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West Sumatra is famed for its exquisite handicrafts producing rich gold and silver “songket” cloths on handwoven red, sky blue, royal yellow or deep green cloths, elegant embroidered pieces used at elaborate traditional weddings, fine embroidered “peranakan” wedding costumes, accessories and sandals, filigree work, woodcarving, embroidered muslim wear and prayer veils -or “mukenah”,- and a whole lot more.
West Sumatra is also famous for its “rendang”, complete “nasi Padang”, hot dried beef “balado” and all kinds of tidbits and crackers to munch on or to take home to friends, kids and grand children.
So a visit to the beautiful West Sumatra highlands will not be complete without taking time to look around and shop at the Pasar Aur and Pasar Atas at Bukittinggi.
Pasar Aur Kuning
This is Bukittinggi’s answer to Jakarta’s Tanah Abang wholesale market. Located on the Jalan M. Yamin, somewhat away from the Jam Gadang town center of Bukittinggi, the Pasar Aur Kuning market – or more popularly known as just Pasar Aur - is a magnet for serious shoppers from all parts of Sumatra and Java, as well as for tourists from Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
With near to 1,500 shops covering an area of 2.3 hectares, Pasar Aur Kuning sells mostly textiles and textile products. Since West Sumatra is predominantly Muslim, here one can find a large variety of Muslim wear in choice colours, fashion and material, from the plain to the elaborately embroidered. This market also sells bedsheets, curtains, casual wear to carpets. Regular visitors vouch that prices here can be bargained down to as much as half of those elsewhere, of course depending on your bargaining skills. A smattering of the local Minang lingo will also help bring prices down.
Pasar Atas or the Upper Market is where you can find the most mouth watering Padang food. But beware, Padang food is known to be extremely chilli hot, as you can see from the red sauce dripping from almost all dishes.
But you must try what CNN Go calls the world’s most favorite dish, - the Beef Rendang. The cubed beef has been marinated and cooked in many kinds of ingredients, resulting in the soft unforgettable meat dish which tastes heavenly eaten with steaming hot rice. Or try the Rendang balado, which is the dried beef version.
And everywhere in this market you can buy hot chilli by the bagfull to buy and bring home.
Another hot favorite dessert is the Pisang kapik, or the barbequed banana, that comes in sweet, sour or salty tastes added with ground coconut meat and brown sugar.
Other tidbits to take home or munch on the road are the many kinds of crackers made of casssava, potatoes or sweet potatoes, covered in cheese or chilli sauce.
Across Bukittinggi on the other side of the Canyon is Kota Gadang , a town famous for its fine silver filigree works crafted into miniature Minang houses, brooches and other accessories.
If you are looking for fine embroidery including gold embroidery, Kota Gadang is the place to go. Those interested may even visit homes where women are hard at work finishing their masterpieces.
Many Peranakan Chinese from Singapore and Malaysia will also look for traditional wedding accessories here at Kota Gadang, where are still produced some of the best Chinese embroidery as done in the days of the Chinese emperors