Moving from Bung Hatta Proclamator Monument Park, I moved down along Istana Street, across Plaza Bukittinggi, greeting Gadang Clock Tower, treading on Minangkabau Street and then entering Cindua Mato Street.
A step later, I entered Pasar Atas. Most of stalls were still closed because I was too early to visited it. There was nothing I could do, only a few stalls which were preparing to open, marked by its owners who was busy arranging their trade goods.
Now I was at a gate with a view of steep steps, two tigers guard it on either side, while at lower end was seen a bit of trading crowd, maybe that was Banto Market.
I slowly descended while my mouth muttering count numbers….It’s true, forty steps. These rows of stairs are known as Janjang Ampek Puluah. It is said that forty symbolizes number of Niniak Mamak members.
Brilliant thinking for Louis Constant Westenenk (Agam Resident Assistant/Controleur Agam) who collaborated with Niniak Mamak (Minangkabau Customary Institution) in sparking an idea to integrated of Pasar Atas (Upper Market) – Pasar Bawah (Lower market) – Banto Market in early 20th century. At that time, Janjang became a popular facility in market connectivity. The thinking power of leaders at that time was really squeezed in order to organize Bukittinggi city which had a hilly and uneven topography.
I arrived at lower gate with four poles and European style, also with a large signboard “Janjang Ampek Puluah“. After all, I finally knew that this lower gate was a new construction, complementing the upper gate which had already existed.
While at inner side of lower gate, there is an inscription which contains a brief history of legendary Janjang existence as high as 5 meters and 4.6 meters in wide which was built in the past.
I was still staring at the elegance of this colonial era integration facility, while residents seemed to be moving up and down at Janjang. I really didn’t want to leave this area quickly, stunned to think of how form of this area when Janjang hadn’t been built, maybe where I stood was still in the form of steep hills which separating three market activities.
Janjang Ampek Puluah is just one of many Janjang in Bukittinggi. Apparently Colonial Government was quite serious in integrating all city economic spots at that time. You need to know that there are still Janjang Saribu, Janjang Koto Gadang and Janjang Pasanggrahan in the town which called as Fort de Kock in its past time.
At outer side of gate, public transportations start to generating city pulse. The appearance of imperious Banto Trade Center increasingly shows that the surrounding area can be relied upon as a driving force for city’s economy.
I instantly realized that I hadn’t fulfilled yet Maghrib Prayer. While time had shown at 19:10 hours and prayer sounds had disappeared since earlier. Then time forced me to immediately move from Bukittinggi Plaza courtyard.
Walking through Cinduo Mato Street, I didn’t find a crowd like I imagined. Many shops on either side of road had begun to close its door. Only few shops still opened because they still had to serve some customer who passing through on streets.
I arrived at Bukittinggi Grand Mosque. A holy building with eight arched windows on second floor. Right on road side and marked by a green glowing tower in one of its front corners.
Entering its terrace area, one thing which attracted my attention was concrete seating provision for women on left side, while men seating was placed on right wing. Separation began since entering its terrace.
I fulfilled Maghrib Prayer on red carpet, while other worshipers were solemnly listening sermon from religious leader who preached from pulpit. I calmed my mind, sat cross-legged and watered my hard heart with heavenly advice, something I rarely followed.
I went out with congregation, the Adam and Eve folk regularly came out on track. Married couples left the mosque one by one by riding motorbikes, some rode bicycles. While youths were seemed to entering narrow alleys towards their homes.
The end of Canduo Mato Street was gradually deserted. Bright shades of shophouses began to be abandoned by visitors. While some traders were still patient waiting for remaining buyers who would came.
Hunting for crowds, I crossed Minangkabau Street then entered Ahmad Yani Street. I really found it. Parking lots along shophouses were still packed with four-wheeled vehicles, making me even more excited to postpone my returning to the inn.
I continued to step past a T-junction which is cuted by Ahmad Karim Street from south left. Then continued with found tent stalls which lined lengthwise on one side of Ahmad Yani Street with Limpapeh Bridge view which was full of lights.
Satay scent which a minute ago was completely chewed by sense of taste, instantly drove out drowsiness which clung my eyelids since Ostad’s heavenly sermon at Bukittinggi Great Mosque.
Continued with displacing meatball bench to a coffee maker, my time slowly depleted at the same time with increasingly disappearing of “iron horses” bustles with vehicle license plate BA.
Temperature degree that night quickly diminished, I who didn’t wear jacket really felt Bukittinggi cold air, forced me to immediately withdrawed from street and slowly walked towards the inn. Tomorrow I would early wake up and walking around the city in early morning.
Memasuki lantai satu penginapan, Noah, Si Insinyur Amerika itu mEntering the first floor of hotel, Noah, an american engineer waved his right hand and greeted me with a big smile. A large beer bottle was in his left hand. “I will sleep early“, I told him. He raised his right thumb while saying a short word, “See you tomorrow”.
Driver: “Donny, just get off here, okay? This car will turn to right, then car will run further away from downtown“.
