April to June is one of the best, if not the very best, times to explore Indonesia.
When the sky is clear, the peak season is early and, as such, is the perfect time to explore the less-beaten path.
Train journeys are nothing new in the world of traveling, but 2014 could see the revival of this popular getaway.
While Russia has its Trans Siberia line, Indonesia also has expanses of scenic railway to explore, calledkereta wisata. And it is not only available in Java; there are also options in West Sumatra.
The Danau Singkarak train, for example, runs every Sunday from Padang Panjang, Batu Tebal, Solok, Muaro Kalaban and ending in Sawah Lunto. The train departs from Padang Panjang in the morning at 8:30 a.m. and departs from Sawah Lunto for the return trip at 2:30 p.m.
The tickets are quite affordable at Rp 10,000 (less than US$1) to Rp 25,000 for economy class and Rp 20,000 to Rp 50,000 for air-conditioned executive class.
Already widely known as a tourist magnet, Padang Panjang is surrounded by three spectacular mountains: Merapi, Singgalang and Tandikek, and offers the breathtaking hilly landscape of Bukit Barisan.
Another train, the Dang Tuanku, runs from Padang, Tabing, Lubuk Alung and ends in Pariaman. It operates on Saturdays, Sundays and during national holidays.
With tickets ranging from Rp 20,000 for economy class and Rp 30,000 for executive class, it departs Padang at 8:47 a.m. and heads back from Pariaman at 13:50 p.m.
When you arrive in Pariaman, take a walk from the train station to Gandoriah Beach, which is located right in front of the terminal.
Riding a train from Padang to Pariaman also allows tourists to see beautiful coastal scenery with the Indian Ocean stretching out in the distance.
How to get there
There are daily flights available from Jakarta to Padang in West Sumatra. Major airlines such as Garuda Indonesia, Citilink, Lion Air and Sriwijaya Airlines serve this route daily.
To reach Padang Panjang from Padang city, you can opt for a 90-minute ride on a public bus or around a 60-minute drive by rental car. While in Padang Panjang, you can get around town using a mikrolet (public minivan) or bendi (horse-drawn wagon).
Where to stay
As West Sumatra's capital city, Padang offers various accommodation options. The Diniya Suasso Design Hotel & Restaurant is a stylish mid-budget establishment with prices starting from $34. For a more luxurious stay, head to the Grand Inna Muara Padang Hotel or the Rumah Nenek Hotel & Restaurant, whose prices start from $40, or the four-star Mercure Padang Hotel with room rates ranging from $48. (Jakarta Post)