We had a free day in Padang after returning from our Mount Kerinci. So, it was a day trip to Bukit Tinggi. Again, time constraints meant that we arranged the excursion with our tour operator. The six of us paid Rp600,000 for a van, driver and guide.
Bukit Tinggi is Minang Country with three colours designated to the 3 volcanoes that surround Bukit Tinggi. The road trip to Bukit Tinggi took around 2 hours plus and it brings you through villages, paddy fields and, well, some pretty congested roads at some parts.
We made several stops on the way, firstly at Air Pancur waterfall at the fringe of the Lembah (Valley) Anai area. This is at the roadside and we could see that many locals stop here too. There is a train track (on a bridge) on the right opposite the waterfall where you can climb up to get good photos. Safe we were told because no trains use that track anymore.
Further towards Bukit Tinggi near the town of Padang Panjang is a museum set in a typical Minangkabau house. At Pandang Panjang town, there are several shops selling Sate (or Satay as it is known in Malaysia). Stopped by at Sate Mat Syukur for sate and noodles - worth the stop to try it out - but personally, my tastebuds prefer the version accross the straits.
On the way again, we passed a strange sight of people digging into (literally) the hill side just a short distance from the main road. We see crater like tunnels being dug into the hill to get the volcanic soil. Dangerous no doubt.
Further on the way towards Bukit Tinggi is a turn off to the village of Pandai Sikek (or Pandai Sikat). Pandai means 'clever' and Sikat means 'to comb or weave' - so there you go, it is a village of Clever Weavers - where girls are sent to learn the art. From here there is a good view of Mount Singgalang, one of the three Minang mountains. All along the way, you will notice that there are many ponds next to the houses along the road. we were told that many rear fish for their own consumption here.
Moving further away towards Bukit Tinggi, you will pass a series of shops on the roadside on the right, selling 'Kuih Neraka'. Literally translated, it means 'Cakes from Hell'. We stopped at one named Kuih Neraka Talago. The little cakes were lovely, made to order on the spot and the way it is done (we went in for a closer look) is in a 'hell like' environment - hot, pot and pan cover with wood fire on the top and at the bottom - hence the name. Loved the stop.
At Bukit Tinggi, must see sights include the Japanese tunnels where we were told, a Japanese engineer studied the terrain and the geo-activity of the area for a long time before embarking on the construction. There are a series of other tunnels but only one main one is opened and even that, it was such a secret (using labour from other districts) that it was discovered only after the second world war. The 132 steps (we confirmed that - every one of them) 150 metre long tunnel (it branches out) is most amazing as it houses a mini village complete with various quarters, command rooms and kitchen, etc.
There are locals there to bring you on a guided tour - well worth the Rp10,000 per person. Narration from start to end. Near the Japanese tunnels is a rickety steel look-out tower where you can can take in the scenery of the Sianok Valley.
There is zoo nearby at the Dutch Hill Fort. The zoo is sad and the animals there looked sadder. The fort, well there is only the wall and hill. Nevertheless, it is worth a walk round as there is also a museum at the hill.
This vendors in Bukit Tinggi do not hassle you at all and one can see that they are more genuinely friendly than most tourist palces. However, again, there are not many tourists here. The Novotel in town has also 'gone' and is now known as The Hill hotel.
The highlight, the old market and of course one must have a picture of the town clock tower - don't ask why.
Well worth a day trip away from Padang. Will be coming back here next to climb the surrounding volcanoes - Mount Marapi in particular.