Tuesday 30 December 2014

Medan Journal (Day 5): Huta Siallagan

The Stone Chair

The Entrance to the Village - Seen here are the Panglulubalang(?s).

Hua Siallagan is a small village in Ambarita, founded by the Siallagan clan about a hundred years ago (hence the name). It is surrounded by thick brick walls and bamboo (used to be, at least) to keep enemies and wild animals at bay.

The Panglulubalang (a large stone at the entrance of the village) is believed to be the village’s guardian and shaman - sort-of (he wards off evil spirits).

I just wish they can get a better signboard. *Sigh*

Inside the village, there are eight traditional Batak houses built adjacent to each other, still standing strong despite being there for more than a hundred years!

Did you notice the orange fences underneath the house? 
The household's livestocks are stored here. 

Look at the Design of the Roof. This Two-Pointed End on the Roof is the Hallmark Design of the Batak Toba's tribe.

The main attractions: the two stone chairs. One for the hearings and stuff (in the middle of the courtyard), and another was reserved for executions (further up the village). Yup, it’s another gruesome death process (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, click here).

Hau Habonaran (i.e. Tree of Truth) is a large tree situated in the middle of the courtyard, where you can find the first stone chairs (and tables, duh). It was said that it was planted by the founders to determine the land's suitability for settlement. Obviously this is a good place, for the tree is alive and... well, there is a village here.

This site is the place where the kings and elders held council to discuss local affairs, including criminal cases and whatnot.

The First Stone Chair in the Middle of the Courtyard. Hau Habonaran is behind Ummi. 

Daddy hanging out with the stone dude.

Some of old relics inside the house

Criminals/offenders kept under the Chief's house while awaiting trial's results/execution. 
The leg is cuffed to prevent him/her from running away.

The Second Trial Stone - The Execution site. We didn't stay to listen to the lady's story - I had enough blood & killing for today - but I reckon it was a really interesting talk. 

So there you go folks. Now you know a little bit of Samosir's history. Unfortunate for us, today's our last day at Samosir Island. That afternoon, he headed back to Parapat and then Medan. Our Medan journey will end very soon.

Tomorrow will be our last day at Medan. But we're not done yet. I still have a little something to share with all of you. Stay tuned!
Read more ...

Sunday 28 December 2014

Medan Journal (Day 5): Parulubalangan

The Trial Stones

In addition to the very well preserved nature, Samosir is a land rich in cultures and legends of the Batak people. So today, we'll spend a bit of time exploring this territory in Ambarita, situated very near to our accommodation, Bagus Bay.

Our first destination today is the Historical Site of Parulubalangan.

Horas is a word from the Batak Toba'a language. 
It can be loosely translated as good morning/after/night/welcome!

A stone-carved effigy guarding the entrance to Parulubalangan. 

Upon entering this site, we were greeted by an old man, the keeper of this place. According to him, this local area was once an orchard belonging to a village and this particular site was like an ancient local court if you may, where the fate of any orchard's trespassers will be decided here by the elders of the village. Oh, this place also served as a worship site[1].

The Stone Table, an Ancient Court. Before the execution, the trespasser will be given his final meal, whatever his heart wished. 

Remember my previous entry on cannabalism? This place is the perfect site to learn about their practice. Their target: usually the wrongdoers (e.g. trespassers in this case). Those who were deemed guilty will deserving death will be beheaded and their blood drank by the villagers so that they may share a portion of the trespassers' strength. Of course the practice of cannabalism has long gone from the people of Batak Toba (as least as far as I know!), bust still, fascinating stuff, isn't it?

The Execution Site. Not an ideal way of dying, in my humble opinion.

Clumps of human hair, amongst other historical relics seen at the site. I don't even wanna know where they got the hair from.

The keeper explaining the history of this place to me.

From Parulubalangan, we continued our journey to Huta Siallagan, a small village in Ambarita, located ~10km from Tuk Tuk. It's about 10 minutes drive from Parulubalangan.
Read more ...

Saturday 27 December 2014

Medan Journal (Day 4): Sianjur Mulamula

Sianjur Mulamula = The Origin of Batak People[1]

Sianjur Mulamula 
Credit: Wikipedia

Sianjur Mulamula is arguably the most important cultural centre to learn about Batak Toba's history. This is where you can find the oldest Batak Toba village in Indonesia.

