Saturday, 5 January 2013

Sumatera Barat Part 2: King Sidabutar - Up Close & Personal

Parapat. Early in the morning.

Horas! Good Morning Parapat!
We woke up to the sound of the cockcrowing early in the morning. 


The last time I woke up to the sound of cockcrowing was 23 years ago, where we still had some chickens at the back of the house. It seemed that in Medan, the first ray of sunlight had been penetrating the earth even before the clock read 6:30 am. After Subuh prayer, we went out to witness the view of Lake Toba from our hotel. Sunrise and sunset are among things listed in my “must-do” list while traveling in a particular country.

Kalau kau nak tidur beriya sangat, baik kau balik rumah.

The view of Toba Lake from my hotel
Entrance | Parabolic Antenna | Flowers in Parapat

From the shared balcony of our hotel, I could see minor parts of the blue Lake Toba, roof top of hundreds shanty shacks that home hundreds of local people (many with parabolic antenna) and forested hills (which was the major cause the other parts of Lake Toba were blocked from your view.

It’s okay, I told myself. 
I will get a better view once I got into the ferry to Samosir Island.

Parapat is one of those places where you can get a wide view of Lake Toba. It is also the place to catch the ferry to Pulau Samosir, the world’s largest island-in-an-island in the world’s largest volcanic lake i.e. Lake Toba. Overall, I was of the opinion that Parapat promises a great deal of potential but it is underdeveloped. It is reasonably expected that most foreign tourist would rather opt to stay in Samosir Island rather than staying in the dead town of Parapat.

And yeah, it was Saturday, where Saturday market took place, under hundreds of blue canvas roof, sheltering hundreds of stalls selling mainly fresh fishes and local fruits. We decided to go down and had a closer look of the market.

Old women in the market
Things sold at the Saturday market

After few minutes of tour de Parapat Saturday market, we decided to have our complimentary breakfast at the café, before we packed our bags for next destination i.e. Samosir Island.

Why Samosir?
Roughly the size of Singapore, Samosir Island was formed thousand years ago, due to volcanic eruption that caused major climate impact to the whole world. Despite the tragic history, today, the peaceful and calm Samosir Island housed exotic culture and interesting history of Batak. Hence, two words for Samosir: beauty & history.

As I could clearly see, Samosir Island is indeed the heart and soul of Batak's culture.

I was informed by dearest friends and immediate family members that quest for halal food might be a challenging experience since 95% of the community in Samosir Island is Christian. So we were prepared with some packed food including bread and jam to survive the stay in Samosir Island. Despite being the largest Christian community in Indonesia, there are still some artifacts preserved to remind of the past history of animist Batak. 

Batak Idol
With our backpack on our back, we headed to Jeti Tigaraja, where ferry services for individuals are provided with a cheap fare of IDR 5000 per person. Despite the busy Saturday market nearby, jetty Tigaraja was less chaotic, perhaps because we departed early in the morning. From Jetty Tigaraja, there were two destinations ahead i.e. Tuk Tuk and Tomok.

Tuk Tuk is a knob jutting from Samosir Island, where the main attention and attractive happening spots are located. However, you need to walk for almost 2 km to arrive at the main road. On the other hand, Tomok is well known for souvenir shopping. Having a 10 kg backpack on my back, I wished not to travel on foot that much, so we chose Tomok.

Ferry to Tomok

We boarded the ferry heading to Tomok. There were still some empty spots available in the ferry, but most seats were taken by passengers. There were few persuasive ladies selling nuts and instant noodles but we were already full, thanks to the hotel’s complimentary breakfast. I witnessed frustration on their hopeful faces, but there’s nothing much I could do. I am not hungry.

Before the ferry departed to Tomok, two Batak boys greeted the passengers with Horas! Horas! Horas! They started to clap their hands and sing few Batak songs. They sang the songs wholeheartedly out loud, despite the fact that only few passengers paid attention to them. For such commendable effort, we decided to reward them with some tips.

