LAKE TOBA, INDONESIA: TAKING A BREAK
Lake Toba is a place where people come for a week but end up staying for a month, sometimes never leaving at all. Located in northern Sumatra, the largest of Indonesia’s many islands, Lake Toba sits at a high altitude that gives it a year-round cool and comfortable climate. One hundred kilometers long and thirty kilometers wide, Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. Not only is the lake of importance in archeological history, it is also a spectacularly beautiful and peaceful travel destination which offers an alternative to the thumping pop music and traffic-filled beach destinations of southeast Asia.
My trip to Lake Toba offered me the chance to take a break from the hectic pace and thick air of many Asian cities. The lake water is clean, warm and perfectly inviting for swimming. The lake also gave me the chance to dine on fresh Lake Toba fish. Local Batak people are happy to serve up their catch of the day at one of the many lakeside restaurants and cafes. Many of these cafes are connected to friendly and affordable guesthouses that are built in the traditional Batak architectural style. Forget about five-star pampering here. Just enjoy the simplicity and quiet and focus on the natural beauty of the lake and the friendly locals.
A great way to explore the lake and surroundings is by renting a motorbike for the day. The roads are clear and safe and even a beginner can quickly feel comfortable zooming around the green hills and valleys of the Lake Toba countryside. Along the scenic roads, I was able to sample local fruits and juices. For those less adventurous, there are lakeside massage shops, relaxing cafes and second-hand bookstores in which to read and enjoy the fresh air and spectacular views. Like many others before me, when my time to leave came, I was happy to miss my boat and stay another three days without care.
I stayed in a nice lakefront room at the Lekjon Cottages for just $5. Most guesthouses range from $3-$15. Just walk around Tuk Tuk and negotiate.
Lake Toba is a four-hour bus ride south of the major city of Medan. Air Asia now flies into Medan from Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta.
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The boat tours are not the best way to get photos. Rent a motorbike ($5) and ride around the periphery of the lake.
Try a pre-order Batak meal at Maruba Restaurant. In Tuk Tuk expect to pay around $8 for a large fresh fish caught from the lake. Usually feeds two.