Early morning, Friday 6th July 2007. We know we are in Sumatra Barat when below us we see rugged mountains and valleys …
… and a volcano. At 2,271m, this is Mt Sago, extinct I presume.
Not to mention Lake Singkarak, the crater of a long-dormant volcano.
The plane from KUL flies high to pass the tall mountains and overshoots into the Indian Ocean, where it makes a tight left turn to lose height for landing at Padang (PDG).
As the metal bird swoops, to the left an almost perfect circle of an island.
Padang airport is just next to the sea, and our flight AirAsia AK942 (Airbus A320, reg. 9M-AFS) aligns itself to land on Runway 33.
Arrival on the dot at 8am local time. Our first view of the distinctive Minangkabau architecture of the terminal on a beautiful morning. Note the high mountains in the background.
This airport is just 2 years old.
Friendly Pak Anas and driver Pak Mawan greet us at the airport and whisk us into a new-ish Toyota Innova. They’ll be our friends in the next 3 days as we explore the province. [Map not to scale, courtesy of Mr Anas – Tel/SMS: +62.813.6342.6617 – note that airport shown in map is the old site at Tabing, new one is further north, next to the sea.]
We head for Bukittinggi and along the way, take a break at Kiambang to gawk at its scenic fish ponds.
Bukittinggi is somewhere in the mountains, so we still have a long way to go.
We leave Kiambang and enter the mountains. Next stop is this delightful roadside waterfall.
It’s the famous Anai waterfall.
Stairs lead to a spot close to the foot of the fall.
All 40 metres of it. After heavy rain, this should be a noisy, thick, white curtain.
At the foot, a guy struggles to set up his camera for what should be a great shot.
I look back at the entrance, and we have a mini traffic jam already, as visitors pour in.
Leaving Anai Valley, we press on into the mountains, along fast-moving streams and a disused railtrack.
Then we take a detour which leads us to this magnificent building, for a heavy dose of local culture.
It’s the Minangkabau Cultural Centre, located close to the town of Padangpanjang.
The distinctive sharp roofs is a unique Minang identity, thought to signify the bows of the boats their early ancestors first arrived in, and also the horns of a buffalo, a beast synonymous with their rich culture and history.
Through the well-tended garden, we arrive at the main door of this highly decorative structure.
Intricate designs on the exterior wall.
Once inside, we settle in for a briefing …
… by friendly and charming hostesses.
A treasure trove of Minang documentation, no doubt. Each end of the main hall has a raised platform. I climb one to get a better view. In the old days, in such a typical Minang house, the raise portions are meant only for the elders and the ladies.
There’s even a Dutch-era pic (1911) of the Anai Waterfall we just visited. The railtrack shown has since been disused from the early 1980s.
The tilting supporting wooden beams at both ends of the buildings provide the strength to withstand earthquakes.
The tilt also makes the windows look a bit weird.
We pass through the nondescript town of Padangpanjang and skirt Mt Merapi to our right, where hamlets and farms dot its fertile slope.
We take a turn-off into a small road to visit this place.
Traditional weaving, the specialty of this area.
Every single piece of the fabric is patiently put together …
… resulting in a riot of colours for costumes that would drive any lady crazy.
I smell engine oil, and peer at the back of the building. Looks like a D-I-Y overhauling job here. Something for real men.
Nearby, stands an old model Toyota which my late uncle used to drive. Rarely seen in Malaysia anymore.
Further afield, onions. Very fertile earth, thanks to the volcanoes.
More Minang-style new house.
Next stop, a few km down the road to Bukittinggi, another poison for the ladies. Btw note the disused railtrack which follows us from Padang.
Yes, another boutique!
Quite a long break, and our wheels take a breather …
… while one of the numerous Padang-Bukittinggi buses zooms past.
I visit the local mosque and admire the fertile farmland on the slope of Mt Merapi …
… and befriend a local who suddenly has to excuse herself. Invasion of privacy, sorry!
We enter the outskirts of Bukittinggi and it looks like the German Chancellor is in town, till somebody tells me those are the official Minangkabau colours. Sure looks like the German flag, sorry. Ah well, the Germans put the red in the middle.
Being noon on a Friday, we look for a mosque to do our Friday prayer.
Spartan interior of the mosque.
Since it is also lunchtime, we decide on this restaurant close to the mosque.
We have the first authentic nasi padang, comprising rice and countless little plates of various local dishes of beef, chicken, fish, eggs and vegetables. Delicious.
Not long after lunch we enter Bukittinggi proper and proceed to our hotel.
In the lobby, Dad spots a famous Indonesian hero – Muhammad Hatta.
Yes, a local boy made good. He was Sukarno’s sidekick.
> TO BE CONTINUED …