Okay…hope that I can still remember this trip in detail. I’ll try ok?
It was nearly end of year and it was about time for us to bring my dad for a short and cheap vacation. We surfed the AirAsia website and played “tikam” game. No, we didn’t “tikam” Japan, for God sake! Hahaha! Well, who does travel cheap but fun? *Duhhh*. So we opted for Padang this time, where Bukittinggi became the extension of the trip.
We then started to lure my older sister, Kak Ngah, to join the party. She was a bit contemplating at first, for she wanted a snowy trip, AND she wanted a trip that only cost her below two thousand. I was like…*punch her in the face* I know I travel cheap but NOT THAT CHEAP! 4 adults, 1 kid, and 1 infant, for a trip below RM2000? I’d better leave her in the desert! Hahaha!
So I worked out the budget and successfully came out with quite a superb cost for my family. RM1400 for Kak Ngah’s family, RM650 for my dad and his wife. All inclusive, from flight, hotel, car rental, airport tax, entrance fee, meals and such, for 3D3N. Then they added another RM100 each, for their own leisure expenses like shopping and misc.
I was 6 months pregnant at this time. My condition was great, Alhamdulillah, and I was happy to know that I can fly out, again, after Brunei’s trip. Kak Ngah just delivered Khayla, 2 months back, which made Khayla the youngest infant whom in the family had ever fly out from the country. My family came two days before we flew. My nieces and nephews were having butterfly in their stomach, since this will be their first time flying. I told them not to dream big, for Indonesia is just like Malaysia, at least, for this destination. Abah and his wife had no issue with it since they’ve been to Medan before. But Kak Ngah’s children were expecting theme parks and nice buildings with chill weather where they can put their coats on. Pfft! Ok la, I told them they can bring one, for Bukittinggi MIGHT be similar to Cameron Highlands…*pray hard*
We woke up as early as 4am to get ready, since our flight was scheduled at 7.50 in the morning. Everyone was carrying a backpack, except hubby and I, who were using cabin-sized-trolley-bag for this trip. I told them to pack as light as they can, so that we don’t have to check in for luggage. Kata nak cheap kan!
My nieces and nephews were so excited and kept on smiling and laughing while boarding on the plane. They were enjoying the “take off” and kept on holding their tummy all the way up. Cute! The joyride wasn’t that long where we reached Minangkabau International Airport, an hour later.
We didn’t expect any “supir” to pick us up, for we didn’t hire any. We usually rent a car and drive on our own, whenever we go to Indonesia. But this time, it was not applicable in Padang. Back in Malaysia, we did email more than 10 contacts/companies for car rental, but ALL of them didn’t allow us to self-drive the car. They will provide “supir” no matter how, including gas, that cost us a bomb. At least. For a cheapskate like us, we don’t like to pay for something that we already know that we can get it cheap la kan. So we decided to try our luck at the airport itself.
Didn’t I tell you my trip all got drama one? Hahaha! This was where the drama started. We went out and as usual, a group of men came and approached us for car rental. My sister and her family, my dad and his wife, quickly stood at one corner, and let hubby and I took care of the scene. The men started to mention their price and said all rates are the same, a.k.a, the rates are being controlled by the association. They claimed that they were the only authorized agents around there, and no one can beat their price. If there is, that person is a conman and we are advised not to hire them.
And so I headed west, while hubby headed east. Both of us were negotiating with different group of men, where I believed, were not from the same clan. Hubby clearly got a cheaper price compared to mine. Guess what happened? The so-called authorized men came and scolded the guy who gave a cheaper price to hubby! These people were following us around just to nag at us for talking to that guy. Hubby then quickly walked to the end of the corridor (with the cheaper-priced guy), while I tried to drag these men to the other side.
We finally managed to secure the price and walked away towards the parking area. Along the way, the so-called authorized group still, without failed, kept on reminding us that the guy is a conman. I told them off and kept saying “its ok, its ok”. (I don't have the rental fee info with me now), but hey, cheaper by 200,000 Rupiah (for each car, and we took two cars), and fuel is on us, why not? At the same time, I kept on reminding the cheaper-priced guy that if he ever cheat on us, we will not pay any single cent. I was quite afraid when I told him so, but I acted bold la. Hahaha!
TIPS : If you don’t want to face the hassle, do book your transport from Malaysia. But if you don’t mind to haggle with these people at the airport, you may do so. Know your budget and rough fee, to avoid being conned. Remember, the most important thing is to make sure they follow your itinerary. Else, you might turn up at those places where you’ll be forced to spend your money.
