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Published: February 1st 2015
I'd like a bag of ducks and could you put it on the bill please.
"Excuse me mam. Excuse me sir. Would it be possible for me to speak with you please"?A question of that nature, right or wrong, immediately launches Penny and myself into defensive autopilot. There's an almost intrinsic assumption that the enquirer wants to procure something from us we don't want to hand over.
Ever the foreign the diplomat, I'll always suspiciously oblige; "Sure. What is it you want to talk about"?"
Excuse me sir. I am a student and just wish to practice my English".
That usually translates to one of two things;(A) He wants to practice his English via a sales pitch, or(B) He actually is a student wanting to practice his English. Waddya know, this fellow was from group B. In fact this most respectful and polite young man, along with his 14 likeminded cohorts from university, were on an excursion, hunting down westerners to sharpen their English skills. That's a tough gig on its own, finding a westerner in Bukittinggi.
In this energised hill town 2 hours out of Padang in Sumatra, foreign tourists are as common as a Donald Trump good hair day. The result is that travellers, occasionally overwhelmingly, are treated as visiting
dignitaries. They will be regularly approached to converse and requested to have their photo taken. Now having a photo with a total stranger simply because they are alien makes about as much sense as an upside down toilet. But what the heck, every nation has something that can't be explained.
It's a conundrum that this corner of Sumatra is so devoid of foreign tourists as it has so much to offer despite a heavy overlay of 3rd world scar tissue. For starters the temperature is a few degrees cooler than the clamorous tropics of the coast below. Then there's its location, hunkered down in the shadows of a pair of brooding mountains. The culinary landscape (ooh la la Masakam Padang) will convince you to start the diet tomorrow. The area is also alive with bustling markets (although with Indonesian markets, bustling is the status quo) as long as you aren't overly queasy. And following the lead of our student friends, the local folks will tug at your heartstrings with their welcoming smiles.
To add extra punch to the resume, Bukittinggi is surrounded by bite-sized chunks of attractions that effortlessly keep the ADHD at arms length. Royal palaces, hanging
lakes, gorges, waterfalls, Japanese tunnels and sweeping rice paddies. It's a solid package that is the weekend sanctuary of choice for fellow Sumatrans. On the contrary, it is relatively off the radar for foreigners despite the tens of thousands that make their way to Padang each year.
The normal script for these visitors, after flying into Padang, is to hightail out of a city devoid of redeeming features. (Is that a discrete enough way to suggest that Padang fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down). They transit and jump a connection in the opposite direction to Bukittinggi. These are surfers and they point their noses west to one of surfing's Promised Lands, The Mentawaii and Telo Islands.
I've done the same myself a few times but this year I bit the bullet and bucked the trend. We still managed to tailspin in a cloud of dust out of Padang but on this occasion the compass was pointed inland. T'was a great decision.These few days may not have been surfing but it was a stellar prelim. A prelim that marks the end of the beginning of this trip. Now it's time to
join the peleton heading out to sea. Let's go surfing.
More images at www.colvinyeates.zenfolio.com
Tot: 3.076s; Tpl: 0.051s; cc: 42; qc: 150; dbt: 0.1034s; 2; m:saturn w:www (126.96.36.199); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.8mb