Pematangsiantar, mostly called with abbreviation of Siantar, is the second biggest city in North Sumatera after Medan with 280.000 inhabitants. Native inhabitants of Siantar are Simalungun Batak people. At some part of the city, especially around the downtown area, you can also see Chinese along with ethnic Malays, and Javanese ethnics. The center of the town has 2 main roads, named Jalan Merdeka and Jalan Sutomo where you can find all you need. In the town you can find a shopping mall, food center in between the main roads, traditional market selling clothes, fresh meat and fish, rice, vegetables, fruits, and many more. The majority of people are Christians. It is very common that you see restaurants selling dishes with pork.
How to Reach Siantar?
There are 2 main ways to get to Siantar. Firstly, you can reach Siantar via Medan (Kuala Namu International Airport) which has daily flight from Malaysia (Penang and Kuala Lumpur) and Singapore. There are also many flights from Jakarta and other major cities in Indonesia. From Medan, you can catch shared Taxis that cost IDR 45.000 – IDR 50.000 per person. It takes roughly 3 hours.
Another option to reach Siantar is by train (IDR 24.000). From Kuala Namu International Airport you can take a train (Railink) to Medan and from Medan, you can buy a ticket to Siantar. It takes a bit longer to reach Siantar but is worth the experience. Using train, you will get through rubber plantations, rural life, and many more.
The last option is by taking a large bus from Medan. The station is called Amplas. There are a lot of daily busses from Medan to Siantar that cost around IDR 18.000 – IDR 22.000. It takes 3 hours or longer because the bus usually stops to take or drop off passengers on the road. The bus is usually full of people.
You can also reach Siantar via Siborong-borong. There is a newly opened airport named Silangit Airport. From Silangit, you can go to Balige to catch a bus to Siantar. It takes around 3 hours to get Siantar. Taking this way, you will have an unforgettable experience because you will enjoy the beauty of Lake Toba, rural life of Batak people, green forest, and mountain ranges along your way to Siantar.
How to Get Around in Siantar?
The easiest and cheapest way to get around Siantar is by Minibus, which cost only IDR 3.000 for the same distance. You can wait and catch the bus on the road because there is no schedule for the minibus. You might find it annoying that most of the minibuses play loud music to attract people, especially students.
You can also use Becak. Becaks, old BSAs made in England with special look and loud sound, is old bikes that you can only find in Siantar. The cost is about IDR 50.000 to get around the main roads but you can bargain with the driver.
You can also rent a motorbike, which cost around IDR 60.000 per day, in Siantar Guesthouse.
What to Do in Siantar?
The city is alive at 6 am. In the morning, around 5 am, you can do jogging in Lapangan Adam Malik, a big field in the center of the town. After the jogging you will feel relax and fresh because there is still no pollution.
After the jogging, you can go to a public swimming pool, named Detis Sari Indah or the one in Siantar Hotel. You can walk to the swimming pool. The ticket to enter the pool is very cheap. Both don’t have a water filtering system, but they change the water twice a week.
After swimming, you can have breakfast around the swimming pool. Near Detis Sari Indah, you can find a coffee shop named Kok Tong, a very Batak Style café in an old colonial style house. In this coffee shop you can order beverages such as coffee (highly recommended), tea, soft drink, and food such as Mie Pangsit (noodle with minced pork), cakwe, cipeng. If you don’t eat pork, there are also Lontong Sayur, chicken and fish porridge, and traditional dishes such as kue lapis, ketan, etc. The coffee shop shop is very crowded throughout the day. Along your way to the café, you can see the statue of Kwan Im (Goddess of Mercy).
In the afternoon, you can visit Simalungun Museum. It is also located in the center of the town, at the end of Jalan Sutomo, in between of Simalungun Police Office and church GKPS. The museum has collections of ethnography and archeology.
Near the Simalungun Museum, you can walk to a park named Taman Bunga. The park is usually crowded at 1 pm on weekday, weekend, and holiday. The park is mostly visited by teenagers to gather with friends or dating. The atmosphere in this park is cool and calm. You can find street food and beverages seller outside the park.
