Amazing West Sumatra: Fascinating natural charms of Indonesia

Some friendships do not need a lifetime to build. Our kindred-ship, Kathleen from Hong Kong and Eka from Indonesia met in November 2017 and spanned like decades of bonding. In March 2018, under the flagship of International Women’s Club of Thailand, supported by the Embassy of the Republic of Indonesia in Bangkok organised a wonderful trip to Indonesia. Our second sequel to “Amazing Indonesia” resulted in new exploration of the natural wonder of West Sumatra.

The Hong Kong Ladies’ Group initiated he official trip to West Sumatra with full participation from members and international friends in August 2019. Again, we were blessed with the support from Madame Anita Rusdi and H.E. Ambassador Ahmad Rusdi. The trip was organised for an educational experience that we could learn together about West Sumatra. To further promote global friendship, we greatly appreciated the overwhelming response from the members of the Indonesian Women’s Association to accompany us.

The astounding success of the trip could not be achieved without the backing of Mrs. Nevi Zuairina Irwan Prayitno, Spouse of the West Sumatra Province Governor, Dr. H. Irwan Prayitno. The warm and genuine hospitality everyone felt for a fully loaded schedule for the entire province with six districts and three cities, from our first arrival to the final farewell official dinner.

President of Hong Kong Ladies’ Group in Thailand and Past President of International Women Club of Thailand

Beyond the mainstream

West Sumatra holds many native charms that you cannot find anywhere else.  Volcanoes and lakes surround the province. The abundance of landscape and eye-fetching green scenery offers visitors excitement beyond the mainstream.  Outshined by the more popular tourist destinations like Jakarta, Bali and Java, the magical charm of West Sumatra is often overlooked. The province is abundant in history, customs and culture that are different, even to other parts of Indonesia. After our visit, the compliments we received from the participants were “amazing”, “priceless”, “fascinating”, “exciting”….

DWP Executive board member of the Indonesian Embassy in Bangkok – & Exc. bm of International Women Club of Thailand 2019  & Lecturer in Indonesia

Minangkabau heritage

West Sumatra is often known by the name of “Minangkabau” as it is the native homeland of the indigenous ethnic group of the Minangkabau people who lived on the highlands. The term Minangkabau comes from the phrase “Manang kabau” as “victors of the buffalo”. 

The culture of the Minangkabau has been the subject of intensive study by modern anthropologists. Its culture is distinct. The Minangs are the world’s largest matrilineal society, which distinguish from rest of the island of Sumatra. Properties such as land and houses are inherited through female lineage, with a complex social structure based on matrilineal clans. In Minang households, boys as young age as seven are to leave home and study in community centres. Teenagers are encouraged to pursue further education in schools. This tradition result in Minang communities mushrooming in many Indonesian cities and towns, but still have close tie to their homeland. Due to the historical emphasis in education, the Minangs are renowned as merchants, traders, scholars, and well represented in the public circle of Indonesia.

The west Sumatrans are predominantly Muslim and the region is considered as one of the strongholds of Islam in Indonesia. The province has historically played the important role within the religious Muslim community in the country. During the Indonesian struggle for independence, the politically savvy Minang intellectuals proven to be one of the major powerhouse. With the strong culture and religion based, the philosophy of the minang lives therefore majority based on the values of Islam. 

Scenic beauty

Active volcanoes and rainforests dominate West Sumatra. We love the rustic and tropical charms of the small towns during our hopping around the districts within the province. Blessed with fine weather, we devoured the breathtaking sites from land to sea.  

Nagari Pariangan village was nominated as “The most beautiful village in the world” in 2012 from Budget Travel Magazine New York.  Pariangan is the oldest village in Minangkabau and its valley is located right on the slopes of Mount Merapi. We were treated to the alluring scenery on the hills. Landie River Village was another picturesque attraction we were treated to. Lush green paddy fields stretched around the village. One can imagine how the now green fields would turn yellow when the paddy in the fields is ready to harvest. An outstanding mosque with its red painted domes stood prominently among the other houses in the village.

