Having already spent some unforgettable times in north Sumatra, the time to continue my adventure-hunting in the west province of this great island had come about. My first stop in this new, for me, world was to be the city of Bukittinggi. In order to reach there from Parapat, in North Sumatra, I had to get a night bus which covered the nearly 500 km of distance separating the two cities in a total of about 15 hours. We were approaching our destination when the first, early sunbeams had just trespassed over the lofty ridge of the enveloping mountains down into the valley, thus restoring me from my anterior sound sleep.
It was still early morning when we entered Bukittinggi’s bus station and, despite the almost four-digit altitude, I found the city to be excessively hot. There was that motorcycle driver who offered to drive me downtown, but as he did not concede to the price I proposed him, I rather started ambling myself towards the center. I did not go far, however. Soon, the same guy drove by me, halted and accepted readily my offered price, so, on I hopped. He also, after I inquired him relevantly, he offered to drive me to a guesthouse where I could get a room for 70.000 IDR. That was already fairly cheap, though I, after all, did only pay 40.000, the rest 30.000 being commission the driver was hoping to embezzle at my expense, but that hope of his perished when the honest owner of the guesthouse did not yield to his will, informing me of his normal price. It was a small, nice and quiet, very centrally located guesthouse, and there I was to render my home for the next few days to come.
Bukittinggi, in spite of its relatively small size (barely over 100.000 inhabitants), is a historically renowned and eminently significant city. Having sprouted from five villages erstwhile occupying its area, it evolved to one of Sumatra’s most important economic and military centers during the times of the Dutch rule, after an outpost, known as Fort De Kock, was established here in 1825. The fort’s edifices are still well intact today, found on top of two adjoining hills, connected to each other by a well artistically characterized pedestrian bridge, right in the very center of the city. The fort may be visited buying a ticket of a very paltry price. One may see quite a few interesting things up there, as several old, neat buildings and different sorts of relics, some nice gardens, and trees, panoramic views to the city around… but must necessarily tolerate the deplorable and frustrating spectacle of the zoo hosted within the fort’s premises, where things as an amputated tiger and elephants tied on two-meters-long chains cannot be avoided to be seen. A few more sights may, also, be seen around the city left from the colonial times, as the great clock, which makes the landmark of the city.
The important role of this city was also kept during the Japanese occupation when it served as the headquarters of the Japanese army that occupied Sumatra. A 1400 m long system of bunkers, dug inside the earth from tens of thousands of forced laborers, remains to evidence those times and is visitable. Later, Bukittinggi also served as the headquarters of the “Emergency Government of the Republic of Indonesia” during the Indonesian National Revolution against colonialism.
That was it, briefly, about the city’s history. What personally I found most spectacular to marvel at in this place was the natural wonder of Sianok Canyon. The canyon may be considered as one of the city’s sights, as it is only a short walking distance away from the center. I spent a deeply pleasant day getting down into the canyon and exploring it. Besides its dramatic precipices and caves, I got to see lots more of wondrous images within it, as some curious plants and a number of monkeys and various birds. What I happened to find there which impressed me the most, was a great number – in fact by far the greatest agglomeration I ever encountered – of Mimosae Pudicae (shy plants), a very curious herb famous of its instantly folding its leaflets inward, so to protect them from harm, when touched.