Bukittinggi

Bukittinggi is a city in West Sumatra.

Understand

Bukittinggi (Indonesian for "high hill") is one of the larger cities in West Sumatra, Indonesia, with a population of over 91,000 people and an area of 25.24 km². It is situated in the Minangkabau highlands, 90 km by road from the West Sumatran capital city of Padang. It is located at 0°18′20″S 100°22′9″E / 0.30556°S 100.36917°E / -0.30556; 100.36917, near the volcanoes Mount Singgalang (inactive) and Mount Marapi (still active). At 930 m above sea level, the city has a cool climate with temperatures between 16.1°-24.9°C

History

There are some interesting legends surrounding the foundation and naming of “High Hill” Bukittinggi. The city has its origins in five villages which served as the basis for a marketplace. The city was known as Fort de Kock during colonial times in reference to the Dutch outpost established here in 1825 during the Padri War. The fort was founded by Captain Bauer at the top of Jirek hill and later named after the then Lieutenant Governor-General of the Dutch East Indies, Hendrik Merkus de Kock. The first road connecting the region with the west coast was built between 1833 and 1841 via the Anai Gorge, easing troop movements, cutting the costs of transportation and providing an economic stimulus for the agricultural economy. In 1856 a teacher-training college (Kweekschool) was founded in the city, the first in Sumatra, as part of a policy to provide educational opportunities to the indigenous population. A rail line connecting the city with Payakumbuh and Padang was constructed between 1891 and 1894. During the Japanese occupation of Indonesia in World War II, the city was the headquarters for the Japanese 25th Army, the force which occupied Sumatra. The headquarters was moved to the city in April 1943 from Singapore, and remained until the Japanese surrender in August 1945.

During the Indonesian National Revolution, the city was the headquarters for the Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PDRI) from December 19, 1948 to July 13, 1949. During the second 'Police Action' Dutch forces invaded and occupied the city on December 22, 1948, having earlier bombed it in preparation. The city was surrendered to Republican officials in December 1949 after the Dutch government recognized Indonesian sovereignty. The city was officially renamed Bukittinggi in 1949, replacing its colonial name. From 1950 until 1957, Bukittinggi was the capital city of a province called Central Sumatra, which encompassed West Sumatra, Riau and Jambi. In February 1958, during a revolt in Sumatra against the Indonesian government, rebels proclaimed the Revolutionary Government of the Republic of Indonesia (PRRI) in Bukittinggi. The Indonesian government had recaptured the town by May the same year.

Get in

Bukittinggi is located about 2 hours north-east by road from the international airport. The only way to get there is by car. But all the roads are good and smooth. As Bukittinggi is a tourist destination, try to avoid traveling on weekends as the traffic can be quite bad especially when climbing uphill.

By chartered minivan

Known by the locals as "Travel" is cheapest way to get there. The approximate price is about IDR 30,000/person for one way. The vehicle is a Honda Odyssey 2.4 minivan with a capacity of 7 seats. Keep in mind that the bus driver usually waits until the chair occupation is about 75%. Once the car is "full", the minivan will depart and take the passengers to their destination.

By bus

DAMRI is the bus operator that goes to Padang (price $Rp 17.500) from there you can continue to Bukittinggi by minivan ("travel")for the price $Rp 15,000. Not recommended for those who don't want to stop at Padang. Several bus companies (such as ALS) run buses from Parapat near Danau Toba. The trip is very winding and rough, and takes approximately 15 hours. Be prepared for bus sickness, and to pay around 250,000 IDR (as of August 2015). As the trip is uphill from Danau Toba, the one-way fare is more expensive this way than coming from the south.

Numerous buses go from Medan to Jakarta and stop on the way at Bukittinggi.

By taxi

At BIM(Bandara International Minangkabau)-International Airport of Padang, there's an official desk where you can order a taxi. The trip price is fixed and you can't bargain. This is the better and faster way of getting a taxi. A taxi trip to Bukittinggi is Rp 225,000. You pay 50% of the cost to the driver when getting in and the other 50% at arrival(Dec 2011). Recommended for small groups up to 4 people.

Get around

Besides city transportation (Angkutan kota), Bus charter and car rental is your solution for your trip in this city. If you want to rent a car, it's best to do so at Minangkabau International Airport. This will make it easy to get the city and it can minimize your time and cost.

See

In town

Bukittinggi is a small town, so these places are within walking distance with each other (15-30 minute walk).

There are horse carriages waiting around the Jam Gadang area. Please be cautioned that the rides are very costly, therefore please ask for their rates first.

Around town

There are two tours that hotels and tour agencies try to push, a tour to Minangkabau and another tour to Maninjau.

