Padang, the capital of the province of West Sumatra, is mostly used by tourists as an access point to the surfing sites of the Mentawai islands, the inland hills of Bukittinggi and the Kerinci Seblat National Park. That said the city is very pleasant with a nice promanade along the beach, distinctive Padang architecture and wonderfully friendly people. The city is also the home of the delicious Padang food at the town is stuffed with restaurants and street stalls.
Minangkabau International Airport (Bandara Internasional Minangkabau - BIM) (PDG), located 23 km north-west of Padang, is the main gateway to West Sumatra, with frequent flights to destinations throughout Sumatra and Java, as well as Singapore (Tiger Airways, Silk Air) and Kuala Lumpur (Air Asia). From the airport, the cheapest way to get into the city is by Damri (bus) for a fare of Rp15,000 per person. Its route passes by the major hotels in Padang. Other alternatives include taxis or pre-arranged rental cars.
Crazily-decorated Angkots run along the two main roads. Prices for a trip are approximately Rp2,000. You can get taxis from the Minangkabau International Airport to town for less than Rp50,000 if you speak the language.
Unfortunately if you are white, Minang people are well known to be good business people, and are quite skilled at making you pay a few extra thousand rupiah. That being said, don't start squabbling over 50 cents here or there.
There are several alternatives that you can choose for transportation in Padang, such as bus kota (for city bus transportation), angkutan kota (for transportation in the city), taxi, and car rental.
Honestly there isn't TOO much to do here in Padang, there are a few rivers and there are a few hotels to go to.
The nightlife is relatively dead because it's not a major city and it is a rather devout Muslim community. The bars that are open are at Hotel Bumi Minang. Pool is a popular sport to play and there are a few places dotted around. But don't expect alcohol.
If you can find your way down to ChinaTown and get some Kripik Padang, that could be a good idea too.
There are a lot of stores on the side of the road, much like anywhere in Indonesia. There are two malls, Minang Plaza, which is smaller and better for your more supermarket / basic clothing needs. There is a bit of Western Food at Plaza Andalas in the form of Papa Ron's Pizza.
Shopping at Andalas is a little bit better, but at this point in time, the malls are more downscale, mainly local products and local shops. No big retailers here. Brand names aren't really easy to find. You could find a few surfing items at Andalas plaza - but that's about it.
There is a Gramedia across the road from Andalas Plaza also.
Padang is famed throughout Indonesia for spicy Padang food (masakan Padang). Ordering at a Padang restaurant couldn't be easier: just sit down at a table, and watch the dishes pile up. Eat what you like, as you'll only pay for dishes you've actually consumed. Famous dishes include:
Padang dishes can use rather unusual ingredients though, including organs like hearts, lungs and even brains.
The only real bars you will find are at the major hotels. This is a very islamic community and therefore the influence of Alcohol is minimal. That being said, Beer is for sale at the major supermarkets, Suzuya etc etc. Bintang is about all you will find. If you are feeling game, the traditional market could be something you might want to visit as friends of mine were able to get their hands on more hard liquor, scotch, johnnie walker.
Hard liquor is available at several Warungs (small shops on the side of the road) and it is quite easy to obtain cheap Vodka, Whisky or Rum. The going rate for a 250ml bottle of spirits is Rp. 23,000.
The best Nightclubs in Padang are Hotel Bumi Minang, Hotel Panggeran Beach, Rocky Hotel and Queen. Be careful though as many of the female clientele are Prostitutes who will befriend you and ask to get a hotel room later.