June 26 to 28, 2012.

I decide to spend a day just wandering around the town.. There are horse drawn carriages, not especially for tourists even, the locals use them a lot.

I spy these beautiful classic Indonesian puppets

And a very packed “family” bus.

Bukittinggi s a hilly little place, with streets that don’t make any sense, curving this way and that, no logic to speak of. I tell you the city planners at home spoiled us for SE Asia, there is no grid here. I check out the local market, full of fruits and veg, meats and various weird smells (durian, fresh and old meats, spices, rotting vegetable matter, flowers, and urine, ah yes, the smell of SE Asia). This gentleman asks me if I will take his picture, I happily comply.

I’m fascinated by the traditional Batak buildings, they have large steeply-pitched saddle back roofs, and are usually intricately decorated.  Seeing a large Batak building in the distance I decide to make it my goal and start walking in that direction. I get pretty lost as I lose sight of the building but I do eventually find it, up at the top of a very steep hill. I wander up there and am a little disappointed, it’s not as rustic as I had hoped, it turns out I have found the local government building, aka city hall.

Reality intrudes as I have gotten quite lost and turned around and am really not sure which way to go to get back to town. I see a taxi and ask him how much to take me to the clock tower, a landmark quite near my hotel. He rudely tells me a ridiculously inflated price and I tell him that he has insulted me and that I am not stupid and I walk away from him. Preposterous, but I am lost and now I have to figure out how to get back. I walk down the hill and see a café so I figure I will ask for directions there.  I ask the café proprietress for help and we’re struggling because she doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak Indonesian when two young men who have been dining in the café overhear my dilemma and kindly offer to walk me back. One, William, can speak English fairly well, the other, Rahmat, can’t but I think he understands a fair bit. They become my friends for the remainder of the day.

We walk back into town, I buy them juice on the way and we take a rest at the clock tower. It’s really crowded with people, lots of Indonesian tourists and a large contingent of people in stuffed animal suits a la Barney, Sponge Bob, Power Rangers etc. It’s pretty surreal. They also want me to pay them to take pictures so no go. I also notice something odd about the roman numerals on the clock tower, can you spot it?

We decide to head over to Panorama Park to watch the sunset. There are some great views here of 2 of the local volcanoes, Gunung Marapi and Gunung Singgalang though they are usually shrouded in clouds. We can look down from the viewpoint into the valley where a small river wends its way. We stay for the sunset and then the guys walk me home, they insist and I thank them for rescuing my lost self. Lovely.