The Minangkabau tour will visit these places in east area of Bukittinggi:

The Maninjau Tour will visit places in west area of Bukittinggi:

Each tour requires at least 6 hours and usually held from 9AM-3PM (including a stop at some restaurants). In 2006, the price is ranging from Rp 100,000/pp to Rp 160,000/pp or Rp 450,000/car for up to 6 people. Hire a car is highly recommended if you're in a group of more than 4 people. Car's price includes driver, fuel, entry ticket, and parking fee. Tips aren't compulsory, lunch invitation is more than enough. For your note, most of the places require ticket and will charge a parking fee. One tour will require about Rp 40,000 only for parking and ticket entry. Another option is hiring a car and arranging with the driver to visit the places in Minangkabau and Lake Maninjau. If you are alone, it is also possible to find guides in the Sianok Canyon park who will take you to Lake Maninjau with a motorbike (ask for Parta e.g., no fixed price, he will take what you give him). In any case, depart earlier, as the tour will take all day.

The budget option to Maninjau is to take the bus (or minibus) from the bus station (get there from the Bemo station near the market) to Maninjau (35 km, 2hrs by bus, 1h by minibus). Unfortunately, a tourist racket has been set up so you won't get the ticket for the Rp 6000 (Oct 2007) the locals pay. Expect to pay at least Rp.10000 (Oct. 2007). Have the right change ready; don't expect to get any from the conductor. To get back, either try to catch a minibus (Rp 10000) or a big bus (Rp 15000-20000). The big buses you have to catch in the same direction you came, since the narrow road is a one-way for lorries.

The budget option to Minangkabau is to take the Batu Sangkar public bus for Rp. 7000 (Oct 2007) and hire a motorbike (Rp. 15000 return) from there (or walk the remaining 5 km) to Pagaruyung. Minibuses and buses back to Bukittingi leave from the bus terminal or may be flagged down anywhere.

The Harau Valley is a pretty gorge about an hour east of Bukittinggi comprising a valley floor of rice paddy hemmed in by shear sandstone cliffs. There are several waterfalls with pools (both natural and constructed) for bathing, and you can go rock climbing on the cliffs. Harau is reached via Payakumbuh.

If you are interested in visiting the equator, you can take a bus to Bonjol where there is a monument marking the equator built over the main road, good for photo opportunities if you are keen to stand in both hemispheres simultaneously. Theres also a museum on the site which houses a few artefacts of little interest - mainly coins and banknotes. Catch the bus from the Aur Kuning bus station, minibuses depart fairly frequently. Expect to pay Rp. 10 000 as a tourist. To get back there is a bus which comes from the opposite direction (or northern hemisphere) at 5 o'clock, or alternatively you can wait at the small roadside cafe right next to the monument where locals will help you flag down a bemo which is destined for Bukittinggi (its quite difficult for non-locals to distinguish between a service bemo and a someones car, but the locals seem to know what is what.

Do

Buy

Bukittinggi's council has been developing a shopping mall next to the Jam Gadang since January 2006 (Ramayana Shopping Complex which accepts credit cards). There are also 2 markets known as Pasar Atas (Upper Market) and Pasar Bawah (Down Market) near Jam Gadang. Pasar Atas is the largest market in Bukittinggi. On Saturdays, Sundays, and Wednesdays vendors sell their goods beside the road.

Pasar Bawah is for fruits and vegetables whereas Pasar Atas is for souvenirs and clothes. Most of the prices in each kiosk are similar, and you should bargain. One wholesale shop located in the middle of Pasar Atas sells souvenirs at the lowest price. A pair of women's slippers is about Rp 7,000 and a key holder is about Rp 2,000-5,000. Most of the souvenirs sold here are of low quality. Souvenirs of better quality can be found in Pandai Sikek. One men's shirt is about Rp 35,000 and a pair of leather women's slippers is about Rp 35,000.

Pasar Aur Kuning area is a large group of wholesale ("grosir") sales market/shops. Pasar Aur Kuning deserves a special mention here. It is famous with the local people/season travelers. If you are buying items in bulk, this is the place to visit. Some of the shops will allow you to buy in small quantities "eceran". Please ask the trader if they allow "eceran". For price comparison, if a trader in Pasar Atas (Clock Tower area) sells a cowboy hat for Rupiah 100k as the opening price, you can expect to buy exactly the same item at Pasar Aur Kuning for Rupiah 30k. The price per item may go down further after negotiations. To get to Pasar Aur Kuning, take the red Angkot (minibus) from Pasar Bawah (in front of Pasar Banto). Angkot no. 19 or 13 (Tigo Baleh) charge for Rupiah 2000 one way. Pasar Aur Kuning also houses a bus terminal to various parts of Indonesia. Travel to Padang by van is located adjacent to Simpang Rayo restaurant.

Eat

People in Bukittinggi like dry, spicy, and sweet snack foods. They make snacks with different tastes and shapes from ingredients that make the foods here special. For example, from cassava they can make spicy long cassava chips, tasty cubed cassava chips, and sweet round cassava chips. The many others include shredded dry eel, spicy potato chips, sweet potato chips, etc. They can be found in Pasar Atas at low prices, but they are not fresh. On the way back to Padang there are many food shops that sell these snacks of better quality.