Our drive from Padang, the coastal capital of West Sumatra to the city of Bukit Tinggi passed the famous Anai Waterfall Valley. The Highland Park offered a panoramic view of the Maninjau Lake, the heart-stopping feeling of standing amongst the clouds. On the drive from Bukit Tinggi to Payakumbuh, we passed along the locals famously referred as “Nine Sharp Turns” or Kelok Sembilan. The road stretches through Jorong Aie Putiah, Nagari Sarilamak, Harau subdistrict of Lima Puluh Kota Regency. The road has a sharp bend, bordering on a ravine and flanked by two hills between two nature reserves: The White-River Reservation and the Harau Natural Reserve. We explored the caves extend deep into the mountainside. The domains of thousands of bats, which we could not see, but heard and sensed that they flew close over our heads. The coolness and damp air inside gave us a refreshing breath from the tropical heat outside.

Distinctive architecture

The unique buffalo-horned roof architecture is the distinctive feature that makes the preserved traditional houses very charming. These local houses of the indigenous Minangkabau tribe are called Rumah Gadang, which are famous for their pointy roofs, which resemble a bull’s horn.

The most famous is the Pagaruyung Palace (Minangkabau: Istano Basa Pagaruyuang) is the Royal Palace (Istano) of the former Parauyung, located near Batusangkar town, Tanah Data Regency. It was built in the traditional Minangkabau Rumah Gadang vernacular architectural style, but had a number of typical elements including a three-story structure and a larger dimension in comparison to common Rumah Gadang.

The art of weaving

The famous clothing from West Sumatra called Songket, the weaving product along with other kind of hand made beauty clothing to math the Songket are inherently Minang culture although the interests of the younger generation are diminishing. To preserve this proud asset of Indonesian national culture, Mrs. Mufidah Jusuf Kalla initiated the Weaving Training Centre, and the Kriya Minang Foundation was subsequently established in 2018. The foundation aims to preserve, and develop a culture-based community economy with harmonious cooperation.  

Minangkabau cuisine

The Minang food is the cuisine of the Minangkabau people, and also generally refers as Padang food after the capital city. The padang food has been one of the most popular cuisine in Indonesia as u can find in other provinces Padang food is commonly eaten with one’s hands. A bowl of tap water with a slice of lime is provided for the fresh scent.  This water is uses to wash the hand before and after eating. A traditional meal in Padang is called Makan Bajamba, which served, in communal house or Rumah Gadang as the community leaders eats together. It is an old way of Minangkabau people to eat when there is a formal ceremony. Food are served with dozens of small dishes filled with highly flavoured dishes such as beef rendang, curried fish and beef liver, stewed greens, chilli eggplant, fried chicken, and the popular Indonesian sambal sauce.  The best-known Padang dish is rendang, a spicy stew. As Minang people are devout Muslims, the halal dietary rules are followed rigorously.

Heartfelt appreciation

Our trip to West Sumatra was met with warmest hospitality and genuine friendship from all the VIP hosts and local authorities. The initial discussion to visit West Sumatra sprung up during the first visit of the delegation led by Mrs. Nevi to promote the province at the Embassy of Indonesia with the support from H.E. Ambassador and Madame Rusdi in October 2018. The idea subsequently consolidated when Mrs. Nevi visited Bangkok the second time to participate at the Red Cross Diplomatic Fair in February 2019 with her full delegation to promote exquisite Indonesian products from West Sumatra with Eka always there to support and organize with detail and local. 

We would like to take this opportunity to offer our deepest appreciation to few individuals to make this amazing journey possible along with the on tour as our local guidance.

1.Spouse of Governor of West Sumatra  – Mrs. Nevi Zuairina Irwan Prayitno

2. Mayor of Payakumbuh and Spouse – Riza Flefi and Dr. Hj. Henni Falefi

3. Regent of Tanah Datar and Spouse- Drs. H. Irdinansyah Tarmizi and Mrs. Emi Irdinansyah Tarmizi

4. Regent of Pesisr Selatan – Mr. Hendrajoni, S.H., M.H. and Mrs. Lisda Hendrajoni S.E. MM. Tr

5. Head of Tourism Department of Pariaman – Mr. Alfian S. Sos.

6. The family of Previous Vice President Spouse Mrs, Mufida Jusuf Kalla and Prof. Dr. Fasli Jalal, The Chairperson of Yayasan Tenun Kriya Minangkabau

7. Regent of Solok- Gusmal, MM and Mrs. Desnadefi Gusmal

8. Founder of The Batik House of Minang, Nagari Panyakalan- Mrs. Lisa Mustafa

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