Originally a port for traders of gold, spices and timber, Padang is now the third largest city in Sumatra and, by Indonesian standards, one of the cleanest cities in the country.  It has a good dining scene, with regional food the most globally famous of Indonesian culinary offerings.

1. Transportation Nowadays there are many airline companies flying to everywhere in Sumatra. I took an Air Asia 30 dollars flight from Kuala Lumpur to Padang, although I could fly cheap also with Lion Air, or with the most expensive Garuda Indonesia. From the international airport, 25 km outside the city, I took  the local bus for about 10.000 Indonesia ruphias (1 dollar), instead of any taxi that would charged me 5 times more (this if I negotiate in Bahasa Indonesian). Inside the town there are Angkots (colorful mini vans) running along the two main roads, buses, but also motorbike taxis that would take you anywhere. I preferred the motorbike taxis, are more fun, most of the time.

Riding a motorbike in Indonesia is more than common for everyone. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Riding a motorbike in Indonesia is more than common for everyone. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

2. Accommodation

As I spent only 1 night in Padang, I wasn’t too much preoccupied about this matter. All across Indonesia, in terms of accommodation, I was always satisfied about the spacious rooms and good services provided. It was also the case for Sriwijaya Hotel (I had a 25 dollars nice room, with breakfast on the terrace), situated near the Purus beach, the area with the many sea food restaurants.

3. Food and drinks

Padang has a good dining scene, with regional food the most globally famous of Indonesian culinary offerings. For my dinner I went down the road nearby the beach. The multitude of restaurants made it difficult to choose one, as all of them were spreading a tempted aromatic smell of barbeque. Eventually I choose the Rumah Makan Fuja restaurant.

The establishment is simple, with no frills and it has a nice view over the sea in the back side. After entering the restaurant, I went directly to the guy in charge with barbeque. His work seemed tasty enough to convince me to have dinner in there. I ordered squid. A usual package is composed of grilled fish, prawns or squid, special marinated with a variety of spices and served with green chili and red chili sauces, plus condiments and steamed rice. This is a nice touch of Padang Style. It tastes heavenly! Just before leaving the place, which meanwhile got full, a band of guitar students came and entertained the ambiance with a few international songs. Of course, Hotel California was on the list!

Not as great as other Chinatown, but Padang has its own. It’s a good place to have some snacks. Mine I had it at Nan Salero, which, apparently, has the nicest kripik sanjai snack in Padang, as a local told me.

This was a Kwetiau Goreng. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

4. Activites

As the buzzing Padang doesn’t have much to offer in terms of activities, it is best to organize some things outside the city.   Not far from the mainland, but a long way from the world of shopping malls of Padang, there is one of the most isolated places in Indonesia, Mentawai Island.

With some of the biggest breaks in the world, this is one the best places for surfing in the whole Asia. The water is warm and it makes it also a good diving spot. Some Australians surfers I have met in Padang told me that they had the waves of their life in Mentawai. It is a remote place where you can see a Shaman healing the sick people. According to Mentawai beliefs, illness and accidents are nothing but symptoms of a trouble mind. The exotism of the locals goes further, as lots of men on the island wears tattoos. In the local culture they symbolizes maturity and manhood.

But the best things to do around Padang are in Bukittinggi, the home of asian unique culture of Minangkabau people. They still have a matriarchal type of society where women holds management positions and men are travelling for achieving life experience. A motorcycle ride through the rice fields of the villages outside Bukittinggi, reveal to me a scenic landscape with green rice fields, unique house architecture and wide open smiles from locals. The most charming part is on the way to Maninjau Lake, where the road through the rainforest is passing 44 U-turn curves. Simply delightful! For motorcycle riders this is, definitely, one of the best routes Sumatra can offer, and I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get glimpse of the island’s flavor, as is the best way to explore.

Minanjau Lake. Men waiting for women to return home after work. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj
Minanjau Lake. Men waiting for women to return home after work. Photo by Ovidiu Balaj

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