The great thing about West Sumatra is that it’s wildly beautiful and stuffed to the rafters with West Sumatrans, as opposed to tourists from everywhere else. Don’t come if you need constant high-tech entertainment. The hilly town of Bukit Tinggi has some exciting wartime Japanese-built tunnels, a market, a spectacular canyon and a zoo, but the nightlife is more roadside shacks selling snacks and the odd mellow bar than deafening nightclub. You come to Lake Maninjau to sit there and look at its glassy (and sulphurous) beauty—don’t expect thrilling water sports, though you can parasail in the area. At Singkarak lake you’re going to nibble on ikan bilis on the shore, not go jet-skiing. West Sumatra is where you come for a mellow cultural experience with the matrilineal Minangkabau people in their distinctive houses (though there is a super-snazzy disco called the Tee Box in Padang town). And to eat the Padang food famous through all of Indonesia. If you can hack that, don’t miss it.

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