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A lingham for luck and a hex for more sex

An American backpacker treats “Lake Toba” on the Banana Pancake Trail in Sumatra, Indonesia–filled with crunchy Elysian entrepots serving “Happy Pizzas” and “Special Jungle Curries”–as a psychedelic spa for sexual healing, where backing off comes with the territory. . . .

Lake Toba landscape

Of course, you will never forget the day when you tried human flesh for the first time. . . .

This was so obviously the case—while nibbling on an aphrodisiacal coconut jungle curry resembling cannibalism on sticky rice.

Why yes, Lake Toba is the penultimate in penis envy.

You are here, of course, to flop right down and relax at the legendary “Tuk Tuk” (a place not a taxi), a Christian/Pagan entrepot purportedly rife with white and black magic–and wildflowers–and reputedly better than St. John’s Wort at curing the blahs.

A ripple on the edge of time, Lake Toba is certainly a proverbial prime meridian of “ecotourism” versus “narcissism”—a place for travelers to make snap judgments about its personified inhabitants, such as the wealthylosmanowner, “Mr. Bullshit” (his real name translated from Bahasa), who likes to corner the market on impecunious dirtbag backpackers.

Even though Heaven has the most expensive real estate in our cosmology, this largest lake in Southeast Asia is an outstandingly good runner-up consolation prize.

No other tourists, though. Save one.

Not counting all of the “pretend tourists,” descendants of Dutch neocolonialists, here was a complete stranger whom nobody had ever met before, wearing a Jansport backpack with a lame “Maple Leaf” flag on it—always a sign these days of a candyass American disguised as a Canuck, fearful of international terrorism and upscale tourism.

Unfortunately, the American might have been me.

It was only in the cheaper losmen(guest houses)—some of them artistically decorated “Batak” lndonesian houses on stilts with nary a nail in them–where you could meet not only frisky fellow and feline budget adventure travelers, but also could wash everyday from amandi(a box of water with a plastic scoop and the occasional evil rat swimming around in it).

Lake Toba, a pagan “animist” retreat filled with intrepid treats, including some of the best euphoria-producing coffee on the entire damned planet, was a perfect place to practice your sex drive.

The Snacky Carts were filled with impressive small booster “plats,” including a dicey dish misnomered “Beef Rendang,” available also throughout the Malay peninsula if not everywhere else in Indonesia, and which was made with Alpo-like “meat” chunks flavored with coconut and a hot sauce called “Sambal Oulak.”

On the bus the American spotted the Swiss babe he had already met. She obviously was freaked out about how male Medan was, with not another woman in sight.

Ferry on Lake Toba, SumatraAfter a lengthy trip, the bus landed at a ferry terminal to take everyone to a charmed spot on the shores of Lake Toba, Sumatra’s largest inland lake.

On the boat ride over the American bumped into the Belgian mercenary who had forcibly turned a difficult trip into a free vacation. There was a WANTED poster for him way back when at a hostel on Thailand’s famous Kho San Road in Bangkok saying, “THIS IS A VERY BAD MAN!!! He did not pay for his hotel and restaurant bills.”

The American wondered idly if there was some reward money involved.

Meanwhile young Indonesian boys kept trying to get everyone to promise to stay at the various hostels they represented. One young boy tipped the American off, “We are the best! If you agree to stay at my hostel, no one will bother you.”

This was sage advice, and the American accepted.

The American wondered if Toba towns were going to turn out to be nightmare hubs of overdevelopment, which always gave him rollercoaster-stomach heebie-jeebies, almost like having a catheter stuck up your shonk.

Remember some of those dreams you had which seemed almost real? Well, some of them were. And this was one of them.

Arriving at night in a Xanadu-like town the American wants to keep secret, stuck in a crunchy hostel (which requested anonymity) like an overdue cable bill without a stamp on it, the American immediately bumped into a Dutch “handler,” with whom he became fast and furious friends.

This was partly because the American was the only person there with an enormous bottle of duty-free whiskey from Malaysia: (Malay Muslims don’t regard Scotch to be “alcohol,” and often drink it on special occasions like weddings, and skye funerals, wherein the corpse is left out in the elements for vultures to peck at).