Hubby and I, my dad and his wife, were in the same car, while Kak Ngah’s family were in the other car. We rented the car from Padang to Bukittinggi, and I clearly instructed them to follow my itinerary. MY ITINERARY. No shopping mall. No handicrafts or souvenir shop. No, No, No. I strictly told them to bring us to Bukittinggi, but we wanted to stop at Lake Singkarak and Istano Basa Pagaruyung, and might be Istana Silinduang Bulan as well. But knowing the palace is still under renovation, we decided not to proceed to this place. The driver agreed and we started the journey.
The journey was quite smooth and we spent the whole time chatting with the driver, who told us many things about Muslim and their job in Padang. My dad was too excited and started to ask and tell more things to the driver, but I told him not to get too close, for a certain reason. Yes, we often put a gap with people when we travel out, just to ensure that we don’t get cheated by anyone.
Few minutes after we started, we saw Air Terjun Lembah Anai (locally known as Aia Tajun or Aia Mancua Lembah Anai) from afar. The 35 meter waterfall can be seen from a distance because it is located just next to the main road. Passerby will normally stop by the roadside to snap a photo with it but we just captured photos from inside the car.
TIPS : If you have ample time, you may stop at this waterfall for a while. This is where you can see the old rail track built by Dutch. Gazebos, bathroom, toilet, and changing room are also there, for you to have a quick dip, or rest and enjoy the view. Anyhow, fee is charged per pax, including the parking.
We passed by Pariaman, where the driver came from, before we proceed to Padang Panjang and made a detour to Lake Singkarak. It took almost two hours for us to arrive, where we had to stop twice due to Kak Ngah’s son need to change diaper. Knowing that this lake is the remnant of a gigantic volcano, and there was no lake side that we can get any nearer, the driver then drove us to one “wisata” called Tanjung Mutiara, where touring boats were located. This is the closest that we can go to touch the water, but we cancelled the plan because the local asked for parking fee from the driver. Parking what? Hey, this lake side is for public and belongs to no one…furthermore, we just wanted to “see” the lake, not renting any boat for sightseeing. Off we go.
TIPS : If you have money to spend and would like to test your nautical knowledge, do rent a boat to explore the lake. The boats are available for hire but I have no idea how much it will cost you. Negotiate to get the best price. Else, you may enjoy the lake from the edge, somewhere at the open area around the lake. You may also wait for a train to cross over the bridge, to enjoy a nicer view of the background.
We then stopped at one open area and walked towards the lake edge. It was pretty hot and sunny day, so we quickly snapped few family photos before we went back into the car. Hubby, as usual, took more pictures of the lake that is noted as one of the largest lakes in Indonesia. Widest lake in Sumatra, and second biggest lake after Lake Toba, the water is blue and stagnant, where it is known to be a habitat for “ikan bilih”, a very unique small fish that can’t survive anywhere but Lake Singkarak. Believe me, not even in an aquarium.
Aside from mountains and hills, we saw restaurants, mosque, inns, houses, and rail track. There were villagers who were doing their chores and some were fishing. Honestly, I would say Lake Toba has better panoramic view, for it has higher, steeper, and greener mountains. But the whitey and misty sky is likely the same.
We continued the journey to Bukittinggi and made another de tour to Istano Basa Pagaruyung, which is located an hour away from Lake Singkarak. This royal palace of the former Pagaruyung Kingdom is located near Batu Sangkar town, in Tanah Datar district. The driver then asked whether we wanted to stop for lunch but we told him no, as we already had breads and buns, earlier. (See how I minimize the cost? Freaking cheapskate but who cares. Pity my dad because he always take heavy meal but amazingly, he managed to hold himself from eating rice, because he promised me that he will not asked for rice for this trip. Haha! We’ll see!)
TIPS : If you have allocated some rupiah aside for food, you may stop somewhere near to Istano Basa Pagaruyung for lunch. No super-duper-fancy restaurant available, only typical “rumah makan” that serve Minang food. You may opt for ala-carte to avoid eating in Minang-style serving.
We reached Istano Basa Pagaruyung at noon, and parked the cars opposite the gigantic old palace. I had a glance of this grandest “rumah gadang” and had to agree that the size of it DOES reflect the name, “istana besar” literally. With 60 meters high, it has three-storey timber structure, eleven sharp horns, and heavy but beautiful and colorful carvings. The pride of “minang people” has been rebuilt few times due to fire, but the replica was rebuilt exactly like the original design.
