Padang is the capital of West Sumatra, and the gateway to the Minang highlands. It is a merchant town and has the largest port of the coast of West Sumatra, which makes it attractive for ships trading in products like cinnamon, rubber, coffee, tea, coal and cement. The old colonial waterfront of Padang has some old warehouses with spices like cinnamon, which will be shipped to Jakarta and Singapore.
The Batang Arau River which runs through the city is nice to see, with all the small boats and ferries.
The older parts of Padang are great for walking around, like Kampung Cina (China town). Here you can find some Chinese herbalists but also coffee shops where you can get a nice cool drink.
If you're looking for a more cultural trip, you should check out the Provincial Museum in downtown Padang. This museum houses prehistoric artifacts, stamps, modern art, imported ceramics and things about the Minang and Mentawai culture.
The most popular beach of Padang is Air Manis. You can get there with a minibus, or by walking which will take you about an hour. The legend of Air Manis says that a man called Malin Kundang wanted to become a rich merchant, and thus went out to sea. His mother was really excited when he finally returned home, so she dressed in the best clothes she had, made him a delicious meal and went to his ship to welcome him. But Malin Kudang was ashamed, so he pretended that he didn't know her. Of course, she was really sad, so she cursed him when he went out to sea again. Just as he left, he got into a big storm, thunder and lightning broke out, and his ship sank. Malin Kundang and everyone else who was aboard drowned and turned to stone. The coral at the beach is, according to the legend, their remains.
Another beach is at a small village 25 kilometers south of Padang, called Bungus. This beach is sheltered in a bay and great for swimming. From this beach, it will take you an hour by outrigger to visit the coral islands.
In Padang, you can stay in budget but also in luxury hotels.
The Buminang Hotel is a four star hotel, with some karaoke rooms.
The Inna Muara Hotel is a mid range hotel, but has rooms with air conditioning.
You can also stay at Sikuai Island, which is a beautiful private island offshore. It has a tropical rainforest and coral reefs. Sikuai Island Resort has a restaurant, meeting room, swimming pool, sunset plaza viewpoint and jogging track surrounding the island. When you arrive at Minangkabau International Airport, it is best to take a taxi and ask your driver to go to 'Dermaga Wisata Bahari' in 'Pelabuhan Muara'. From Dermaga Wisata Bahari, you can take a boat to Sikuai Island, which will take you about an hour. For more information, visit www.newsikuai-island.com.
Another beautiful private island to stay on is Cubadak. This island is completely surrounded by coral reef, perfect for diving. On Cubadak, there is one resort called Paradiso Village where you can stay in cottages built on stilts, like in the local architecture. There is also a restaurant, terrace and bar. You can get to Paradiso Village by car from Minangkabau International Airport, and then by boat. Paradiso Village can organize your transfer from Minangkabau International Airport with their own cars and boats for free, if you stay 3 nights or more at Paradiso Village. For more information, visit http://www.cubadak-paradisovillage.com/.
Padang is a great place to eat if you like a little spice. It is famous for its characteristic cuisine, which includes food like spicy coconut curry rendang and soto padang. In Padang, food is served in a unique way. Waiters will carry a lot of plates with all kinds of delicious food on both arms. These plates will be spread out on your table. You then pick what you want to eat, and you will only be charged for those plates you have tasted.
You can find a lot of great souvenirs in Padang, like local handicrafts. Those include ironwood carvings, silverwork, woven cloths and Chinese ceramics. You can find these all over the city, but the best place to look for souvenirs is Jalan Imam Bonjol.
In Padang, most of the attractions are within walking distance, but you can always use a metered taxi, bus or mini bus if you want to. If you're not in a hurry, you can also take a bendi, which is a horse drawn cart.
You can get to Padang by its new airport, the Bandara Internasional Minangkabau, which is 20 kilometres north of the centre of Padang. Flights between Padang and Jakarta, Medan and Palembang go daily. You can fly with airlines like Garuday, Air Asia and Lion Air.
If you are traveling by bus, the bus terminal in Padang is located 12 kilometers from town.