Manado is located on the tip of the Sulawesi’s north peninsula. Many might know it for Bunaken, the Marine Park, but Manado has a vast spectrum of interesting things up its sleeves. This trip to Manado was a lot more satisfying, having to travel about 12 days around the area. So, what did we see and do?
Attention all divers! Bunaken Marine Park is an underwater park packed with walls that drop down to oblivion. The walls are carpets of life with organisms filling each nook available. Turtles, schools of fish, nudibranches and abundant soft corals would be an endless sight. It’s also a great reef for beginner divers. With so many dive centers and suitable dive spots, it’s also a place for those that want to do a Try Dive.
For more information on the diving read more here.
You can also dive with the Minahasa Dive Center located in the Hotel Tateli Manado. They make packages to dive, which include lunch, transport to the Bunaken Islands, and oxygen.
Tomohon Market or Pasar Tomohon has established its name amongst travelers as one of the more ‘interesting’ places to visit. The market has a range of unique produce compared to many other markets out there. Hmm… just to spoil little of the story, bats and snakes are the norm of the market. let’s just say it’s worth the visit if you’re into cultures of the world. Manado’s protein is a culture on its own.
Curious? For more of it, click on to this link.
If there’s one thing you can’t find on a plate of the Manado people, it’s these little creatures. It might be because they’re too small of a creature, hence less meat, or they’re too darn cute. Tarsiers of Tangkoko Nature Reserve are adorable and worth walking into the lush forest of North Sulawesi, on the south coast of the peninsula.
Want to see the smallest primate of the world? Check out our story about them here.
Off the south coast of the peninsula, just 15 minutes from Bitung city by boat, is Lembeh Island. This island is worldly known as the muck dive paradise, where creepy crawly underwater critters roam amongst the seemingly barren sandy bottom. Looking closely, we could see the odd-looking sea community. It’s like a treasure hunt when diving here. Really!
Read more of our story here.
Manado food is underrated for unknown reasons. The fresh yet rich tasting dishes should be on the food map in bold. It’s so good and one of our favorites, we even chose it once in a while when in Jakarta.
We show more love about Manado food in this post.
The coffee culture of Manado has a page on its own for us. Jarod or ‘Jalan Roda’ is an alley of local traditional coffee shop, selling side by side, catering to people with caffeine fix. It’s a meeting place, mostly by men to talk about politics, the future of the nation, and gossip. Allegedly. Nothing fancy, just good coffee, snacks, and good company.
Read more of our story here.
Have a peek on some of the budget accommodations around Manado. There are both old and new affordable accommodations around the city center, which probably could help you save money for more activities around town and about.
Read more here.
Of course, you can opt to stay in a nicer hotel like the Hotel Tateli Manado. It’s located just on the outskirts of the city but in a nice coastal area with a beach front. With air-coned rooms with AC, a real resort feel, and a pool, Tateli Beach Resort Manado would be nice beachy getaway.
Jl. Raya Tanawangko, Desa Tateli,
Kecamatan Mandolang, Manado,
Phone:+62 431 825888
The fastest and most convenient way to get around is surely by renting a car. Car rentals were about IDR 750,000 per day (2014), including gas. If not, there are taxis with running meters that you can use.
Another alternative for getting around town would be the public mini buses or mikro. These cars have a reputation on its own amongst Indonesians being one of the loudest and pimped out for a swag ride. The most prominent trait would be their unbelievably-loud music, which is said to attract more passengers. Manado people love to sing, so I get why speakers are a main attraction. The upside is you can sing along.
The downside would be, screaming and shouting asking the driver to stop at your destination.
Fares are at least IDR 4,000 / pax (2014).
To get to Lembeh, you can hop on a public bus from Paal 2 (read: pal dua) heading to Bitung city. Fares are IDR 9,000/pax (2014). From here, you can book transport from the dive center located on Lembeh Island or work out something with local fishermen.
‘AAAKKK!’ was what I wish I could have screamed when the bulgy-eyed creature came out. But I couldn’t, so I just bit my tongue. The tarsiers at Tangkoko Nature Reserve are adorable. A repeated visit to the reserve was so worth meeting the smallest primates in the world, along with the bigger primates and travel mates, Vira and Vindhya. The tarsier adds to a long list of things to see around Manado, North Sulawesi.
The tarsier is, again, the smallest primate in the world. They’re about as big as an adult’s fist. Their babies are half the size and twice cuter. Their eyes are so huge, almost taking over their skull, necessary for the nightlife. They’re nocturnal, which means they start coming out from their nest within tree trunks late in the afternoon. What’s also adorable about them is that they can jump from tree to tree. Oh, I’d like to bite them because they’re so cute. The deal is, we had to be very quiet upon encounter, as they are a bit sensitive to loud voices a.k.a. my voice.
There’s one spot where you’re likely able to see them. At this spot, there are three trees where these cuties usually show themselves, or so our guide said. But like other wildlife, there’s no 100% guarantee that you’ll see them. Our guide (Lord forgive me for forgetting the name of such a nice man) says, there’s a 10% chance that visitors miss them, even though the guides have looked amongst the three trees. It’s just nature.