There's small fish named Ikan Bilih (Bilis) or "ikan Danau" in Lake Singkarak that is not found elsewhere. Locals deep fry it or cook it in a sour soup with vegetable. One portion of fried Bilih is about Rp 5,000 and you eat the whole fish, head and bones and all. Most of the restaurants in Bukittinggi serve Padang cuisine which is creamy, spicy, and hot. An average price is about Rp 15,000 per person for one meal. The food unsold is kept overnight and reheated the next day, so it is not recommended for those who like fresh food.

After dark, there are many hawkers near Jam Gadang selling fresh foods such as nasi goreng (fried rice), mie rebus (boiled noddles) Roti Bakar (bun with scrambled eggs), and martabak mesir (beef pancake). One portion is about Rp 7,500 - Rp 10,000 pp.

Do try the local dessert delicacy known as "Martabak Bandung". The same dish is widely known in Malaysia as "Apam Balek" but the Malaysian version is limited to only one flavour i.e. nuts with a mixture of corn. Here in Bukittinggi or other parts of Indonesia, there are no less than 50 flavours of Martabak Bandung to choose from such as chocolate, cheese, strawberry, jackfruit, honey, banana, durian, etc. It should not be confused with "Martabak Mesir" which is a delicacy from the Middle East.

Anti-diarrhea medicine is highly recommended in case you get diarrhea during your food adventure.

Drink

Sikotang or Sarobat

Sikotang or Sarobat is one of the most famous drinks in Minangkabau. The beverage is made from red ginger (Zingiber sp) and spices such as cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum sp), nutmeg/"pala" (Myristica fragrans), etc. Sikotang is usually mixed with egg, bread, green beans (kacang padi/kacang ijo), and cane or palm sugar. Such a hot drink is useful for keeping your body warm during a cold highland night like in Padang Panjang, Batusangkar and Bukittinggi. Price Rp 5,000-15,000.

Daun Kawa (Coffee leaves)

Daun kawa is made from roasted dry leaves of the coffee tree. The dried leaves are boiled in hot water and put into sections of bamboo and drunk from a "cawan tampuruang" (coconut shell). It can be found in Bukittinggi, Payakumbuh and Batusangkar. Please ask anyone, especially people over age 40. They will show you where a good place is to taste Daun Kawa! Price Rp 5,000-15,000 in 2009

Jus Pinang (Pinang Juice)

Juice of Pinang (betel nut, the Areca catechu seed) is a bitter tasting drink available in Padang, Bukittingi, and other areas that is believed to have an effect on sexual stamina. Pinang has a biological effect as a stimulant like tobacco, coffee, and tea. Its chemical contents are arecolin, arecain, tannin, and flavonoids. Just try it and feel the difference! For beginners, don't drink more than one pinang seed. Price Rp 5,000-15,000 in 2009

Teh Talua (egg tea)

This is a special Minangkabau drink made from egg mixed with hot tea and lemon. Please taste it. You will never forget the experience! Price Rp 5,000-15,000 in 2009

Fruit Juices

There are a variety of fruit juices ranging from Alpokat (avocado juice), Sirsak (soursop), Jeruk (orange), wortel (carrot) etc. The list is endless. Prices range from Rp 4,000-10,000.

Kopi Luwak ("Civet Cat" Coffee)

Enjoy one of world's most prestigious coffees, Kopi Luwak, in Batang Palupuah Kampong, Bukittinggi. The coffee is made from coffee beans that have passed through a civet cat before roasting.

Alcoholic Drinks

The Minangkabau also have traditional alcoholic beverages such as tuak. Tuak is made from fermented nira, a liquid collected by cutting the fruit branch of aren or enau tree (Arenga pinnata). However, it is quite difficult to find in Bukittinggi now because alcoholic beverages are haram - forbidden - for Muslims).

Sleep

The top hotels in the city are the The Hills Bukittinggi (formerly the Novotel Coralia) and Pusako Hotel. Although The Hills Bukittinggi is comfortable place to stay especially for tourists from the West, the cost is at least Rp 800,000 for a night; in comparison there are many small hotels around Fort de Kock that are around Rp 120,000 that are quite nice.

Small budget hotels are easy to find. Many locals offer accommodation which are like family-owned hotels that provide a "feel at home" atmosphere. The prices span from Rp 40,000 - Rp 200,000 per room without air-conditioning. Breakfast is included. There are no lifts in these small hotels, so be prepared if your room is on the upper floors. Room cleaning is not provided everyday in some cases, so don't hesitate to ask the hotel manager if you want a daily cleaning service.

Connect

There is a row of internet cafes along Jl. Ahmad Yani an Jl Pemuda. Four internet cafes are in the vicinity of (underneath) the pedestrian bridge which links Fort de Kock and the zoo. Check out the prices as the internet cafes on the main street are so much more expensive than the ones around the corner. Suggest you ask a local for the cheapest one. The local price is Rp 4,000 per hour.

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