Before we got to explore the palace, we performed prayer at one mini prayer room, and did whatever pending nature calls, before we headed to the humongous palace’s gate. Walking to the palace on the other side of the road wasn’t that bad, for we got to screen some souvenirs from few stalls at the parking area. We then crossed the road and paid some amount at the ticket booth, and walked into the palace area.
TIPS : If you plan to visit Pasar Atas/Pasar Bawah Bukittinggi, you may skip to buy souvenirs here. But you may do so, if you find that souvenirs looks rare or nice. Bargain for best price. Mini prayer room is free but WC and parking lot is chargeable. Do not bring the whole clan to the ticket booth, as it is located right in front of the main road. Pay kids fee, if your kids “look” smaller, physically. Adult=Rp12,000 and Children=Rp10,000.
Gosh! It was unbelievably scorching hot, but the view of the symmetrical pointed roof before the blue sky and green hills, with high rice barn called “rankiang” on its side, was worth a visit! Perfect! Though I am not a Minang-ite, I always like the Minangkabau roof! The roof is significant to the water buffalo that won in a fight against a large Javanese bull. Hence, the pointed roof design is resembling the buffalo horn.
We quickly walked into the palace complex and started to take photos. There were few huge rock-solid steps in front of the palace, where visitors took group photos with the palace as the background. We did the same before I excused myself to be under the roof. Being pregnant and easily tired, I walked straight to the palace and hid myself from the sun. Kak Ngah who covered Khayla, her 2 months old baby under the babysling, followed me, along with his 2 years old son, Kilfie. We went up the stairs and sat right at the long corridor that display cultural exhibits. Meanwhile, hubby was downstairs, enjoying his pose with the wall, to the fullest. Pfft!
Having not any fan or aircond, we didn’t feel warm inside the palace. That’s what happened when the palace built by timber, and has high ceiling to rotate the air. The hall was VERY long with visible poles from end to end. Colorful drapery were hang on the ceiling and wall, really compliment the carving that fully decorated around the hall. The ambience did bring us to Adityawarman era, the reigning king of Minangkabau people.
My whole family started to play stupid by posing crazily with the mannequins and exhibits! Haha! We “contaminated” almost all scenes before we moved to the next level.
While my dad, Kak Ngah, and I waiting downstairs, hubby, my nieces and nephews went up to the highest floor, to take pictures of the palace complex.
TIPS : If you have the energy and time to spend, walk up to the highest floor to see the whole compound. There is a park with the same design can be seen from this level. Take a good step, for the stairs are steep and waist-level.
Then, my older niece, Athirah, suddenly voiced out her request to wear a Minang wedding dress, after she saw few ladies did so. She urged her brother to join her, but boys being boys, they don’t bother to do so. And so Kak Ngah and I brought her downstairs, to the room that provide costume rental, right behind the main stairs. She quickly chose one red-gold costume and a very beautiful golden-blingbling-buffalo-horn headgear, for her look of the day. The lady helped to dress my niece while we were waiting outside for her.
My niece looked sooooo…sooooo…errr “kayu”. She didn’t know how to pose! OMG! Didn’t she know that her auntie is the goddess of posing who once called as Tyra Banks due to her fierce pose?! Fine, she knows how to play guitar, BUT I KNOW HOW TO POSE! And so I guided her to do this and that, like one freaking crazy pregnant lady who has no waist to show! Haha! Well, she did…OK, I guess. At least, two paparazzi didn’t stop taking her pictures. Pfft!
TIPS : If you are a culture lover, do try this Minangkabau attire. There are range of men and women costumes, complete with headgears that you can choose and wear in one hour (if I’m not mistaken), with Rp35,000 per set. No need to undress, for the costume is wearable on top of your cloth. They also provide a photographer that charge you by pieces, so please bring your own camera to avoid so. Don’t be shy, walk around and take pictures at ALL corners like you own the palace.
After spent for two hours at this complex, we continued our journey to Bukittinggi and reached Royal Denai Hotel, two hours later. While I sorted out the room check-in, hubby negotiated with the two drivers on the car rental back to Padang, for the day after tomorrow. I then came into the rescue and haggled more with both “supirs”, when hubby told me that they wanted to charge extra. No way ho zey! Let momma do tha talking will ya?! Hahaha! We finally sealed the deal, and went into our room for a quick break.