To specifically see the tarsier, private tours usually start at about 3-4 p.m. Visitors walk for about an hour through the rain forest before reaching the sighting spot. Along the road, visitors would be lucky to see some no-tail black macaques, endemic to the area. They’re pitch-black monkeys with white teeth and pink butts, a sign that God had a good sense of humour. You can also see and have fun with the giant palm leaves around the area. They’re huge and great as umbrellas or to sit on during your wait to see the tarsier.
To see the tarsiers of Tangkoko Nature Reserve, one must visit the park’s office and register to enter. Upon registration, a group will be assigned a local guide to lead the way to the tarsier nest. It would be nearly impossible to hunt them alone. They’re so small to be seen with the common eye.
A few notes:
– You can bring a flashlight but don’t aim at them directly. It will disturb them and change their behaviour. People might to be able to see them in the same spot in the future, so don’t be selfish.
– Don’t make too much noise no matter how much fun you have.
– Don’t insist on touching them.
– Tipping the guides is thumbs up!
Park guides can spot this in the dark. Guides there are awesome!
There is an amount of money that need to be paid for entrance, camera, and local guide fee (outside of tips). On the time of visit fees were about IDR 80,000 / person, which included camera fees. However, we’ve heard there are new national policies for national parks and nature reserves, which involve increase in fees. We have yet to obtain the information about these new prices.
We stayed at the Mama Roos homestay, one of the oldest homestays around. It’s pretty basic but the staff were really nice and it’s OK for a good rest. It’s also located really close to the Tangkoko Nature Reserve gate, so it’s convenient.
Each room had a bed with necessary mosquito nets. Our room was spacious with dim lights, the kind that can put you to sleep more than to do any activity. There’s an en-suite bathroom, which came with a squatting toilet and a huge bucket with the smaller one for baths. There’s also a fan in the bedroom to keep the air a little fresh and circulating.
I recall the rooms were pretty cheap although not remembering how much exactly, and included breakfast. Lunch and dinner can be provided upon request. We had our meals within the homestay and it was good enough for our likings.
The staff were exceptionally nice!
Because the reserve is on the other side of the peninsula to Manado, it takes about 3-4 hours to reach the area.
Take the bus to Bitung from the Paal Dua bus terminal in Manado, which would cost about IDR 15,000/pax. From Bitung, then take the public minibus to Batu Putih Village, not too sure about the fare on this lag. The driver can drop you at where ever you intend to stay.
The reserve can be accessed also by private car, which takes about 3 hours from Manado. It cost about IDR 200,000 / way. A return trip is possible by renting a car, which would cost about IDR 700,000 per day.
Finding information on accommodations in Talaud Island was hard! So we went without any reservation. Turns out, we didn’t need to worry about a thing because there were a couple of options. We had a chance to stay in Melonguane for 2 nights and in Beo for a night. The accommodations were nothing fancy, but they kept us safe and dry, and that was enough for us, considering we were on a tiny island in the middle of nowhere, so to speak!
Mutiara Hotel is located on the main street that stretches long parallel to the port of Melonguane. It’s only about 10 minutes walk from the market and the port. When we got there that afternoon, the hotel was as sleepy as the town. We had to knock on the glass window of what seemed to be the reception counter, until finally a woman came out and we could ask about room availability.
After checking the room, we agreed to stay for 2 nights. The room was very basic, with a small double bed, a 14” TV set, air conditioner, a small cupboard and a towel rack. An ensuite bathroom was equipped with a squat toilet and a shower with no hot water. The walls were painted unevenly, the furniture and bed sheet looked old. In general it was a bit shabby, but you gotta give some credit for the painting hanging on the wall. At least they try to make the room look better.
There were at least ten guest rooms at the hotel, built on two rows facing each other. Pots of plants were lined up in between the rows, and chairs and small tables are provided in front of each room. At 4ish pm they would serve snack (at that time fried battered banana) and tea on the small table for each guest, included in the room rate.
The back part of the hotel borders with the sea! There was a verandah where you could have your meals or read books with the sea view, though mosquitos gave no mercy when the night approached. You’d think having a beach right behind your hotel is awesome. Well, it was, except when we heard a rumor about a potential tsunami! Luckily it was just a rumor and I’ve written about it here.
At the time of our stay, which was in April 2014, the room rate was IDR 200.000 / night. Including breakfast and afternoon snack.
No wifi. Hardly phone signal.
Staying in Beo town on our last night in Talaud Island wasn’t in our plan. We decided to do so when sightseeing and saw how lively the town was, and found that there was a homestay.
Mey San Homestay, the only accommodation in Beo, is located beside a mini market, a short walk away from Beo’s biggest church, Imanuel. If you’re taking the shuttle car from Melonguane, you’ll be going past it a little before the car reaches downtown.
Our room, like a few others, have a direct access to the parking lot. Plastic chairs and a small table are set in front of the room, where they serve fried doughballs as afternoon snack, and multifunctioned as our clothes drying space.
