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Published: June 16th 2013
16km x 8km volcanic crater lake in Western Sumatra.
It wasn't exactly in my original plans but I decided to do it anyway. After the 2h bus ride from Padang northwards to the highland of Bukittingi, I decided to continue 2h westwards to Danau Minanjau, a 16x8 km volcanic crater lake.
LP mentioned that the ride there would be memorable, and that was certainly true! The steep final descent to the lake area featured 44 (yes, forty-four) twisting hairpins ala Initial D or Monaco GP, complete with signboards counting you down through each and every one of them! And as you make your winding way down, the calm sky-blue lake and volcanic crater walls beckon in the distance. Certainly not your everyday welcome! It's a bit of a mystery to me why this unforgettable entrance to a spectacular volcanic crater lake isn't more well-known among the banana pancake trailblazers.
I guess maybe it's because, being (only) 70km or so in circumference, Danau Minanjau is often in the shadow of its much larger cousin Toba further up in the north. But it has its fans too, and for good reason. Quaint villages sprinkle the perimeter, complete with the ubiquitous Southeast Asian rice paddies, and the friendly, curious (and often
Yes, just pick from whatever they place in front of you, and hope that they don't overcharge you at the end of the meal!
giggly) villagers that greet the few foreigners who arrive these days.
Over breakfast at a local coffee shop, I chatted with a local who once worked in a shipyard in Singapore. He spoke enough English to be able to relate that Maninjau used to be quite a popular tourist destination, with its streets booming with restaurants, cafes, shops and guesthouses. However, the tourist arrivals seemed to dry up after the September 11 attacks in 2001, and since then, tourism has gradually slowed to a crawl here, to the detriment of the locals, who've had to seek new, alternative sources of revenue, such as fish-breeding. Indeed during my two days of walking around, the number of other foreigners I saw, I could count on one hand. The local then lamented, not without irony, that the tourists all seem to be flocking to Bali instead now (I can attest too), thinking its a safer destination, when in fact it has suffered two bomb attacks since September 11!
I couldn't help but contrast this with some of the other places I'd been to in the past year, such as Vietnam, where tourism seemed to be increasing exponentially. I guess, like fashion
and the stock market, even particular tourist destinations have their ups and downs, and boom and bust periods, even though most places of natural beauty don't really change much in a lifetime, and certainly not a million-year old volcanic crater lake. But I guess such is the fickle nature of human beings, and the vicissitudes of life...
Stayed at Mutiara Guesthouse.
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