On the shores of Lake Toba, the quiet little town of Balige filled to the brim this weekend with a pulsating carnival of colour, music and traditional costumes. Lake Toba Charm Festival draws together the many customs, tribes and traditions of the Toba region, for a parade that personifies the vibrancy and variety of North Sumatra.
On Sunday, 10th September, a grand total of 2,227 people took part in this year’s event in Toba Samosir regency. 55 delegations participated, each consisting of 30 to 200 people from the surrounding provinces. Participants were made up of community members, artists and representatives from the eight regencies in Lake Toba; dancers, parade floats, singers, celebrities and local villagers, all dressed up in the distinctive and colourful dress of their respective tribes and community groups.
The parade itself boasted 41 decorative floats, eleven rickshaws decked in colourful designs, dancers, musicians and marching bands. 200 Bataknese women led the procession; a colourful column in their Sunday best, all wearing traditional Manghunti Tandok - a tall woven sack filled with rice – perched on their heads and carried for three kilometres with poise, elegance and the indomitable spirit that personifies the Batak tribes.
The march began at the village of Soposurong, then winded down the hillside to Balige, bursting into life on the main road in a colourful cacophony of Ulos fabrics, shimmering golden headdresses and Sortali headbands bearing the local exultation – “Horas!”
Bapak Ultri Sonlahir Simangunsong is the Head of Toba Samosir Tourism and Culture Agency, responsible for organizing the carnival. Together with his team, he has drawn together the many divergent tribes of the Toba region for this celebration of their common culture:
“From Dairi, Karo, Simalungun and Samosir, to North Tapanuli, Humbang Hasundutan, Toba Samosir and Pakpak Bharat regencies, all are taking part,” said Pak Ultri. “The multiethnic parade features people from eight regencies around Lake Toba as well as from Nias, Javanese, Malay, Indian and Chinese ethnicities,” he added.
Lake Toba is the largest lake in Southeast Asia and one of the deepest in the world. This 75,000 year-old volcanic crater covers an area of 1,145 square km and is in places up to 450 metres deep. In its centre is Samosir - an island as big as Singapore. Perched up in the clouds at 900 metres above sea level, the surrounding area is home to incredible scenery, winding mountain roads, historical treasures and fascinating cultural traditions.
Lake Toba is set to become a focal point of development in the Indonesian tourism sector, with a new 360km ring road around the lake, as well as a new bridge to Samosir; and potentially a new airport on the island. The inaugural direct international flight to mainland Silangit Airport arrived from Singapore on 9th September 2017; the new direct route makes visiting Lake Toba easier and faster than ever before.
With so many improvements to infrastructure already underway in the area surrounding Lake Toba, spectacular events such as the Charm Festival will become ever more accessible.