Sumatra, here I come again

Padang is the capital of the province of West Sumatra and is an area of 695 square kilometres, with a population just over a million people. Historically Padang was a famous trading city, created by the Dutch and was once famous for trading pepper and gold. The city has known many different regimes and has suffered a handful of earthquakes and tsunamis through the years. The area has a tropical rainforest climate so be prepared for some rain as it is one of the wettest cities of Indonesia. On the other hand, this is also the reason for the beautiful green environment.

After a long delay I finally arrived in Padang, my Grab driver was very friendly and helped me find my hostel which was a challenge as it was already past midnight and I was a bit afraid I was too late for check in. I was staying in a place called Bat & Arrow, a famous bar in the surf community, located in a couple of abandoned warehouses. My friend told me about this place but what she didn’t know, was that above the bar is a hidden hostel. Actually not that hidden because it’s also on Booking.com but if you are at the bar there is no trace of any hostel so I guess that makes it kind of hidden haha. The bar is awesome, the people super friendly, the hostel very comfortable but simple and in front there is also a little surf shop with some nice high quality goodies. So even if you decide to sleep somewhere else, come and check out the bar for sure.

Bat Arrow Bar

The next day, one of the guys from Bat & Arrow organized a private car for my Mum and me with a super funny driver who drove us all the way up to Harau Valley. This place is not crowded at all because not many western people have discovered it yet, however, on weekends it can be quite busy because Indonesian tourists already know about this gem. The drive there is absolutely stunning. Padang is on sea level and the whole drive to Harau Valley is up hill. You will see old train tracks that are still being used, waterfalls, rocky ravines, beautiful viewing points and the greenest nature.

Abdi Homestay view

The Minangkabau people are the largest matrilineal society of the world. This means that property, the family names and the land are given from mother to daughter. Religious and political affairs are still the responsibility of the man but in some families the women take an important role in this part of the society as well. This is what I like about Indonesia so much, the fact that people still try to hold on to traditions like these although they are quite different from the religious values. People try to stay close to their history, family traditions while of course respecting the rules of Islam.

As with many strong cultural traditions come strong culinary traditions and the area of Padang is well known for their food, all over the world. So of course Mum and I tried out as much as possible. The cuisine of the Minangkabau people is made once a day and displayed in the restaurant until nothing is left. People can take small portions from the dishes they like so the table is often filled with a lot of small plates. The most famous dish is Rendang, a super delicious salty beef dish.

After our stay in Harau Valley we asked the people of Abdi Homestay to organize a car to Bukittinggi. This is when my mom and I met Om An and for sure he made our trip! He was supposed to be just our driver to Bukittinggi but turned out to be way more as after we arrived in Bukittinggi he made sure we had everything we needed. In the evening we met him and his Russian wife for a cup of coffee and talked over all the sight-seeing possibilities. We ended up making the plan to go to Maninjau the next day but instead of driving us straight there we made a tour out of it.

Horses Bukittinggi 3
Bukittinggi street view 2

After the coffee tasting we drove off to a small city, also near to Bukittinggi, called Kota Gadang. A small farmers village recognizable by the typical Dutch houses, which served as a holiday home outside the big city back in the days. After the liberation of Indonesia, most Dutch people left and Indonesians moved in. However, most of these people have also left and moved to cities elsewhere in Indonesia or Malaysia. The village is therefore very quiet and currently known for the silversmiths. We visited a shop here, on the advice of Om An, and bought beautiful rings and earrings. A perfect place for a unique souvenir for a friend or sister at home. That reminds me, if you want to have any of the addresses above or if you would like to tour around with Om An yourself, just send me a message and I would be happy to send you the contact information.

Sianok Canyon rice fields
Maninjau lake 2

The Beach Guest House is located right on Maninjau lake and has a few nice little cottages and a restaurant. The staff is super helpful and friendly so we enjoyed our stay here a lot. Sadly it was raining when we woke up the next morning and it didn’t stop.. Heroic as Mum and I are, we didn’t let the rain stop us and we hopped on a scooter with our rain coats to explore the area. However, we changed our mind after a kilometre or two because we were soaked. So instead of going through the rain we decided to have a relaxed afternoon in the restaurant. After it finally brightened up a bit, we still had an hour or two to explore the village and a bit of the area. Again I recognized a lot of Dutch architecture and after the clouds cleared up we could also enjoy a nice lake view. Unfortunately we didn’t go on the lake because of the weather but definitely do this because the lake is very perfect for a kayak trip or a swim.