The room is in a better condition than Hotel Mutiara in Melonguane. It was cleaner, the furniture looked slightly newer, and also had a 14” TV and air conditioner. The bathroom, with a squat toilet, was separated only by a shower curtain from the bedroom, and was clean. As I recall, they didn’t serve breakfast, but being so close to the mini market, which was onwed by the same family as the homestay, made it easy for us to grab a quick bite.
The room rate was about IDR250,000/night, included afternoon snack. No wifi. Slightly better phone signal.
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Any other recommendation on accommodation in Talaud is welcomed, just let us know in the Comments below. Meanwhile, here’s a sight for sore eyes..
I believe there’s a time for everything. As I’ve observed the pattern of my life, I’m always grateful of every right moment given to me. Although some might consider these moments to be that of special and significant times, it’s a wider spectrum for me. It could be as simple as reading the Pedagogy of the Oppressed in college, or my first official muck diving at Lembeh Strait, North Sulawesi. At that time, I felt that it was the right time to finally enjoy this technical dive after improving my buoyancy and a change of view after seeing a lot of corals, Bunaken included. It was time for the creatures of the Lembeh.
Lembeh Strait is said to be one of the best muck dive sites in the world. I asked the resident Twofish Dive Resort instructor, Danny, why is this so. Are the creatures really that odd here?
“Most of the creatures are quite common for Asia, but a lot of the crawlies often can be found in this one area, aside to the special residents. So, it’s like a one-stop dive spot for creatures,” she said. I nodded, followed what she explained. She suspects that the strait is rich of nutrients providing food for the creatures although the seafloor has less corals compared to other areas, such as Bunaken. Her face lit up as she continues to explain further, even though her eyes were droopy after her third dive of the day of many similar days; hazards of being an instructor.
Most of the dive spots in Lembeh are similar, as I was told. There aren’t many fancy landscapes, aside to the wreck and a few coral gardens. Usually, the water is murky because of the silts and particles. In general, most spots are flat sandy greyish seafloors. This was true on first impressions on both descends at Jahir and Serena West. There were barely any corals that divers could use as a navigating point. If there was, it was a spread of similar small corals. I tailed my guide well, as I didn’t want to get lost in the haze. But as plain as the floor seems, as I descended closer, I realize there’s a lot a life down there.
Since there were no colorful corals to distract me, I easily found the beautiful creatures of the seafloor. The sand was hardly still. The grains moved a lot, indicating there were lives below it. Most of them are the shrimps, gobbies and blennies that pop-out of their hole. Rocks turned out to be decorated crabs or such. But, there were other interesting creatures too, to name a few were the Redline Fabelina, Painted Frogfish, Cockatoo Waspfish, snake eel, Longhorn Cowfish, Robust Ghost Pipefish, Fireworm, Flying Gunnard, Reeftop pipefish, and naturally Flouders.
To my surprise, muck diving at Lembeh Strait was really exciting. Initially, I assumed muck diving to be pretty boring considering there wouldn’t be any corals nor fish to see. Turns out, it’s adventurous! It’s an experience where divers need to stay calm and really pay attention to what is really in front of them. It’s one of the most relaxing dives I’ve ever done and yet, fun because I get to find my own creatures aside to the help of the dive master. I’ve always enjoyed finding creatures on my own on every diving occasion, so this was an enhanced experience of my usual habit. You can’t really rely on the guide to find you the creatures, ‘cause you can fall into boredom, as there weren’t many other things to see. So, an independent search is also necessary. And I loved it!
Odd looking creatures. Top right fish walks with legs.
Muck diving doesn’t take up much energy. I scavenged the seafloor slowly and float with little kicking. Thus, it can make up for more time under the water. The usual bottom time with Twofish Dive Center is about 65-75 minutes per dive. This is more time underwater (to the usual 40 60 minutes) and more time to discover on your own. Also, with a camera in hand, may it be professional or amateur, there’s (almost) all the time in the world to get that perfect picture, as it’s a slow process. Heaven!
I strongly advise having a good buoyancy before muck diving at Lembeh Strait and some interest in creepy crawlies. Without good buoyancy, diving in Lembeh just becomes a sand storm to you and to others that want to enjoy the hunt. It’s also a constant dust in the eyes for the creatures, which might even drive them away sooner than expected. Aside to that, if you’re not into looking for the creatures, as I mentioned earlier, you’ll fall into boredom.
As recommended by Normansyah, I stayed with Two Fish Dive Resort. Nigel, who I think is the owner of the branches, kindly passed me on to Danny to get sorted on the resort.There are a few accommodation options for divers (or non divers) at the resort.
I took the budget room, which was EU 30 for single occupation and EU 25 per person for double occupation (yes, they charge in euro currency). The budget room had 2 single beds, a fan, a window, along with another 3 rooms above their office. Budget rooms share bathrooms that have sitting toilets and hot water. There are also bungalows spread around their spacious land. Prices already include 3 meals, wi-fi, unlimited access of coffee, tea, drinking water, and access to their hammocks. Woohoo! You’ll need to pay EU 5 to travel between Sulawesi Island to Lembeh Island and arranged by Two Fish Divers Resort.
