by Magus Kutabarat –
Billy Bob had already spent 3 weeks in North Sumatra, visiting the popular places of Bukit Lawang, Berastagi and Tuktuk Samosir. Although by tourism standards they were not really busy places, but he liked it that way.
It seemed like Sumatra was a partially forgotten destination for international tourists, even though the nature was spectacular and the people friendly and social. Tourists are easily discouraged by negative publicity like forest fires, volcanoes and political terrorism. So, if a region doesn’t promote tourism effectively, tourists will not return.
Sumatra has great potential for eco and cultural tourism, but without service and promotion, it won’t progress quickly.
But now Billy Bob headed to Siantar, where he will join a NGO company to help with environment issues. His contact was Rudolf Tampubolon. To Billy Bob, Siantar seemed like a busy small city and a restaurant capital. Rudolf took him to eat satay ayam with lontong and strong coffee at Kok Tong cafe.
He saw a BSA becak and took a tour around the city. He noticed a lot of old Belanda colonial style buildings.
There were many churches and mosques close together and a huge statue of Sakyamuni, the female Buddha, at the Chinese temple, but Rudolf said there was never any religious problems in Siantar, and many shops were Chinese owned.
Billy Bob’s first impression was that Siantar was a safe and tolerant city. He enjoyed the smiles and ‘hello mister’ from many people. He realised he hadn’t seen another bule and felt like the only white person in town, which was special.
He realised the next things he needed was his own place to live and a motorbike for transport. Rudolf said he could help him find both things. (to be continued)