Balige, Where I’d Rather Be (With My Best Friends)

Speaking about best friends, I confess that I have three very closed friends that I’ve been known since the very first days I stepped my feet at my university. Along with these three people, I shared my dreams, my hopes, my tears, my fears and my happiness. Still with these three people, we’ve shared a lot of bitter-sweet stories in our life, from getting our first jobs, complicated relationship, loosing the jobs and getting the jobs again, important decision in life, and many more. We’ve been friends for almost twenty years, coming from different ethnic, different religion and different political sights. With my job record, that move from one place to another, it could see that we did not always live closed to each other. However, thanks to the modern technology, communication between us kept continuing, no matter how far we are from each other. Every time I come home for holiday or my short break, these three people are some of few people that I prioritize to see. And no matter what they do, these three always did their best to see me.

So, once upon the time, when I came home for my annual visit, along with two of them, we planned to get a short weekend gateway. We planned to go to Balige, a capital of Toba Samosir District, with Lake Toba in it. In my previous post, I explained that Lake Toba is the largest volcanic lake in the world. For more photos, you could see it HERE. The reason why we want to visit this place is to retrace our experience to finish our final project when we were in university. Thirteen years before, when we were architecture students, we chose to use this district as the location of our project. Thus, thirteen years after, we just wanted to remember our struggles that brought us to where we are today. Rotua, she’s a civil servant in Public Works Department by the way, suggested us to stay at Tarabunga Hotel in Balige. What makes the hotel special is its location that is only able to be reached by boat, since there was no access road to get there through the mainland. Sonya (she’s interior architect) and I agreed to meet her in Balige city center, since Sonya and I live in the same city. Meanwhile, Rotua lives in Dolok Sanggul, another city located around two hours driving from Balige.

Tarabunga Hotel

The hotel has its own boat to carry its guest from hotel to the main land.

Sonya and I arrived in Balige in Friday afternoon by taking travel minibus from Medan, which took 6 hours driving. When we arrived, Rotua was there already, and we didn’t want to miss the time. We went to Opung Dorti Hotel, the sister hotel of Tarabunga Hotel, where Rotua could park her car. The next time we know, we’re already on the boat and heading to Tarabunga Hotel. The hotel is lovely. It was not as fancy as five star hotel, but much comfortable than motel. Moreover, its quite location is perfect, where we could enjoy the beauty of lake Toba, taking a boat trip or playing with banana boat. When we’re too lazy to walk, we could just sit by swimming pool that is located at the edge of the hill, with direct view of Lake Toba. We occupied triple room for us. The room was okay, the breakfast was nice with traditional Indonesian breakfast. In the dinning room, a big screen for karaoke is available. At our first night, I used our dinner time to sing some of my favorite songs.

Tarabunga Hotel

Tarabunga Hotel

Swimming pool, where we hang out when we were too lazy to walk out.

Rotua and Sonya, Watching Sunset

Sunrise, seen from Tarabunga hotel

Jogging track at Tarabunga Hotel

The next day, we headed to Muara, a town that has important role in our life during our life as architecture student. To get there, Rotua drove her car (the same car that she used twenty years ago when she helped us to carry our architecture model from home to school), while Sonya and I sat at passenger seats and kept reminding her that she’s not driver of Formula 1. Spending most of the time together at university, we faced a lot of incidents with this car: witnessed Rotua drove us for the first time after getting her driving licenses, small accident when becak (three wheels motor bike) hit the car, and we still couldn’t understand the reason until today why Rotua had to responsible for the accident, our trips to Balige for our final projects, where Sonya and I lied to our parents, by telling them that we had another person who could drive when Rotua got tired while driving. In fact, Rotua was the only person who was capable with the driving car and had the valid driving license.

Wooden House, at Lake Toba

A village, seen from Lake Toba

Little house and wooden boat at the edge of lake

So, he we were, heading to Muara. Along the way, we were spoiled by view of the country side. After working closed to the district for nearly 10 years, Rotua knows the area as she knows her own body. She took us to the highest location where we could witness the beauty of Lake Toba from the top. Most of population in Balige are Christian. However, some community is still influenced by the local culture and traditional customs to live their live. It’s not merely seen from the typical of traditional houses that they still use nowadays, but also large cemeteries located in the middle of big yard, constructed with fancy materials. Generally speaking, this cemeteries are purposed to the old people, such as grand parents. The older they died, the fancier grave they had.We stopped at Muara town for couple of hours and had our lunch here. We stopped at one of restaurant, unfortunately I forgot what the name is, and ordered big grilled gold fish to each of us. The fish itself was really fresh taken directly from the lake, located next to the restaurant.

Lake Toba, seen from the top

Lake Toba from the Top


A big Tomb, near to Muara

At Muara. This place has history for three of us

A church, somewhere in Toba Samosir

Muara. Our restaurant where we had lunch is next to it..

Later, Rotua showed us the area where she’s working at. Along the way, we passed school kids walking, coming home from school. There was no public transport available, therefore they need to walk for some kilo meters ever day just to get into the school. At the other corner, we met an old lady carrying woods on her head. I suddenly feel sad and so much lucky in the same time. We passed one waterfall that is just located some few steps from the main road. The sound of water could be heard from some hundred meters away. Some locals used the water for their daily needs, such as bathing, or using it to cook and drink. I hope that would be fine since the area is still clean and far from pollution. What I like from driving around the country side is the landscape scenery that would be almost impossible to see in the big city where I live in.

School kids.. On our way to Muara

An old lady we met along the way

The water fall

A horse in Dolok Sanggul. It’s closed to where Rotua lives at the moment.

Somewhere in Tarutung city, on our way to Muara

So, here we are…

This time, if I could choose, I’d rather be there, with my best friends, to talk, laugh, insult, and cry together. What about you? Where would you rather be?