West Sumatra Part One – Adventure Awaits in West Sumatra!

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Halo (hah-lo) friends! That's how you say hello from where I am from, in Indonesian. Welcome to my home in West Sumatra! It's on the continent of Asia. I am so excited that you have come to visit and can’t wait to share all the wonderful things we have here! There’s a lot to cover, so let's get started!  Ready for some adventure? I sure am! Here we go!!

Lake Maninjau, West Sumatra: Photo By Indradi Soemardjan http://www.indrani.net (Own work) [GFDL], [CC-BY-SA-3.0] or [CC BY 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

What's in a Name?

I want to tell you where my home got its beautiful name! Sumatra has many gold mines in the highlands, so the ancient name for our island is Swarna Dwipa, or Isle of Gold. Gold also happens to be one of my favorite colors, probably because it is the same color as my most favorite treat, HONEY!

Sumatra is the 6th largest island in the world, and is part of Indonesia, a group of many islands between Australia and China. It is divided into ten provinces, or smaller areas, and I live in the province called West Sumatra. West Sumatra is 16,221 square miles (42,013 square km) in size. Our capital city is called Padang, and is famous for the VERY spicy food that you can find there!

The Language

Most of the people here are from a culture called Minangkabau. Although they speak a language of their own,Indonesian is still a commonly spoken language, especially in formal situations.

Photo By Ypsilon from Finland - Own work, [CC0 1.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Our Flag

While the Indonesian flag is red and white, the flag for West Sumatra is black, red and yellow. What colors does your country’s flag have, and does it have any of the same colors as my home’s flag?

What Does Sumatra Look Like?

Everyone’s home looks different.  You may live in a big city with tall buildings or the country with rolling hills.  Others may live in the snowy mountains.

My home is in a tropical rainforest, full of green plants, wildlife and huge volcanoes! There are large areas of thick tropical forest on our island that are home to many interesting plants, including the rafflesia arnoldii (corpse flower), the world’s largest flower that can measure up to 3 feet wide and weigh up to 15 lbs. That’s the size of a small dog! I also call it the stinky flower, because it releases a strong odor that attracts insects to it. (Photo By Henrik Ishihara Globaljuggler (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] or[ GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons). 

Another of my favorite plants is the asplenium nidus, also called the bird's-nest fern. I just like how wrinkly and green the long leaves are. They can be up to 150 cm (59 inches) long and 20 cm (8 inches) wide. (Photo By Lijealso (Own work) [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons).

The island also includes several national parks and reserves that are home to many incredible creatures that live in our rainforests; from birds and butterflies to Sumatran tigers, elephants and rhinos to orangutans and the black-and-white Malay Tapir. And of course, fuzzy sun bears like me!

Sumatran Tiger Photo by Monka Betley [GFDL] or [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo of Young Orangutan By Michaël CATANZARITI (Personal picture) [GFDL] or [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

Sumatran Elephant By Midori (Own work) [GFDL] or [CC BY 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Sumatran Rhinoceros with Four Day Old Baby-Photo By International Rhino Foundation (Ratu and Andatu Day 4  Uploaded by FunkMonk) [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Photo By Ltshears (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0] or [GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Black-and-White Malayan Tapirs

Tapirs are mammals that look kind of like pigs with trunks, but the funny thing is they are actually related to rhinoceroses and horses! Their short trunks are an extension of their nose and upper lip and are prehensile - that means they can grip things easily, like a monkey's tail. Since they are herbivorous (they like eating plants) they use their trunks to grab branches to help pluck tasty fruit or clean off the leaves to eat them. The world's biggest tapir, the black-and-white Malayan Tapir, actually lives in the forests and swamps of my home of Sumatra, but you can also find them in Malaysia. These tapirs can grow up to 800 pounds (363 kilograms)! 

Sun Bear-Photo By Peter Halasz [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Wikimedia Commons 

Sun Bears

Sun bears have dark fur (usually black, dark brown or grey) that is short and shiny.  We also have a golden patch of fur on our chest that is usually shaped like the rising sun. That’s how we got our special name! 

Being a sun bear is a lot of fun!  We are great climbers, so one of my favorite things to do is climb trees with bee hives full of sweet honey. Yum, yum!  We don’t hibernate because we live in the tropics. Which means I get to play in the rainforest all year long!  Sun bears are the smallest of all bears and only grow between 60 and 150 pounds-that’s anywhere from a little bigger than you to the size of your mommy or daddy. Our legs are very strong, great for all that climbing! We also love to sleep in the trees and make canopy nests made by folding leafy branches over one another.  It’s a great spot for the perfect nap after all that climbing!  