Sianjur Mulamula is one of the nine districts of Samosir Island. This beautiful place is surrounded by magnificent hills and stupendous paddy fields with cool and refreshing air.

Its major landmark is the Pusuk Buhit Mountain, a very young volcanic mountain. This district is separated from the island by a small bridge (see picture above).

I think it took about more than an hour from Simanindo to reach here.

Samosir Island in the Distance

Disclaimer: While I adored this place, as we go higher and higher to get a better view of the place, the quality of the road deteriorated very quickly, to a point that we have to stop driving higher for fear that it might ruin our vehicle. What a shame!

Anyway, enjoy the views!

Hills upon Hills. Just Mesmerising!

 Another view of Sianjur Mulamula

Daddy posing for the camera!

One shot for Ummi!

Like a painting. Captivating!

 Contemplating the Future. 
Or Just Posing for the Camera (haha!).

So that concludes my day 4 journey. We went back to cook for dinner and went into bed early that night. This wonderful journey is slowly coming to an end. 

(Sad face).

Read more ...

Friday 26 December 2014

Medan Journal (Day 4): Simanindo

Greetings from Danau Toba!
Our first stop of the day - Simanindo!

The Village of Simanindo is located at the northern tip of Samosir Island. It's a 10-15 minutes drive from our accomodation. In this village, there is a fine old, restored traditional house that now functions as a museum. 

This is the royal palace of the Batak Kingdom, home of the Batak King Rajah Simalungun, and his 14 wives. 

This museum has a lot of interesting collection of cooking utensils, weapons, Batak carvings and so much more. 

If enough tourists show up, they'll even perform the traditional Batak dancing for you (around 10.30AM) and make you dance with them. So, get ready to dance, folks!

More Details regarding the Batak Village

We watched a series of dance unique to the Batak culture. Naim and Ridu Dancing. 
I guess I'm not as cool as they are. Haha!

Taking a picture after the dancing ceremony.

Enough about history. Let's talk beauty.

The Batak building is amazing. The intricate design along with its carefully crafted patterns on the woods of the houses is just priceless.It's amazing how this place reminded me of how fragile humans are. 

Every powerful kingdom, be it the most unassailable one or not, will eventually tumble and crumble,  disintegrating along with the sands of time, becoming either a glorified history or a lost civilisation and that's the way it goes until the end of time. It's fortunate that this one didn't go the way of the dodo.

It's a reminder to all of us that only infallible is the Kingdom of Allah, the King of Kings, Master of the Universe. SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah)!

Another photograph near the Batak Village. 
Gorgeous, isn't it? SubhanAllah (Glory be to Allah)!

Bonus Picture: Buffaloes Wallowing under the Scorching Heat of the Morning.

Anyway, we stayed here for about two hours, admiring the stunning views around here before moving on to our next stop, Sianjur Mula-Mula.

Read more ...

Monday 22 December 2014

Medan Journal (Day 4) : Sunrise

Watching the Sunrise

Naimah woke me up at 5AM. We talked about watching the sunrise the next morning but I didn't know she was that determined! Haha! Good for her (and me, of course). 

We readied ourselves (the sun will rise in about an hour's time) and daddy knocked on our door around 5.45AM. Great, another sunrise-watching enthusiast. Haha!

We performed the Fajr prayer and left the room for the lakeside.

The sun will rise very soon.

Waiting for Sunrise 

The scenery was breathtaking. Few people were already up and had started doing their jobs. The lake was serene and tranquil. 

Flocks of birds flown magnificently across the sky.

A fisherman was already in the middle of the lake, rowing his boat alone in the vast lake. The sky was a shade of beautiful colours - grey and pink to rightside of the sky, near the Barisan Hill.

To the leftside of the sky were layers of illuminated clouds, covering the emerging sun. Their effort availed them nothing.

The Glorious Golden Hours

The sun quickly turned brighter around 6.20AM. By 6.31AM, the sun was shining so brightly that it blinds the eye. I personally thought the phenomenon was really strange. Maybe I should spend more time by the beach to watch the sunrise or maybe the sun rose a little differently here, seeing as were in a middle of a mountain range. 

