During the West Sumatra tour, Bapak Waleed made sure to include several of the cultural sites and attractions outside of Padang as well. After leaving the city of Padang and driving north, the farming and rice paddies come closer in toward the main road. There are several smaller towns and villages that lay on the main road. These seem to have everything that a villager might need, and in fact the people in the villages may rarely go into the city, except for special circumstances. Once outside the city, the family homes take on the more traditional Minang style, with the roofs reminiscent of the shape of water buffalo horns. The road then winds up into the mountains, where the rice paddies become steeply terraced in parts. The farming is still done completely by hand, with farmers walking behind water buffalo pulling hand plows. Once the crops are ready, they are spread out, by hand, to dry on large sheets. The hulling and preparation is also done by hand, until the final product is ready for eating or to bring to the marketplace. Many other crops are grown as well, including corn and even experimental energy crops such as jatropha.
Many sites lay on the road toward Bukittinggi, one of the ‘cultural capitals’ of West Sumatra nestled in between the mountains. The city of Padang Panjang lays along the main route from Padang to Bukittinggi. ‘Panjang’ means ‘long,’ and the city itself stretches through the mountains. Padang Panjang is the home of one of the cultural museums in the region and a traditional ‘Minang Village.’ The museum is also known as ‘Pusat Dokumentasi dan Informasi Kebudayaan Minangkabau,’ a central location for documentation and information on the Minang culture. The inside of the museum is a treasure trove of old black and white pictures from more than 100-150 year ago, and much documentation and written material on the matrilineal society of the Minang, and the blending of ‘adab’ and ‘adat’ within this unique culture. The mountains seem to rise on every side around Padang Panjang, and one familiar with the local geography can spot Mount Marapi, an active volcano, off in the distance toward the northeast.
A short detour off to the east is the regency of Tanah Datar, and its capital Batusangkar. Barusangkar is the home of one of the most beloved cultural landmarks in West Sumatra, Istano Basa Pagaruyung, the King’s Palace and seat of the ancient Minangkabau Kingdom. While the King’s Palace was destroyed in a horrific lightning fire during the spring of 2007, much progress has already been made toward rebuilding it. The site was cleared and razed, and groundbreaking has begun, with construction nearly completed on the first levels of the Palace, and beautiful plans in place for complete landscaping and refurbishing of the surrounding grounds. Stay tuned to this page for more information on the rebuilding progress: Bapak Waleed received special permission on the grounds of the Palace to videotape the progress of the construction.
Leaving Batusangkar, the trip continued north, then turning west, going around the other side of the volcano Mt. Marapi, passing sites such as the Panorama Tabek Patah in Kabupaten Tanah Datar, a landmark with a village and two small lakes overlooking the valleys below and the surrounding mountains and volcano. The final destination of the day’s trip was Bukittinggi, to the northwest of the volcano Marapi. Bukittinggi is a much hillier place than Padang on the coast. Large Minang long houses ‘rumah gadang’ dot the landscape on the way into the city. The Central Market of Bukittinggi lays on top of a hill in the middle of town, very close to a central park and Bukittinggi Plaza. The park hosts another famous landmark: ‘Jam Gadang,’ the clocktower in Bukittinggi, which stand high above the trees and chimes the time every hour.
Some additional sites are cataloged on the ‘My Indonesia’ page. Click here to visit the site.
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