Lake Toba is a lake formed in a crater of a volcano. It is the largest volcanic lake in the world. Its eruption was estimated to be the biggest in known history, and its magnitude was quite mind-boggling. From Wikipedia, it said that the ash that was spewed forth covered the entire Indian subcontinent, and in one site, the ash was as thick as 6m!! A Discovery channel program mentioned that some ash was found as far as Finland! No doubt that when the eruption occurred, the face of the earth was altered forever.
Today, it is an idyllic place to relax, and it still draws a fair number of travellers. Pulau Samosir, an island in the middle of the lake, offers great views and a peaceful retreat to nature. The island, the size of Singapore, is serviced by regular ferries from Parapat, the town on the eastern edge of the lake, and the gateway to Lake Toba for travellers coming from Medan. There are public buses between Parapat and Medan, although they tend to be super crowded and easily takes 5+hrs. So, those travelling from Medan may want to consider chartering or booking mini-van or taxi for the journey.
The locals of Samosir are mainly Batak people, whose origins may have come from mountain ethnic tribes in northern Thailand or Myanmar. One of the key distinguishing features of the Batak culture is their architecture. Everywhere you go in Samosir, you can see the unique shape of their houses' roofs. For me, however, I enjoyed taking photos of the children, who seemed to enjoy having their photos taken as much. They seemed really carefree, and befitting of this idyllic place.
While I see a couple of tourist groups staying in some of the more modern resorts, there remains a large number of guesthouses and resorts that seemed empty for long periods of time. Whatever the reasons that saw the decline of tourism here, I felt that Toba certainly deserves its second chance. With Jetstar flying between Singapore and Medan in an hour, I think it makes for a fantastic affordable getaway!