Exploring West Sumatra, the Tour de Singkarak way
Syofiardi Bachyul Jb
The Jakarta Post
The international cycling race Tour de Singkarak may be over but it does not mean people cannot follow their trail past West Sumatra's best sites.
The selected routes showcase not only the province's renowned natural scenery but also its traditional architecture ' from the start to the finish lines ' which took the participants eight days to cover.
The event, which runs every June, also navigates the regions towns and many spectators choose to witness the participants passing the start or finish line at these unique townships.
The most picturesque locations 'popular with spectators and professional photographers alike ' are Lake Singkarak, Lake Diatas, the famous Kelok 44 above Lake Maninjau or Bukittingi's Jam Gadang (Clock Tower).
If you want to follow the race's routes, a guide can be downloaded at the tour's official website, tourdesingkarak.com. But if you want to go it alone, it is best to stay in Padang, Bukittinggi and Sawahlunto as these cities offer easy access to nearby towns.
When the tour first started in 2009, it covered 462 kilometers (km) but extended each year, 854 km last year and 1,058.5 km this year ' which was divided into seven stages, passing through 17 out of 19 regencies and cities in the province.
According to the guide, this year's tour started at Bukittingi city's tourist icon, the clock tower.
Near to the tower, just walking distance, visitors can easily reach other popular objects like the Japanese tunnel, the Sianok Canyon, Fort de Kock, the zoo, museums and the birthplace of Bung Hatta, one of the country's founding fathers.
From there, visitors can also visit the newly built Koto Gadang Great Wall, a suspended bridge designed after China's Great Wall that connects Bukittingi city with Koto Gadang through the Sianok Canyon.
Koto Gadang is the birthplace many famous Indonesians, from Emil Salim, Agussalim, Rohana Kudus and Sutan Sjahrir. It is peppered with wooden Dutch houses and is also home to silversmiths renowned for their jewelry.
From the clock tower, you can also go through Janjang 40, which literally means 40 flights of stairs that connect Pasar Atas and Pasar Bawah market, where you can easily taste delicious local food like the signature Nasi Kapau from Kapau region in Agam regency. One of the famous stalls is Nasi Kapau Ni Lis.
The finish line for the race's first stage was in Equator, Bonjol in Pasaman regency, some 62 km from Bukittinggi. The spot is one of two locations in the country on the equator and in this instance, is marked by the Equator Tower.
The area also has Tuanku Imam Bonjol Museum, which commemorates the hero's fight against the Dutch during the renowned Padri War (1821-1838).
At Pasaman, the route reached to the regency capital Lubuk Sikaping, which, thanks to the Sumatra highway leading to Medan, people can find two temples from the Hindu-Buddha period.
Stage 2 started from Payakumbuh, heading to Lake Singkarak dock, where during the race, participants witnessed the flying duck race, a weekly event.
Payakumbuh city is surrounded by Limapuluh Kota regency, home to several tourist objects, including the Harau Valley. The valley boasts beautiful scenery, with green paddy field surrounded by stone hills and three waterfalls. Hotels and guides are also available for adventurous visitors wanting to explore the area.
If you are into history, you can visit the birthplace of Tan Malaka, which is located in Pandan Gadang, only 15 km from Payakumbuh.
The end of this stage is at Lake Singkarak, the icon of the tour. There are several beautiful spots along the lake, which is the home of bilih fish, endemic to the lake.
Stage 3 started from Padangpanjang city, the place to enjoy the view to three mountains ' Mount Singgalang, Mount Marapi and Mount Tandikat.
From Padangpanjang, the route headed to Lembah Anai Waterfall, located on Padang-Bukittingi roadside. From there, the cyclists continued to Pariaman city, passing near Lake Maninjau through Kelok 44 road until they reached the finish line at Basa Pagaruyung Palace.
A favorite spot in Lake Maninjau is Puncak Lawang, which is a good place for paragliding.
The Pagaruyung Palace in Batusangkar is one of the province's iconic sites. Built on the former site of the Pagaruyung kingdom, the palace was once razed by fire. Its architecture showcases the kingdom's unique style.
The tour's Stage 4 goes from Sijunjung to Pulau Punjung in Dharmasraya regency. The route is home to popular historical sites, such as temples from the Malay kingdom of Dharmasraya but you have to cross over Batahari River with a simple ferry to reach them. The Bhairawa Statue, houses at the National Museum in Jakarta, is from here.
Stage 5 from Sawahlunto city, through tea plantations, Lake Diatas and Mount Talang offers the opportunity to see the Kayu Jao Mosque, one of the oldest mosques in West Sumatra believed to be constructed in 1599.
Before entering Solok Selatan regency, Mount Kerinci can be viewed from afar and many rumah gadang traditional houses pepper the area ' earning it the nickname Nagari Seribu Rumah Gadang (Land of the thousands of Rumah Gadang).
Sawahlunto itself is home of many tourist sites, from the Mbah Soero tunnel from the Dutch period, the train museum, the Kandi Animal Reserve, which is also home of a butterfly park.
Stage 6 of the tour promoted the province's coastal region, starting out from Pariaman city through Padang and then Painan in Pesisir Selatan regency.
It is best to visit Gandoriah Beach in Pariaman city during Tabuik cultural festival, which this year is slated for mid November. The city is also the place where Syekh Burhanuddin, a propagator of Islam in the province, is buried.
The finish line for this stage was Carocok Beach, where visitors can take a brief boat trip to Cingkuak Island, which offers a peaceful bay, the remains of a Portuguese fort and good snorkeling waters.
The regency also boasts a famous bridge called Jembatan Akar, which was formed from the roots of two trees located on different side of the river; and Puncak Langkisau, a perfect spot to view Painan Beach, which was the site of an international paragliding competition last April.
Tour de Singkarak's Stage 7 started from Padangpariaman and finished at Padang city, the province's capital renowned for Air Manis Beach that is home to the stone from the famous legend of Malin Kundang. The city also has the Adityawarman Museum, Padang Beach and is the best place to find the province's signature food and snacks.
'¢Not all towns ' of the 17 cities/regencies ' have star-rated hotels. So it is best to stay the night at: Padang, Bukittingi and Sawahlunto.
'¢If you want to go to Bukittingi, from the airport in Padang, take a taxi ' around Rp 250,000 (US$24.25) for a single trip. Or the Tranex airport bus to Ulakkarang (Padang) ' Rp 18,000 ' and from there, switch to another Tranex bus to Bukittingi ' Rp 16,000.
'¢Most tourist spots are walking distance but if you plan to go outside the city, rent a car, which costs Rp 500,000 a day, including driver and fuel.
' Photos by Syofiardi Bachyul Jb
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