32: Indonesia > Sumatra Barat > Pagaruyung to Maninjau

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Afternoon, Saturday 7th July 2007. In Batusangkar at last, and Pagaruyung is the place. Well, used to be. We are late by 5 months, unfortunately.

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For on this vacant lot with a yellow stick …img_1735.JPG

… once stood the grand Pagaruyung Palace, the symbol of Minangkabau culture, burnt to the ground due to a single lightning strike night of 27th Jan, 2007. And tomorrow July 8th, they’ll start reconstruction of the famed icon, to its former glory, plus a bit more.

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The Vice-President of Indonesia himself, Jusuf Kalla, will come to officiate the start of rebuilding the palace, … img_1722.JPG

… and last-minute preparation is the order of the day. img_1726.JPG

A huge billboard welcomes the VIP. Batagak Tonggak Tuo is the name of the main pillar …img_1727.JPG

… salvaged from the original Pagaruyung (burnt down by the Dutch 1804), now ceremoniously wrapped in yellow. To symbolise the reconstruction of a new Pagaruyung, tomorrow the Veep will raise this stick .img_1729.JPG

The main stage, adorned with the familiar Minang colours. img_1733.JPG

We mill around for while. Tomorrow, with the Veep around this is going to be a very high security area. img_1734.JPG

Behind the huge tents, there is a display on Pagaruyung, the sad story of it.img_1743.JPG

On that fateful night of 27th January, 2007, a lightning strike lit a small fire at one tip of the pointed roof …

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… and the rest is history, as they say. Everything gone, all the precious displays inside it too.

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Next to the display, listless Minang ladies sell local foodstuff and handicraft. I’m sure they won’t be bored tomorrow.img_1742.JPG

We walk back to the car, and I notice a graceful white mosque in the woods. img_1736.JPG

Since Pagaruyung Palace is no more, at least till the new version is ready, we stop at nearby Silinduang Bulan Palace, now replacing Pagaruyung as #1.img_1746.JPG

Much of the historical stuff are kept here, thus escaping the Pagaruyung inferno last January, but unfortunately it’s not open to the public.

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Even this one is a copy of another copy burnt down in 1961. The original was destroyed during a battle with the Dutch in 1821. Fires seem to love these pointed things.

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But it is still majestic, notwithstanding the overhead cables all over the place. They should learn to hide these ugly things at photogenic tourist-y spots.

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Close-up of the staircase and verandah.img_1758.JPG

Exterior wall decoration meticulously done. Note the small round mirrors for special effects.img_1750.JPG

Behind the palace, a feast is being prepared, maybe for tomorrow’s big day.img_1753.JPG

One final look at the intriguing tilting beams and we are off.img_1762.JPG

We join the Padang-Bukittinggi-Pekanbaru highway. Yes, this is major road linking Sumatra east and west coasts, and a drive from Pekanbaru to Padang is easily 8-9 hrs.img_1765.JPG

We do a quick stop at Ngalau Indah for some mediocre caves. The caves are atop a hill with a great view, and looking at the dead stalagmites and stalactites, they are really ancient caves. Not worth showing here. img_1782.JPG

We descend the Ngalau Indah hills and pass through the valley to reach Payakumbuh, a small town filled with horse-taxis. And yes, accompanied by the familiar odour wherever horses are.img_1789.JPG

A very popular mode of short-distance transport. img_1785.JPG

Packed to the brim, …

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… never mind the poor, blinkered horsey. This bloke looks underfed.img_1843.JPG

Past Payakumbuh we leave the Pekanbaru highway and enter Harau Valley, where stone cliffs and ricefields dominate.

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At least here, no tortured horses. Anyway we have a hard time trying to overtake this minibus on such a narrow road.img_1797.JPG

But why come all the way to Harau, a narrow valley sandwiched between cliffs of more than 100m high?

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It’s just a very pretty place, esp. with ricefields in every nook and cranny, pressed against vertical walls of rocks.img_1803.JPG

I am no geologist, but the cliffs look sandstone to me … img_1808.JPG

… and shale. Which means this place used to be deep under the sea, and knowing how an active place Sumatra geologically was/is, it must have been lifted out off the sea by the severe movements of the earth’s crust.img_1811.JPG

As I contemplate the force of nature at work here, a boisterous bunch of kids whiz past.img_1816.JPG

Apart from the beauty of giant cliffs facing each other, we have a novelty here. An echo spot: shout here and 2 seconds later you can clearly hear your own voice bouncing back from the other cliff. img_1817.JPG

The two giants on a face-off.img_1820.JPG

In between, green ricefields.img_1822.JPG

We leave the car and walk across a stream and ricefields to reach the other cliff.img_1833.JPG

Looking back, I realise how big that thing is, making our car insignificant. I think it must be more than 100m high.img_1823.JPG

Near the other cliff, there is a pleasant homestay.

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As we leave, some happy youngsters are attempting rock-climbing. Well not the whole 100m+ face of the cliff, but more like just 10m up. It’s a start, anyway.

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We return to the Bukittinggi-Pekanbaru road and backtrack to Bukittinggi, bypassing it to enter Kotogadang. We are heading westward on our way to Lake Maninjau for the night.dscn4007.JPG

Kotogadang is famous for being the birthplace of many Indonesian intellectuals and also as a former Dutch settlement, who left their heritage behind such as this house …img_1849.JPG

… and this.

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The odd Minang house.

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Kotogadang is also famed for its silverware.dscn4015.JPG

We duly park our car at a silversmith’s house. It’s more like cottage industry.dscn4016.JPG

Sure, very pretty, but we also have similar silverware stuff in our homestate, Kelantan. dscn4021.JPG

I’m more interested in the scenery behind the house.dscn4019.JPG

On the other side, more mountains for us to cross to get to Maninjau. dscn4023.JPG

I spot a rare cat. Rare since I hardly see them, maybe due to the Minang men’s preference for dogs, as hunting mates, that is.dscn4024.JPG

As we leave, more roadside decorations – VP Jusuf Kalla is also paying this place a visit tomorrow. dscn4014.JPG

We zoom past cornfields … dscn4028.JPG

… and more old Dutch houses.dscn4030.JPG

But I have not been able to spot any old Dutchmen yet. dscn4033.JPG

We start ascending again, as we climb the rim of a huge crater of a long-dead volcano, I hope. dscn4034.JPG

Past the highest point, we coast downhill into the crater, zig-zagging through 44 sharp bends, as we tail a green lorry going to collect live fish from the fish-farms dotting Lake Maninjau’s shore. dscn4053.JPG

And we glimpse beautiful Lake Maninjau for the first time! dscn4060.JPG

Truly awesome! Reminds me of Loch Ness, except that this one has a more sinister connection – a raging monster volcano. dscn4059.JPG

As the sun sets, we do dinner and settle into our rooms, at the shore of the lake. I can’t believe that I’m inside a volcano’s crater, as I admire the rim of the crater on the other side, 10km away at this point. img_1853.JPG

As light breeze blows in from the lake, the light bulbs above the fish-farms sway. This is truly a magical place and moment. I hope no earthquake or eruption tonight … GOOD NIGHT.img_1857.JPG

> TO BE CONTINUED …

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