The capital of West Sumatra, Padang is the gateway to the Minang highlands. With the largest port on Sumatra’s West Coast, this is a merchant town attracting ships trading in goods such as rubber, cinnamon, coffee, tee, cement and coal. If you take a stroll down to the old colonial waterfront you’ll see century old warehouses stocked with fragrant cinammon and other spices waiting to be shipped to Jakarta and Singapore.
The Batang Arau River flows through the city and it is quite a sight to see the collection of small boats and hand paddled ferries that line the riverside. Or you can do some diving activities in Padang.
If you like a little spice in your food then Padang is the place for you. Famous throughout Indonesia for its distinctive cuisine, Padang is the place to go to sample the famous spicy nasi padang food that has spread throughout the country and the world. Padang food includes such delicacies as the spicy coconut curry rendang and soto padang. Experience the unique way Padang food is served. Watch how waiters expertly carry more than ten plates with all kinds of delicacies on both arms. These dishes will then be spread out on the table for diners to pick and choose. You will be charged only for those dishes you have tasted.
For shoppers, local handicrafts are ideal souvenirs to bring back to your loved ones at home. Handicrafts like woven cloths, silverwork, ironwood carvings and Chinese ceramics can all be found for sale in this city. For the best range of souvenir stalls head to Jalan Imam Bonjol.
There are a range of accommodation options in Padang from budget to delux hotels. The Buminang Hotel is a four star establishment, fully equipped with kareoke rooms. The Inna Muara Hotel is a mid range centrally located hotel with rooms with air conditioning.
Take a pleasant walk around the older parts of Padang like Kampung Cina (China town) where turn of the century houses line the streets. Around here you’ll see a collection of Chinese herbalists doing business as well as coffee shops that can provide a refreshing cool drink to escape the heat of the day. The Provincial Museum in downtown Padang is home to a collection of prehistoric artifacts, stamps, imported ceramics, modern art and displays about the Minang and Mentawai culture.
Air Manis is Padang’s most popular beach, located about one hours walk along the coast (or a quick trip in a minibus). The legend of the beach says that once a young man named Malin Kundang went out to sea to become a rich merchant. When he returned home, his mother was so excited she dressed in her best clothes, made him a meal and went out to his ship to meet him. But Malin Kudang felt ashamed and pretended not to know her. His mother’s heart broke and as he sailed away she cursed him. As the he left, thunder and lightening broke out and the ship sank. Everyone aboard perished and were turned to stone – a coral outcropping at the beach is said to be their remains.
At Bungus, a small village about 25km south of Padang there is a pleasant swimming beach sheltered in a bay. From here you can hire an outrigger to visit the nearby coral islands which lie about an hour off shore.
Most attractions in Padang are within walking distance but if you need a break, there are metered taxis available.
Although slower, a more romantic option is to take a bendi – a horse drawn cart.
The city is also serviced by mini buses and buses.
Padang is half-way up Sumatra’s west coast and is served by a good network of land, air and sea routes.
Padang’s new airport is the Bandara Internasional Minangkabau (off Jl Adinegoro), 20km north of the centre of town. Domestic flights go daily between Padang and Jakarta, Medan and Palembang. Airlines operating flights to Padang include Garuda, Air Asia and Lion Air.
Padang’s Bengkuang bus terminal is located 12 km from town.
There branches of all major Indonesian banks and ATMs available in town.