Peaceful scenery of Toba Lake

The duration from Jetty Tigaraja to Tomok will normally take about an hour or less. Guys, this is not Titanic. But I love the fact that I was able to enjoy such serenity, where the breezes touched your skin as if they were greeting you with “Horas”, the peaceful surrounding where birds were flying cheerfully, and where you can see the green hills stood still magnificently. Batak ballad songs on air perfected the whole beautiful ambience. Indeed it was a romantic get away for honeymoon couples.

As we were approaching Samosir Island, I could see various chalets and hotels erected by the lake, where ferries and boats would stop to drop by passengers. We alighted at one of the jetties in Tomok and made our way to the main road. We had to walk about 200 metres before we encountered a massive trading centre for local souvenirs and hand-made crafts.

Huge trading centres of Batak hand-made souvenirs

Where the Great Kings of Batak Rest in Peace
While figuring out where to start, my eyes caught a signboard written “Kuburan Tua Raja Sidabutar” which means "The Old Grave of King of Sidabutar" on it. I told my wife, let us start here. So we climbed the steps to the shrine of Raja Sidabutar, making our way along the shanty shacks of shops selling local man-made souvenirs like key chains, fridge magnets, key chains, t-shirts and ulos (traditional cloth of the people of Batak). 

The lizard | The Roof | The Breast

We noticed that lizards and women's breast carving were placed at most of the buildings' planks. We were told that lizards represent friendship and ability of the Batak people to adapt, while breasts represent fertility. In short, at that time, it was believed that women with bigger boobs confirmed excellent fertility. 

In less than 5 minutes walking, we arrived at the graves area (Welcome to King Sidabutar Tomb Tomok), where we were required to wear ulos as a symbol of respect to the King. Ulos are provided for free, but must to be returned at the end of the tour.

We took our seat and joined in a briefing session by local guide. He was indeed a funny and entertaining man, who managed to capture our attention from the beginning of the briefing until the end. 

King Sidabutar. The Tour Guide. Anting Malela.

History of King Sidabutar
The area of Tomok was taken over and ruled by a successful King Ompu Ni Ujung Barita Sidabutar, where people lived in peace and harmony. The King, driven by loneliness, chosen one beautiful women named Anting Malela Boru Sinaga to be his bride and the engagement went perfectly. It was said that during that time, to ascertain whether a particular lady is fit and eligible to be someone's wife, a bowl of water will be put on her head and she will be required to dance. If she could dance while ensuring the water in the bowl did not spill at all, then she will be considered as ready for marriage. Anting Malela Boru Sinaga was one of the women who managed to do that. However, the King's habit of waging war against other territory caused major discomfort to Anting Malela, who was somehow lonely in longing for a companion. On the day of the wedding, she broke her promise and caused the King to be furious. The King performed a black magic on her, causing Anting Malela to go crazy and disappeared one day. 

The King, devastated, remained unmarried and upon his death, was burried (in the tomb stone, not in the ground) next to his grandfather, King Ompu Soribuntu. As tourist could see, his tomb was carved in such a way to represent the face of King Sidabutar, and it was said that some parts was painted using human's blood. On the top and at the back of the tomb, the carving of Anting Malela, with bowl of water on her head, was carved and placed to remind's people of her misbehaviour. And at the below front of the tomb, people can see the carving of the King's best companion/guardian, who was a Muslim. 

Shop Lots Lined Up in Tomok

After the briefing session, we left Makam Raja Sidabutar, bought some local hand-made souvenirs and headed to the main road. The sun was scorching hot and our clothes drained in sweats. From what I have read, there would be local buses from Tomok to Panguruan, just flag one and you are on your way to your destination.

Suddenly we heard a voice: Mau ke mana pak? (Where are you heading to, sir?) A man with becak motor approached us with his friendly smile.

“Ambaritha,” I said. “How much?”

“20 000 rupiah,” he answered.

In less than a minute, we were already on the becak motor, heading to the village of Ambaritha, where another interesting history of Batak awaits.

Till then, 

Hairi Tahir

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3. Solo & Jogjakarta | Indonesia

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