By Haifa Hasim on April 12, 2019


Padang – the first thing that probably crosses our minds when this place is mentioned is Indonesia’s most loved cuisine, Nasi Padang. However, for literature and folklore buffs like me, Padang has so much more to offer than delicious meals. Rich in culture and heritage of Minangkabau, Padang is a fictional realm ready to be explored since it is the hometown of many critically acclaimed novelists such as Hamka and Marah Rusli, including the origins of several famous centuries-old Indonesian folktales. Read on to find out the 5 places you can visit to bring your literature and folklore dreams to life when you visit Padang:

1.Buya Hamka Birthplace Museum

Haji Abdul Malik Karim Amrullah or Hamka is an esteemed personality in Indonesia, known for his literature and political works. Born in Padang, the land of Minangkabau became the background of his famous novels for instance Di Bawah Lindungan Kaabah (‘Under the Protection of the Kaabah’) and Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijck (The Sinking of Van Der Wick), both strongly reflecting on Minang culture and Padang’s significance as a centre of Islamic studies. Hamka fans can marvel at the writer’s childhood home-turned-museum filled with his prized possessions, old published novels and newspapers, including his graduation robe! The museum’s caretaker, Hamka’s own nephew, is a storyteller himself, exciting visitors with personal stories he shared with Hamka.



Batipuh, a picturesque land adorned with lush rice fields nestled between Padang Panjang and Bukittingi is where the leading characters in Hamka’s Tenggelamnya Kapal Van Der Wijck, Zainuddin and Hayati, met and fell in love. This quaint village rose to fame after the film adaptation of the novel was released in 2013. A scene in the film where Zainuddin studied Islam was shot at Surau Nagari Lubuk Bauk in Batipuh, a place of worship that even the late Hamka frequented in his early years. Batipuh is worth stopping by en route to Padang Panjang just to experience momentary quiet village life and scenic views.

3.Siti Nurbaya Bridge

5 Places to Experience Folklore and Literature in Padang, Indonesia

Siti Nurbaya Bridge at night. Photo ©


This bridge witnessed the first meeting of ill-fated lovers, Siti Nurbaya and Samsul Bahri in Marah Rusli’s novel, Siti Nurbaya. With its storyline that transcended time and culture, this novel is considered classic in Indonesian literature. Siti Nurbaya bridge leaps over Batang Arau River while overlooking Padang Old Town, offering a breathtaking view (especially at night!) of Dutch colonial structures and fleet of boats. Capture picture-perfect shots while taking a stroll along the bridge – when you feel tired, treat yourself to local delicacies sold by rows of hawkers on the bridge.

4.The Stone Body of Malin Kundang

5 Places to Experience Folklore and Literature in Padang, Indonesia

Malin Kundang stone at Air Manis Beach. Photo ©

Malin Kundang is a tale as old as time of a young man who was cursed into stone by his mother after refusing to acknowledge his poor mother in fear of his reputation as a wealthy man become tainted. If you’re never a believer of folktales, you might think twice when you set your eyes on a stone formed in a position of a man kneeling for forgiveness stranded at Air Manis Beach, believed to be Malin Kundang. The stone looks so real; travellers might believe the legend is true!

5.Lake Maninjau

5 Places to Experience Folklore and Literature in Padang, Indonesia

Lake Maninjau

A staple tourist attraction in Padang, Lake Maninjau is a scenic place that exudes serenity and beauty through its cool air and eye-pleasing landscape. Legend has it that Lake Maninjau was formed through the jealousy of 9 brothers and persecution of two lovers. The story tells that the eldest brother Kukuban accused his youngest sister Sani of inappropriate behaviour with a man named Giran due to jealousy, resulting in Sani and Giran being unfairly punished by having to jump into a volcanic crater. Saddened by the injustice, Giran prayed for the volcano to erupt and all of Kukuban’s nine brothers turn into fish, and they did! Over the ages, the place where the volcano erupted becomes the beautiful Lake Maninjau that is known today. Admire the lake from a high lookout point and revel in its alluring view of clouds hanging low over sky blue waters surrounded by lush hills.


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