Me: “Oh Okay, Uda. No problem for me“
I was lowered by Annanta Travel on Veteran Street, I sat for a moment and stretched muscle stiffness after sitting in the back seat for eight hours. The white statue of Tuanku Imam Bonjol on his horse became the first sight which entertained my arrival in Bukittinggi. The “Paderi War” Leader spreaded charisma, valiantly without sound.
After two days felt scalding heat in Pekanbaru, now I enjoyed Bukittinggi’s cool air. Now I was free to direct my camera to every where without sun sting. I had to occasionally stop because city contours which are up and down, making me gasped for breath with backpack’s burden on my back.
From a distance, I continued to look each other with a young blond girl who was sitting to enjoying the afternoon on big motorcycle. I predicted that she was precisely sitting in front of De Kock Hotel where I would stay in it.
It was true, arrived right at the big motorcycle was parked, I was confronted to hotel lobby in the form of a cafe, then young girl followed me and hurried to reception desk. It seemed like she was a hotel staff on duty that afternoon.
Me: “Hi. Were you in Samosir four days ago?, I think that we stayed at a similar hotel, Bagus Bay Homestay”.
Noah: “Oh really? Yes, I was in Samosir four days ago”.
Me: “I’m Donny. I am an Indonesian traveler. What is your name?”.
Noah: “I’m Noah form California”.
Me: “Are you on vacation, No? What do you do in America?”.
Noah: “Yes, I’m on vacation. I am an engineer at oil company. What is your job in Indonesia? “.
Noah: “What marketing?”.
Me: “I work in field, meet customers, and sell products”.
Noah: “Oh, you aren’t marketing. You are a sales. How about your income? Good income? I work with good income but with high risk in America … hahahaha”.
Me:” Yes, of course, I’m a salesman. I got a lot of money from my work”.
That was Noah, my new friend in Bukittinggi. Incidentally we were the only two who staying in the dormitory room with five single beds.
I sat in the lobby, a medium-sized bottle of Coca Cola managed to freeze my sweat after walking in a kilometer. That afternoon I intend to visit Gadang Clock Tower which is only half a kilometer to northwest of hotel.
Around 17:30 hours, I started to moving and carrying camera towards Gadang Clock Tower. I chose to walk through Yos Sudarso Street which tends to be flat and then descending on Istana Street.
Directly across from Novotel is Bukittinggi Plaza. I just quietly stood in mall courtyard to enjoy the beauty of Gadang Clock Tower. Sabai Nun Aluih Park, which was under the clock tower, was covered with a tight project’ iron sheeting. Apparently, There was park renovation.
As its name “Gadang” which in Minang language means “Large”, this clock tower is twenty-six meters in high with four 128-years-old twin clocks which was directly brought from Rotterdam via Bayur Port.
Was designed by Radjo Mangkuto, Gadang Clock Tower was made with 4 levels. The lowest level is the officer’s room, second level contains a clock’s ballast pendulum. Clock is placed on third level and the uppest level is tower top where clock’s bell are placed.
I was happy, being able to see Gadang Clock Tower which since I was a little boy, I only knew it through my elementary school textbook.
Walking through Veteran Street, I slowly approached De Kock Hotel to check-in. Cool and peaceful is an image in my head about Bukittinggi when I arrived.
1. Limpapeh Bridge
Halfway to hotel, I was fascinated by a suspension bridge. It is the Limpapeh Bridge which stretches over Ahmad Yani Street. It was built in 1992 and have function as a link between Wildlife Cultural Park Kinantan and Fort De Kock Fortress area. Stretching along ninety meters with approximately three meters in width, making this bridge so dashing visible from Ahmad Yani Street.
2. GadangClock Tower
A bottle of coca cola closed my check-in session as well as a starting marker for my exploration around Pasar Atas that afternoon. Walking through Yos Sudarso Street with up-down contour, my steps arrived at a phenomenal landmark which is famous throughout Indonesia.
Gadang Clock Tower, a landmark which was given by Queen Wilhelmina, looked dashing. Needed long time in waiting for different color lights to appear and illuminated entire this giant clock tower as a marker of switching from evening to night. Because of its fame, Gadang Clock Tower has been designated as Kilometer Zero Point of Bukittinggi City. “Gonjong” shaped roof or roof style which was commonly used in “Gadang House” (typical house of West Sumatra) makes this European architectural art possess a local customs wealth.
3. Bukittinggi Plaza
Major renovations at Sabai Nan Aluih Park, made me only able to enjoy the beauty of Gadang Clock Tower from mall courtyard which is located opposite this big clock tower.
Bukittinggi Plaza in the last few years had became the best mall in Bukittinggi. Ramayana (Indonesia’s prominent department stores) becomes main player which occupies seventy percent of overall mall capacity.
4. Bukittinggi Grand Mosque
Fun in enjoying the beauty of Gadang Clock Tower almost made me lose Maghrib Prayers. I tried to trace azan origin several minutes before. Heading north, I finally arrived at Bukittinggi Grand Mosque.