To find food, we use our extra long, sharp claws to tear up trees and hives. Our tongues are longer than any other bear (from 20-25 cm long) and great for slurping up honey and insects.  Some of my other favorites foods to munch on are fruit, termites, little birds, rodents and lizards.  But, as you already know, I think the yummiest treat of all is HONEY! That explains why sun bears are also known as honey bears. 

Famous Landmarks

I have two favorite landmarks that I like to visit here in West Sumatra. The first is the clock tower Jam Gadang, and the other is the root bridge, Jembatan Akar.

Jam Gadang, or "Big Clock" in English, is a very famous landmark in Bukittinggi, West Sumatra. It was built by Dutch colonists in 1926 and originally had a rooster on the top! The rooster was changed to a jinja-like design during the Japanese occupation, but was changed again to a Mingankabaun style roof when Indonesia gained its independance. When you visit inside you can see the inside of the clock. (Jam Gadang Photo By Iwansw [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons)

Jembatan Akar is a bridge that has connected two villages in West Sumatra for 100 years. It's not just any bridge though, it is made almost entirely of Jawi-Jawi tree roots! That's right, the bridge is alive! When it rains the roots get slippery though, so the villagers worked together to add wood planks to walk on and steel cables to help support the roots.

Every time my Papa and I visit to cross the bridge I ask him to tell me the story of how it was made. In 1890 - that's over 120 years ago! - a teacher named Pakih Sohan was disappointed that students from a nearby village couldn't come to his classes. He planted the two Jawi-Jawi trees and started weaving their roots around a bridge built of bamboo. It only took a couple years for the roots to grow long enough to touch each other, but it took 26 years for the bridge to become strong enough for students to cross. Every year, the roots grow bigger and the bridge gets stronger and stronger. 

Photo Above By Meutia Chaerani / Indradi Soemardjan http://www.indrani.net (Own work) [GFDL], CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons

Kid's Art Activity: Share with Joy!

Now that you have learned a little about sun bears and my home, I would love to see what it looks like to you! Can you draw a picture of a sun bear living in Sumatra enjoying one of their favorite things to eat? Remember what sun bears look like, where they live and what foods they enjoy. Bring your picture to life using your unique creativity! You can use any type of art tools (crayons, colored pencils, paint, etc.) I can’t wait to see your works of art and share them with all my friends around the world!  

We can learn a lot about each other by looking at our artwork, that's why I enjoy seeing your pictures so much. Like this one from my friend Aliyah - she even drew me with honey on my nose! How did she know that I'm a bit of a messy eater?


(Parents:  Please send a picture of your child’s drawing to
 info@joysunbear.com. Please be sure to also include their first name, age and country of residence so we can credit their photo on our website. Our purpose of sharing their artwork is for creative expression and connecting with other children in the world.  With that in mind, we understand and respect your child’s privacy, so please specify if you do NOT want us to share their work on social media, or if you only want certain information included.)

Color & Explore My Home!

Now, it's my turn! I want to show you all of the amazing things I get to see in the forests of my home through my coloring page! I can't fit it all on here, but I've picked my favorite plants and animals to show you so you can get a feel of what it is like to live in West Sumatra with me! 

I'd love to see how you color my coloring page, so please ask your parent, guardian or teacher to email me your finished coloring pages to info@joysunbear.com so I can see your creative masterpiece and share it with my friends around the world!  

You can also ask them to message me on my website to let me know how you are enjoying my travel blogs, coloring pages or ask me a question and I will write you back with one of my special postcards! It's always fun getting messages from my friends so don't be shy and share what you think with me. Thanks! 🙂

Keep scrolling down for more wonderful pictures of my home and a beautiful video courtesy of the Ministry of Culture & Tourism, Republic of Indonesia.

Don't forget to visit me next week where we will learn about the different foods they eat in West Sumatra, along with a tasty recipe I know you will enjoy!

Also, if you want to read more about Indonesia, visit our friends Kids Travel Books for some great books!

Thanks for visiting! 

Selamat tinggal (S'LAH-maht ting-gaal), that means goodbye, friends! 

Your friend,

Joy Sun Bear

Video courtesy of Ministry of Tourism, Republic of Indonesia

Paddy Field in West Sumatra Photo By Sakurai Midori (Own work) [GFDL] or [CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Rumah Gadang Photo By Fendry mappariza (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sianok Canyon Photo By Michael J. Lowe [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons

 Photo By azralsagara [CC0 1.0 Universal (CCO 1.0)], via Pixabay

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Author: joysunbear

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