Alright, I’ve been in Bukittinggi for five days now, about time I got some photos up! This time I remembered Aunt Peg’s comment on a previous post and tried to get a few more shots of the normal everyday life stuff that I’ve started to take for granted. Keep those comments coming, I aim to please.
I’ve been taking it nice and easy around here; that just seems to be the pace of things in Bukittinggi. In the Apache Cafe, where I started eating often because of the wi-fi, the guy who always seems to be there says he’s a volunteer and only gets paid when business is good. Business does not look good. He told me that back in the 1990s, Bukittinggi was very popular travel destination for Europeans. He pointed out the door of the cafe and said “Back then, you look outside and all you see is white faces”. We look but all we see now is asphalt and the occasional scooter passing by. It’s not clear why popularity slumped. I speculate that it’s just out of the way and there’s nothing spectacular to bring people way out here, but it’s a nice spot with plenty to see and western tourist infrastructure already in place. I think it will probably become popular again someday, maybe once Sumatra gets a few more tourist-friendly spots to break up the 17 hour bumpy bus rides that currently wait those who try to travel between them by land.
On Sunday, I did make it out to Panorama Park, just a half mile from the Orchid Hotel. The panoramic view holds a nice river valley with stunning vertical cliffs below a nice mountain. It was a bit cloudy when I visited so I couldn’t see the mountain. There was a lot of trash strewn around the viewing area and that may have prejudiced my opinion of the view itself. It was certainly nice but I wasn’t overwhelmed.
There was a contingent of monkeys living at Panorama Park. I don’t know what kind they are, but since I saw the same kind traveling in Bali last year I now think of them as the ‘normal’ kind. If any readers know, let me know in the comments.
Like the monkeys in the Monkey Forest in Ubud, Bali, these monkeys were a little sad, living on the scraps and trash of the human visitors to the park. In Bali, I did my best to avoid showing all the trash and nastiness and managed to get some photos that made it seem as though I’d trekked deep into the jungle and spotted some wild monkeys living free and easy. So if you saw those photos, it was a sham; this is how monkeys really live at these parks.
The Japanese built some caves during World War II when they occupied Indonesia. One set happens to be right underneath Panorama Park. I thought they were surprisingly spacious, plenty of head room even for a tall westerner. There was a kitchen, dining room, and jail, all probably 200 meters under the surface.
I happened to be entering the caves at the same time as a tour group of Muslim schoolgirls, so I was featured in what seemed like hundreds of their photos of the caves. Our communication was pretty good considering their broken English, my bad Indonesian, and their fits of giggling.
I played futsal for three hours straight on Sunday evening, so Monday I was ready for a relatively sedentary day sitting on my motorbike all the way to and around Lake Maninjau.
Maninjau is about a hour’s drive from Bukittinggi. The lake sits in the giant caldera of an ancient volcano, so I loved it for that reason alone. It was also visually stunning. The road to the lake has a section of switchbacks leading from the top edge of the caldera to the lake level known locally and by tour groups as the ’44 turns’. Each switchback is numbered with a sign and the views all along are great.
Once down at the lake level, I drove about halfway around to a park on the other side. These next photos are from the park and along the road there and back.
I had heard of a place with a great view of the lake, the top of one of the mountains along the edge of the caldera. It is accessible by road but a good hour’s drive from lake level. I was hoping to get there at sunset for a photo, so I wrapped up at the lake around 5pm and headed back up the 44 switchbacks.
Did I mention that Sunday was my birthday? I didn’t get to celebrate much here in Bukittinggi, but you won’t hear me complaining, not when I’m in the middle of the biggest vacation ever. In fact, you could say my birthday celebration this year has lasted months and continues indefinitely.
And my birthday this year was not just another day of traveling. After the mist cleared, I was treated to a truly excellent birthday sunset over Lake Maninjau.