West Sumatera is one of the most well-known
province, and a major tourist destination in
Indonesia archipelago. The uniquenes of its culture and the beauty of the land attract people
around the world come to visit. A region of high plateaus, deep gorges, sheltered valleys and
lofty peaks, West Sumatra combines the excitement of natural splendour with the charm of a
remarkable people. The prosperous Minangkabau have created a viorous civilization in their
fertile land, and take great pleasure in displaying their great good fortune to visitors.
Across Indonesia, the Minangkabau are well-known for their hard-nosed business acumen,
spicy cuisine and cheerful hospitality. They are also one of the world's few remaining
matrilineal societies, with social influence and property ownership solely the province of the
females. The relative powerlessness of Minang husbands has encouraged generations of
males to seek their forunes elsewhere, often with substantial success. Money dutifully
remitted home further enhances the action prosperity of the region.
With significant free time and resources, the Minang can indulge their collective passion for
great literature and vigorous oratory. With the highest literacy rate in Indonesia, the
Minangkabau has produced many of Indonesia's finest writers and academics.
Bukittinggi, a delightful hill town located on the rim of the breath-taking Ngarai Sianok
Canyon, is the cultural center of the Minangkabau. A relaxed, friendly town in the cool,
sunny highlands, Bukittinggi is where the regal dignity and artistic flair of the Minang is on
permanent display. With good accommodation and cornucopia of restaurants and markets
this compact town should be savoured during walking tours and lazy afternoons in numerous
The fertile valleys and inviting, pale blue lakes surrounding Bukittinggi are best explored on
foot, though roads are decent and motor transport available for the hurried indolent.
Throughout the highlands, lovely villages in spectacular locations are filled with talented
craftspeople turning out the exquisite jewehy, carvings and weavings found in Bukittinggi
The fortunate might stumble across a traditional factory, still using animal or water power to
process sugar cane or other produce. Any polite, well-dressed foreigner is welcome at a
village ceremony or wedding to pay respects and perhaps witness a tari piring dance
performance, where young men balance dinner plate on hands and arm in seeming
preparation for a waiter's job at a Padang restaurant. Occasionally, village activities feature
an exciting contest between specially-bred bulls in tests of strength and suitability for
Lake Maninjau, a crater lake so scenic and tranquil it might have sprung from a fantasy
writer's imagination, lies an hour from Bukittinggi. Sheltered by the steep, towering crater
walls, the deep blue water of the lake is always smooth and placid. With complete water
sports facilities and excellent restaurants cooking the abundant lake fish to perfection,
visitors may not leave time for the long lakeshore walks that have inspired generations of
Minang writers and philosophers.
The coast of West Sumatra offers yet another intriguing world. Padang, the provincial capital
and entry point for air travelers, is an attractive port town cooled by the Indian Ocean
breeze. This merchant city exhibits all the mystery of the orient, with herbalists selling ancient
cures from teak cabinets and warehouses filled with the scent Of eastern spices.
North of Padang, mountains drop straight into the sea, forming numerous scenic bays and
sweeping white sand beaches with hundreds of colourful fishing boats pulled onto the shore.