Bus to Lake Toba, and eating with your left hand. Sumatra


Medan isn’t anywhere I’m interested in staying for longer than I have to so in the morning it was time to move, and Lake Toba was the place. I had one of those who’s on first skit moments getting to the bus station. From the homestay you can catch a minibus to the station for 5,000 rupiah, less than fifty cents. I went out to the road to wait for one to pass, and a moto-bekak driver wanted to know where I was going. When I told him he said, “5,000”.  This didn’t sound right so we went back and forth at least six times saying 5,000 to each other, and he assured me that’s what it was. I thought screw it, and hopped in.When we arrived I put out a five thousand note and he declined it. He would say 5,000, I would hold out the note, he would decline it. We went back and forth like this until seven Indonesian women off the street came to give their input. Eventually one took out 50,000 in notes and showed it to me and said, “5,000”. I took out an extra ten thousand and gave him 15,000, we shared a smile because we both knew that that’s plenty, and left it at that. While waiting for the bus, I got myself some tofu curry and rice and was standing there minding my own business eating it. Three old ladies were laughing at me and I could tell it was something about the way I was eating. They were using hand signs to try to explain, and what I was understood from it was that after you eat food you will poop it out. Then a guy reminded me what the left hand is supposed to be for. Then it made sense. Like in India, the right hand is for eating and the left is for dealing with your bathroom issues (they only use water, no toilet paper). I was eating with my left, and it gave the ladies quite a chuckle.


The bus to Lake Toba is close to five hours, and costs less that three dollars, or you can treat yourself to an air conditioned bus for five. The bus takes you to Parapat where you take a ferry out to Samosir Island. It was a tough five hours. Between the rock hard seat in the very back, the hot humid sweaty day, the polluted air, and every guy chain smoking, it’s not the happiest bus ride on earth. It’s best to close your eyes and go to a happy place when the bus is heading down to the lake. The road is right along the edge of a cliff that drops off hundreds of feet, and the bus driver seems to forget that he has breaks.


As you step on to the small rickety fairy in Parapet and motor towards Samosir you quickly forget about the way you felt ten minutes earlier The jungle covered hills and fresh air heal the soul quickly. The same guy from earlier stepped onto my ferry and upon noticing me remarked, “hey it’s Mr. Lefthand”. Damb straight Mr. Lefthand, and this beautiful island is about to get my left hand all over it.

Ferry over to Samosir Island

Ferry over to Samosir Island

About Trueworldtravels

Following my heart around the planet. Bringing to life the unique world around us through writing and photography.
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1 Response to Bus to Lake Toba, and eating with your left hand. Sumatra

  1. ellengerl57 says:

    You make me laugh! Keep the posts coming.


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