Monday, August 18, 2008

Going Dutch in Padang

Still running after all these years

Cosy lobby of Batang Arau Hotel

Breakfast - huge bowl of exotic fruits, bread, jams & French butter!

Incredible load carrying capacity in the streets of Padang

Our "short" detour to see some prehistoric Menhirs turned out to be a long almost Trans-Sumatran drive of 80km through narrow rough roads across mountain ranges that became stone tracks and on some parts, even covered with muddy water. I had to muster all the skills I picked up in a 4WD course in Australia years ago and used them on our humble rental 1.3 fully loaded FWD MPV. We nearly ran out of fuel and were fortunate to pass some make shift kiosks.

The menhir site was situated in a remote village and was a tinge disappointing. Scattered stones, small and not very significant. But friendships are forged through challenging circumstances and I experienced that thanks to my very sporting travel companions who placed (or misplaced) their trust in me.

We had to rush back to Minang Intl Airport as Ira, Eddy and Abi had a 6pm flight and time was tighter by the minute. It didn't help that we encountered heavy Sumatra storms on the road but that could not prevent us from stopping for a Durian break 30km from the airport. Still, Ira et al made it, 50 mins before their flight!

Batang Arau Boutique Hotel, Padang, circa 1908 was a former Dutch bank now fully restored. This was our final night and we deserved a little pampering. What looked like an old godown building by the river was totally different inside. Its like being teleported into Europe in the early 1930s. Black and white tiles, high ceilings, period furniture, spiral stairway, spacious balconies and the attentive service by well trained staff truly impressed. The cool Pinacolada welcome drink certainly did its job.

The coastal city of Padang is typical Indonesian - hot, humid, noisy, crowded and traffic clogged. Any thoughts of unfurling the Carry Me for an exploratory ride was put to rest. An evening walk in search for dinner brought us into the heart of Chinatown. Two plates of fried Padang noodles with Es Durian for dessert did the trick to charm us a little towards being more charitable in a seemingly hostile environment.

Still, retiring into "Europe" for the evening and chatting over a cold, large bottle of Bintang just by the lazy river in candle light (yes, the power went out again) was exceptional. Going Dutch in Padang could not be more satisfying. In the infamous words of Arnold Schwartz, "I'll be back!"

The European Batang Arau Hotel along the river

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