Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 23 August 2010 • Itinerary
I love the perks of my job. One of them happens to be traveling to remote areas or to areas I want to see, like Ambon. It’s not so remote but it would take a lot more effort to visit if not for my job. I always thought Ambon to be like Kupang, more ‘exotic’ and dry, but to my surprise Ambon is beautiful, filled with friendly people, delicious food, green and blue scenery and just such a laid back tropical ambiance. There has been some painful history being the recent riots between religions in 1999. But with what it has presented now, I think it’s recovering nicely. I likey, and maybe you’ll likey too after you come peek.
I had the privilege to stay for a week in Ambon. I did this length of stay about 2 times and I loved both of them. I tried to steal time from my working schedule, but it wasn’t much. Nevertheless, being the spice island, it sure spiced up my business travel hihhihi…, but don’t tell my boss that :P.
Ambon is also the gate to Bandaneira, the underwater volcano. It has a rich marine world and famous for its diving locations. A sight I have yet to report. (Sigh)… another reason why I should come back.
Natsepa – A treat for sight and taste.
A lot of traveling sites and locals would recommend you this beach. Because it’s kinda a must-see thing for many, my boss took me here.
Natsepa beach is located outside of town about 30-45 minutes. Me, Rudhy, and a few more colleagues, enjoyed about an hour of sea breeze and the rujak (see Eats).
Natsepa beach is on a bay, offering a view of the other side of the bay. Because it is well known, the locals often visit Natsepa. So if you want to mingle with the locals, then this is the beach for you. It has a shallow flat white sand beach and calm oceans making it great for children and families especially those just looking for a splash. But don’t be surprised to see an ocean of humans on the weekends. Luckily we were there on a week day hence we could enjoy the water a bit. It was still a great place to enjoy your mixed tropical fruits on a sunny afternoon amongst the few locals.
After lazing around, taking a few pictures, and dipping my feet in the cool water, I dragged myself to order the Natsepa rujak. To my surprise, the rujak was really good. If it’s taste that you venture about, I do recommend you digging your tongue in this Indonesian dessert. For myself, Natsepa is a nice beach and all, but I recommend you to visit it for the sake of the rujak. It’s definitely my reason to revisit the area.
Waai Eel – A mystical being, some say
My boss loves it when he can make a girl squeal. So he saw me as the next victim. He took me to Waai to see the mystical eel. It is said to be mystical since it survived the war. Waai village was burned down and was one of the most chilling cities during the riots. It is also believed that this eel transported itself to another island during those days. Hmhf… who knows? It’s a brackish water eel but can travel through the sea?
It looked like a moray eel but only with black and grey spots. It also had a flat horizontal head compared to the Moray eel and it was friendly. These eels can reach up to more than 2 m in length and there are several in this waterways.
To see one up close, and if you want to touch it, you have to find its tamer, Pak Minggus. He would probably be hanging around if you need him. He understands how to call them and feed them. Once he succeeds in calling a few, then you can carry them in your hands. It was slippery and slimy as predicted, and quite heavy. When we were there, the biggest one didn’t want to come out. Too bad, but I was squiggling myself after touching this 2 m slippery species. Gooey!
What was interesting about this place actually was the activity of the surrounding people washing in the same river these eels lived in. No guilt, no damage (as seen), no problem. The eel looks alright as long as they got fed. They got that right :P! The children also swam in the same water body, along with a few huge fishes. It was interesting to see all in peace, living together. Far from what this little village was known for.
Martha Christina Tijahahu Monument
Ambon is well known for Pattimura, the male hero fighting for the people against the colonialism. You might see his statue in the main field of the city center. But Ambon is also very proud of their local heroine has Martha Christina Tijahahu. We don’t have a lot of heroine in our history so it feels right to have a huge statue of her on top of the mountains. From this point, you can see Ambon down to the valley. It’s a beautiful sight. And so is Martha, especially if you have great hair like hers.
Gong of Peace
In the middle of the city, lay the Gong of Peace. This Gong was made to commemorate world peace that should spread around the whole world. I’ve read that this is the original Gong of Peace compared to so many replicas around the world. I’m not exactly sure why they placed the Gong here, but I guess it’s a good reminder to all Ambonese people what should be remembered from now on till the future. It wasn’t my favorite piece of art. I was weird to see so many flags on it and aesthetically it wasn’t designed well. I only liked the 4 pillars around it. But here’s a picture for you to see.