Anyone wanted to share their thoughts?
Read more ...

Saturday 20 December 2014

Medan Journal (Day 4): The Boy and the Goldfish

The Goldfish, A Sacred Symbol of Danau Toba

Once upon a time, there was a boy. He loved fishing very much. One day, he caught a goldfish and when we wanted to cut it up, the fish spoke. It turned out that the goldfish was a goddess.

“O Please young lad. Don't kill me. In return, I'll be your wife,” she plead.
The boy agreed. The goldfish turned into a beautiful young lady and they got married. But the lady gave him one condition - they must never tell their children that she is from a fish descendant. 

Time passed. 

Soon, they were blessed with a beautiful child. He was madly obsessed with fish. Every day, on his way to deliver lunch to his father at his workplace, he would stop by the river and played with the fish. He would play with them for hours.

This occurred very frequently that soon afterwards it caused a bit of a problem. His father got impatience and angry. One day, he asked the kid, "Why are you always late? I'm starving you know!"

The child then explained what happened. The father got angry and cursed the boy.
He said: “Memang dasar anak ikan!” which can be loosely translated as “Truly, you are a child of the fish!”

The boy got upset and went home to his mother. The kid asked what did his father meant by "a child of the fish"? 

"Mother, is it true that I'm from a descendent of the fish?" He asked.

The mother got angry for her husband had broke his promise. 

In her rage, she summoned strong wind and heavy rain that continued for a long time that the land they lived in was heavily flooded.

And thus, Lake Toba was born. 

The legend was passed on from a generation to another and until today, the people around here would honour the goldfish, which can be found in abundant in Lake Toba, and would refrain from eating them.

You always can go with the volcano lake theory. :)
Read more ...

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Medan Journal (Day 3): Danau (Lake) Toba

Ferry Journey - An Anecdote

Waiting in the Ferry

The warm air swept across the lake, passing through the massive ferry, onto my face. The air was so refreshing. This is not the first time I travelled on a ferry, but this particular time it felt different. It doesn't have the typical smell of the sea breeze. The air here is so clean, unlike the musty, sticky, salty air of the sea. It was a lake after all.

Can you see four people at the edge of the ferry, waiting to jump off?

While enjoying the gorgeous scenery of Danau Toba, I suddenly saw someone jumped off the ferry. Followed by another one. Then another.

"Why would they do that?!" I asked myself.

Young Men Overboard!

Fortunately it wasn't anything bad. It was actually the locals on the ferry, kids really (?pre-teens maybe), who wanted some money. They would jumped into the water and the people on the ferry will throw some coins into the lake and he kids will dive after them. I'm pretty the other newbies on the ferry (ahem, like me, ahem) were pretty stunned at the beginning, but after a while, the ferry was filled with cheering, money-throwing and whatnot.

What a creative way to make a living, isn't it?

The faces of happy citizens. 

Danau Toba

Danau Toba & Lake Samosir - A Perspective
Credit: Google Maps

A. First off, a little bit of history and fun facts on Lake Toba:
  • Lake Toba: Length - 81km, Width - 30km, depth - 505m, compared to Samosir Island (in the middle): Length - 44km, Width - 20km
  • It is the largest lake in Indonesia and the largest volcanic lake in the world.
  • It is the site of a massive supervolcanic eruption that occurs more than 70, 000 years ago, the largest known explosive eruption in the last 25 million years (yup, very powerful!)
B. With regards to Samosir Island:

