Travel Notes – Padang, West Sumatra

Thursday, February 22nd, 2007

Remember this story? When I wrote it I was only relying on old memories and things my parents told me. But last week I finally had the chance to actually live the story. With the long Chinese New Year break, I packed our little bags and flew out to Padang, West Sumatra, where the kids and I were supposed to meet my parents who were flying in from Jakarta. Not a lot has changed since my one and only visit in 1995 except for the location of the new airport. We spent the evening just driving around and headed to Teluk Bayur port to enjoy the sunset.

We left the next morning and drove out to Lake Maninjau, one of the biggest lakes in West Sumatra. What was surreal was finding a waterfall on the right side of the road we were on and a river on its left in the Lembah Anai area! Not only that, the drive up Kelok 44, the famous curvy road uphill above Lake Maninjau was really something, too. Monkeys crossed the street now and then and that in itself was entertaining. The drive to Mum’s village in Sulit Air, Solok, was even more picturesque than I had imagined. Beautiful green rice fields lined both sides of the road but what was even more spectacular was the 19 km drive up the hills heading to my grandma’s house. I’m telling you, the view overlooking Lake Singkarak was just simply breathtaking.

It was my childhood dream to trek up the hill in front of my grandma’s house, for it was here that Mum had her little picnics with my uncles. Grandma would pack them rice and sambal in a banana leaf packet and they would then head off to this hill and enjoy lunch while looking at the village down below. Mum took us to see Grandma’s rice fields, coconut plantations and clan house. Being a matrilineal ethnic group, the idea of the Minangkabau clan house is that it gets passed down to the daughters in the family. Each daughter and her descendants would own one room in the house. This one room would then get passed on to that daughter’s future generations. The house is usually made of wood with beautiful handcarved flower patterns painted in bright stunning colours.

On the first evening we were there, we headed down to Lake Singkarak and had dinner at a restaurant on stilts. As we ate, we watched people fish and pull out their catch under the dark evening sky. I must say, being surrounded by these magnificent hills and lakes made me realise how small I am. The kids had fun watching villagers get ready for boar hunting on the last day we were there. Lots of men led dogs on leashes up the hills to the rice fields where boars usually destroy the farmers’ crops.

After 2 full days of rest and absolute tranquility (and I really mean tranquility: no mobile phone signal, no television and no internet!) we headed down to the cool town of Bukittinggi and spent another 2 days there. Here, I did nothing but eat and while the kids swam with my dad at the hotel, Mum and I went back and forth to the marketplace, located just 5 minutes away from where we stayed. We bought all sorts of traditional cakes, tried all the delicious Padang dishes and brought back delectable food for Dad and the kids. I took the kids to ride the bendi, Minang‘s version of the horse-pulled human cart. I’m glad I finally had the chance to explore my roots. It was truly a divine experience. Maybe one day I’ll write about the days I spent at my grandpa’s village in the eastern part of Indonesia with its white sandy beaches and beautiful diving locations. It’s been 18 years since I last visited the island.

Teluk Bayur  Teluk Bayur drowning in sunset  Sate Padang & cendol duren for breakfast

Waterfall in Lembah Anai  The river opposite the waterfall in Lembah Anai  House on stilts in Maninjau

Lake Maninjau from the rice fields across the street  Lake Maninjau from Kelok 44  Fisherman's boat at Lake Maninjau

Traditional Minang house in the middle of a rice field  Rice field in Sulit Air  Grandma's house from the hill across

One of Grandma's rice fields  Green velvety rice fields in Mum's village, Sulit Air  Namira's breakfast: fresh made pical

Grandma's Clan House  Alif & Namira looking out the window  Stilts supporting Grandma's house

Rice fields and Lake Singkarak from Mum's village  Overlooking Lake Singkarak  Sunflowers in Sulit Air

Sulit Air, the village, from across the Titi (bridge)  Let's bathe!  Boar hunting in Sulit Air

Serene Lake Singkarak  Resting place on stilts at Lake Singkarak  Mosque on stilts at Lake Singkarak

Bendi at Bukittinggi's Pasar Atas  Jam Gadang in Bukittinggi  Pasar Atas in the morning, Bukittinggi

Freshly made panyaram cakes  Morning pancakes at the market in Bukittinggi  Nasi Kapau stalls at Pasar Atas

Mum having breakfast at the hotel in Bukittinggi  Ayam Pop at Datuk Restaurant in Padang Panjang. Delicious!  Brain curry at Datuk Restaurant in Padang Panjang

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