The history of West Sumatra is related to the history of the Minangkabau people. Archaeological evidence indicates that the area surrounding the Limapuluh Koto regency forms the first area inhabited by the Minangkabau. Limapuluh Koto regency covers a number of large rivers which meet at the eastern part of the Sumatran coastline and provided sailing transportation until the end of the last century. The Minangkabau ancestors were believed to have arrived via this route. They sailed from Asia (Indo-China) via the South China Sea, crossing the Malacca Strait and later settled along the Kampar, Siak and Indragiri (or Kuantan) rivers. Some lived and developed their culture and traits around the Limapuluh Koto regency.
Natural attractions of the mainland include the tropical forests, mountains, volcanos, lakes, valleys, rivers & waterfalls in the highlands, the fauna and flora, and the beaches around Padang. Many areas are protected as part of national parks and reserves. The city of Bukittinggi is a popular central location in the highlands from which to explore the culture and history of the Minangkabau people, including architecture, crafts, dances, music and food. There are a number of museums and cultural centers. Pariaman has one of the famous festivals, Tabuik. The Mentawai Islands are a popular destination for surfers and those looking to experience the culture and more primitive lifestyle of the Mentawai people. For developing West Sumatra tourism, in 2006 the government opened tourist train railway service run between Padang – Padang Panjang – Sawahlunto. The Tour de Singkarak international cycling race had boosted the number of the foreign tourists to West Sumatra. The majority of the foreign tourists are Malaysians and Australian.
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