Pematangsiantar (sometimes written as Pematang Siantar, acronym PT. Siantar or P. Siantar, colloquially just Siantar but the official name has no space) is an independent city in North Sumatera, Indonesia, surrounded by, but not part of, the Simalungun Regency. Pematangsiantar formerly had the status of a second level district (daerah tingkat dua) and has been elevated to Kota - its population was 219,319 in 1990 Census, 242,756 in 2000 Census, and 229,525 in the 2005 Intercensal count.making it the second largest city in the province after the provincial capital Medan.
Before 1907, Pematangsiantar was a Kingdom led by the Damanik. Damanik is one of the clans of the Simalungun ethnic group of the Batak people. The last king of the dynasty was Tuan Sangnawaluh Damanik who eventually embraced Islam. In 1907, the Dutch took control, turning Pematangsiantar into their colony. The city remained under Dutch control until 1942 when the Japanese invaded and ruled over Indonesia.
Pematangsiantar is an hour away or 50 kilometers from Lake Toba on the Trans-Sumatran Highway. Lake Toba is one of the largest volcanic calderas in the World, and a major tourism destination. It is common to see some tourists stopping over in Pt. Siantar. Siantar is famous for Batak culture, 'Batik' and 'Ulos' fabric, and Batak foods. There is a zoo worth visiting that is aptly named Taman Hewan Pematangsiantar - animal garden of Pematangsiantar (usually a zoo is Kebun Binatang in Indonesian). It has a good collection of Indonesian native animals, most notably birds, tigers and apes. The zoo itself boasts abundant tropical trees and plants, some of which are quite old.
The location is surprisingly close to the main roads of the city (within walking distance). Ticket price (April 2009) is 7,000 IDR. Another place of interest in the city is Vihara Avalokitesvara - a Buddhist Temple, which houses the Statue of Kwan Im. At 22.8 meter high, is the tallest statue of its kind in Indonesia. The temple complex is accessible from Jl. Pane. It is part of the new temple complex. Connected by a bridge, adjacent to the new complex across the river of Bah Bolon, the old building of the temple was burned completely in an inferno in May, 2008.
Most of Pematangsiantar's food styles are inherited from Batak and Chinese traditional food. Foods such as saksang (pork cooked in its own blood), roasted pork, and tuak (an alcoholic beverage made from sugar palm and sometimes from coconut) from the Batak people are very popular.
Chinese food restaurants can also be found across the city. One of the very popular local delicacies inherited from Chinese food is "Mie Pangsit" (Wonton Noodle).Some food from West Sumatera is also quite popular, especially nasi padang (various dishes with rice), and sate padang (spicy satay, usually eaten with rice-cake).