Posted in indonesia, padang, sumatra by moonwire on July 31, 2009

My flight to Padang was delayed by almost 6 hours, so I basically spent most of my day at Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport. There wasn’t all that much to do but there was a Starbucks and a good food place.

The flight itself was fine. It didn’t even take 2 hours to get there. Once the plane doors were open, I was out of the airport in 5 minutes (gotta love having only a carry on bag), and I found myself submerged in rain of biblical proportions. It was actually pretty cold, too. I expected it to be much hotter, being that close to the equator.

I got to my hotel in about 30 minutes. The hotel was okay. I did have to change rooms, from a double to 2x twin beds, but my second room was a lot nicer. Nice hardwood floors and a big wooden wardrobe (with no hangers – oh so Indonesian).

The big white building was my hotel; Hotel Nuansa.

My first night I didn’t do all that much. It was very rainy and windy so I ate at a little warung (tiny restaurant). The lady whipped up some fantastic nasi goreng (fried rice with a fried egg and prawn crackers). Padang food is supposed to be spicy and it definitely was. And cheap, too. My meal, with a drink, cost me 50 cents. Happy. After dinner I went back to my room as it was very stormy. I slept really well and woke up very early.

After brekkie, I decided to make a loop through the whole downtown core of Padang. I also wanted to check out the Batang Arau hotel. I had read that this hotel was situated near the harbour, in the old quarter of town. It used to be a bank, then converted into a very quirky hotel with four rooms. I had tried calling them from Jakarta but as my phone service died there, I didn’t think much of it when I was unable to reach them.

Lovely body art on display in the Old Quarter. Cantik!

My first mission however, was trying to find the Bukittinggi Wisata Express travel agent to book my ticket to Bukittinngi, a small town 2 hours north of Padang with stunning views of Mount Merapi (an active vulcano). I couldn’t find the agency for the life of me, but I did find a big mall with a lot of tiny little clothing stores selling loud t-shirts while blasting very loud, mostly cheesy punk rock music, from every corner.

As I couldn’t find the agency, I continued my walk into the old quarter. I did not encounter a single Westerner that day, but I felt like a celebrity. Everywhere I walked I heard ‘hellooo, misss’ and the occasional ‘hellooo, misterrr’. English sure isn’t widely spoken there.

Typical Indonesian street scene; dudes smoking and drinking at little roadside ‘restaurants’.

When I reached the Batang Arau hotel, it became clear why I hadn’t been able to reach them. They were closed. I peeked through the fence and it looked like it had been an amazing place. Too bad it’s no longer in business.

The now closed Batang Arau Hotel, which used to be an old (Dutch) bank building; ‘de Padangsche Spaarkas’.

Having said that, I could also understand why. Though personally, I enjoy just walking through towns, observing real life as opposed to touristy things, there isn’t all that much to draw the tourists in. Padang has gorgeous beaches surrounded by beautiful palm trees and there’s a promenade all along the beach with little outdoor restaurants. The only thing lacking is the customers. Just empty seats and tables. I also understand why. Though the beach has gorgeous sand and the water is warm, and there are great waves for surfing, there is so much litter on and around the beach, it’s shameful. No tourist wants to lie down between piles of empty cans and bottles and broken slippers. That’s one thing the people in Kuta/Legian (Bali) understand. Keep the beaches clean and the tourists will come.

Padang Beach; it must have been really nice many moons ago.

Kid at the one of many empty sea side restaurants.

I had a great day in Padang, though. I really enjoyed it. However, the issue of the travel agency was bothering me, so I called them. Out of business. No surprise, really.

Alley in the Old Quarter with the typical Padang ‘Minangkabau’ style pointy roofs.

Minangkabau style roofs are also used for modern buildings.

Having said that, I still had to get to Bukittinggi the next day, so I found the tourist office. Surprisingly, that hadn’t closed yet (still a matter of time). The man told me there are no more tourist buses to Bukittinggi. I would have to take local transport. He explained to me how to go about it and though it seemed a bit scary, I had no choice but to just do it. And I did. Sumatra style!

Padang’s old harbour. Despite the many wrecks and the shallow water, it is apparently still used.

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