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    Tropical Storm Tour: Sumatra Part 16

    Wednesday, August 19, 2015
    Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia

    A horse-drawn carriage in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A horse-drawn carriage in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    A nicely weathered wall in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    A nicely weathered wall in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    I had to rest today, because it’s traditional for me to do so after a long day of grueling travel. In the late afternoon, I set out on a photo mission around central Bukittinggi. In sharp contrast to Medan, this town is actually walkable, mainly because the sidewalks are free of obstructions like scads of motorcycles and goods all stacked up in front of shops. What with its clock tower on top of the hill, a plethora of open public spaces and even horse-drawn carriages, Bukitinggi is as close to quaint as any Sumatran town could ever be.

    Welcome to Superland in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Welcome to Superland in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Eat my rust in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Eat my rust in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Markets by the Clocktower in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Markets by the Clocktower in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    By the time I made it outside, the sun was getting a bit lower in the sky, which made for some attractive lighting. But, when I made it up to the clocktower, black clouds had taken over and started spackling rain downward. So, I made my way underneath the tarp covers of the nearby market stalls, which were bursting with vendors selling everything from t-shirts and souvenirs to a wide variety of homemade potato chips. I bought a bag of barbeque potato chips that were a little more sweet than spicy. It seems like potato chips down in this area of the world tend to be harder than those in the west.

    Shops by the Clocktower in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    Shops by the Clocktower in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Clocktower in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Clocktower in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Soon, the sky let loose with a torrential downpour that caused everyone to seek shelter for a good half hour. Finally, as the rain lightened up into a sprinkle, I sauntered around to capture a few more photos while the lighting was still good, shielding my camera with a plastic bag as I went along. Back at the Hello Guesthouse, I hung out in the front lobby and had a nice long chat with the owner, Ling, a really nice thirty-something Chinese lady who grew up here in Bukitinggi. We talked about each others’ lives and traveling throughout Southeast Asia, which she has done quite a bit of, too.

    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Joining us later was a really tall, skinny man from Tokyo, Japan who has been riding a bicycle around the world for four years and still has another year to go. He has never returned home during that time, and usually sleeps in a local temple, mosque or gas station or camps in his tent–only occasionally paying to stay at a guesthouse to get some better rest. Amazingly, he said he’d never been mugged or attacked by criminals or even hassled by the police. Hats off to the around-the-world bicycle man. I really do admire people who undertake such arduous yet rewarding long journeys.

    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Around 8:30 pm, I headed over to Medan Bapaneh, a small theater near the clocktower in the middle of town to see a performance of traditional Minangkabau dance and music. Featuring tiny horizontal gongs, drums and a wooden flute tethered by an electric bass guitar, the hard beats boasted a heavy African influence mixed with rock as sprightly melodies were flitted about over the top. Just like at the dinner shows in Siem Reap, Cambodia, whenever the dancers’ arms collided or they made some other minor mistake, they tried to maintain a poker face but started laughing, which bestowed the proceedings with a real high school talent show feel. In a similar vein, the flute player was repeatedly plagued by feedback from his amp, which also struck me as kind if amateurish. But, overall, at least it looked like the ensemble was having fun.

    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.
    The Sakato Group performs at Medan Bapaneh in Bukittinggi, Sumatra, Indonesia.

    Some highlights included the Tari Pasambahan, a welcome dance in which the dancers gave each audience member a gift in the form of a leaf; and the Silek, which featured a knife-wielding martial arts battle between two dancers. During one musical interlude, audience members were invited on stage to play along with the ensemble on small, hand-held percussion instruments and parade around the place, which looked really fun. The best part of the whole show was the closer, Tari Piriang, in which three of the dancers jumped up and down on broken shards of glass and danced while performing tricks with small plates. For the grand finale, they smashed the plates to smithereens! So, if you have a free night in Bukitinggi, it definitely wouldn’t hurt to check out a performance of traditional Minangkabau music at Medan Bapaneh.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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