For each dive, divers are charged EU 70 for two dives, which include boat rides. The whole dive gear can be rented for EU 15 per day, or can be rent separately.
For more information on Twofish Dive Resort, you can head here:
I do have to mention, I got their purple sleeveless T-shirt and it’s so comfortable. Hey! I’m Indonesian, I like tokens of my travels!
I can’t remember what specifically allured me to Jarod, Manado. I think it was because of something simple, which could be because it’s where the locals get their cup of coffee. Considering we could meet the Manado people and I could get my first shot of caffeine, that’s good enough for me.
‘Jalan Roda’ or known as Jarod, is a small road filled with local coffee shops lined side-by-side, with the occasional ‘warung makan’ or traditional eatery in between. This area has been around for a pretty long time. The history goes back to the colonial days, even before World War I. This road is said to be a meeting point for merchants from the mountains, wanting to sell their goods at the market. This is where they’d park their ‘ride’, being wagons and such, also known as ‘roda’ or wheels. Hence, with ‘jalan’ meaning road, the area is called wheel road or ‘jalan roda / jarod’.
“It’s where I park my wheels,” would have to be the saying back then. Pretty fly!
The road, or more likely alley, is filled with long chairs, plastic chairs, long tables, each with ashtrays on the table. Entering the relatively tight alley, the air heats up, smells of burned tobacco filled the air, smoke hazed the area, and is filled with sounds of men laughing and talking. Occasionally there would be sounds of spoons clinking to glasses as drinks are stirred. This type of coffee-drinking culture reminds me of the coffee shops in Ambon and Pontianak, but this was a lot more communal. Most of the visitors were men, but women were also present especially as food sellers. At the time, the presidential election was coming up. You can guess what the people were mostly talking about. It was a very masculine ambiance.
Like all businesses standing side-by-side, some business flourished and some flopped. Some shops were filled with visitors, some were empty. Upon my visit, I chose a stall that was fairly visited and had a kitchen that seemed accessible. I was ready to peek in to see what the secret was in making a good cup of coffee. The coffee was kopitiam style; cooked in a copper pot on a stove and then poured in a cup through a filter. Most of the time, visitors would prefer it sweet or with milk (condense milk, of course), like the one in Pontianak or Ambon.
North Sulawesi isn’t particularly popular in producing coffee. My coffee maker said that they purchase Toraja coffee and had them shipped in a large amount, as most of the coffee shops in the area did too. The grind was very rough, but it was made to be boiled with the water. His kitchen was pretty basic, differed by his own personal boiling tin cup. What’s interesting was that he used coal to cook his coffee, and not on a gas or electric stove. He said, coal is less risky and brings out a better taste on the coffee. He had always used coal since the 60s. Like most of the alley, things haven’t changed since then.
“The only thing that is different is now I use an electric fan to fire the stove and not manually fan it. It’s easier this way,” he said. God bless technology!
To drink with the coffee, are banana fritters, specifically the Manado ‘pisang gohoro’. These banana fritters are different to the usual fritters as they are thinly sliced and fried pretty dry. Most of the time, the bananas are crunchy on the sides and soft in the middle. With it, is the chili paste. The chilli mix I had was delicious and mildly hot for my tongue. Doubling my dose of sweat that morning. The combination of hot coffee with burning hot spicy banana fritters sounds like the food of devils, but there are devilish things that we love instead. So, why not give it a shot?
However, it’s said that not only merchants come to the area and have cups of coffee. All sorts of people come to this place to hang out. Jarod became a common ground, where everyone is equal. A coffee drinker said that’s its best trait. The most important politicians can sit and be treated the same as a market seller. This also sparks discussions between people from different professions. It’s neutral land, so people come here for the coffee and the talk.
It’s true what Motul, an Indonesian blogger, pointed out on his blog. It’s great that this type of coffee tradition still exists amongst the growing business of modern cafés. To be fair, the coffee is better, (way) cheaper and the food is great compared to most cafes (but that’s probably my taste). Apparently, the Manado people are happy with this. That’s what the old man said, as he kindly walked us there from where we got off the public transport. He was heading there, as he needed his morning fix anyways. I could do with AC. Well, at least the old generation still likes it. We barely saw young visitors but it might not have been their hour.
Psstt… did I mention the coffee didn’t even cost me a (US) dollar? I think it was about IDR 8000. And the ‘pisang gohoro’ only cost about IDR 10,000 per portion! It a pretty big one, too. Crazy!
Jarod is located within Pasar 45. It’s near the Presiden Plaza.
Choosing a place to stay in Manado shouldn’t be hard because this seasoned tourism-city has a wide range of accommodations to offer. From the luxurious resorts to budget-travelers friendly. For a few nights of our trip in North Sulawesi, we chose two of the latter. If you’re looking for budget hotels Manado, either one of these (or both) might fit your needs.
Regina Hotel was listed as one of the recommended low-budget hotels in Lonely Planet. Usually what works for them works for us because we actually think that we, middle class Indonesians, have higher tolerance for less ideal conditions when it comes to accommodations.
