Balige is an longstanding community consisting of mainly the Batak People. There are approximately 2,000,000 Batak Toba speakers, living to the east, west and south of Lake Toba. Historically it was written using Batak script, but the Latin script is now used for most writing.
An individual's surname or family name is an important part of a person's name in any of the Batak subcultures. The Batak people always have a surname or family name. The surname or family name is obtained from the father's lineage (paternal) which would then be passed on to the offspring continuously. This results in very large, clan-like families with many different associations within themselves and with connections with other families.
The road that runs from Medan to Parapet on the West side of Lake Toba continues south to Balige. Minibuses from the airport are available although they depend on a full car (6 people) to start their journey. Costs vary depending on the number of passengers.
There are a number of travel agencies that are along the main road, though schedules for the minibus are non-existent. It is possible to rent motorbikes from the locals, and some places like the Mutiara Balige Hotel also rent mountain bikes for exploring the countryside. Walking is generally a good way to get around the town as it is small.
There is a museum complex built and owned by TB Silahali, where there are two museums and a restaurant. The first museum is for the General himself, and the second is a museum to the Batek peoples and their six distinct cultural groups, although the town of Balige is mostly Batak Tabo.
To the West of town is the mausoleum of Raja Sisimangaraja XII. He was a Batak leader who fought against Dutch colonial rule in the 19th century and is recognised as an Indonesian national hero.
There is a Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP) church across the street from the hospital that was built in 1881, and the original materials have survived to the present day.
In September every year the Lake Toba festival is held in a different location around the area. The 2014 festival is taking place in Balige from the 17-21st of September. It will involve celebrations of Batak culture, music, dance, photography contests and more.
The traditional market is in the center of town along the main road.
Base Camp - a popular restaurant that opens in the evenings just across the road from the traditional market on the main road. The menu has pictures which should assist those who cannot speak Indonesian. A popular drink is the Alpokat with ice cream - an avocado milkshake.
In the traditional market you can find Mie Gomak, which is affectionately known as spaghetti batak. It is a noodle soup (gomak refers to the process of making the noodles) and is made with chilies, andaliman pepper, and lime.
In Balige as well as other places in Lake Toba a common non-alcoholic beverage is bandrek, which is a strong ginger tea made with milk and sugar. Served hot.
The alcoholic beverage of choice in Balige is tuak, palm wine that is most easily found by waiting for the locals to offer it to you. It is a creamy white liquid.
There are a few hotels along the main road including the Mutiara Balige Hotel, an upper end hotel which has rooms starting at 225,000 Rp.
Minibuses to Parapat leave daily at various times. Ask any travel agency to coordinate one for you.