Minangkabau is the ethnical name for people originated from West Sumatera, which are commonly called as 'Padang' by people outside of West Sumatera. On our way between Padang (the capital city of West Sumatera) and Bukittingi, my dad told me the origin of the name Minangkabau.
Long long time ago, I don't remember when this took place, there was a javanese king that wanted to invade West Sumatera. He was going to attack with his army lot, when the West Sumatera people found out about this plan, and quickly thought of a way to get out of the war that surely they would lose because of the lack of army. Known to be skillful in declamation, the West Sumatra natives negotiated with the Javanese, saying that instead of sending people to war which will result in killing men, it'd be wiser if each party send off an animal to fight each other. The winning animal will automatically grant victory to its owner.
A huge, sturdy, courageous bull was brought by the Javanese, ready to win a province for its master. Not having any equal opponent for the scary bull, the West Sumatera people thought of another way. They sent off a nursing little buffalo to fight against the bull. You must think these people are crazy or plain stupid, but they wouldn't have reputations of being slick and tricky without having a pair of sharp knives strapped to the buffalo's head, imitating horns just like what the bull has.
When the fight took place, thirsty little buffalo went right off to the bull's stomach, mistaken it for its mommy. And so the bull got stabbed by the pair of knives, spread out about, and victory went to West Sumatra. Hence the name : minang = win, kabau = buffalo. Minangkabau = winning buffalo.
Listening to this, despite a certainty of it being true or not, I felt proud - for my ancestors' brilliance - as well as a bit of shame - for Minangnese are still widely known as being tricky which can be a bad thing sometimes.
Awkay, now let me tell you about the present West Sumatera, what I experienced in the 5 days stay.
Padang is quite known for its cleanliness, which once got them a trophy from Indonesian government. But traffic is such a mess, I'm tellin' ya. I even saw a police car going in high speed, passing a car in front of it, only a few meters facing towards our car before it quickly went back to its lane! That was so very not cool! As if the weather wasn't hot enough out there.
Or, you can just sit and enjoy the ocean view. On Saturday nights, you'll see lots and lots of young couples or groups hanging out in this bay area.
There are quite a lot of hotels in Padang as you can see in this link . I myself of course bunked at my aunt's house, but some of my relatives had a lovely stay at Wisma Mayang Sari (guesthouse) located on Sudirman street, across the Bank of Indonesia.
THE WEDDING of my cousin
My family and I were all in the city to attend one of my cousins' wedding. Related to the story of winning buffalo above, you can see lots of buildings with roofs in the shape of horn-like. Even the dais on which the bridal couple sits has decoration roof of horn shape, and the female traditional dancers sometimes also wear head pieces in similar shape.
Okay, if you can't, as in not being able to although you've tried your hardest, go ahead use those forks and spoons (no knives!) provided on the tables.As snack, which is quite the heavy type of one, Padang has martabak to offer, although it’s known to be originally from India.
The most famous sate eatery here is Sate Mak Sukur (Uncle Sukur Satay) in Padang Panjang. We were eager to have a taste of sate Mak Sukur on our way from Padang to Bukittingi (Padang Panjang lies between these two cities), unfortunately at around 6 PM they had run out of the sate (I believe because everyone thought the same thing), so we had the sate at Saiyo diner just a few meters from Mak Sukur.
Padang Panjang is still in the area of Padang, a town that we went by to get to Bukittinggi (tell ya about this city later). This is where we had sate Saiyo after passing by a valley called Lembah Anai. It's interesting because it's got waterfall right on the side of the streets where cars and trucks pass by. And it's always been like that since ages ago, the main road has always been there. This long road is what connecting Padang with the famous Bukittinggi.. Too bad we didn’t stop for any picture except when we were having sate for dinner.
My family and I got there at about 8pm, passing through the road full of bends with big trucks and containers racing after one another. We went straight to The Hills hotel, where we've booked some rooms. It is a beautiful mediterranean-style building, built right on top of one of the hills in the city, with such enchanting lights radiating to every angle.
After settling our bags in our rooms, my parents and I went for a walk to get something to chew on. Oh gawd, was it cold!!! A walk to the street in front of the hotel, Yamin street, got us to some food stalls where we had roti cane that I've told you about. It's quite desolated at night, not so many people walk about, and quite dark too. I don't have any idea about the safety in the city, but I'd recommend you walk about the town with a company, especially if you're a girl. You just never know.
There is a market called Pasa Ateh & Pasa Bawah (it’s more like the Upstairs Market & Downstairs Market, two parts of a traditional market that’s separated by steep stairs called Tangga 40 (40 ladder-steps), with the Pasar Atas being very close to the clock tower.
Still in the same morning I wanted to have a swim at about 7ish, but of course the cold kept me from doing so. So I went down to the pool at about 8 AM, and could only stand the cold water for about 20 minutes. Now that I thought about it, I think I was quite insane to have swam in Bukittinggi at that early morning just because I just got a new pair of goggles..! Hahaha..
