26th November, 2014
I left Padang at 6am in the morning. Partly because I wanted to make the most of the day ahead but also because the guest house I stayed in was infested with bedbugs and I was keen to get out of there.
The bus journey to Bukittinggi was about two hours long and there were some great views of the Anai Valley on the way. I reached Hello Guest House at around 9am, where I met the owner, Ling.
“Where have you come from?” she asked, as I was checking in.
“Padang,” I replied
“And where did you stay in Padang?”
“Errr…” I murmured, trying to remember.
“Brigitte’s?” she guessed.
I nodded. I think most solo backpackers passing through Padang end up staying at Brigitte’s House.
“Did you find any bedbug?” she asked, knowingly.
“Don’t worry, you can still stay here,” she reassured me. “But I am going to have to ask you to keep your backpack on the roof…”
Which was both understandable and responsible. Throughout my stay in Bukittinggi, Ling and her parents were very helpful, friendly, and an invaluable source of information on nearby attractions and how to get to them. I cannot recommend Hello Guest House enough: they gave me a comfortable bed in a dorm room, with hot water and free wifi, and it was all at a very reasonable price.
And there were definitely no bedbugs.
I started out my first day there by visiting Batang Palupuh Nature Reserve, where rafflesia arnoldii flowers were in bloom. I arrived there a couple of days too late though, so the giant, parasitic flowers had decayed to a blackish colour rather than their famous majestic red, but it was still interesting to see.
My guide, Jonny, took me on a ramble through the jungle and told me much about the local flora along the way. It was pouring with rain and I was attacked by my second and third kinds of bloodsuckers that day: leeches and mosquitos.
Afterwards he took me to his home, where I drank local luwak coffee while I dried off. His mother explained to me how the coffee beans are gathered from the stools of wild civet cats and that its rich taste and claimed health benefits are due to the fermentation process happening in the digestive system with all the other fruits the creatures eat.
I would like to make a note here that if anyone reading this is interested in buying this special kind of coffee; you need to be careful where you source it from these days. Some companies have, rather predictably, begun creating a lesser version where the civet cats are kept in cages. Not only is this cruel, but it also an inferior product because the civets are kept under stressful conditions, not fed a very wide variety of other fruits, and one of the reasons the real thing is so nice is that the creatures roaming around in the wild are fussy and only pick out the finest beans.
That evening I met Martijn (from Holland) and Dominique (from Quebec). They were both – like myself – interested in visiting Lake Maninjou the next day, so we decided to venture out together the next morning for a motorcycle tour.
For Part 2 of my time in Bukittinggi, click here.