2. Padang, West Sumatra

Posted: April 6, 2015 in Mountain Bike Touring West Sumatra 1998
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Padang is the capital city and gateway to the province of West Sumatra. There’s a scenic waterfront which faces west to the Indian Ocean and that explains some very stunning sunsets.

A constant overhanging light grey cloud in the city outskirts is usually mistaken for romantic fog hugging the hillsides. It’s the Padang Cement plant choking the population for miles around. In Indonesian ‘cement’ is also spelled as ‘semen’ I have a photo somewhere but I have to scan it first, so just take my word for it.


Batang Arau

The international airport has convenient direct 90 minute flights to and from Singapore as well as many domestic connections. It’s a world away from what I am used to. The old airport buildings are wooden and the window panes would shudder each time a plane lands or takes off.

When everyone has taken their luggage and cleared customs, the porters go back to sleep on the conveyor belts, the lights switched off till the next plane lands.

The ac wall units are brand new but do not work because there are no plugs at the end of the electrical cords. Wait, that was in April 1998, so defects like that should be fixed by now, especially so when there’s a whole new airport now, even further out of town, 25 kms NW further compared to a convenient 15 kms NW a decade ago.

Like all Indonesian airports, the runways and land within the airport perimeters are shared with the air force. They might have 10 US made, but Indonesian maintained, F16s, meaning 5 are capable of taking off. Landing in one piece, I don’t know. When not at war, or running revenue depleting businesses like a Harley dealership, top military brass and their underlings often dwell in socially uplifting enterprises like mini marts, taxi companies and brothels. This is done with clever accounting of their yearly military budget.

I say this because other legit taxi companies cannot drive their cabs into or out of the Padang airport without threat of bodily harm to their drivers and damage to their cabs.

With such intel, I decided to set up my bike right after clearing customs, refusing all offers for a cab ride to God knows where at twice the price. There was even an offer for 2 cabs, one for me and another for the bike. Unbelievable. I then make a quick right out of the airport gates, destination Bukittinggi, a cool, rustic, slightly touristy mountain town 90 kms away.


Sublime sunsets across the Indian Ocean

The lovely road climbs gently through the lush Anai valley, with fast flowing rivers, waterfalls and even a golf course which I have no interest in. In some parts a railway line follows the winding road, which follows a winding river.

As my flight arrived at mid day, the 90 kms is made easier by riding a pick up taxi for some steep 20 kms before Padang Panjang, a major cross roads town. I cycle the final flat 20 kms into Bukitinggi. At 930m, the air is cool and crisp, a welcome change from hot and humid lowlands.

I’ll end my trip in Padang 2 weeks later, after doing a figure 8 ride of the provinces of Sumatra Barat (west) and west Jambi.


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