Welcome to a cool, lush landscape where fertility comes from volcanic destruction. Off in the distance are the blue circumcised mountains – the Merapi, Singgalang and the more distant Sago – that periodically belch out the earth’s interior fury. A crown of puffy white clouds hides their naked tips, and at their feet unfold terraced rice fields made so fertile by the once toxic emissions that seasons don’t matter. Sitting at 930m above sea level, Bukittinggi is a busy market town halfway between the heavens and the rice paddies, with spectacular views of both. The town’s alternate name, Tri Arga, refers to the three majestic mountains that dictate the region’s fortunes.
Bukittinggi was once a well-carved niche in the Southeast Asia trail but now only sees a trickle of travellers headed for hikes to the nearby volcanoes, rafflesia sanctuary or for culture tours into the Minangkabau heartland.
During the Padri Wars (1821–37), a civil war between the local chiefs and Islamic reformists, Bukittinggi was a Dutch stronghold (the Dutch sided with the chiefs in this conflict). After independence it was also here that Sumatran rebels declared an independent government in 1958 – one of a long list of separatist attempts in the archipelago.
Last updated: Mar 24, 2009