Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sumatera Barat Part 3: Secrets of Ambarita

Journey to Ambarita
We were on the becak motor for about 10 minutes, enjoying each and every sights caught by the glimpse of our eyes. Paddy fields were lined up along the narrow small streets where lots of motorcyclists were honking to one another. Either as a friendly sign or an adversarial reminder, I am not pretty sure. All I know, Samosir should be left the way it is today, because this is where I see nature has been preserved accordingly. Green land and blue sky. Simple combination isn't it?

The becak motor was halted at a spot, where there were shady trees, sheltering us from the scorching cruel afternoon sun. But no stone chairs visible in sight. Only school children walking along the street, most of them taking multiple glances at both of us.

"Sini tempatnya. Jalan ke dalam. Kalau mahu dihantarkan ke dalam sana, tambangnya lain, pak."

(This is the place. You have to walk deeper inside. If you require me to send you in there, the fare would be different)

We decided to walk deeper inside for both economic reason and the fact that we wish to enjoy the scenery along the way. Well, because initially I thought the destination wouldn't be that far. Hell, I was wrong. 

The road to Stone Chairs | Roof of Batak's houses | Grazing buffalos

The Truth about Batak Lies in Ambarita
We had to walk for about 800 metres to the Stone Chairs from the main street. Well, normally it would not be a big deal to me, but having a 10 kg backpack on my back, it somehow slowed us down. We passed by small church, houses, shop lots, paddy fields (where buffalos were spotted nearby) and fruits orchards. And yeah, my back was aching.

No sign boards whatsoever, we made our way solely based on our unconvinced guts feelings. In fact my wife had been asking me multiple times, are you sure this is the way? For which I did not have the answer. We kept on walking. 

Finally, we arrived at the spot. It was written:

Welcome to Stone Chair of King Siallagan! Enjoy your visit. 

The sign board | The entrance | Egg plant maybe?

Ambarita is the place where misconception towards the people of Batak is delicately fixed. Well, only if you spend some time reading or hiring the local tour guide. We decided not to hire any, given our limited budget. But still, we had to pay IDR 6000 per person per entry. A man approached us and offered his service as a tour guide but we politely declined. Even when he said: It is important for you to hire a tour guide so that you will truly understand the people of Batak.

I've made my brief research on the people of Batak and the Ambaritha village. My misconception was fixed even before I arrived here, in Ambaritha. 

Upon entrance, I saw houses of Batak people were neatly lined up on my left. And one of them is actually the house of the King, Raja Siallagan, who once ruled the village of Ambaritha. The roofs, somehow remind me of the roofs of houses in Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia, owned by the people of Minangkabau.

Batak houses were neatly lined up.

I spotted a bench nearby, so I took a seat, to relief and ease the painful shoulder. The sun was scorching hot, as if it was mad or something. Meanwhile, the place was somehow, peaceful. I could hear nothing else, but the sounds of chickens and roosters, occasional sound of motorbikes passing by the outside small routes and distanced briefing by tour guides explaining the history of Batak in Ambaritha. 

It was 2 p.m. and we had nothing for lunch as yet. I quickly grabbed my backpack and took out some Oreos and bread and shared them with my wife. We had our lovely lunch in front of the Batak house, and to be exact, in front of the Stone Chairs!
The famous Stone Chairs, preserved for centuries

Stone Chairs of Ambarita
The Stone Chairs of Ambaritha are the relics from the past, that tell us the story that once upon a time, Batak practised some kind of cannibalism. This was where the council of rulers had their meetings, and one of them is to decide the fate of the culprit who had committed some crime or enemies captured. Nearby the Stone Chairs, there is a house, where the culprits or enemies are put behind bars prior to execution. 

Culprit caged. Execution Place.

If it was decided that the culprit or enemy deserved death sentence, he will be clobbered to death or beheaded, where later his flesh will be cooked and served to the council of rulers, together with his blood as a symbol of strength. Nearby the Stone Chairs were the execution place, I witnessed from far a tour guide demonstrating the execution procedure.

After that, we went into one of the houses, which is also a small museum. Just to get a feel inside a Batak's house. There were ulos arranged in rows for sale and some kitchen utensils as display, giving us the rough idea of how Batak led their daily life years ago.

Kitchen Materials | Museum | Cooking Pots - All inside the Batak Museum

It was 3 p.m. We need to make a move to Pangguruan, which will take about an hour by bus. We decided to leave Stone Chairs and headed to the main streets. We passed by some stalls selling souvenirs (exactly like those in Tomok) and made our way to the main street. 

In the end, I've learnt that it was not the culture of Batak to go around, kill people and eat them. Cannibalism was one of their way to do justice to people, whereby people guilty of some grave offenses will be punished to death. And today, after Christian came to their land, cannibalism was no longer being practised. 

And I believed, Batak people were as friendly and warm as I found they are today. 

The route to the main street from Stone Chairs of Ambarita

Let's go to Pangururan, shall we?

Till then, 


Hairi Tahir

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