Saturday, 16 August 2008


Right, the main source; straight in front, the main soaking pool with a number of overflow pools to the back, right. This is what constitutes Lau Debuk Debuk hot spring site.

Semangat Gunung, it's not
Lau Debuk Debuk (also written as Lau Debuk-Debuk or Lau Debukdebuk) seems an odd name for a hot springs. And after visiting this site I can only say that it did look a bit odd.

A quick look on the internet gives a confusing overview. Though Lau Debuk Debuk hardly counts any first-hand experiences, the links are mostly tourism related overviews.

Lau Debuk Debuk is quite often referred to as the already 'Blogged by SEA'
Semangat Gunung hot springs. This site corrects that assumption as follows:
'The hot springs that most tourist visit is however not Lau Debuk Debuk, but the Gunung Semangat hot springs, which sloppily is also called Lau Debuk Debuk'.
It furthermore reveals:
'Every month on a certain day, a unique traditional Karonese ceremony / event takes place here called Erpangir Kulau'.
Erpangir Kulau?
Erpangir Kulau? Explain please:
'The Erpangir Kulau ceremony takes place once every month on the day of Cukra Lau, the best according to the Karonese calendar. On this day, people come to pray and ask for help, to get well, to find a wife or husband, most people come before noon and normally come in small groups and dressed in white'.
Erpangir Kulau is translated here as 'the hair washing ceremony' but seems to be an elaborate ritual including dance and music leading to:
'participants becoming possessed by the begu ['spirit or soul of the dead'] of their ancestors and other spirits'.
Then on Roughguides Travel Talk, I found this extensive entry by sumatrahornbill:
Lau Debuk Debuk Hotspring
When you climbed Sibayak volcano, and you down to Semangat Gunung hotspring, this place is a bathing place with natural sulfuric water is also effective to cure many kind of skin diseases.
But when you left that place and by walking directly to the main road of Medan, and before the main road about 1 km, in the left side you will also see a small road to go down, and you can find small lake or we call Lau Debuk Debuk, as also hot spring area the water is not too hot but the sulfuric smell are really strong.
This area is very quite [quiet?] area because normally this place is a ritual activities called "
Erpangir Kulau". So everyside of that area full of worship places, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Pemena (Ancestor spirit religion, Animism, etc). And for you if you really want to do ritual there by your self or invited a guru for calling spirit you have to offer some plowers, tobacoes, betelnut, incense, jeruk purut (a citroen family [family of the lemon is meant], normally people used it for all ritual). And also you can do Erpangir Kulau (clean your body with some kinds of plowers, jeruk purut and burn the incense), this ritual is kept away from all kinds of evils, bad luck and illness.
If you want to do by your own ritual, you have to buy all the offering stuff in special herbal medicine man shop, and they will prepare to you,and with sincerity you do a ritual in that places, hope you can get contact with your spirit, ancestor spirit, etc'.
Better days?
Um, well that explains something, then again, I obviously did not visit during the monthly
Erpangir Kulau ceremony, so maybe that's why I failed to see much of a soak here.

It seemed, as observed elsewhere in Southeast Asia, that the hot springs have seen better days. Somehow, development has taken place in the past and a picture on this site shows a different view of the site than the one which I obtained.

Lau Debuk Debuk hot springs in better days: stalls along the pools, not overgrown. Why has the site, representing such a religious symbolism, been allowed to deteriorate?

Unfortunately, I again failed to retrieve this information prior to leaving for Sumatra, otherwise I would have put more effort into timing my visit. Who knows, possibly the ceremony does not take place anymore, thus explaining why the site looks desolate.

Site is partially overgrown

The Lau Debuk Debuk springs are also difficult to find. The Semangat Gunung road which originates from the main Medan - Brastagi highway, hugs the base of the mountains, but you only need to follow this road for about 500 m when, on your right hand side, you can see a track splitting off the tar-sealed road and continuing downhill, towards the valley floor. Oddly enough, you think, the track leads only to a large space with a very small but solid building. This is (was?) the car park with entrance gate / guard post. Well, there's nobody really on guard and while I passed this building it had acquired an alternative use, as motorcycle garage.

There is only one obvious route beyond this guard post and it passes a few rice fields before sqeezing between two buildings and coming to an end on the lip of a small drop. From here you can see a number of ponds. Continue down the slope and you will come to a partially cemented fast flowing hot springs. Let me correct myself, not hot, but warm. Ish. Tepid. I believe that is the correct word. Sites refer it to being 35 C. Air temperature thus.

The main source emitting tepid waters

The water of these springs flows down to a a bigger pool with clear water. In this pool bubbles still appear, so most probably, this is also a hot spring directly sourcing this pond. There are steps leading into this pool so, presumably it probably does not get warmer than this. Oddly though, as if there is a need to cool this water, there are a number of huge basins functioning as overflows. Even odder is that this water is white; would they have a different source?

Hygienic standards seem failing and, with none other soaking, I think that giving this site a soaking pass might be wise.

Overflow ponds or just more soaking space to the monthly rituals?

The hot springs site is of course very much deserted, so no one to answer my questions. I walk around the basins, see the eventual overflow and return to where I started where there are or more correctly were toilets / changing rooms.

More info on the surroundings can be found in the post of Semangat Gunung.

Getting There: Lau Debuk Debuk hot spring is located 500 m up a side road of the main Medan - Kabanhanje road. Take the first side track to your right at the point where you have a clear overview of the surroundings; a small guard post building in front of a parking area should also be able to be seen from the turn.
The small road eventually going partially up Sibayak volcano originates from a crossroad, roughly 10 km before the mountain resort town of Brastagi, where there are ample opportunities for overnight stays. Continue 3 km's up this road and you'll be in the hot springs resort village of Semangat Gunung.

On guard? Pass the guard post (on the left) and continue for 100m before getting to the warm spring itself.

Soaking Experience: One could soak if one would wish, but the pools up the road at Semangat Gunung would be a far more superior experience. They are also hot, as opposed to the tepid water at Lau Debuk-Debuk. Then again Semangat Gunung hot springs miss the religious significance.

Overall Impression: Satisfies your curiosity, but 10 minutes here suffice. If the ceremonies still take place, it would be a great time to visit.

Update [22-08-08]: The previously cited sumatrahornbill adds:
'Lau Debuk debuk is still exist as a ritual of Karoneses and Hinduism and buddhism. Not many Backpakers know that area, the area is just used by locals for family party when they make a ritual of calling family spirit.
The area is not far from the junction to hotspring so from main road only ten minutes and turn right down a bit to Lau Debuk Debuk. It is a good changes when you can see the local make ritual, you may take the pictures,it is ok. The good way to know the ritual, according to Karo calender or every saturday or sunday, normally we can see them'
Many thanx for that.

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