Batak sculpture, Lake Toba, IndonesiaThe American also said, with anti-Darwin force majeure,“If Man were descended from the Apes, then why are the Apes still here?!”

“That’s very clever,” the Dutchman allowed.

The friendly Indonesian waiter looked mightily impressed, too.

But then the Dutchman made a disparaging comment about Germany.

The American looked over at a neighboring table full of suddenly silent Germans drinking oversize bottles of Bir Bintang with disappointed faces, one of whom resembled a department store mannequin of “Dr. Phil,” with an antique Himler mustache.

Vaguely forking his burned Ayam Sate(chicken skewers with peanut sauce resembling black bile), which Sumatrans claim is their invention, the American decided the plate looked like the volcanic blasted ruins of a bombing campaign, a Pompeian plat frozen in time, mortuary meat.

Two gorgeous Dutch girls with witchcrafty Hester Pryn tresses seemed absolutely thrilled to meet a real Mayflower descendant and were convincingly overwhelmed.

One girl said she was studying “foreign affairs.”


The American bragged about how he used to work for the spy caterers “Emerging Markets,” covering world development bank meetings.

The American then hears someone behind him spit the word out, with contempt, “Cyclops!”

But nobody knew what that meant.

Samosir Island, Lake Toba, SumatraNow a little late in the game literarily, the American discovered in his excellent Lonely Planet Guide to Indonesia that in 1783, the explorer Marsden discovered a “cannibalistic kingdom” here in the banyan-treed interior of Sumatra: The Bataks.

Members of this warlike tribe, whose name translated in Malay as “robber or blackmailer,” were more Malaysian than Indonesian, but with a shared “ethnicity” if not culture and language.

Surprisingly, all of the Bataks near Lake Toba are Protestant Christians, many of them proud members of “The Dutch Reformed Church.” But at the same time most of them are also “Animists,” who worship an omnipotent god named “Ompung.”

Here, among Toba’s artists and craftsmen, I procured an Indonesian “lingam”(for sexual potency rather more extended than Viagra) and a magical augery book called a “pustaha”(for “protection” from evil spirits, not only domestic but international).

Of course, hypnotic gamelan music tinkled everywhere in the background, while native orangutans peeled back the rainforest canopy to take a peak.

Food here at Toba was really an aphrodisiac, even though I didn’t have a clue half the time what I was eating: “bull sperm,” “monkey brains,” “barbecued meat.” A safe bet was “Gado-Gado,” which is Bahasa for salad with peanut sauce. Even safer is the international “sate,” which they say is a Malaysian dish, not Indonesian — even though that is where the native “Bataks” originally came from.

Sunset over Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra“Saya jalan jalan ku bulan,”the American says to a passing pilgrim dressed in an expensive Ikat shirt.

“You speak Indonesian!” the pilgrim says with a surprised easy elastic smile betraying perfectly white teefers, probably a user of the popular imported teeth cleaner from India called “DARKIE” toothpaste, which is also advertised on the tube for “sparkling white teeth.” Seriously!

“No, no, just a few words.”

A Malay trading language, Bahasa is fun, what the American had said up above meaning: “I walk walk to the moon!” In fact, Westerners coming here are known as “Moon People.”

Much later, a handicapped Batak guitarist, with a malformed mitt missing several digits, launched into a mesmerizing song none of us had ever heard before, which was so beautiful the American feels fatalistic tears welling up on the edges of his eyelids.

The song, of course, was “No Tears in Heaven,” Eric Clapton’s eulogy to his dead son: “Will you know my name/ If I saw you in Heaven?”

Luckily, the American wasn’t arrested for trying a “Happy Pizza.”

Or a “Special” Nasi Goreng obviously made with psilocybin magic mushrooms.

The American walked over to the lake with an expensive pungent cup of “Kafe Lewak” (coffee made from the scat of wild civets or monkeys) and skimmed a rock across the surface which rippled like a series of 33 rpm records spinning out of control. . . .

Lake Toba, SumatraPhotos courtesy of Shutterstock.

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