From Bukit Lawang we wanted to head for Lake Toba but it is at least 10 hours by car. Therefore we looked at where we could break the journey & Berastagi was the answer.
Although not many Western tourists come here, it is popular with Indonesians & anyone who wants to hike Volcano Sibayak.
There are two active volcanoes nearby & you can apparently hike Sibayak in 4 hours. Other attractions which include: a replica of a Buddist Temple (Shwedagon Pagoda” in Yangon, Myanmar); hot springs; traditional Batak House; a ghost village deserted after an eruption & the monitoring centre for volcano activity. We also drove by a fun park & water park (both of which looked closed).
Berastagi is a strange place. We stayed at two different hotels, both of which were run down & looked liked they were lost in a time warp. The ‘town’ itself is jaded & the ‘attractions’ look like they need some well deserved maintenance. The overall impression is that there was once tourism here & an infrastructure was put in place. However those days seem to be long gone. It is the only place we have encountered children saying ‘hi’ & then asking outright for money.
The scenery however is beautiful. The cooler weather allows crops such as carrots, strawberries, potatoes & onions (which makes a difference to the rice fields we have seen everywhere else).
The people are mainly the Batak people who were converted to Christianity by the early settlers (their origins prior to this time included canabalism). It is the first place in Indonesia where we’ve encountered a large Christian community rather than Muslim (or Hindu on Bali).
The Buddist Temple
The Lumbini temple is a replica of the Shwedagon Pagoda in Myanmar & just outside the town. We caught a local ‘bus’ for 20 pence each. (stripped out van with bench).