Foto : Simalungun Museum
There is a zoo worth visiting named Taman Hewan Pematangsiantar. It has a good collection of Indonesian native animals, such as birds, tigers, and apes. Abundant tropical and trees and plant grow in the zoo. The location is surprisingly near to Lapangan Adam Malik (within walking distance). The cost to enter the zoo is around IDR 15.000.
Another interesting place to visit is Vihara Avalokitesvara, a Buddhist Temple. The temple is the house of the statue of Kwan Im (Goddess of Mercy) with 22.8 meter high, the tallest statue of its kind in Indonesia.
There is a newly opened Siantar Water Park where you and your family can play in the water. You can feel the crystal clear water on your skin. They provide water slide, fountain, and many more.
In the night, if you wish to go to a bar and drink wine or the kind, you will have to put it off your list. There is no bar in Siantar. As a substitute, you can go to Lapo Tuak. Lapo Tuak is where people, old and young but usually men, drinking jungle juice called Tuak. People usually sing and play guitar. Batak people are good singers that you may find them harmonize the singing. If you are familiar with the song, you can sing along with them.
Or you can go to a karaoke bar which is next to Siantar Plaza. You can rent a room around IDR 70.000 per hour. You can order beer which cost IDR 50.000.
There is also an open café, named Pujasera, with music performance. Any visitor can sing in the café. You can choose the song and the list and the keyboardist will play the music for you. In this café you can order beer, bandrek (traditional hot, sweet, and spicy beverage) to warm you up, soft drink, and food such as nasi goreng, mie goreng, and many more. Outside the café you can find martabak, sate, other traditional food.
Food and Beverages
Typical foods you can find in Siantar are inherited from Batak and Chinese traditional food. Foods such as saksang (minced pork cooked in its blood) and roasted pork, and drink like Tuak (an alcoholic beverage made from sugar palm and sometimes from coconut) are inherited from Batak and are very popular.
You can also find Chinese retaurants across the city selling Mie Pangsit, a very popular local delicacies inherited from Chinese. It is usually served with pork.
Foto : Pangsit Siantar
For those who cannot eat pork, there also restaurants selling typical food from West Sumatera called Nasi Padang (various dishes with rice) and Sate Padang (spicy satay, usually eaten with rice-cake).
There is the famous bread in Siantar called Roti Ganda. Roti Ganda is sliced bread with various flavors inside the bread, such as chocolate and cream, custard apple jam, and many more. They also have other kinds of breads and traditional dishes.
In the center of the town, at night, you can find street food such as Martabak with its various flavor, satay, nasi goreng, mie goreng, and traditional food such as ketan bakar, kue lapis, putu bambu, and many more.
Nearest Travel Destination
Sidamanik Tea Plantation is located in Simalungun district. It is about 15 km from Siantar with 40 minutes travel by car or motorbike. The fresh air and the cool breeze make a lot of people visit this place. In this place, you will find a cluster of beautiful tea gardens. This is a good place for people who love photography.
Foto : Sidamanik Tea
From Siantar, you can go to Parapat. Parapat is a small town on the edge of Lake Toba, the iconic tourism of North Sumatera. In Parapat, you can visit the majestic Lake Toba, Batu Gantung (Hanging Stone), Soekarno Exile House, and Parapat Ferry Harbour. From Parapat you can cross to Samosir Island, in the middle of Lake Toba, where you can see the original culture of Batak ethnic. It takes 2 to 3 hours to reach Parapat.
Simarjarunjung is the most amazing hill for sightseeing. The hill is facing the Lake Toba. If the weather is bad, there will be thick haze and the view becomes obstructed. You can enjoy the view with a cup of bandrek to warm your body and a fried bananas with cheap price.
Kawah Putih Tinggi Raja is located in Simalungun District. It is the most beautiful limestone hill in the world.