Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 25 October 2017 • Destination
Ambon, the capital of Maluku province, lately has been overlooked by travelers. They fill their curiosity about Maluku as a part of the “exotic”, as some like to call it, East Indonesia, by flying in to Ambon and then straight to the less-traveled like Ora Beach, Kei Islands, Banda Island and Jailolo. I was no different, hiring a car to take me straight from the Pattimura Airport to Sawai Village a few years back. Just recently I got a chance of sightseeing Ambon. I flew with Citilink and stayed a few days there for a sketch walk with the Sketchwalker, and I loved it.
Different to my last trip to Ambon, now there is a 1,140 meters long bridge connecting the north and south sides of Ambon Bay. It cuts the travel time from the airport to the city center, from one hour to half of it. Driving through the bridge approaching sunset with a view of a hint of orange sky and fishermen boats docking by the bay was a lovely and rare experience for us. Each of us had the urge to sketch the bridge, I’m sure, but we didn’t have enough time because first, fresh grilled fish dinner!
Strolling down the city around our hotel the next day, we chose the Pattimura Park as our first sketch location. The park is named after a national hero from Ambon, and a statue of him is located there. On our visit, there was a volleyball competition between schools, so the park was so lively with the teenagers cheering and some seemed just hanging out. The chatters in the melodic local dialect became a tune that accompanied us sketching the park.
Afterwards, a quick stop across the World Peace Gong for a quick sketch. It was located only about 200 m west from the Pattimura statue. The gong is important in history, because it symbolizes the improvement of peace in Ambon, which had gone through years of violence that sparked between the Christians and Moslems.
In the afternoon, when the city was at its hottest, we followed our fellow Maluku sketcher, Jerry, to the next spot. I was impressed with the sidewalks, because not all cities in Indonesia have good enough sidewalk, not even in some parts of Jakarta.
Our next sketch object was the classic Ambon Cathedral with meticulous details. It didn’t have a big enough yard so we had to sketch from across the street. Since the only sitting spot was the bench at the bus stop and was occupied by some men playing cards, our only choice was to sit down by the gutter. Sketching in public always invites onlookers, let alone when we did it there. Thankfully the gutter was dry, which reminded me to my childhood when I loved running back and forth in the dry gutter in front of my house.
The next day, after waving goodbye to some of us that continued the trip to Banda Island (the story is written here in Indonesian language) at the Tulehu Port, we continued sketching out of town but still within Ambon Island.
First stop, Natsepa Beach. It is popular not only because of the long stretch of white sand beach and the water is swimmable, but also because it’s located only about half an hour drive from the city. On Sundays Natsepa is swarmed with families and enlivened with live music that Ambonese are very fond of, but during our visit on a Saturday morning there was barely anyone.
Upon knowing that I was going to Ambon from my personal Instagram stories, some people recommended the rujak Natsepa. Rujak is a fruit platter with peanut and brown sugar sauce. I’m not big on the rujak I have had in Jakarta, but, I tried the one in Natsepa anyway, ‘cos you know, when in Rome. Turns out, I liked rujak Natsepa! The sauce tastes fresher, perhaps because of the use of starfruit drops, and it’s not as thick. The lady who made it said that they use nutmeg but it’s seasonal.
About an hour later we arrived in Amsterdam. The fort, not the capital of The Netherlands. Fort Amsterdam is a blockhouse located in Hila, a village on the north coast of Ambon Island. Aside from us, there were a few small tour groups, perhaps students, at the location.
Sketching the fort at a hut by the breezy ocean was priceless. It’s a few things I like at a time, plus some jokes we throw around. To top things off, the unhealthy yet delish Indomie (instant noodle) with slices of chili were served when we were almost done sketching. It was a combination of attractive building and cozy atmosphere that made us stay there longer than we did in other sketching locations. Naturally, more sketches were done.
I had recently watched a Ghibli Studio movie called “When Marnie Was There”. Somehow, the whole set of Fort Amsterdam reminded me of the movie. I think it’s the old fort by the ocean that somehow I correlate with the haunted lighthouse overlooking the lake in the movie. Plus maybe the mellow feeling that the whole set created, like the feeling created by the movie. It’s weird how correlations work sometimes.
Only about 2 minute drive southward from the fort is the old mosque Wapauwe in Kaitetu village. It is said to be 6 centuries old and not one single nail is used in the building. The legend has it, that the mosque was originally built in another location called Tahala, but then suddenly appeared in Kaitetu following the people that moved from Tahala to Kaitetu.
Travel tips: if you’re traveling from Ambon city to Hila or Kaitetu, better prepare some food or snacks because we didn’t and we had to have that Indomie for lunch. As delish as it was, it didn’t quite do for lunch.
The sketchers in Maluku, more specifically in Ambon, have been active lately. They sketch walk, they do workshops and exhibitions, and some of them travel for sketching events outside of Maluku. Om Embong and Jerry were two of the Maluku sketchers that hosted us, our go-to guys for accommodation and transportation. They also connected us to the Maluku Sketchwalk, a sketcher community. And on our last day in Ambon, a few of them joined us sketching at the Slamet Riyadi Port.
The port serves ferry crossing to Buru Island and a few other small islands nearby. The port didn’t seem very busy at the time, so the sea men had the time to watch us sketching. Some of them even commented on my sketch, “Wait, there are 5 boats there. How come you’re only drawing 3?” And I said, “I know, I miscalculated the composition,” which is often my problem in sketching.
Children were cannonballing from the jetty, just to swim and duck dive to catch some sea urchins. They caught the thorny creatures to eat the meat later. It looks so fun to be living near the ocean and swim there whenever you want!
Sketch walking in Ambon was definitely a great experience for me and I’m sure for my sketcher fellows too. It’s a fun way of sightseeing Ambon, we didn’t rush or anything. The destination is home to so many interesting objects, though that can depend on your way of seeing things too, and the people are welcome. Hopefully I can sketch in more places in Maluku next time.