What to buy:
You can buy all sorts of local wares but the best things to buy are wood cravings and Batik paintings.
What to pay: The key to shopping here is to bargain whatever price they say will be way above the real price so when bargaining start at half their asking price or less. Another thing I did was go round a few first to work out what the rough starting price was so I knew where to begin.
If you think the price is too high and they won't come down to the price you want just walk away. If they really want to sell it to you for that price they will come and find you.
I must confess that shopping is not exactly an activity I like to practise, specially in tourist laden areas where the traps are numerous and the wares sold not exactly of best taste. In Tomok there are many shops in the main street, and there are alleys bordered by shops and stalls, on each side, going to the lake shore on one side, and up to the older village. When I was there, it was low season, as there were more shopkeepers at times than visitors.
One thing I may recommend to consider purchasing, is the typical Batak cloth fabric: ulos.
The Toba ulos are woven with the ikat technique, dying threads and weaving after.
Some Ulos look quite nice and are very decorative; in the past they were an important piece of clothing, if not the only one; now they are used for decoration, put on tables, or hung on walls, but locals wear on some occasions (look at my local wedding tip).
On picture 2, the vendor displays a wide ulos, and there are many tipes like you can see on picture 3.
If you are not inspired by the ulos, you can find lots of other little things to bring back, not always typical (picture 4), and on the streets you cannot tell you don’t have choice.
I did not buy, but I liked a lot the display of the sandal shoes, almost all different and very decorative (first picture).
Woven fabrics - a traditional craft on Pulau Samosir. We made a stop along the way from Simanindo to Tuk Tuk.
What to pay: 5 to 25 euro - in local currency that would be about 50,000 to 250,000 rupiah (2006). We didn't buy anything here, but had some regrets afterwards - for a mere 25 euro we could have bought a beautiful carpet or table cloth woven with gold thread.
Local bookshop annex library. In as much as we understood the purpose of these shops, it would appear that you can either buy books, or trade them for other books, or simply drop off your old books just to get rid of them (sure to save you some weight in the airplane on your way back ...)
What to buy: Didn't buy or trade anything in this particular shop.
If you need to shopping, then I would suggest you to check first the Parapat Market, where you can bargain well, but take care...they are used with tourist! If you then take a little ride with a local tuk tuk, they could bring you in a bigger city near Parapar (sorry i do not remember the name) where you can buy very CHEAP gold 24 carats.
Also here, you should bargain...as for whatever else!
If you then want to buy some local stuff, then It would be better to buy it in the street shops, also in Samosir Island...same rule, BARGAIN!
What to buy:
Sarongs made of batik, the typical thin decorated indonesian tissue, can be found in every market and in most shops around lake Toba as in the whole country.
There are many different colours available and a few designs too. They are very cheap and when you buy them they fold up each one very tight so it won't take much space in your backpack.