Exit, Padang Indonesia
Thank you Padang, Indonesia, for making it easy on us to go home, (working vacation, folks). Padang was badly hit by earthquakes in 2007 and 2009, so I’m not judging the decrepit buildings or the crumbling infrastructure, but the omnipresent pollution got to me again: The choked black river
the stinking garbage dumps
in a city of so much potential
And that sort of sums it up for all parts of Indonesia that we saw- a lot of abused potential.
For all our frustration with Indonesia and the reality of the times, we experienced beauty too, magical moments. and tantalizing mysteries….
The Bukit Tinggi wet market was one such discovery. We went twice before M took his camera and I started talking with whoever was willing. We were amazed by how well many of the vendors spoke English, (shaming our dismal five word Bahasa Indonesia vocabulary….)
The market is a warren of warehouses, connected by low, plastic covered walkways
that divide an array of neat subsections. We explored the bountiful fruit and veggie section
the dreaded dried fish section
and the scarf biased clothing section
Later we were beckoned from afar into a building we’d missed on our first visits- the section dedicated to live animals: Some obviously earmarked for consumption
others probably sold as pets. But we were more fascinated by the men here- who in their turn were completely transfixed by the birds on display in bamboo cages
The smaller birds were for sale, but the large, majestic ones, in hanging cane cages, were “for looking” only. We watched men watching the birds motionlessly, for minutes at a time. Once in a while someone would startle or taunt a bird to make it flutter or sing, eliciting a collective growl of admiration- a perplexing combination of cruelty and appreciation
We took a Travel (excellent value for money shared taxi) from mountainous Bukit Tinggi to coastal Padang. Padang is a good example for the positive potential / rueful reality Indonesia we spent four months getting to know. Earthquake damage is still very evident, and we don’t know how much (little) support the city got from central government for clean-up and repairs. We only know what we saw- a wounded city in a pretty location, smothered in dirt; eager, friendly people struggling to make a living from what has become a trickle of tourists, most headed straight out to the Mentawai islands for surfing.
We left Indonesia at a time when Sumatran forest fires shrouded parts of the island, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in toxic smoke. We’ll defend the unforgettable moments in Indonesia against the frustrating memory of being unwilling and helpless witnesses to the careless greed that is eating away at the country’s resources and integrity.