34: Indonesia > Sumatra Barat > Padang and Home

Late afternoon, 8th July 2007. After leaving the Maninjau caldera area, the road is generally downhill, snaking along the valleys. Along the way there’s an area specialising in huge pumpkins.img_2025.JPG

Gorgeous pumpkins. My favourite is when boiled in sugary syrup, sort of sweet pumpkin stew. Yummy! img_2026.JPG

We pass by more ricefields and the odd abandoned grand houses. This one must have belonged to a wealthy family; imagine the kiths and kins milling around it during the heydays.img_2033.JPG

As we descend, a tired bus groans past. That’s the Bukittinggi-Maninjau shuttle. Hope the brakes are good.img_2034.JPG

Tucked between mountains are the hamlets and the ricefields.img_2039.JPG

Terraced ricefields never cease to amaze us.img_2038.JPG

We do a quick stop and I climb a hillock to inspect a family graveyard.img_2041.JPG

A plaque on one of the tombstones. 8th April 1964. img_2044.JPG

Down the hill, a type of palm which produces buah kabong, a delicacy in my Kelantan homestate, when sweetened and eaten with grated ice.img_2046.JPG

In another valley, another delightful little hamlet. It’s like driving in the Alpine region, except that instead of white snow and church steeples, you see green leaves and mosque domes.img_2051.JPG

Cute mosque amidst green ricefields and Dutch-era bungalows. img_2053.JPG

A bike convoy drones past in low gear.


We move on, and along the Bukittinggi-Padang road, we meet our old abandoned railtrack again, now in the middle of development.


We stop for our nasi padang lunch again, now at Padangpanjang.img_2072.JPG

Inside, very good ambience …img_2066.JPG

… matched by tasty little dishes.img_2069.JPG

We are kept busy for a while, but no one’s complaining. img_2070.JPG

We resume our journey to Padang, and as we descend the mountains, we see a tragic remembrance of the hard times during Dutch rule.


The rail bridge is in good condition, even after more than 20 years of disuse.

Roadside goodies aplenty.

We enter Padang at last and this is the new Nurul Iman mosque.

Padang also has its own band of hardworking horses.

Before sunset, we decide to cram in a couple of sites. First up is Siti Nurbaya Bridge, all 156m of it across Batang Arau river. Built to spur development on the other side of the river, but thwarted by the late 90’s financial crisis. No doubt it’ll take off again.


On the other side of the bridge, the river empties into the Indian Ocean just to the right of that hill.img_2116.JPG

Digression: see the same hill in this pic taken while we were landing at Padang airport last Friday morning.sumatrabarat-06-07-2007-08-38-46.JPG

Anyway, as the day ends, the bridge becomes a local attraction – people just flock here to enjoy the food …


… and soak in the late afternoon mood.img_2113.JPG

And they only serve maize and bananas here, in various forms.

Next to the bridge the old quarter of Padang, where a Dutch-era warehouse stands tall …img_2106.JPG

… with rows of old houses.img_2122.JPG

From the bridge we proceed to Air Manih beach, the home of the legend Malin Kundang, the tragic tale of an ungrateful son (known as Si Tenggang in Malaysia). But on the way, we bump into one grateful son + one grateful daughter in a traditional Minang wedding.


After my brief interference, the wedding party resumes its merry way. Thank you very much, Happy Minang Couple!img_2127.JPG

The legend of Malin Kundang is about retribution on a successful village son who refused to recognise his destitute mother upon his return. He was cursed and turned into stone, so did his ship. That’s him prostrating in despair just behind Aina, who stands inside what’s left of the vessel.

Anyway, I am more excited at coming face-to-face with the ferocious Indian Ocean, home of the destructive tsunami of 2004. The weather is indeed intimidating today, and if a tsunami comes now, I have to run for my life, really. img_2135.JPG

We return to Padang in darkness, and I tried night photography on Nurul Iman mosque.

Before we call it a day, another nasi padang meal is in order – final one for us.

We really feed ourselves on this trip.img_2150.JPG

Back in the hotel, and some house rules, clearly explained. What a courteous hotel: thank you very much for not bringing a newly-procured lady-friend in?img_2162.JPG

Early the next morning, Pak Anas and Pak Mawan diligently return us to Padang airport for the 8.30am flight back to KL. They have been looking after us very well. Thank you very much, bapak.img_2163.JPG

Our plane, AirAsia PDG-KUL flight AK943 (Airbus A320, reg. 9M-AFA) pushes back 15min ahead of schedule, next to a Mandala A320.


We say goodbye to Padang.img_2170.JPG

Taking off to the north, …

… the plane does a tight left turn over the Indian Ocean, while climbing rapidly. Which is interesting, since KUL is on the right as we take off.

That’s the runway we just used. The trick of doing a left-turn loop over the Indian Ocean is to gain enough height to safely cross the tall mountains along the extreme west coast of Sumatra.img_2181.JPG

Still turning left. See the awesome mountains there, almost 10,000ft high.


More left turn and more climb, as the mountains loom.img_2189.JPG

At last the plane is level with enough height now, so we track direct towards KUL. Soon we pass above Lake Maninjau and Bukittingi but thick clouds below prevent me from taking pics.img_2192.JPG

Half an hour later, we leave Sumatra and cross the Straits of Malacca.

Less than 10min on, we make a tight left turn for KLIA over another Minang land – Negeri Sembilan.img_2198.JPG

On finals for Runway 32L, above the oil palms surrounding KLIA.img_2206.JPG

Home at last!


We spent 3 days in Sumatra Barat, just a bit more than one hour away by plane from KUL. It is so close, yet is full of pleasant surprises. As seasoned travelers, we’re still overwhelmed by the places there that we’ve touched. It is a fantastic spot and this won’t be the last time we ventured there. Our next project is maybe to do a lengthy overland trip through the mountains, volcanoes and lakes, from Padang to Medan. That would be fun! Our friend Pak Anas has been an exemplary guide who went out of the way to make the trip enjoyable. We thoroughly recommend Anas for anybody visiting Sumatra Barat. Thanks!