Booking wasn’t available via Internet, so we did it by phone. The staff answered my queries patiently, like how far was it from the airport, how could we go around from the hotel, etc.
A friendly welcome greeted us upon checking-in. We were shown to our room on the 4th floor, taking the elevator. The floor numbers was pretty weird. I think I saw a 7 on the floor number display before arriving to our floor. But since it didn’t effect to anything regarding our stay, I took my own conclusion that it’s just what old elevators do.
Regina Hotel’s looks pretty old and not so well-maintained. The building still looks sturdy and intact, but the furniture – both in the room and in the lobby – seems to have been around since early ‘90s or older. However, it was enough for us. The room was spacious, the beds and pillows were comfy, the TV worked, the AC worked, and the whole room and bathroom were clean. The bathroom is equipped with a western toilet, a washbasin, and options of cold and hot water for the shower.
The complementary water didn’t come in bottles like usual. It was boiled water in jugs with a bit of specific flavor that comes when you boil water in stainless steel pots. It’s been a long time since I last drank boiled water and thankfully I don’t mind at all. It sort of takes me back to my childhood times.
Anyway. We didn’t get much choice for breakfast. In fact, we didn’t have a choice. On the two mornings we were in Regina Hotel, they only served one type of food each morning. Fried rice with sunny side up and yellow rice with chopped well-done omelet. Taste? Um, let’s just say that I finished my portion because I was hungry.
But, for IDR 220,000 / night for two people, it was alright.
When we came back from Tangkoko with our friend Vindhya, we came back to Regina Hotel. They charged an extra IDR 100,000 for an extra bed with breakfast.Hotel Regina Jalan Kol. Sugiono 1, Manado Phone: +62 431 850 090
Manado is the center of other destinations around the Minahasa area such as Bunaken, Lembeh, Talaud Islands, and Tangkoko. Being a hub, it’s the need for many accommodations, including budget ones, are necessary. Regina Hotel wasn’t bad but we found a better option with only slightly more expensive rate. Istanaku Guesthouse is a much newer hotel, the building looks crisp and designed in modern and simple style. Nothing special, just new and slick. Although, it felt more like a budget hotel rather than a guesthouse.
Then we walked upstairs and.. I take my words back about it being nothing special. The walls at the hallways upstairs are painted colorfully! One wall was full with roundish creatures, I can’t decide whether it’s dinosaurs, dragons or spiky worms. Another was painted with chibi (small or short) version of Marvel superheroes. I guess the guesthouse is stretching for younger customers or the owner is really into comics and cartoons.
With no elevator at this 4-storey building (I think), they make sure that you behold the artworks done on the walls that you pass when reaching the appointed rooms. Aha, clever artist! However, if you’re back from a long and tiring trip with heavy backpacks, I recommend you to ask for rooms in lower floors, at least you only need to hike up a level.
The bedroom is much smaller than the one in Regina Hotel. We got a double bed, leaving a tight space to walk around. There is absolutely no space left for an extra bed. However, everything works well – the AC, flush, hot shower, cable TV, and desk lamp. Everything is new and simple. So simple, it’s almost dull if not for the lime green wall and red plastic chair.
Breakfast was alright. They provided Indonesian breakfast, like fried rice and some condiments, and bread and jams. Guess what. That was where I had my first experience of TOASTING BREAD! I did it quite nervously and ended with a success!
Location-wise, Istanaku is quite convenient. We only needed to walk a bit to several dining places at night.
All in all, I would totally recommend Istanaku Guesthouse for budget travelers. Upon our stay in April 2014, it was about IDR 250,000 / night for two.Istanaku Guesthouse Jalan W.R Supratman (Komo Dalam) 6, Manado 95123 Phone: +62 431-840085
Do you have other recommended budget hotels in Manado? Let us know!
WARNING: This article on Tomohon Market contains pictures of butchered animals that might be disturbing.
“I think I’m gonna cry at the Tomohon Market. I won’t have the heart to see a cat butchered and sold in pieces,” I said to Mumun.
“But I’m curious!” I didn’t even allow Mumun to say what was on her mind.
And so we went to Tomohon Market after the Bunaken dive trip. I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t faint upon seeing crazy things at the famous market.
We arrived a bit too late because, well, the Manado Tateli Resort was too cozy to leave early in the morning. Consequently, upon our arrival at about 9 a.m., many stalls were already running out of their goods or still had a little left.
I walked bravely in the alleys, I had prepared my guts to see whatever people said I would see in the market. There’s a joke that says “not a single cat nor mouse is safe in Tomohon or Manado because the people eat anything that breathes.” Crazy? I think so too, but it’s their custom. I was there to see the real thing, not to judge.
The first things I saw when entering the market area were second-hand clothes, snacks, spices, vegetables and fishes. Nothing weird. And then I saw eyes. Huge eyes that once belonged to huge sea fishes, sitting on red plastic plates along with its butchered meat and other body parts.
