Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Padang, The Gateway To BumiMinang

Like The visit to West Sumatra usually starts in Padang, the provincial capital and air sea gateway to the Land of the Minang. Padang is the provincial capital of West Sumatra and the principal gateway to the Minang highlands. The city, which has a population approaching 500.000, has grown at the rate of more than 10% a year over the past ten years, and Padang's port, which is 6 km south of the city, is the largest on Sumatra 's West Coast. Ships call here to load rubber, cinnamon, cement and coal mine at Ombilin in the highlands. The main attraction in downtown Padang is the Provincial Museum (Adhityawarman) at Jl. Pangeran Diponegoro 10, next to The Culture Centre. The museum stands in a park and is built in the traditional Minang style known as Gajah Maharam. Collections include prehistoric artifacts, stamps, imported ceramics, manuscript, modern art and ethnographic displays of the Minang and the peoples of the Mentawai Islands, which lies to the west off Padang's coast. One gallery is devoted to artifacts connected with Minang ceremonies such as weddings, funerals and investiture of village leaders, another displays implements used in agriculture, crafts, Islamic worship and other daily activities. The Taman Budaya cultural center holds periodic art and cultural exhibitions.

Historic Padang It is pleasant just to wander through the older parts of Padang, especially the area around Kampung Cina (Chinatown), south of the central business and hotel district, where turn-of-the-century houses line the streets. Start from Jl. Hiligoo and continue south along Jl. Pondok and Jl. Niaga. On these streets, you can find Chinese herbalist and coffee shops with distinctive inlaid tiles, hardwood floors and teak furnishings that serve cool drinks during the heat of the day. At the southern end of Jl. Niaga, turn right (west) along the river through the Muara District (meaning "estuary"), past the old colonial waterfront where small cargo vessels still dock. Stroll by century-old warehouses loaded with fragrance Cinnamon and other spices awaiting shipment to Jakarta and Singapore. This wharf saw its glory days in the 1920s, when coffee production reached at peak in the Minang Highland. Hand-paddled ferries cross the sluggish Batang Arau river from here, which is full of small boats and a sight in itself. On the other side you can follow a footpath to the Chinese cemetery up on the hillside, where you have a splendid late-afternoon view of the waterfront and the city. The hill, call Bukit Monyet or Monkey Hill, use to be favorite subject of 19th century Dutch Artists. To the west of here standing guard at the mouth of Batang Arau and overlooking the sea, is a perfectly form hill known as Gunung Padang. A path leads up to Siti Nurbaya Park at the top (named after the heroine of an early Indonesian novel), where you can find the remains of an old bunker and the Dutch triogonometrical point for all early surveys of West Sumatra. Near the base of the hill is a World War II Canon, which still points across the harbor entrance.

Beaches and Coral Islands From Padang Hill, a path leads south about 4 kilometer and an hour's walk along the coast to the areas Air Manis (lit.: Sweet Water). The beach can also be reached by direct Minibus from the downtown Terminal, but avoid on Sunday, when it is usually crowded. At low tide, wade across to a little islet just offshore. On the beach, Bapak Chili offers basic accommodation and food. A better restaurant has recently opened at the southern end of the beach, and also offers rooms at moderate prices. The beach borders a fishing village, and is associated with a popular legend about a young Man, Malin Kundang, who rose from humble origins to become a reach merchant overseas. When his mother heard that he had comeback with his ship, she prepared his favorites food, and wearing her best clothes went to his ship to meet him, however, Malin Kundang felt ashamed of his mother, who was old and toothless by this time, and whose best attire consisted of nothing but a few rags. He pretended not to know her, and ordered his crew to cast her away. His mother's heart broke and she cursed him. As the ship went off, thunder flash and lightning roared, and the ship sunk. Everyone aboard perished and were turned to stone a coral outcropping at the beach is said to be their remains.