of Batak tribes, but Samosir Island in Lake Toba is the cradle of their culture. According to tradition, all Bataks are descended from Si Raja Batak, a god hero born on a holy mountain near Lake Toba.

By Indonesia Tourism Promotion Boards. (Indonesia a World all its Own)
By This Way Indonesia (James Hardy)
Photo by Gery Bell (Oceanwide Images)

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