Jembatan Akar, a Living Bridge in West Sumatra
‘Jembatan Akar’ literally means ‘root bridge’ in Indonesian. It is a bridge built by intertwining the roots of two Banyan trees on Bayang riverbanks. It is located in West Sumatra, Indonesia and it is definitely not a typical bridge you can find everywhere.
The bridge is over 100 years old. According to several sources, the construction of the bridge was initiated by Pakiah Sokan in 1980. It took around 26 years for the roots to grow and develpop to be big and strong enough to form a bridge. As time passes, theoretically the bridge should be stronger, as the roots grow larger. However, to ensure the safety of the villagers and visitors, the bridge is now also supported by steel wire.
I did not measure it myself, but the bridge is approximately 25m long and 1.5m wide. It hangs around 5 meters from the water surface, but the water level can rise and touch the bridge when heavy rain occurs .It is connecting the Pulut-pulut village and Lubuk Silau village in Pesisir Selatan district. In the past, the villagers used bamboo bridge to go out of the village, but it was often washed away in the raining season. Nowadays, a suspension bridge was built for main transport purposses and since 1992 Jembatan Aka has became a tourist attraction
The bridge is located 88km in the south of Padang, 15km from Painan. We went there by rented car. There is also limited public transport, but I don’t have any information about the schedules or the route.
The entrace costs 5000IDR (around 0.50 USD or 0,40€) in 2016 and another 5000IDR for car parking. I dont think it will increase any time soon. To go to the bridge, we walked down the stairs from the main road. Unfortunaly, a lot of trash were seen on the sides of the path. It is unclear wether they were thrown by the tourists or the villagers. But I hope the management, wether it’s the goverment or the local people can do something about it soon.
From the riverbanks, you can see the beautiful Bayang stream. The river itself is clean and quite rapid. The water is crystal clear, but I personally really like the big river stones. I like to seat on them and dip my feet in the stream while listening to the water sound. Yes, you can play around in the water, but be careful not to fall to the deep area or carried away by the torent. There are no lifeguards there, so enjoy at your own risk. With that said, there are actually plenty of shallow and save spots in the river.
If you want to visit here, go when it’s not public holiday. Otherwise the place will be crowded and you cannot really feel the tranquility anymore. As the surrounding is still very natural, there are a lot of animal you can see.
It is a unique and beautiful place, but it is located quite far away from the cities. I also did not find any hotel or restaurant nearby. Although, there are a lot of hotel, resorts and restaurants in Painan, around 40 minutes from the bridge. It is actually a very nice place to have a picnic. So, prepare your food and drinks and have lunch under the green trees.
Depending on your schedule and interest, there might be other places in the area you prefer to go with relatively easier access, like the Mande island with its stunning beach. We planned to visit the Air Manis beach in Padang the next day, so I preffered to go to the river this time.
There are a lot of amazingly charming places in West Sumatra and too little time. There are many places we had to skip because we only had effectively four and a half days to travel around. I hope this can give you an idea about the bridge and help you a little bit in planning the trip and decision making if you want to explore the land of Minang. Enjoy!