The famous POP CHICKEN
There’s a padangnese cooking that’s been a favorite throughout padangnese restaurants all over the country (well, I’m not sure about east Indonesia though), it’s called ayam pop (pop chicken). Don’t ask me why it’s called that, cos I have no idea. It’s chicken that’s boiled with coconut water before fried, then dipped shred by shred in cooked spicy sauce (sambal).
KOTOGADANG and NGARAI SIANOK
On our way to Ngarai Sianok, we passed by a town called Koto Gadang (literally means ‘big city’, but it’s actually a small town – I dunno, probably it was a huge thing back then). It’s only about an hour from Bukittingi. My dad said this is where a lot of popular intelligent and educated Minangnese come from.
Ngarai Sianok literally means The Silent Canyon. It’s a huge one, I was amazed by the view.. According to this site, this valley is about 100 meters deep, 15 kilometers long.
On two sides of the valley, you can see Mount Merapi....and Mount Singgalang. The mounts can also be viewed from Bukittinggi.And on our way here and there in this province, we see lots and lots of mosque and langgar or surau (smaller mosques, not used for Friday prayers).
THE 44 BENDS on the way to LAKE MANINJAU
Going north again, from Ngarai Sianok to Maninjau we passed by an area called Embun Pagi. Lots of cinnamon tree I saw on the sides of the road. The road itself is called the 44 Bends (Kelok 44). If you get carsick easily, well you better prepare plastic bags.. or some medicine to prevent you from throwing up or simply a nausea.
From these bends, which are going downhill toward the famous lake Maninjau, you can already see the lake from afar, surrounded by mountain sceneries and rays of the sun coming down between clouds.. Oh my god.. such a beautiful beautiful view.. There IS god after all.. :P
I didn’t expect to see foreign tourists in this kinda remote and hard to access area, but I actually saw some. And the locals said that many of these tourists came by public transportation, following the directions from travel books. Bravo!
Across the lake, there’s this old wooden house where my mom used to live in for a year late in her childhood years. We stopped and visited, it’s now occupied by acquaintance of mom’s family.
The fish pond had been there since mom’s childhood, but the windmill is already gone. Hmm.. I tried to feel what Mom must have felt visiting her old house like that.. She did tell me her experience of fishing for small oysters called pensi in the lakeside, lifting fire wood up on her head to bring home that caused pain on her little neck. (I could cry now.. the stories are so touching to me, given that mom has always been this soft, patient, and hardworking woman that I know for my whole life.)
Just before the sun set, we stopped by a stall to buy some snack. But it’s no potato chips or crackers, we bought a whole bag of pensi and small fried fish called bada masiak. This type of fish is the spiciest when cooked with balado sauce, according to my dad.
I remember that my family and I spent a night in this hotel about 20 years ago when I was still so small. I remember not liking the condition of the rundown hotel. And I’m having dejavu in my stay this time.
Well, it might not be fair to expect so much from a Rp 100,000 per night room (if I'm not mistaken). At least our room has the lake view, heavenly view both at night and dawn.
Unfortunately, we only stayed there one night and had to leave at 8 AM the next morning. It’s unfortunate because the hotel staff told me that visitors could take a boat ride for 2 – 3 people around the lake for only Rp 50,000 an hour. If you know how to ride a motorcycle, you could even rent one to ride around the area, I dunno how much it costs, though.
There are actually other hotels on the lakeside, but we were too tired to go choosing hotels, so we just checked right in at this hotel.
SOLOK, passing by the LAKE SINGKARAK
Our next destination was Solok, my dad’s hometown. It’s about 4 hours from Maninjau, going by the 44 Bends again. The monkeys that we saw the other day in the woods by the road weren’t up that early.
Before entering the Solok regency, we passed by Ombilin of the Tanah Datar regency, pulled up a while to snap some photos of the Lake Singkarak. This lake is located in both regencies, Tanah Datar and Solok. It is the biggest lake in the province, second biggest in Sumatra island after Lake Toba of North Sumatra.
In Selayo village of Solok regency live my grandma (Dad’s mother), aunts, uncles, cousins, and nephews whom I rarely see. Grandma, I call her by ‘Anduang’, used to live in the wooden ethnic house (rumah panggung). But now they’ve built a modern house with all the concrete walls, bathroom inside the house, and everything, that’s located right behind the wooden house.
WELL… That was all.. A very personal trip for me. I’m so glad I had it because it really opened my eyes and got me closer to my roots. It made me appreciate my parents’ struggle in the past even more, and gave me a bit more of the feeling of belonging. I’ve never really had the feeling of having a real hometown because I’ve lived in a number of places including another country, but this trip gave that feeling a little twist.
Next time I visit West Sumatra, I’ll make sure I’ll spend at least a day in Sikuai island. Those of you who like surfing you might wanna check out Mentawai islands. Both are off the western coast of West Sumatra. And I strongly recommend you to visit West Sumatera at least 5 days in a row.. There are just sooo many to see, guys.. :)