Moving on, I saw pig ribs hanging on some stalls, the legs and heads laid on the tables. Pork is not actually considered weird, but since Indonesia is dominated by Moslems, who aren’t supposed to eat pork, this kind of view is quite rare unless you live in non-Moslem dominated regions. Some tattooed men were butchering the pigs. They were friendly and asked where we were from. The cameras dangling from our necks must have given away that we were a bunch of tourists. They’re used to tourists in this market because a lot that goes on in Tomohon Market is not a common thing you’d find in Indonesia.
In the decades I’ve spent my life in Indonesia, Tomohon Market was the first place I saw grilled fruit bats, called “paniki”. They might make bat lovers panicking because these little creatures are laid with their mouths open and tongues tensely sticking out, which look painful. The people of Tomohon love eating paniki, cooked in coconut milk or in hot and spicy rica-rica, homemade or served in diners. The wings are sold separately and is said to be very crispy, or so I’ve heard.
Forest rats are also among the favorites of Tomohon people, maybe also by the Minahasans in general. They’re stuck on skewers, grilled, with eyes open and gesture that looks like they were trying to run away. According to a few locals, apparently it’s one the most delicious meat, beating pork.
A few meters from where I was observing the rats was a stall selling python meat. I am one who cannot stand the look of snakes, so I thought I was going to have goose bumps all over when seeing snakes in the market. Surprisingly, I didn’t. Maybe because I was mentally prepared, maybe because the snake wasn’t intact anymore. There was only about 1 meter long of the constrictor’s body left on the table. It was fat and gray. I don’t even want to imagine how big the thing used to be!
Here in Tomohon Market, this predator is just another kind of meat. A man and his son came to the stall and asked for 2 kilograms of the python’s meat. Apparently they didn’t want the skin, so the seller got rid of it, threw it like it was of no value. Fashion designers would probably freak out seeing real python skin is treated like a piece of garbage!
Then I got to the stall where they sold dogs. Only the head of a black dog was left, complete with its fangs. A dog lover would most likely curse people who did this. Someone actually scolded one of us for putting the picture of the dog’s head on social media because she’s a dog lover. But she eats meat, just not dog’s meat. I don’t get it. Where does she think beef or pork comes from? Sent cooked from the sky?
I did read some blogs and articles explaining about how they kill the dogs to be sold in Tomohon Market. I didn’t see it myself – thankfully, but I read that they hang a dog and beat it to death, while the other dogs are caged where they can all see their buddy being beaten. They say that the a dog meat tastes better with the beating of the dog. If it is cut and bleeds, the taste goes off. As gruesome as that sounds, it really is about taste.
A ridiculous reason why human shouldn’t eat dogs that I’ve read was because dogs are cute. Don’t get me wrong, I do think a lot of dogs are cute, and I don’t eat dog meat. But telling others not to eat something because it’s cute is.. just silly. Hey, many people think fishes are beautiful, then should we ban all sushi restaurants? I would support a logical reason of why people shouldn’t eat certain things, like not eating shark because it contains mercury that can interfere with your brain and nervous system. But not because something is too cute to eat.
Mumun and I discussed about this. We agree that we’re a country that is still developing, leaving some old customs amongst us. People eating different kinds of protein is just part of it. Most of what they sell in the market is from the forests, supporting the fact hunting is till a common activity amongst the Minahasa people. When we traveled to Talaud, we came across dog dishes, too. It’s an alternative source of meat, considering goat and cow meat can be very rare on such mini archipelago. Considering dogs, like pigs, reproduce easier than cows and goats, can you really blame them? And ironically, Minahasa people have dogs as pets and hunter dogs. As much as they love their dogs, they can eat them. So it’s a way of life.
Anyway. I was lucky that we were there on Monday. One of the pork sellers said that cats – dead and butchered – are only sold in the weekends, and another source said that it’s sold on Fridays and Saturdays, so I was sort of saved from heartbreak. Mind you, I wouldn’t like seeing butchered cats, I even cried for days when my kitty died when I was 10. But if it’s a custom and it’s not something illegal, and I haven’t heard or read of it being a danger to the environment, then what right do I have to scold them for that?
There are more kinds of animal’s meat that’s usually sold in Tomohon Market, like deer, wild boar, and the endemic tarsius. The cat meat is tagged with more expensive price. The more rare, the more expensive and the more prestigious someone is for having it on the menu. It’s said that cat meat is rare because there is none left. Some say, it’s even sent all the way from Gorontalo.
We stayed in Tomohon Market for about an hour, taking pictures and talking with the sellers. It was just another normal Monday to them. We then continued our trip back to Manado. Three of us were flying back to Jakarta, while Mumun, Vindhya and I continued our journey to Tangkoko to see the endemic tarsius, alive and intact in their habitat.
After failing to dive on the first days in Manado, I finally got a chance to dive in the world famous Bunaken National Marine Park right after I got back from Talaud Island. I had to go alone because Mumun was heading to dive in Lembeh and the rest of the gang had flown back to Jakarta earlier. I made a reservation with Two Fish Divers, a dive resort in Bunaken Island that my friend Norman recommended. Whoa. My first dive trip and I was going alone! I was nervous and excited!
