A tour through West Sumatra

A tour through West Sumatra

After the long journey all the way from North Sumatra we finally arrive in West Sumatra, the beautiful highlands of the Minangkabau people. This is a unique society as the matrilineal system and heritage goes via the wife. It is the husband who has to follow the wife and her family. It is even more interesting if we consider the fact that the Minangkabau people follow Islam, a religion considered to be dominated by men. Before we enter the beautiful city of Bukittinggi, we pass by the small village of Palupu. In the jungle near this village we can see the Rafflesia, the largest flower on earth. Depending of the location where the flower grows, which changes several times a year, you have to walk approximately one hour through the jungle to reach the location of the flower. The centre of the Minangkabau highlands is Bukittinggi, formerly known as Fort de Kock. From this pleasant cool mountain city, people can make excursions through the region like to the Harau nature reserve, the Minangkabau palace in Pagaruyung, and to lake Singkarak. In the 1920s the Dutch built a fine clock tower in town, called the Bukittinggi Big Ben, which is still a landmark in the city. Another peculiarity of Bukittinggi is the Sado, (dos a dos or back to back) a small horse carriage and very practical mode of transportation in town. Located besides Bukittinggi is Pandai Sikat village, famous for its handicrafts, woodcarvings, and weaving industry. The city is located besides a deep canyon, the Ngarai Sianok or ‘Karbouwengat’. During the Japanese time between 1943 and 1945 an underground...
Padang

Padang

Padang is the economic centre West Sumatra. During colonial times Padang harbour was called Emmahaven, nowadays named Teluk Bayur. Up to approximately 1780 the most important trade product was gold, originating from the gold mines in the region. When the mines were exhausted, the emphasis turned to other products such as coffee, salt and textiles. In 1797 Padang suffered from a tsunami and afterwards also quakes had been felt in the Padang region. An important export product from the region is coal from the Ombilin mine fields in Sawahlunto. As a result of coal as fuel a cement industry has established in Padang, the so called Padang Portland cement. PT. Padang Cement is the oldest cement manufacturer in Indonesia founded in 1910. The well known Dutch author Eduard Douwes Dekker, his writers name was Multatuli, had been resident in Padang in the 1850s. Many years later, another famous Dutch author Louis Couperus, wrote about the town: ..The last days they toured with us through Padang, that nice old fashioned Indien, in wide, green lanes, hidden small city, typically, with the low, shady, white pillared houses in the densely leaved gardens… (Louis Couperus, Eastward, p. 109) Officers’ Quarters in Padang around 1910 From: Former Points of View, Postcards & Literary Passages from Pre-Independence Indonesia by Stephen Grant, Jakarta...
Bukittinggi

Bukittinggi

Highest located city in the Miningkabau highlands Now we are in the land of the Minangkabau with matrilineal system whereby heritage goes via the wife. The husband moves in with the wife’s family. Interesting is the combination of Islam, which is patriarchal, and the matrilineal system of the Minangkabau. Bukittinggi is located high in the mountains and from here we can make beautiful excursions in the region, like to the Harau nature reserve, the Minangkabau palace in Pagaruyung and to lake Singkarak. Nearby Bukittinggi, is the small village of Pandai Sikat where the local people produce beautiful woodcarving and weaving textiles. On the other side of the deep valley Ngarai Sianok or ‘Karbouwengat’, besides Bukittinggi, is the picturesque village of Kota Gadang with many old houses where the people make fine silverworks. From here we can continue to one of the other highlights in West Sumatra, the mystical Lake Maninjau, around two hours drive from Kota Gadang. Bukittinggi Big Ben One of the landmarks of the city is the Bukittinggi Big Ben. The friendly city in the beautiful Minangkabau highlands of West Sumatra is a pleasant place to stay for a few days. From here you can make nice trips in the environment like to the Harau nature reserve, the Pagaruyung Minangkabau palace and Lake Singkarak. Bukittinggi view Bukittinggi is one of the few cities on Sumatra where one can ride in a sado. The horse carriage or sado (dos a dos or back to back) provide a colorful charming transportation through the town. sianok-valley, (view towards Koto Gadang) 10 days program minimum tour-duration of 8 days is...
Sawahlunto

Sawahlunto

Sawahlunto Sawahlunto is the only coal mining town in West Sumatra, known as the town of the Black Pearl. Coal was found here since the mid-19th century and afterwards the Ombilin mines were build. Already in 1894 an electric power plant was constructed using coal as fuel. A few years before, in 1889, a start had been made with development of a railway line from Padang to Sawahlunto, for the transportation of the coal to the port Emmahaven (Teluk Bayur) in Padang. Sawahlunto became a small but important town with public facilities, offices, hotels, and stores. It is nowadays a tourist destination as an old mining town with fine colonial architecture. The former club, built in 1910, is now the cultural centre of...
Kota Gadang

Kota Gadang

Kota Gadang is a picturesque silverwork village near Bukittinggi on the other side of the Sianok valley. In the village are a variety of beautiful colonial houses and the place breathes an atmosphere of days gone by. Kota Gadang is well known because of its fine silverwork home industries. From Kota Gadang originate famous Indonesians like Sutan Syahrir, the first prime minister after independence and Agus Salim, former minister of foreign...
Lake Maninjau

Lake Maninjau

The mysterious lake Lake Maninjau Descending via the road with the forty four curves, while clouds drive by at eye-level, you have breathtaking views over the lake. Madelon Szekely Lulofs about Maninjau The author Madelon Szekely Lulofs lived during her youth in Maninjau. Later she remembered the Padang Highlands, where Maninjau is situated, as her child paradise: ‘It is the land of the Minangkabau, a people with a matriarchal society, after marriage the husband moves in with the family of his wife. They live in remarkable high wooden houses on poles under a saddleroof that ends in two points like buffalo horns. There is a climate of eternal spring. The house of the district officer is a large and old fashioned Indian dwelling on short poles just outside the village. Under the wide, sheltered tiled roof it consists of wide rooms and galleries. The garden, with big lawns and coloured flowers with butterflies and libelles besides beautiful palms, is like a shade covered parc. A long tamarind lane with showwhite orchids on the trunks takes us along a creamwhite columned gallery besides the darkblue water of the enormous, by greyblue mountains surrounded lake. At the shore is a high mast with the red-white-blue flag.’ ‘Indië, zooals ik het zag’. Jeugdherinneringen van Madelon Székely-Lulofs in: Okker, F. Tumult. Het levensverhaal van Madelon Székely-Lulofs Uitgeverij Atlas, Amsterdam/Antwerpen 2008, page 24) Driving along cinnamon and sawah terraces you will reach the fascinating lake Maninjau. Lake Maninjau, one of the most beautiful lakes of Sumatra, with a friendly village located at the lake border. 15 days...
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