Padang streets

After two nights our beloved Om An came to pick us up and go back to Padang but not without another small detour. After a number of beautiful viewpoints and a delicious lunch (this time the main course was not meat but fish), we arrived in Padang around noon. This time we stayed in Brigitte’s House near to the Colonial neighbourhood. We had enough time until sunset to go for a walk through the colonial area and Chinatown. Very cool to see all the old warehouses and the Chinese market, these raw city sights contrasting all the nature we saw over the last few days. The next day we went for another short walk through town and the beach. Very different from what I am used to in Karimunjawa but watching all the people being busy working, talking or doing whatever they are doing, was especially entertaining.

Padang river
Bar Arrow shop
Mum I Padang

When we arrived in Harau Valley it was already dark so it was a little bit difficult to find our accommodation called Abdi Homestay. It’s a great place I heard about from my friend (thanks again Astrid) and I am happy she told me because it’s not on Booking.com. We stayed in one of the cute cottages with our own porch and as we arrived at night we had no idea what the place looked like. However, we were pleasantly surprised in the morning, because the sound of water falling from the mountains and little birds flying around woke us up. The surrounding is just amazing. If you stay in Abdi you just see mountains, rice fields, wooden cottages and of course the waterfall. We stayed here for two nights and the highlight of our stay was the track to the top of one of the mountains. Our guide, the brother of the owner, showed us all the good sights and told us a lot about the Minangkabau culture and the history from this area.

Waterfall Harau Valley

But first Bukittinggi, literally high hill, is the biggest city in the high lands of West-Sumatra. It has been led by the Dutch under the city name Ford de Kock, been led by the Japanese during the colonial period and was shortly the capital of Indonesia during the Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia. Historically a very interesting city which we explored with a nice walk all around town. We stayed here for one night to explore the city and I am happy we did. Bukittinggi is a very pleasant place with nice people. It’s not that big so perfect for a walking tour, there are a lot of hills so be prepared for a little walking exercise. Beside the historical sights and the nice market it’s just a very colourful city. The hostel we stayed in is not really worth mentioning but I can advise to book ahead if you come during the weekend or holidays because it’s often very crowded.  

The next day we planned to go to Maninjau, a volcano lake similar to lake Toba, smaller and less famous but definitely beautiful too. As I was saying, Om An was our man! He put together this nice little tour for the day, with our destination Maninjau at the finish line. This is something I really recommend! We started off with coffee tasting in a small village near to Bukittinggi. Om An knew just the place and we were very happy that he did because alone we would have never found it. The Luwak Kopi (Civet coffee) in Padang, known as cat poo coffee, is created the natural way. The beans from this coffee are extra special because the coffee berries are eaten by the civet cat (called Luwak cat in Indonesia). After the berries go through the whole digestive system of the cat, they get pooped out in the Jungle of Central Sumatra. People go around, collect and clean them and use them to make Luwak Kopi. Not only is this a very strong and tasteful coffee, the people of Sumatra believe that drinking the coffee works as a health treatment. After drinking the coffee, they use the coffee grounds for skin and other beauty treatments. So why is the Sumatran Luwak Kopi special? The coffee production in Central Sumatra is special because the cats are wild and living in the jungle, not in captivity as in Bali for example. These are wild cats and can choose any berry they want, so they only choose the good quality ones. This ensures that the Luwak Kopi in the Centre of Sumatra is only made from great coffee beans.

Coffee Luwak mask 1

After Kota Gadang we continued our tour through the Sianok Canyon. Om An asked us, before we left, what we wanted to have for lunch and we asked him to bring us to a warung where we could try the Padang kitchen. So around lunch time we stopped in one of the villages and Om An told us that it was one of the best places he knew. And he definitely didn’t disappoint us because that was the best Indonesian food I have ever eaten. He chose a table full of different dishes for us and we happily ate all of it. Just perfect! Super satisfied and with a small after-dinner dip, we got back in the car and continued our drive to Maninjau. After lunch we stopped at a couple of viewing points, some of them well known and crowded, others very quiet and still unknown. We enjoyed our drive and just before sunset we arrived at the Beach Guest house in Maninjau. I found this place on Booking.com but Om An happened to know the owner as well and assured us we made a great choice there. And again, we did make a great choice. Sorry people, I know this is getting old but we just ended up at a great place again.

Me in the Sianok Canyon 1
Padang street seller 1

Later that afternoon it was time to go back to the airport and leave Padang. I enjoyed exploring this area a lot! A sweet combination between nature, culture, history and lovely people. I think doing this with a car is definitely not the cheapest option but for sure the best way to customize your trip in a short period of time. Again, if you want more details or contact information, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Sumatra, here I come again

Padang is the capital of the province of West Sumatra and is an area of 695 square kilometres, with a population just over a million people. Historically Padang was a famous trading city, created by the Dutch and was once famous for trading pepper and gold. The city has known many different regimes and has suffered a handful of earthquakes and tsunamis through the years. The area has a tropical rainforest climate so be prepared for some rain as it is one of the wettest cities of Indonesia. On the other hand, this is also the reason for the beautiful green environment.