Out of about 26 dive sites around Bunaken Island, I could only do two dives because I didn’t have much time to spend before going back to Manado. They were Lekuan 2 and Fukui.
The first dive was at Lekuan 2, which is part of the three Lekuan spots. It’s a wall diving, for which diving at Bunaken is famous for. The walls stretch as far as the eyes can see and is said to be about 200 meters deep. The wall at Lekuan 2 is rich with corals that shelter various creatures. A few Napoleon Wrasses, turtles, an orangutan crab (my favorite! It’s so tiny, hairy and simply weird-looking!), a coral shrimp and colorful nudibranches were among what I saw, spotted mostly by my dive guide. Of course, I was still concentrating on keeping my buoyancy.
The dive at Fukui was as amazing as Lekuan 2 for me. It’s mostly a slope dive with various kinds of creatures and corals, visible so clearly even when I was just descending. Batfish, angelfish, oriental sweetlips, turtles, you name it. I even saw a moray eel and a giant clam in the sea floor (though I didn’t realize what it was until the guide told me when we were on the boat afterwards). This time, I think I managed my buoyancy a little bit better, though I had to be pulled down at one point because the current was throwing me here and there. Yeah, that’s one thing you gotta be aware of when diving in Bunaken: currents.
Two Fish Divers is one of so many resorts established on Bunaken Island. It’s been there for about 15 years, hosting for mostly divers from all over the world. Upon my one-night stay, there were groups of divers from England and other countries of Europe, and I might’ve heard some American accent, too.
Though I was only there for less than 24 hours, I could feel the “island life” ambiance. Sands beneath my feet, hammocks by the beach, coconut trees abundant, and tanned skins in sight.
The guests were dispersed in bungalows and rows of rooms in a two-storey building. The swimming pool area was being renovated, located in the bungalows area, sometimes used for a dive course before entering the sea. My room was the Budget Single Room with shared bathroom. It usually has two single beds but one was used in another room. The amenities included a fan, a bedside table, a shelf and several electricity outlets. I liked how the window was facing the garden and sunrise.
Two Fish Divers is managed (if not also owned) by a British couple. The staff are mostly Indonesian, locals from the villages of Bunaken Island. They were all friendly, helpful and working professionally. There was a little misinformation on the gear and boat rates prior to my arrival, but it was no biggie. Just make sure you ask detailed information, like the additional rates for non-regular boat transfer schedule, rental fees for each and every dive gear including short and long wetsuits, etc.
The phone signal was pretty bad in the resort (maybe in the rest of the island as well?), but they a pretty good wifi at the common area. Millenials, relax! You can enjoy island life while still keeping your timeline alive!
Two Fish Divers resort is located on Bunaken Island, about half an hour boat ride from Manado’s Marina port. My boat transfer was inclusive in the dive package that I took.
You could also take the public boat between Manado and Bunaken, which transports all sorts of passengers. I heard that the boat leaves from Manado’s market port every afternoon.
Two Fish Divers’ boat transfer, that’s inclusive in their package, is only at about 4 p.m. from Manado to Bunaken, and about 9 a.m. from Bunaken to Manado. Other than that, you’d be charged an extra fee.
As you know that prices in our life vary depending on time, season and political conditions. To give you some ideas, these are the prices I had to pay upon my visit in April 2014:
Diving 2x : 70 euro (incl. snack, coffee and tea on the boat)
Dive equipment rental fee: 17 euro / day
Budget single room: 30 euro / night (incl. 3 meals and boat transfer on fixed schedule)
Postcards: 3.5 euro / piece
Mosquito repellent lotion: IDR 16,000 / bottle.
Extra boat transfer: 10 euro / way
There you go, my brief stay at one of the most popular dive resorts on Bunaken Island. If I had more time, I would go for more dives and take a walk to the nearby villages just to see what the Bunaken island life is actually like.
Two Fish Divers has only opened a branch in Lembeh, east to Manado, focusing more on muck diving. More about it, wait for Mumun’s story on her one-night stay there.
Address: Jalan Samratulangi XIX No 12a, Manado 95113, North Sulawesi, Indonesia
Email: embedded in their Contact page.
Phone: Nona +62 813 5687 0384 or Ola (in Indonesian) +62 813 5652 6470
“Are you here for research?” a Talaud local asked us.
“No, just traveling.”
“Just the two of you? Is it work-related?” confused lines between their eyebrows would show.
“Yup, just us. And nope, just for fun.”
“But why?” they looked at us as if we’re some newly discovered species.
And we got a kick out of this “investigation”, every time!
Judging from the Talaud people’s reaction about our visit, it’s obvious that there has been next to no one that usually visits just for fun. Several accommodations, equipped with air conditioners and private bathrooms, exist mostly to accommodate researchers or governmental guests.
Just like how I sometimes buy a book because of its cover or its title, I was interested in Talaud Islands for reasons that would probably be considered as shallow by some. I heard of Talaud and Sangihe Islands for the first time four years ago, I don’t remember in what occasion. I found the names weird and there’s so little information on these islands that I could find. So my curiosity grew.
