West Sumatra


West Sumatra is composed of three regions: volcanic highlands, a long coastal plane and a series of jungle-covered islands just offshore. Much of the province is still wilderness; virgin jungle inhabited by elephants, tigers, leopards and rhinos. It is the traditional homeland of the Minangkabau, who are known far and wide through the archipelago for their shrewd business sense, their firey-hot dishes and ancient matriarchal customs. The women own property and the men leave home to seek their fame and fortune. Travelling is considered a mark of success and West Sumatrans and their Minang or Padang restaurants are found in all major towns across the nation. The people are hospitable and eloquent, with a poetic style of speech. West Sumatran days are filled with colorful ceremonies and festivals. Legend has it the Minangkabau are descendants of the youngest son of Alexander the Great, King Maharjo Dirajo.

West Sumatra’s center of culture and tourism is Bukittinggi, nestled in the highlands north of the provincial capital of Padang. Surrounded by high mountains, picturesque valleys and lakes, Bukittinggi considered by many tourists to be the most hospitable sity in all of Sumatra.

Padang’s Tabing Airport is the main gateway to west Sumatra and is serviced by Merpati Nusantara airline. The MV Kerinci sails every two weeks for Jakarta from Teluk Bayur harbour. Smaller vessels from Muara harbour sail to small towns along the entire West coast of Sumatra. Regular bus services run between Padang, Bukittinggi and other major cities of Sumatra, as well as via the Trans-Sumatra Highway to Jakarta.

Other places of interest:

Padang

The capital of West Sumatra, Padang is the largest port on the West Coast of Sumatra, it's bustling harbour a crossroads for rubber, cinnamon, coffee, tea and nutmeg. The excellent Provincial Museum is built in the traditional Minang style and houses prehistoric artifacts, ceramics, manuscripts and modern art. In Kampung Cina (Chinatown) you can wander streets lined with turn-of-the-century houses, Chinese herbalists and coffee shop. Good hiking and wonderful views of the city can be had a Bukit Monyet and Gunung Padang.

Bukittinggi

The heart of the highlands, Bukittinggi is a pleasant two-hour drive from Padang through the gorgeous Anai Valley up to the Again Plateau. Located 930 metres above sea level, Bukittinggi, (formerly called Fort De Cock by the Dutch), has a cool climate and is surrounded by three volcanoes: Tandikat, Singgalang and Merapi. The central landmark is the town’s clocktower, referred to by the local people as Jam Gadang. It overlooks the Market Square, a beehive of activity and fantastic place to do some souvenir shopping. Also worth visiting is the Rumah Gadang Museum, a traditional extended family house built in the 19th century There are dance performances on the museum’s open stage every Sunday and on public holidays. The famous bullfights at Padang Lawas (6 km south of Bukittinggi) are every Tuesday at 05.00. P.m., where tin antics of local owners and bettors are as much fun as the fights themselves! Nearby Kota Gadang it renowned for its fine silver filigree and hand embroidery.

Pandai Sikat

The village of Pandai Sikat is 10 km from Bukittinggi and famous for its hand - weaving and carving industry the village has thousands of looms and turning out richly colored cloth. Carved wooden ornaments and furniture are also made here.

Ngarai Sianok (Sianok Canyon)

The 150 meter deep canyon lies on the outskirts of Bukittinggi. It is an incredibly picturesque area, lush green with a river winding through the bottom of the steep-walled canyon. West Sumatrans claim it is unrivalled for natural beauty in all of Indonesia, and locals frequently take visitors and friends on outings here.

Batusangkar

50 km southeast of Bukittinggi, this is the largest town in the Tanahdatar area, and a center of the ancient Minangkabau culture. Fascinating historical sites abound, among them Pagaruvung, home to ancient inscribed stones at Batu Basurat, literally meaning ‘Inscribed Stone'.

Pariangan

Legend has it that this is the cradle of the Minang kabau culture, the first village of the Minang ancestors who descended from Mt. Merapi. It is village of traditional houses, some said to be over 300 years old. The surau, or men’s house, is one of the last of its kind still in use. Make sure to visit the open council grounds with ancient stone seats, the mosque and hot spring.

Lake Maninjau

A winding road with 44 sharp turns descends Lake Maninjau, one of West Sumatra's most famous sights. A Crater Lake, its scenery rivals Lake Toba, on a smaller scale. There are facilities for swimming and water skiing, and a good selection of hotels and restaurants. The village of Matur, overlooking the lake, arranges dance performances on request.

Lake Singkarak

36 km from Bukittinggi is another ideal place for recreation and water sports at Singkarak Lake, the longest in West Sumatra. There are several hotels and restaurants in the area. A nice sidetrip from the lake is up to that villages of Sulitair, where there is a huge 64-meter communal house now occupied by four families.

Taman Hutan Raya Bung Hatta

The 70, 000-hectare botanical garden lies at 1,000 m above sea level, on the way to Solok. Monkeys and other indigenous are protected by the Park Warden, as are the innumerable varieties of exotic flora. The Cool Mountain air and panoramic views make this area a popular resort for both the young and old.

Kerinci-Seblat National Park

Sumatra's largest national parks the Kerinci sprawls across four provinces. It is home to rhinos, tigers, elephants, bears and orang-utan. The scenery is magnificent, dominated by volcanic cones, including the highest peak in western Indonesia, Mt. Kerinci. Lake Kerinci is the best place to sight the park's famous bird life: hornbills, banded-broadbills and drongos, whose tails give the illusion that the birds is constantly being chased by two black butterflies

Harau Valley

Steep granite walls shelter this fertile valley. The Harau Valley is a nature and wildlife reserve, where tapir, siamangs, boars, wild goats and tigers still roam.

Ngalau Indah Caves

On the road from Bukittinggi to Payakhumbuh, these caves extend deep into the mountainside. Th domain of thousands of bats, the main entrance has the outline of an elephant visible on its face. The path through these caves leads out to the top of the mountain and panoramic views.

Rimba Panti Nature Reserve

Rimba Panti Nature Reserve, 103 km from Bukittinggi, is a refuge for the Rafflesia Arnoldi, the largest flower in existence, blooming only once a year. A guide can be obtained from the office at the reserve. The provincial office of the Directorate of Nature Conversation (BKSAA) at Padang can give you complete information.

Mentawai Islands

Four islands make up the Mental cluster off the West Sumatra coast: Siberut, Sipora, Pagai Utara and Pagai Selatan. The people of these islands still live in comparative isolation, maintaining their age-old ways. Siberut is becoming increasingly popular as an area for trekking and visiting these ancient cultures. It is well known for its virgin rainforest, inhabited by a number of animal species not found anywhere else In the world, among them some rare monkey species. Beautiful coral reefs are found offshore.

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