Mum I Padang
Bat Arrow Bar

After a long delay I finally arrived in Padang, my Grab driver was very friendly and helped me find my hostel which was a challenge as it was already past midnight and I was a bit afraid I was too late for check in. I was staying in a place called Bat & Arrow, a famous bar in the surf community, located in a couple of abandoned warehouses. My friend told me about this place but what she didn’t know, was that above the bar is a hidden hostel. Actually not that hidden because it’s also on Booking.com but if you are at the bar there is no trace of any hostel so I guess that makes it kind of hidden haha. The bar is awesome, the people super friendly, the hostel very comfortable but simple and in front there is also a little surf shop with some nice high quality goodies. So even if you decide to sleep somewhere else, come and check out the bar for sure.

Bar Arrow shop
Padang river

The next day, one of the guys from Bat & Arrow organized a private car for my Mum and me with a super funny driver who drove us all the way up to Harau Valley. This place is not crowded at all because not many western people have discovered it yet, however, on weekends it can be quite busy because Indonesian tourists already know about this gem. The drive there is absolutely stunning. Padang is on sea level and the whole drive to Harau Valley is up hill. You will see old train tracks that are still being used, waterfalls, rocky ravines, beautiful viewing points and the greenest nature.

Abdi Homestay view

When we arrived in Harau Valley it was already dark so it was a little bit difficult to find our accommodation called Abdi Homestay. It’s a great place I heard about from my friend (thanks again Astrid) and I am happy she told me because it’s not on Booking.com. We stayed in one of the cute cottages with our own porch and as we arrived at night we had no idea what the place looked like. However, we were pleasantly surprised in the morning, because the sound of water falling from the mountains and little birds flying around woke us up. The surrounding is just amazing. If you stay in Abdi you just see mountains, rice fields, wooden cottages and of course the waterfall. We stayed here for two nights and the highlight of our stay was the track to the top of one of the mountains. Our guide, the brother of the owner, showed us all the good sights and told us a lot about the Minangkabau culture and the history from this area.

Waterfall Harau Valley

The Minangkabau people are the largest matrilineal society of the world. This means that property, the family names and the land are given from mother to daughter. Religious and political affairs are still the responsibility of the man but in some families the women take an important role in this part of the society as well. This is what I like about Indonesia so much, the fact that people still try to hold on to traditions like these although they are quite different from the religious values. People try to stay close to their history, family traditions while of course respecting the rules of Islam.

As with many strong cultural traditions come strong culinary traditions and the area of Padang is well known for their food, all over the world. So of course Mum and I tried out as much as possible. The cuisine of the Minangkabau people is made once a day and displayed in the restaurant until nothing is left. People can take small portions from the dishes they like so the table is often filled with a lot of small plates. The most famous dish is Rendang, a super delicious salty beef dish.

After our stay in Harau Valley we asked the people of Abdi Homestay to organize a car to Bukittinggi. This is when my mom and I met Om An and for sure he made our trip! He was supposed to be just our driver to Bukittinggi but turned out to be way more as after we arrived in Bukittinggi he made sure we had everything we needed. In the evening we met him and his Russian wife for a cup of coffee and talked over all the sight-seeing possibilities. We ended up making the plan to go to Maninjau the next day but instead of driving us straight there we made a tour out of it.

Horses Bukittinggi 3
Bukittinggi street view 2

But first Bukittinggi, literally high hill, is the biggest city in the high lands of West-Sumatra. It has been led by the Dutch under the city name Ford de Kock, been led by the Japanese during the colonial period and was shortly the capital of Indonesia during the Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia. Historically a very interesting city which we explored with a nice walk all around town. We stayed here for one night to explore the city and I am happy we did. Bukittinggi is a very pleasant place with nice people. It’s not that big so perfect for a walking tour, there are a lot of hills so be prepared for a little walking exercise. Beside the historical sights and the nice market it’s just a very colourful city. The hostel we stayed in is not really worth mentioning but I can advise to book ahead if you come during the weekend or holidays because it’s often very crowded.  

