For five days we will explore West Sumatra’s mainland. One night we sleep in Padang, a busy, buzzing town and the departure city for the Mentawai Islands. The next morning we set off to the Minangkabau Highlands. We drive endless turns uphill to arrive in Bukittinggi, a touristic city with a lot of hotels and nice bars. It’s a perfect base from which to explore the highlands.
In Northern Sumatra we drove through endless palm plantations but West Sumatra is plantation free and instead filled with rice paddies, a huge lake, sky-high coconut trees, colourful tropical flowers, volcanos and steep mountains. We walk through the wide scenic area, monkey’s jump next to us from tree to tree and we pass the traditional Minangkabau houses. The Minangkabau is an ethnic group of people living in the highlands of West Sumatra. Women play an important role in the culture, property and land is passed down from mother to daughter. They live in traditional houses, painted in special coloured designs and with black and red horn shaped roofs. We bring a visit to the former palace of the Minangkabau royal family. The palace is filled with bright coloured fabrics to divide rooms and huge pillows. It feels like walking through the 1001 Arabian night fairy-tale.
I never get tired of Asian food. In a typical West Sumatran restaurant, they serve you all the food on the menu. The whole table is full in no time with small plates filled with chicken curry, fish with chillies, all kinds of vegetable, eggs in curry, tempeh, tofu curry etc. etc. Of course we have to try everything and it tastes as good as can be.
When we arrive late afternoon in Harau Valley, I don’t know where to look first. Three waterfalls splash down on the left. On the right a huge stonewall rises up to the sky behind the bright green rice paddies. The road we drive on goes straight through the middle, two huge stonewalls on each side of the road. I look up and I am dazzled by the height of the walls. The stones are coloured in all kinds of red, brown and grey. We get out of the car and walk around, try some durian and take a dip in the waterfall. The wideness of the landscape, the bit more chilled weather, the sweet chillies and the friendly, flexible Muslims make the West province my favourite part of Sumatra so far!