The mosque which in earthquake 2007 became a refuge for residents who evacuated because of damage which was caused by the massive earthquake.
5. Pasar Atas Bukittinggi
Grand mosque which is precisely located in the center of Pasar Atas (a famous market in Bukittinggi) made me interested to explore road towards Pasar Atas. Dark which continued to devour the day, made shop owners began to close them one by one.
Pasar Atas is a market which places several sellers of Kapau Rice, Ampiang Dadiah Ice and Sanjai Crackers which are favorite crackers for souvenirs which were bought by Bukittinggi visitors.
Hungry stomach has forced myself to immediately look for dinner. Dinner under Limpapeh Bridge finally closed my two hours exploration on my first night in Bukittinggi
6. Unknown Hero Monument
My second day exploration began with leaving the hotel on a quiet morning. Even residents’ activities hadn’t been seen. Quiet and cold didn’t dampen my steps to visit Unknown Heroes Monument.
This monument was built to commemorate heroes who couldn’t be identified in opposing Dutch Colonialism on 1905. The monument with a circular shaped ornament of large dragon and on its top stands a statue of a young man who holding a flag.
7. Bung Hatta Proclamator Park Monument
While across the front of monument, there is a park with a black statue of Bung Hatta. Known as Bung Hatta Proclamator Park, this park was dedicated to Mohammad Hatta, the native son of Bukittinggi who proclaimed Indonesian independence with Ir. Sukarno.
8.Janjang Ampek Puluah
Returning to Cindua Mato Street which I passed last night, I headed for a connecting stairway between Pasar Atas and Pasar Bawah also Pasar Banto (three markets in Bukittinggi). A steep concrete staircase with forty stairs which is 112-year-old. This is embodiment of public facilities integration in past time. At that time, Dutch East Indies Government and several local powers agreed to connect every market in Bukittinggi, one of which was by making janjang or stairs.
9. Bung Hatta Birthplace Museum
Coming out of lower gate and passing through Banto Trade Centre which looked unkempt, I headed to Bung Hatta residence when he was a child. Even though this house is actually only a reconstruction building, but its interior arrangement and exterior appearance are made as closely as possible to condition of the original house which has collapsed. If you want to know about life history behind Muhammad Hatta glory in his political career, then come to this place.
10. Fort De Kock
After visiting Bung Hatta Birthplace Museum, I intended to walk to Fort de Kock through Pemuda Street with quite a long climb walking and meanders from south to north. But apparently I wasn’t strong in middle of journey, I called for online transportation to drive me at Fort de Kock front gate.
Fort de Kock was built by Captain Bauer in 1825 on Jirek Hill as the defense dome of Dutch East Indies Government in facing popular resistance i.e Paderi War which led by Tuanku Imam Bonjol (Indonesia’s national hero).
11. Wildlife Cultural Park Kinantan
From Fort de Kock, I just needed to cross Limpapeh Suspension Bridge to a famous zoo in Bukittinggi.
Wildlife Cultural Park Kinantan is one of the oldest zoos in Indonesia and the only one in West Sumatra with the most complete collection of animals on Sumatra island.
12. Baanjuang Traditional House Museum
As the zoo grew, in 1935 the Baanjuang Traditional House was built in it.
Functioned as a museum, this traditional house is dedicated to elevating the traditional culture of Minangkabau people. Its inside were exhibited various clothes, jewelries and typical Minang art tools.
Not far away….In northeast of the zoo, there is a Zoological Museum with Sumatran tiger and goldfish as its icons. The museum was established in conjunction with a similar museum at Bogor in 1894. Two thousand species of animal are preserved and exhibited in this museum.
I left Fort de Kock from its entrance. My next destination was Sianok Canyon. A valley formed by natural fracture, has a wall which is perpendicular to Sianok River which flowing in the middle. But it was unfortunate that the rain fell so heavily. After getting off from an online motorcycle taxi, I felt like I was hopeless and just waited for rain to stop. Under a tree, I continued to observe valley in a side of Sianok Canyon.
15. Japanese Tunnel
The rain began to thin but still never let up. It caused my hope to enjoying the canyon for a longer time had to ending. I get a online motorcycle taxi with middle-aged women as the rider. Under light drizzle, I headed for Panorama Park.
Before exploring Panorama Park, I made time to explore the longest defensive hole in Asia. A Japanese tunnel made by order of Lieutenant General Moritake Tanabe, 25th Division of Japanese Army Commander. Very deep, long and amazing.
Finally the closing visit fell at Panorama Park, a large park with two entrances on edge of Panorama Steet. With a ticket for USD 1.1, I tried to enjoy this shady garden in my last seconds in Bukittinggi.
Leaving the park and returning to hotel, I prepared to go to a travel agent office to reach Padang city. On 13:00, I finally left Bukittinggi. Goodbye Bukittinggi.
So for you who intend to go to West Sumatra….Visit Bukittinggi and enjoy the cool air there.