rain city padang

Padang looks over the tall waves of the Straits of Mentawai and beyond, to Samudera – the vast blue yonder that in centuries past brought proselytisers, traders and colonisers to these smiling shores.

Padang is on the west coast of Sumatra. It is a city that generally attracts two kinds of overseas visitors : Malay families who come to search for their deep roots; and Westerners arriving, in small groups, in pairs or often solitarily, to look for tall waves. For other intrepid types, this rain-soaked, creaky former Dutch colonial port town does hold a certain off-beat allure as I discovered almost a fortnight ago when I dropped by over the Chinese New Year which in these parts is called Imlek.

Continuing the culture in Lubok Minturun. Padang and its hinterland is the original home of the Minangkabau people – a Malay sub-group known for its matrilineal laws, mouth-watering curry and chili cuisine and migration tradition termed as Merantau.

Catch of the evening, Teluk Bungus

Many hands make light work – fisher folks hauling in the afternoon catch in Teluk Bungus. With its 17,504 islands and 99,093 km coastline, Indonesia is the second largest exporter of marine fish in the world.

Fishing is an important source of income and protein for coastal communities in West Sumatra.

Neighbouring food cities such as Singapore may claim fish head curry as their very own but judged on freshness, lightness and aroma, nothing compares to Gulai Masin Kepala Ikan cooked and served on the beach in its place of origin.

The probable inspiration behind Seven Eleven and other convenience stores.

I went to Padang for four nights and five days, keeping close to the city, traveling south to Teluk Bungus and north to Lubok Minturun, triumphantly resisting (thanks mostly to the wet weather) the magic and temptation of the Minangkabau Highlands and offshore islands despite powerful pitching by Erison – a newly-made friend who drove and guided me through the potholed and puddled lanes of Padang on his butt-punishing scooter.

Padang is one of oldest cities in Sumatra. The Dutch came in the 17th century and built warehouses and a fort there in 1667 to gain a foothold in the Indies.

Village elder, Teluk Bungus

Angkot (from “Angkutan Kota” the acronym for an urban ride) is still the preferred means of getting around for the population of Padang estimated at 1,265,000 in 2023.

The Padangnese trait brings out the best in the Minangkabau Malay culture of learning, respect for older people and genuine hospitality and kindness to strangers.

Nasi goreng with a view.

The crumbling charm of Old Padang

Sea critters from Mentawai for sale at a beachside stall

A sand fight with friends at high tide.

School kids in front of Masjid Raya Ganting or the Ganting Grand Mosque. Built in 1805, it is the most historic mosque in Padang City.

Clove cigarettes (keretek) and Padang are buddies
The curries that made Padang

Lubok Minturun a popular rest spot during the fasting month of Ramadhan.

The sea defines the port and estuarine city of Padang
Riding with granddad in the old city of Padang

Drenched in Chinatown by a heavy noon downpour

Copyright (c) Kerk Boon Leng 5 February 2023 All Rights Reserved