The next day we planned to go to Maninjau, a volcano lake similar to lake Toba, smaller and less famous but definitely beautiful too. As I was saying, Om An was our man! He put together this nice little tour for the day, with our destination Maninjau at the finish line. This is something I really recommend! We started off with coffee tasting in a small village near to Bukittinggi. Om An knew just the place and we were very happy that he did because alone we would have never found it. The Luwak Kopi (Civet coffee) in Padang, known as cat poo coffee, is created the natural way. The beans from this coffee are extra special because the coffee berries are eaten by the civet cat (called Luwak cat in Indonesia). After the berries go through the whole digestive system of the cat, they get pooped out in the Jungle of Central Sumatra. People go around, collect and clean them and use them to make Luwak Kopi. Not only is this a very strong and tasteful coffee, the people of Sumatra believe that drinking the coffee works as a health treatment. After drinking the coffee, they use the coffee grounds for skin and other beauty treatments. So why is the Sumatran Luwak Kopi special? The coffee production in Central Sumatra is special because the cats are wild and living in the jungle, not in captivity as in Bali for example. These are wild cats and can choose any berry they want, so they only choose the good quality ones. This ensures that the Luwak Kopi in the Centre of Sumatra is only made from great coffee beans.

Sianok Canyon rice fields
Coffee Luwak mask 1

After the coffee tasting we drove off to a small city, also near to Bukittinggi, called Kota Gadang. A small farmers village recognizable by the typical Dutch houses, which served as a holiday home outside the big city back in the days. After the liberation of Indonesia, most Dutch people left and Indonesians moved in. However, most of these people have also left and moved to cities elsewhere in Indonesia or Malaysia. The village is therefore very quiet and currently known for the silversmiths. We visited a shop here, on the advice of Om An, and bought beautiful rings and earrings. A perfect place for a unique souvenir for a friend or sister at home. That reminds me, if you want to have any of the addresses above or if you would like to tour around with Om An yourself, just send me a message and I would be happy to send you the contact information.

Me in the Sianok Canyon 1

After Kota Gadang we continued our tour through the Sianok Canyon. Om An asked us, before we left, what we wanted to have for lunch and we asked him to bring us to a warung where we could try the Padang kitchen. So around lunch time we stopped in one of the villages and Om An told us that it was one of the best places he knew. And he definitely didn’t disappoint us because that was the best Indonesian food I have ever eaten. He chose a table full of different dishes for us and we happily ate all of it. Just perfect! Super satisfied and with a small after-dinner dip, we got back in the car and continued our drive to Maninjau. After lunch we stopped at a couple of viewing points, some of them well known and crowded, others very quiet and still unknown. We enjoyed our drive and just before sunset we arrived at the Beach Guest house in Maninjau. I found this place on Booking.com but Om An happened to know the owner as well and assured us we made a great choice there. And again, we did make a great choice. Sorry people, I know this is getting old but we just ended up at a great place again.

Maninjau lake 2

The Beach Guest House is located right on Maninjau lake and has a few nice little cottages and a restaurant. The staff is super helpful and friendly so we enjoyed our stay here a lot. Sadly it was raining when we woke up the next morning and it didn’t stop.. Heroic as Mum and I are, we didn’t let the rain stop us and we hopped on a scooter with our rain coats to explore the area. However, we changed our mind after a kilometre or two because we were soaked. So instead of going through the rain we decided to have a relaxed afternoon in the restaurant. After it finally brightened up a bit, we still had an hour or two to explore the village and a bit of the area. Again I recognized a lot of Dutch architecture and after the clouds cleared up we could also enjoy a nice lake view. Unfortunately we didn’t go on the lake because of the weather but definitely do this because the lake is very perfect for a kayak trip or a swim.

After two nights our beloved Om An came to pick us up and go back to Padang but not without another small detour. After a number of beautiful viewpoints and a delicious lunch (this time the main course was not meat but fish), we arrived in Padang around noon. This time we stayed in Brigitte’s House near to the Colonial neighbourhood. We had enough time until sunset to go for a walk through the colonial area and Chinatown. Very cool to see all the old warehouses and the Chinese market, these raw city sights contrasting all the nature we saw over the last few days. The next day we went for another short walk through town and the beach. Very different from what I am used to in Karimunjawa but watching all the people being busy working, talking or doing whatever they are doing, was especially entertaining.

Padang streets

Later that afternoon it was time to go back to the airport and leave Padang. I enjoyed exploring this area a lot! A sweet combination between nature, culture, history and lovely people. I think doing this with a car is definitely not the cheapest option but for sure the best way to customize your trip in a short period of time. Again, if you want more details or contact information, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Padang street seller 1

Oh and maybe a nice little side note. Mom found several post offices. Most of them were renovated through the years but we also saw a few which looked still old so probably from back in the days. Who knows, maybe it was her Grandad building it…

Mum at Maninjau lake 2