The Charm of A Local Tourist Industry – Lake Toba Style

In my recent blog about Bali, I expressed my sadness about how the uniqueness of Bali was being paved over by homogenous global resort brands. However, there is something very charming about indigenous tourism that grows up in out of the way places such as on Samosir Island in Lake Toba.

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View of Lake Toba from the restaurant at Samosir Cottages in Tuk Tuk Village, Northern Sumatra.
[SOURCE] © 2013 Greg Chase, according to Creative Commons License, use with attribution.

This is a view from my hotel on Samosir Island in Lake Toba, Northern Sumatra. Lake Toba is just hard enough to get to that the relentless steamroller of “Progress” has yet to find it’s way to Samosir.

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Petrol vendor in Tuk Tuk village, Northern Sumatra.
[SOURCE] © 2013 Greg Chase, according to Creative Commons License, use with attribution.

You know you are off the beaten path when gasoline in the area is sold siphoned out of barrels.

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Fun English misspellings on the sign of a local business in Tuk Tuk Village, Northern Sumatra.
[SOURCE] © 2013 Greg Chase, according to Creative Commons License, use with attribution.

Just up the road from my hotel, you can rent a “puddle boat”. Be sure to bring a towel. Or, if it’s especially hot out, you might try riding their “bicicle” instead. Not sure how far you can get before it melts.

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Fake king’s council table outside Tuk Tuk Village on Samosir Island.
[SOURCE] © 2013 Greg Chase, according to Creative Commons License, use with attribution.

There’s a little driving tour around Samosir Island of points of interest. One of the first stops is King Siallagon’s Stone Chair. I found it to be a quaint tourist trap. Much to my amusement as I am writing this blog, it appears I was trapped as the pictures of King Siallagon’s Stone Chair on Trip Advisor do not match the photo of what I saw above.

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Statue of Buddha in garden of restaurant Buddha’s Café on Samosir Island, Northern Sumatra.
[SOURCE] © 2013 Greg Chase, according to Creative Common’s License, use with attribution.

When locally-generated tourism dominates, you can find really unique experiences.

We stumbled across a vegetarian Buddhist restaurant called Buddha’s Café during our driving tour of Samosir Island. Imagine being able to create a business out of all your favorite hobbies. Located in her house, the proprieter’s restaurant consists of three tables outside in a beautiful garden on the shore of Lake Toba featuring many statues of Buddha amongst water features such as koi ponds and fountains. She serves delicious vegetarian food, and makes amazing homemade tropical fruit sorbets. The ambiance of her garden restaurant is especially unique considering the region of the Batak people we were visiting is heavily influenced by Christianity, in the otherwise Islamic country of Indonesia.

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View of west side of Lake Toba from above town of Pangururan, Northern Sumatra.
[SOURCE] © 2013 Greg Chase, according to Creative Commons License, use with attribution.

Mixed in with the local tourism industry, most of the people who live around Lake Toba lead a traditional life centered around agriculture, especially growing rice.

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Mexico Fried Chicken in Berastagi, Northern Sumatra.
[SOURCE] © 2013 Greg Chase, according to Creative Commons License, use with attribution.

Another fun example of local tourism industry is how people interpret international foods. Mexico Friend Chicken in Hotel Mexico is in the village of Berastagi. I didn’t get to try it, but I was certainly curious how it tasted.

Lake Toba was not my last stop on my trip through Indonesia and Thailand. I spent the week following in Phuket. However, it is my experiences in Indonesia that stick with me the most on this trip, because of their uniqueness.

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