The seaside city of Padang is an important transport hub for the rest of Sumatra. Famous for its spicy local cuisine, Makanan Padang (Padang food), the city’s climate is equally extreme: hot and humid with the highest rainfall in Indonesia at 4508mm a year. Most travellers use the city as little more than a transit point for Bukittinggi or the nearby Mentawai Islands, especially after the devastating 2009 earthquake which killed 1300 people and left an estimated one million temporarily homeless. Some of the damage was irreversible: more than eighty percent of the exhibits at the Adityawarman Museum were destroyed. Striking evidence of the earthquake remains in spots like Pasar Raya, the central market, a massive hulk of collapsed concrete around which vendors have set up hundreds of makeshift shops. However, Padang has largely rebuilt itself, and the city now hums with life as much as ever. All in all, its famous restaurants, leafy boulevards, café-lined coast and slew of attractive nearby beaches and idyllic islands, like Sikuai to the south, make Padang worthy of a stopover.
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It makes little sense to come to the homeland of Padang food without visiting at least one of the city’s restaurants. There’s no menu: you simply tell staff you want to eat and up to a dozen small plates are placed in front of you. Generally, the redder the sauce, the more explosive it is. At the southern end of Jl Pondok, due south of the market area towards the river, you’ll find a small night market of sate stalls. Another night market operates on Jl Imam Bonjol, a few hundred metres south of the junction with Jl Moh Yamin. More convenient for the hotels are the small restaurants on Jl Moh Yamin, near the junction with Jl Pemuda, which serve cheap and filling martabaks and sweet roti canai. Be aware that along Jl Pemuda things can get somewhat seedy at night.