Since most of the time I was working, I think you’ll find the eats list a lot longer than the ventures. It was an adventure itself since there were so many new taste that I experienced.
The cemetery of the Moslems.
The office where we had to do our work was located in Waihaong. Not far was the location of the Moslem cemetery for those who died in the war. The cemetery was named Makam Para Syuhada, translated to “the cemetery for those who fought for Islam”. A stroll on the dark memory lane is what we did.
The riot against the Moslem and Christians in Ambon was one of the scariest times in Indonesian history. The line was clear, religion. It was clearly never understood how it started, why it started, and why it was prolonged. But the point is that it was resolved, may it be on the surface. Tension is still bubbling behind the friendly local faces, but I guess it’s human after so much suffering, so much loss.
Walking through the gate, you could see a lot of graves. As we walked through the area, a man hanging around explained and showed us one grave of a man without a head. They couldn’t find it by the time he was buried. Geez, it was that scary at the time!
Another lady passed me by, seeing I was a tourist, she told me that she was supposed to get paid the day war broke loose. She never did, and she also lost her family, including her children. She now looks for empty bottles to sell and make ends meet. She is still pissed off because she didn’t get her pay yet, and I’m not kidding when I say she kept on complaining to me. As if that was the reason of her loss. Bless her soul and the urge to survive each day.
The cemetery was far from appropriate. It was located beside a port and not really conducive as a place to reflect on the past and close to a temporary landfill. But it is the location where things happened, I guess.
In the lawn of the office, there are also remains of houses that were burnt down. I think it’s a bit awkward to remove it since it’s a reminder to what has happened.
A lot of Indonesians love rujak, especially girls. There’s even a session to make rujak while gossiping and catching up. It’s a tradition to gather, cut up tropical fruits, make the sugar sauce, and chit chat until you lick off the sugar sauce off your fingers. Sounds like a great social gathering right… hmmm, feel like one right now L
Rujak is a dessert made from a lot of tropical fruits, bathed in brown sugar sauce. The sauce is usually made from brown palm sugar and combined with chilly, salt, and peanuts. You will find it quite common throughout Indonesia. And the taste is usually similar. But not in Natsepa!
The first few chumps, you wouldn’t know what the difference is, but once you get to your third and fourth bite, you realize that Natsepa rujak is really good. It’s the chucky peanuts, and a flavor in the sauce which I’m not sure what it is exactly, that makes it different to the common rujak I’ve known. I underestimated the taste thinking it would be the same as any other rujak, so I didn’t see how it was made. I’m still wondering what the secret ‘ingredient’ is… some say it’s nutmeg, but I will never know. It just tastes great!!
A portion could cost about IDR 5,000.
Or maybe because my boss treated me, that’s why it tasted so good 😛
Coto Makassar Lima Jaya
The Makassar are spread almost everywhere in Indonesia. They’re prominent in the east of Indonesia and so is their food. In the east of Indonesia, you can almost find Coto Makassar as popular as Padang restaurants in the west. I personally think it’s not as good as served in its origin, but this place is a favorite of Pak Alex and the Ambonese.
The taste was pretty good. A portion of Coto or soup can be eaten with ketupat or buras, compacted rice, cooked very differently. It was really good especially since I hadn’t had a genuine one for some time. It hit close to home. The Coto is usually served with the inside organs of a cow, but here’s a stomach friendly tip. You can ask for meat only to the person taking your order. Just say ‘Daging’ and they will serve you only with chunks of meat.
A portion cost about IDR 10,000 / portion, not including the ketupat and other additional on the table that you fancy. Don’t forget your fresh lime juice!
Ratu Gurih – To have almost everything
This restaurant has almost everything. It has great seafood, cooked in great recipes! The seafood is fresh since you’re basically on an island. They have crabs, squids, prawns, clams, and of course fish. I’m not sure if they always have lobsters, but you could ask for it just in case they do have stock. They fry it, grill it, steam it, sauce it, soup it, they have an extensive list of dishes for you to pick. They also have Tom Yam, just in case 😉
A favorite of this venue is Papeda. This is an Ambonese dish that you should definitely slurp your mouth in to. Seriously, slurp in to! Papeda is sago, which is an equivalent to… glue. Yes, people, it’s like glue paste. If you eat it alone, it taste like glue. But when you combine it with a dish rich with sauce then you have a yummy goo. Ok ok I’m not describing it well but the taste is a wild one and I definitely recommend it. The best combination is Papeda with fish in yellow sauce. The sauce itself tastes a bit sour and sweet, and cooked with canary nuts. Of course you can eat it with spoon and fork, but that wouldn’t be fun, now would it?
