I arrived at Lake Maninjau last week. The last time I was here was 5 years ago, and, sadly for the locals, tourist numbers are WAY down now. So, if you’re looking for somewhere quiet, beautiful, and not very touristy – come here!!
Over the past 5 years I think I’ve spent about 2 years travelling to different places in Indonesia and SE Asia – and I think Maninjau is my favorite place. It is beautiful, the locals are friendly and have a fascinating culture and the guesthouses are quiet and well-run. I think it’s a hidden gem on the SE Asian backpacker trail.
I flew into Padang from KL, on Air Asia which is just a 1 hour flight, and then got a taxi to Maninjau. A little tip if you are arriving at Padang airport on an international flight – this is one airport where it is worthwhile trying to get off the plane quickly because the immigration queue was long and took absolutely ages, and I already had a visa. (If you wanted a VOA you had to get one at a separate window and then join the end of the queue at immigration).
The taxi cost 300,000 from the airport and took about 2.5 hours. My taxi driver was named ‘David’ and I only mention him because he was a complete letch (tried to show me p@rn on his mobile!) so, all the ladies out there might like to avoid David.
There is now an ATM in Maninjau (previously I think the closest ATM was in Bukittingi, 1.5 hours away). The internet in Maninaju is a lot, lot better than it was 5 years ago. It was pretty much unusable then, but now it’s quite fast (almost the same as I have in Australia). And, it’s really cheap because the internet is mainly for the locals – it costs 3000 for an hour. There’s a café about 100metres south of the main Maninjau intersection and also a café in Bayua.
I have looked at a few different guesthouses so here’s a little review of them. I’m sorry, I only have photos of Bayua Beach Inn, not the others.
Lovely quiet place, quite a walk in (maybe 500 metres?) through the rice-fields but it’s a beautiful walk. There is a café there and I had breakfast with a few other tourists and the food seemed pretty good – just standard stuff. I didn’t stay the night but I looked at the rooms and they were large and clean, they cost 150,000 per night.
The travellers I spoke to said they had a good night’s sleep, except that at about 5am some animals, which they thought were monkeys, (but the people working at the café said were River Cats ??) jumped on their roof and they said it was quite loud, but only lasted 10 mins or so.
The only other drawback they said was there was no door to the bathroom, it was just around a corner in the room, so didn’t offer a lot of privacy.
The bungalows here don’t face onto the lake, so there are no direct views of the lake from the front of the bungalows. The beachfront I thought was OK – I didn’t think it had a such a great aspect on the lake, I liked Lillies and Bayua Beach’s location more.
I stayed here a night. The bungalows here (only 2 of them, I think) have a lovely location, they face straight out onto the water. The bungalows are simple, but at the front they have a little balcony with a desk and a day bed, which I really like. It was great to just spend the afternoon on the daybed watching the lake in front of me. The drawback to these bungalows is that they have no bathroom; you have to walk about 15 meters to get to the very simple bathrooms.
The food here is standard, but it was well made and nicely presented, I really liked the food I had. The rooms here are 50,000 a night. Lillie’s is very peaceful during the day. During the night I got a bit of motorbike noise, although it quieted down pretty early. Lillie’s is not too far from the mosques, so the sound of them woke me up – but I am an extremely light sleeper, so I don’t think it would be a problem for most people.
One thing that a couple of locals told me about Lillie’s was that sometimes things get stolen from the bungalows. (I guess because they face right onto the beach people can easily see what travellers have (i.e. a laptop) and when they go out.) So, good to be careful with your belongings at Lillies.
Bayua Beach Inn
For some reason this place is still not mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide, it’s my favorite place to stay. They have changed it a little over the past few years. The owner closed down the café attached to the inn and opened up a café 300 metres away along the main road (called ‘No Name Café’). There’s still a kitchen here though, so it’s possible to buy food and cook it here. There are also 2 makan Padang restaurants about 100 metres walk away.
There are three bungalows here, all simple but nice, with bathrooms. They cost around 70,000 a night (I’m not sure of the exact nightly price because I’m staying here a few months so I have a long-term price). The bungalows look out onto the lake, but there are trees in the way so you get more a view of the garden than the lake. This place is fairly quiet, although it gets a bit of traffic noise. It’s further from the mosque than Liilie’s so that noise didn’t bother me at all.
I love the location of the inn, it’s on a little rocky headland and you get lovely views of the lake. There’s a small beach, but it’s fairly rocky. The swimming here is good. There’s also a canoe so you can practice canoeing on a rudder-less canoe – very difficult! (Those fishermen make it look so easy!)
I have to give Bayua Beach Inn top marks for customer service. The guys that run it couldn’t be more helpful . A few days ago one of the other tourists staying here wanted to go to see a waterfall that is a 3 hour round drive from here. Aris, the manager, was going to take her but wasn’t sure the roads were OK, so in the morning he did the whole drive by himself to make sure, then took the tourist in the afternoon. This is just one example, but they really go out of their way here to make sure guests are happy.
There is a website for Bayua Beach Inn (just google it), but Bob (the owner of the inn) died a few years ago so his e-mail and phone number aren’t in use anymore. But, the phone number for Bambang is correct, although it’s probably best to sms him rather than call because his phone is often out of range.
If you come to Lake Maninjau by bus from Bukittingi you can get an Ojek to any of these gueshouses. The Ojek drivers know them, so they will drop you off at the start of the paths that lead to the guesthouses. Coming from Maninjau, Lillie’s is first, then Bayua Beach Inn, then Arlin.
I have been told by a couple of travellers that Bukitinggi is really, really noisy now, and that they got hardly any sleep. The mosques have always been a bit of a problem in Bukitinggi, but now there are lots of young men with loud motorbike who race each other in loops around the streets, (particularly the street where the Orchard and Kartini hotel are, as well as a few other hotels). The travellers I spoke to said, if they were lucky, the town would quieten down between 1.30am and 5am!