Discovering wonders of West Sumatera

Rokiah Mahmud in Indonesia

A delegation of media representatives, travel agents and social media bloggers participated in a four-day, three-night familiarisation trip to an Indonesian province in West Sumatera recently.

The programme from November 24 to 27, 2019, involved visits to several interesting places to learn about the socio-economic and political background as well as their rich historical heritage and breath-taking natural attractions.

The familiarisation trip was part of an annual programme organised by the Embassy of Republic of Indonesia (KBRI) in Brunei Darussalam to further discover the wonders of Indonesia.

The programme also served as a medium not only for the delegation to learn another side of an Indonesian province, but also to open more broader opportunities in socio-economic cooperation and to foster closer ties for those wishing to venture into more business networking with the local community in West Sumatera.

The trip also aimed to open up more tourism opportunities for those wanting to explore other provinces aside from the popular Jakarta, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, Bandung and areas popular among Bruneian tourists.

Istana Pagaruyung. PHOTOS: ROKIAH MAHMUD
The delegation during the familiarisation trip to an Indonesian province in West Sumatera
Maninjau Lake

The trip also highlighted the culture and local products of Padang in West Sumatera while boosting tourism for the provincial capital and main city of the Minangkabau ethnic community.

West Sumatera is located in the western coast of the Sumatera island with an area of 42, 000 square kilometre. The island consists of 12 regencies and seven municipalities with a 5.2 million population.

The land of Minangkabau of West Sumatera has a very distinct culture which distinguishes it from the rest of the Indonesian Island. A land of scenic beauty with clear lakes and mountains, West Sumatera’s centre of culture and tourism is Bukit Tinggi Highlands, north of the provincial capital of Padang.

Most prominent in the landscape are the horn-shaped roofs of the houses nestled in the coconut groves.

The name Minangkabau means ‘triumphant buffalo’. It leads a community and family life based on a matrilineal system, which clusters around mosques and the traditional houses.

As it is, the woman have power over properties, the men are known for their wanderlust and entrepreneurship. Travelling is considered a mark of success and therefore many are found to have ‘merantau’ (emigrated) to other parts of the country. This is proof with the many Minang of Padang restaurants serving very spicy food that can be easily found in all major towns across their nation. The people of Minang are very hospitable and eloquent with a poetic style of speech.

During the trip, the delegation visited several places in West Sumatera. We travelled to many parts of the Island including Batusangkar, Istana Basa Pagaruyung (Pagaruyung Grand Palace), watching Pacu Itiak at Payakumbuh, Bukit Tinggi and so on.

Donning the traditional clothing of the Minangkabau, the delegation gained knowledge about the rich culture, customs and heritage preserved at Istana Basa Pagaruyung (Pagaruyung Grand Palace).

The attire reflects the rich royal culture where each of the designs resemble their social status and designation in the royal palace. Apart from that, the traditional clothing also reflects the royal wedding practiced in the 17th Century.

Istana Basa Pagaruyung was the royal palace of the former Pagaruyung Kingdom built back in 17th Century. The palace was designed in traditional Rumah Gadang (Grand House) architectural style that has a three-floor structure with beautiful carved designs.

The old palace has beauty designs on its walls and ceilings, accompanied by various colourful accessories clothes.

Located near Batusangkar town, the Istana Pagaruyung was gutted by fire in 1804, 1966 and 2007. It has been rebuilt over and over again. Today the palace has become a popular tourist destination. It is surrounded by breathtaking scenery, with mountains as its background and greenery that further adds to its charm.

From the palace, the delegation was brought to a Rumah Gadang in Payakumbuh, another popular destination famed for its authentic Rendang dishes. Here, the delegation was welcomed by the local community in Payakumbuh. The welcoming reflected their traditional culture, where guests are celebrated in a grand ceremony.

The Rumah Gadang is surrounded by paddy fields with Balai Kaliki as its background, and is under renovation to preserve the grand house’s authenticity and uniqueness. The grand house has also become one of the main attractions for local and foreign visitors.

The local community is proud to preserve their heritage and the Rumah Gadang is still well taken care of so that today’s generation can learn about their lineage and heritage.

Delimo, Kampai and Mandahiliang races from Koto Nan Gadang still live in the Rumah Gadang, from generation to generation. About 30 Rumah Gadang still stand strong.

Balai Kalili Custom representative Datuk Rangkayo Bosa explained that the highlight of our visit to Rumah Gadang in Payakumbuh was to experience the Makan Bajamba along with the local community.

The delegation was treated to the local ‘Makan Bajamba’ (eating together with adat) dishes. We were served food on a big tray that contained many small plates of various local cuisine, especially the ever so popular beef rendang.

From Payakumbuh, the delegation watched the Pacu Itiak (Goose Race), a popular traditional game. The game is played by pushing the goose to fly as high and as far as possible. The goose has been trained to race from as short as 800 metres up to two kilometres.

Another place visited was Lawang Park, a peak plateau in the Agam District at Puncak Lawang. Here, we were treated to a stunning view of the blue Lake Maninjau. The location has a height of 1,210 metres above sea level and due to its altitude, it is chilly and often covered by fog.

The place is very popular among paragliders – local and international champions. Lawang Park is also known for its ‘instagrammable’ picture opportunity, with visitors loving to snap photos at the memorable ‘stranded boat’.

As for Lake Maninjau, the area is a volcanic lake located at an elevation of 461.50 metres above sea level. With inspiring scenery and peaceful surroundings, a visit to Lake Meninjau will leave one feeling the relief of relaxation and rejuvenation.

For picturesque views, the Maninjau resort is perched at the top of a hill and offers some of the best views of the lake, which is listed as the 11th largest lake in Indonesia.