A Morning on Samosir Island, Lake Toba


The east bank of Samosir Island, with steep verdant hills and churches!

One of the chief reasons for visiting Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Indonesia is to visit the Toba-Batak villages that populate the volcanic lake and Samosir Island. It is a 45 minute boat ride from Parapat on the eastern shore of the lake to the island, a gigantic monolith right smack in the middle and with a land link to the western shore. I had wished we were given more time to explore this mysterious island, but all we had were two hours in the Batak town of Tomok. This is a village overcrowded with souvenir and craft shops, but it is more importantly the site of several royal tombs of the Toba Batak rulers. Here one also gets witness Toba-Bataks culture and how they lived.    

A jetty and memorial in Tomok.

A Toba-Batak longhouse, with its characteristic boat-shaped roof (some say it also resembles the horns of a buffalo, an animal that is common here). This building was purportedly the home of a Toba-Batak king, and the effigy standing in front is that of his son. Today, it is inhabited by a family, and the first thing one sees on peeking into its front door is a television set!

The tomb and stone sarcophagus of King Sidarbuta at the royal burial grounds in Tomok. 

A recurrent icon in Toba-Batak culture is the gecko and four breasts (no kidding!), which are supposedly symbolic of the humble origins of mankind (hence a crawling creature) one that is nourished by the ample bosoms of nature in order to attain the stature of adulthood. On the right is a Toba-Batak totem pole, also located at the site of the royal burial ground. 

Stone statues and icons, representing man in ancient animistic Toba-Batak culture. Nowadays, the Toba-Bataks are predominantly Christian. 

A well-preserved Toba-Batak longhouse that is now the Toba-Batak Museum in Tomok. The facade of the longhouse is decorated with elaborate artwork, which bears certain similarities with Papua New Guinean, Australian aboriginal and Maori art. Notice the ever-present geckos and mammary glands.!

In truth, the Museum is little more than a glorified Toba-Batak art and craft shop.

The Protestant Church of Tomok has wonderful fengshui, set in between water and hills.

The steep hills that rise behind the village of Tomok is carved by several waterfalls.

A final look at the village of Tomok, which resembles some tranquil tropical paradise.