Paddy Fields on Samosir Island
  • This island was named after a Batak King, King Samosir. 
  • Main occupations of the people here: farmers & fishermen.
  • The Batak nation (major ethnics inhabiting this island) was divided into six tribes that inhabit the Northern and Central Sumatera. Among them are Batak Karo, Mandailing and Toba. I reckon this is Toba's territory. It can be seen through their boat-shaped roof design and finely decorated carvings. Batak Toba's tribe has two pointy ends. The Minangkabau for example, had mutliples of rooftop 'spike'. Karo had four. 
  • Ridu said that this place also has 'zero crime rate.' When asked how is it possible, he replied that they have a very strong sense of culture here. They don't have any policeman or soldiers roaming around the village, except for certain specific jobs like post-guarding (I don't know what does that mean, but that was what he said, I think).In their culture, anyone caught stealing won't be jailed as per standard procedure but will be sentenced to death instead. That.Is.Scary.So that is Samosir Island in summary. Oh, did I also mentioned that Samosir Island (640 km²) is not that far off, area-wise, compared to Singapore (716.1 km²). That's worth noting I reckon!
Anyway, it's getting late. We arrived at Tomok Jetty after ~30 minutes ride, and drove for another 1.5 hours (from Tomok jetty to Amabrita and Tuk Tuk) before reaching our accomodation at Bagus Bay, just in time for the Maghrib prayer. We had dinner and slept early that night. I really can't wait to explore the island tomorrow!

Read more ...

Medan Journal (Day 3): Invictus

A Poem for the Journey
Invictus is a Latin word that means "unconquered." While I was on the ferry to Samosir Island, I was reminded of the might of creations, taking advantages and learning from the most bitter of lessons. 
While the volcano had once sputtered a thunderous amount of destruction that killed everything in its path, life will always find a way. Prove? Look at the fishes in the lake, the humans on the ferry and on the Island! Amid the ashes and destruction, they always find a way to survive and thrive. 
It reminded me that while life may be difficult and looked impossible, we are the master of our fate, captain of our soul. Life may pull us down, but we should never surrender without giving it our best!
Samosir Island getting closer
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul. 
William Ernest Henley
Read more ...

Monday 15 December 2014

Medan Journal (Day 3): Parapat

Pasar Gundaling

Man, last night was really freezing. I had to wake up a few times to fix my blanket.

Anyway, Ridu, our tour guide, came to greet us around 8.45AM. While he was fixing our stuff on top of the vehicle (luckily it didn't fell during the travel to Parapat!), we cleaned up our places and checked out of Wisma Sibayak.

Ridu tying up our stuff. It's pretty secure, actually.
We took a 45 minutes break and Ridu took us shopping at Pasat Kalingga, which was like super close from our hotel (~0.5km I think). We needed a stock of fresh fruits and vegetables. It's about time! Haha. We also shopped for some souvenirs.

The front of Pasar Gundaling

Lots of fresh fruits & veggies, yum!
After that, we continued our journey to Danau Toba. I gotta say, the road was really bad up here. It's very…Bumpy. 
Now we are moving rather slowly. Great: bumpy (ride) and (moving) slowly. Haha. Alhamdulillahi 'ala kulli hal. You can't really do much except to wait patiently when it came to traffic jam. At that point in time, the Indonesian are on holiday starting today until Sunday - 'Cuti Awal Muharram'. 
But the traffic cleared up soon after that. 
Sipiso-Piso Revisited
It's almost noon now. I could see Sipiso-Piso Mountain to my left. Goodbye, beautiful mountain. Hopefully we'll see each other again in the near future.
We drove past Merek. This is where we parted, Sipiso-piso. The road is now a new one. Danau Toba, here we come. My eyes were getting heavier. I guess I'll take a nap for a while.


The crystal clear water of Lake Toba
I opened my eyes at 1:21 PM. 
Selamat Datang ke Parapat.
Alhamdulillah, after travelling about 3 hours, we are finally in Parapat, where I can see the majestic Lake Toba.

Parapat through a(n) (iPhone) lens.
Who would've thought, such a beautiful lake was a remnant of a very powerful, destructive mountain of lava.
We had to wait 2 hours in order to get to Samosir Island (an island located the centre of the lake). So I took this opportunity to explore the place a bit.
Special passenger ferry to take you across the Lake

A very peaceful place indeed. Can you see Samosir Island?

Parapat Town, Sitting at the Edge of Lake Toba
Sometimes it's hard to believe this is not a sea.

Well, there isn't much of a place to explore actually. But this town does remind me of a typical volcanic village and society. Or maybe that is because my mind is biased by the fact that this place was built on top of a volcanic mountain that erupted 70,000 years ago.

The Modest Town of Parapat.

Read more ...