The land of the Minangkabau, West Sumatra has a distinct culture which distinguishes it from the rest of the island. A land of scenic beauty with blue green lakes and mountains, West Sumatra’s Centre of culture and tourism is Bukittinggi in the highlands, north of the provincial capital of Padang.
The name Minangkabau means triumphant buffalo. It leads a community and family life based on a matrilineal system which clusters around mosques and the traditional adat houses. As it is the women who own the properties, the men are known for their wanderlust and entrepreneurship. Traveling is considered a mark of success and therefore many of them are found “merantau” (emigrated) to other parts of the country. Proof of this is the many Minang or Padang restaurants, serving very spicy food, found in all major towns in the nation. The people are hospitable and eloquent in a poetic style of speech and ceremonies. Festivals are colorful occasions.
West Sumatra has a coast line where the capital is situated. The hinterland is a range of high mountains which dip into picturesque valleys and lakes. Amongst them are the remnants of the old Minangkabau kingdom of Pagaruyung, (the art centers for silver, hand-weaving, embroidery and woodcarving).
Padang is the capital of West Sumatra. Most people get on or off the boat here, but the town is quite nice and deserves a longer visit. The main sights in the city include the Adityawarman Museum (close to the bus station) in a traditional Minangkabau house and featuring a good collection of antiques and the Taman Budaya cultural center where you can see traditional dances on sundays. The cultural center also offers free tours to the city.