The traditional Ambonese eat the fish with the spoon and fork and then they slurp the Papeda straight from the plate after poured with the yellow sauce. I love eating it, although I only ate little of it. It’s filling, yet it will make you hungry really fast. Not good for the diet but great for the food hunt since you can fill in your tummy soon again.
On this occasion, I had the luck to try the Gandaria Juice. Gandaria is like a mini orange. I’m not sure if it is a mini orange, I failed to check, but the juice tasted like mix of orange and banana and in the good way. Another tropical fruit to slurp on! This restaurant is truly a slurp!
It’s better to eat with a few people in this restaurant. It’s a bit pricey but equivalent to good seafood. You’d probably spend about IDR 50,000/person on a few choices of seafood, veggies, rice shared together and drink.
Ratu Gurih Restaurant
JL. Diponegoro no. 26 Ambon
Phone: +62-911-341 202
Coconut Rice Siliwangi Monument
Coconut rice is basically rice cooked in coconut milk. The rice becomes tastier and rich afterwards. The venue: the Siliwangi monument. The food stall is located right beside this monument. It’s a food stall from the afternoon to the late night.
The side dishes are a galore. Grilled fish with tomato sauce which is a bit spicy but fresh! There are also the shredded coconut, more fish, and choices of satay, chilly paste, boiled egg, and I can’t even remember what else. I stick to the basics and it was enough to make me happy that night.
One portion cost not more that IDR 15,000 but that again depends on what you want on your dish and what you add to it.
Coconut Rice and Lupis
Pak Alex, being a taxi driver, knows a lot of places. I totally recommend him to anyone that would like to drive around the island. He also recommended a coconut rice venue. It was at a food stall was on JL. Said Perinits, where the taxis hung out.
The stall was famous, especially amongst the taxi drivers, becak drivers, and I guess.. everyone! You have to get there before 10 am because from my experience, they were out of it one morning just before 10. I did have a chance to try it the next day, and I can see why it’s famous. It was really good! Honestly, the rice was better in this venue. The rice was soft and the blend with coconut milk was smoother here. The rice at Siliwangi monument won on side dishes. The humble yet spicy taste is surely a great and heavy breakfast. Huff!
One portion costs not more that IDR 10,000 with its side dishes.
This venue also sold Lupis. It’s a traditional dessert. Although it’s made of ketan or sticky rice made in to 3 dimensional triangles, it’s added with shredded coconut and plenty of liquid brown sugar. And that is why it’s considered a dessert! It doesn’t taste anything like a carb dish, it’s a dessert as it should be, and a heavy one too. Huff!
And you can get fresh coffee afterwards at Joas (read on).
Joas Coffee Shop
I try my best never to skip my daily dose of coffee from this coffee shop. Jaos provides Ambonese coffee and blended as according to Mr. Jaos. Well actually Jaos is the name of the owner, but at the time, he found a great guy that could blend a great cup of java. And the recipe has been with them even though the guy isn’t … I think… I’m not sure.
The coffee is thick and strong. I love the milk coffee (I hate calling it Latte because it’s got coffee debris on the bottom of the mug). My boss that loves straight black also admits it’s good coffee and I’ve heard, he never misses his dosage too every time he’s in town.
It’s extremely cheap, only IDR 7,000 / mug.
The snacks are also yummy. My favorite of all are the fried Sukun and fried Banana. A portion costs about IDR 5,000. Nothing beats it on a sunny afternoon. A must, seriously!
Joas Traditional Coffee House
Jl. Said Perintah
The coffee shop is also kept simple with plastic chairs and wooden tables. Because it’s well known to get coffee, visitors are usually men doing business whatever that may be. You don’t get many girls, and it’s not rare to hear someone bumping to each other. Even I had the luxury to do so a few times even though I wasn’t from the area. It’s a coffee shop filled with the aroma of politics or business. It’s like a secret society or a gentlemen’s club.
Dede’s is the restaurant located across the street to Hotel Wijaya 1. I had a few dinners there with my colleagues. It provides great grilled seafood and has a clean and neat environment. The menu is similar to Ratu Gurih, but is not so well known for it. Personally I prefer Ratu Gurih for the taste but it’s somewhat similar and Dede’s is a choice anytime of the day too. It also offers a more quieter ambience.
