Part 3: Adventures in Sumatra

Toba Village Inn

It was late at night, and the Moon’s reflection shimmered across the serene Lake Toba. We heard the voice of 4 men singing in harmony echoing off the lake. I instantly knew what we were doing next.

I looked over at my travel partner, Harrison, and said “Let’s go. We are finding the music.” Music had been all around us since day one at Lake Toba. I knew it was important to their culture by its presence everywhere we went. This was our chance to dig deeper.

Jamming With the Locals

We started walking down the single road that ran the circumference of the island. It was dark as ever, the light from our mobile showed the path, but our ears guided us to the music.

We came upon a group of musicians singing, jamming, and drinking the night away. We were welcomed immediately, offered a seat, and a drink as well. They were drinking something that almost looked like milk, and now we were too. It was “Tuak.” A type of palm wine made from tapping the sap from a palm tree into a jug for fermentation.

Making Tuak in Indonesia. Image:

We started chugging down some strange palm wine, while we sang harmonies with the locals. The songs themselves were all about the lake. We sang “Danau Toba!!” which was the little we knew in Indonesia….It means Lake Toba.
*Palm wine can be dangerous if made incorrectly. The methanol can cause blindness. Trust who you drink it from.

It was an amazing experience. To visit another country and be welcomed into their element. Not only as an observer, but as a participant. The lake was their livelihood, they all made their living from it in some way. It is no surprise that the songs paid homage to the lake.

It’s a Small Island

After we sang, we got to talking and of course someone knew Himbit. It turns out Himbit’s brother was there. We quickly made friends, and  started talking about future plans together. Someone asked us “Have you ever killed a chicken?” Being raised in suburban Ohio, our answer was an obvious no. To be honest, I hadn’t killed anything more than a bug. I didn’t really understand. Our new  friend asked us to come over for a barbecue. He insisted we capture and kill the chicken ourselves.

I have eaten chicken in my life hundreds, maybe thousands of times, but it has never been the same since this. Find out what happens next in the series in part 4.


Do you have any questions, or comments? please comment below or tweet me @marekjmichalski.