Aside to my fascination toward Sulawesi in general, I gotta admit, I’m one of those people who like to say “I’ve been there!” and tell the story when only a few others can. So there’s really no other way than go there and find out for myself! And as usual, Mumun is so easy to drag along to places she’s never been.
We landed on the island on a Wednesday afternoon. Beautiful lush green forest and coconut field on hilly land were seen upon our landing. Getting off the propeller plane, we were welcomed by a small airport building with mountainous background. We then went to look for an accommodation in Melonguane, the capital town that was built when the airport existed, with a help of a bentor* driver.
From the landing process until the ride around, Melonguane reminded me a lot of Basco, the town on Batanes Island, The Philippines, I visited a few years back. Located on a secluded little island, on the northernmost of a country, built near a port and the roads are well-maintained. But Melonguane is a lot less touristy, and I must say, less scenic.
I read some stuff on Miangas, the actual northernmost island that’s still further north to Talaud Island. Miangas is said to be guarded by the army and navy for being on the border, so I thought Talaud would have a slightly similar situation. Honestly, the thought of men in uniform with their guns and often arrogance often irks me, for some reasons I will not state here. So I was relieved to see only civilians on Talaud Island.
Despite the hardworking habit on land and sea, life on Talaud seemed to be slow and easy. Women gossip in warungs and boatmen nap on the beach at noon, which is expected in a place with piercing sun. People are friendly and helpful, and they claim the villages are very low in crime rate. That’s good to know as it is pretty logical. Being a small island with small villages, people tend to be afraid to do crime because it’s more likely to get caught.
Most of the small towns I’ve visited would be pleasant for spending money because things tend be cheaper compared to Jakarta, where I live. But it’s different in Talaud. Gasoline costs almost twice the price in cities of Java or Bali, which elevates the prices of almost everything. Talaud land grows spices like the nutmeg and cinnamon, which centuries ago became the “gold mine” for Europeans (who later colonized Indonesia). But there are needs for chives, garlic, washing machines, motorbikes, even fences, which they bring in from Manado. Even though they’re blessed with abundant fishes in the ocean, it’s the added spices and gas to cook it that doubles the food price.
“We’re used to high prices. So when the gasoline price went up a few months ago, we took it fine,” said a woman in the fish market of Beo town. She was giving out fishes to people in the market as a political campaign. Yes, fishes, not money.
In contrast, I remember the commotion that happens in Jakarta every time prices go up.
Internet is also a luxury in Talaud, even in Melonguane and Beo, two of the biggest towns we visited (another one is Lirung but we didn’t have enough time to go there). The only SIM card that works there is Telkomsel, though it’s far from its best performance. SMS and phone calls get through fine, Internet-based chat applications like Whats App struggles to send messages, and you can forget about updating your Facebook and Instagram. There are a few Internet cafes in both towns, powered by Telkom, Indonesia’s state-owned enterprise telco company. The one in Melonguane works fine, but the one in Beo is really slow.
We had to wait until we got out of the island to update our social media. No biggie, we do okay without Internet on islands with gorgeous sunsets and swimmable beaches. But it was a little bit unnerving when we needed more information on a tsunami that was rumored to hit Talaud Islands the next morning, as an effect of the Chile’s 8.2 Richter Scale earthquake on April 2, 2014. A tsunami! My husband Diyan told us about this news by phone in his tense voice.
It was our first night on the island and our hostel was located exactly by the beach. The locals seemed to live life as usual and seemed to be uninformed about the tsunami rumor. We wanted to get more updates but we hadn’t found out about the Internet café by then. It crossed our minds to move to another hostel inland, but thought that it wouldn’t make much difference because it’s not that far away from the shore anyway.
So we decided to sit through the news on TV to get updates (there are international channels at the hostel, using a satellite dish!). According to the news, there was only micro possibility that a tsunami would strike Talaud. We slept soundly that night, though I still checked the news early in the next morning. When it comes to tsunami, you can never be too cautious, especially after the disastrous tsunami in Aceh in 2004. And I personally wasn’t only concerned about our own safety, but I couldn’t stand the thought of Diyan worrying about me while there was really not much he could do 🙁
Thankfully, the tsunami did not happen. We moved on to our next activities.
The word “porodisa” was found everywhere in Talaud, from the Internet café to the fish market. I had to ask a local what it means.
“It means paradise. It’s what the Dutch called these islands,” said a butcher in Beo market.
Having seen the four-colored sunset on Beo sky and swam in the super clear water of uninhabited Sara Island (a 20 minutes speedboat ride from Melonguane), I am all with the Dutch on that.
We envied the boys swimming on the beach near Beo with sunset in sight, but we weren’t ready with our swimwear. (I know, I know, we’re such city kids that only swim with the “proper” clothing). So I continued reading a book on the beach, which was priceless as well, while Mumun was busy taking pictures and taking in the beautiful sky in her mind and soul.
*A bentor is a becak combined with a motorbike. It uses an engine instead of man-power to energize the vehicle. It’s sort of a slightly bigger version of the Philippines’s pedicabs.