What would you prefer to do in your free time? Go to a small beach and cook your own lobster for dinner? Or maybe go ziplining from one side of the hotel to the other?

As the focus of our research is accommodation, we visit a lot of hotels, guesthouses, resorts, homestays etc. Some are quite the same, while others have massive differences. A few days ago, three other team members took a hilly walk in the hot Indonesian afternoon sun to the Niagara Hotel in Parapat. We walked through a small kind of slum and along a big primary school. When we eventually got to the hotel we were amazed by the size of the land. We had to get past a security guard and a barrier to enter it. We saw coffee trees, mango trees, banana trees, a tree path, a tennis court and then we got passed by a massive bus full of tourists. Our eyes lit up when we saw a big zipline going from one side of the land, flying over the fruit trees, to the other side of the land. The hotel building itself was incredibly big and when we walked to the place where the interview would take place, we saw the land behind the big building which included a location for wedding parties, a big playground and a swimming pool with a magnificent view on Lake Toba. After the interview we got a tour of the hotel, making use of the golf cart and as icing on the cake, a free ride on the zipline for all three students!

A few days before, two team members went to have an interview with a small guesthouse in Tuk Tuk. We forgot the survey however, typical, so we had to return a few days later. When we did and asked for the owner, we were directed down some stone steps which ended between two Batak houses. After a hesitant ‘hello?’, a head popped up from below and invited us to come down. There was a little hidden beach next to the lake where three Indonesian guys were smoking next to a barbecue. They invited us to drink some tuak and eat freshly caught lobster. We were not about to turn down free food and alcohol, so we sat there with them while watching the calm water. It showed us that the simple things make life special.

We have seen many contrasts during our research, but this one is very special. Because the funny thing is, the big hotel was located all the way up the hill, looking down on slums. While the small guesthouse was located at the lakeside, so at the lowest point of the hill. The history of rich people living on geographical higher places than the poor apparently isn’t over, the division is still there. Despite the differences, there is one thing in common: both parties make use of their unique situation. Whether that means a luxurious helicopter spot or a self-made canoe.

Written by: Simone Quaedvlieg & Carlijn Schumacher