Padang - The Heart of West Sumatra
If a cultural adventure is what you are looking for, one only has to look at the airport buildings to realise that you have come to the right place. Erected in the traditional Minangkabau architecture characterised by distinctive ‘horned' roofing, the arrivals terminal gives the first taste of local culture and way of life in Padang.
About 40 minutes drive from the airport is the pusat kota or city centre of Padang. The usual mode of transport in Pandang is angkutan kota or an angkot (which essentially translates to city or urban transportation), however angkots do not travel to or from the airport so a taxi is the easiest mode of transport from the airport.
Once you're in the city, the angkot is the quickest, cheapest and most exhilarating way to travel. To catch one, simply stand on the side of the road and wait. In a matter of seconds about twenty will pull up, fighting over you as a customer. No matter the length of duration of your travel in the angkot the cost is approximately 2000 Rp for each person to travel. Due to the extremely cheap fares, the drivers will fill up their angkots with as many commuters as possible and this usually means one or two passengers are literally hanging out the door!
If roller coasters and rock concerts were never really your thing, just be cautious when you are in an angkot. The drivers like to drive fast and loud! During my time in Padang, it was a rare occasion that I was in an (empty) angkot without an impressive sound system that drove at a speed that didn't make my stomach drop. They might seem frightening at first, but I guarantee after a few rides you will be addicted!
These modified mini-vans are all colour coded to identify which parts of the city they go to. The important thing to remember about the angkots is that they are not taxi's, and cannot be directed to where you want to go, so make sure you know where they are headed before you get in! If you're unsure, just ask! The drivers are always helpful and have an excellent knowledge of the city. On that off chance you find yourself going the wrong way, don't stress, they all end up at the same place eventually; Pasar Raya.
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If you are only in Padang for a couple of days, the one place you must visit is the Pasar Raya. The Pasar Raya is the biggest traditional market in the centre of Padang. Of course there are all the major shopping malls like the Matahari where retail shopping can be done, but if you want a one of a kind experience, a visit to the market is a must!
Pasar Raya can be intimidating at first so if you are feeling nervous, I recommend having a look at the stalls at the edge of the market to prepare yourself for what is coming! Once you're ready to venture into the brightly coloured stalls and umbrellas that is Pasar Raya, there's no turning back!
The main street of the Pasar is lined by stalls selling everything you could think of. The local fruits and vegetables are fresh, cheap and very tasty and perfect if you want to nibble on something on the way through. Everyone wants a sale so the noise on the street is deafening. Don't be surprised if you hear the word ‘bule' directed at you, it simply means Westerner and it is their way of attracting you to their stall. Prices are usually competitive, but haggling is generally accepted. However, if you do not intend you purchase an item, do not begin haggling for it.
The main street of the Pasar is just the beginning and if you're feeling adventuress, you can take a look around the undercover areas of the market. These undercover areas are located behind the stalls on both sides of the street and have an atmosphere that is just phenomenal.
Even in the dim light, the intensity of the colours of the batik and traditional Minang clothing can be seen. Intricate, hand crafted patterns are common in traditional clothing, and a popular souvenir to take home.
Padang is a wonderfully unique place in West Sumatra and has something to offer every traveller. Relatively untouched by tourism, the city is a great way to experience culture and life in Indonesia.
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Published on 7/29/10