Eating here would cost about IDR 25,000-50,000/person.
Jl. Said Perintah
A choice of stay would be the Amaris Hotel. It just opened in February 2010 and it was fresh when I got there. For about IDR 300,000 / night, you get the luxury of a five star hotel but modest.
The room provides its own bathroom, flat screen TV, bed, mini table to write on, clothes hanging area, and it will still provide you with electricity in this constant black out city. Try to choose a room that is not in the corner of the building, it has bad connection to the sewage, therefore creating a stench sometimes. Either than that, I love my company for paying for the luxury.
It’s located relatively in the center of the city and everywhere is about a walk away. And a plus for every foreign tourist, a KFC branch is located on the ground floor, just in case you get homesick.
Jl. Diponegoro no 82-84
Phone: +62-911-342 777
Fax: +62-911-342 555
I guess there is a Wijaya 2 somewhere but I’m not sure where. It’s not close by, so maybe we shouldn’t bother to look for it. This hotel is sort of like a hostel, to tell you the truth. For IDR 225,000 the rooms were ok. You can enjoy a bit of AC but only if the town electricity is working. There is also Wi-fi connection in the lobby and restaurant. The food was pretty good too!
It the power is out, all you can hear is the generator, and AC is no longer yours, only to those that have a more expensive room rate. I happen to experience this… situation. But it’s alright if you can stand the heat at night, you can always enjoy the cool air in the day?? Huh???
Jl. Said Perintah no. 15B Ambon.
Telp : +62-911-343023 / 343024
Fax : +62-911-351976
Baguala Bay Resort
This resort is owned by Ridho, a band member of Slank, one of the most famous bands in Indonesia to current date. I think he did a bit of traveling knowing what people would want in a resort, because it was a pretty good one.
Baguala Bay is located near Natsepa, just out side of the city, right beside the sea. The resort had a pool, restaurant and the standard facilities. It’s a bit hard to reach, I guess, considering it’s not near the city, but I guess not all are looking for hype of the city.
Cottages : IDR 400,000/night
Junior Suite : IDR 500,000/night
Deluxe : IDR 350,000/night
Extra bed would cost : IDR 100,000/night
Extra person : IDR 50,000/night
Prices already includes breakfast.
Baguala Bay Resort
Jl. Raya Waitatiri
Because Ambon is an island, then there could only be 2 ways to get there: air and sea.
Most flights transit in Surabaya or Makassar. But there are direct flights such as Garuda and Batavia.
A plane ticket to Ambon can range about IDR 700,000 t0 more than IDR 2,000,000 per pax one way depending on season and when you purchase the ticket. The closest to the date, the more expensive the tickets get. So buy now! 😀
And just for an intermezzo, Amatoo means hello and goodbye… something like Aloha and Hola!
Another alternative is getting the public boat. The schedule is uncertain and this depends highly on the weather. If you do happen to get a schedule, don’t expect it to be too exact, because delays are normal in these waters.
There are n umerous public transport going around Ambon city and to the outskirts villages. As any public transport, payment will depend on the distance of your trip. But I think the fare would not exceed more than IDR 10,000.
To get to Liang, take a mini bus (angkot) to Liang. There is a specific route going out there. For this, you probably would have to pay IDR 15,000/pax. The same goes to the Hukurila direction, although I think you pay less than to Liang beach.
To Liang beach by private car, take the road to Waai village and then just keep on going. The road basically ends somewhere at the beach. You will find an area fenced with concrete where you enter and pay a retribution. While to Hukurila, you would have take a right somewhere near the juction near the direction to the airport.
This beach is on the north east side of the island. A friend of mine, which has an extreme fro, a trait of the locals, recommended it to me and since I’m a fan of local reference I thought it’s a must. I did it in the limited time I had, just for the sake of finding great beaches. Don’t we live for it?
A 45 minutes drive and passing Waai village took me there. I thought it would be just like every other commercialized beach, and as usual I thought wrong. It was beautiful. Commercialized? Sure! There were many gazeboes and empty stalls for sellers. But Liang beach can compete with any deserted beach anywhere, on a weekday of course. It was clean, colourful, and quite. Because of its remote location, not a lot of people come here. And since it was a weekday, practically no one was there. It was all mine.. muahahahaha (evil laugh)… The sand was white, the water was blue in 3 different colors, and just flat. A pier was also there to jump of, so what else can make it more perfect? Did I mention there were one or two snack and beverage sellers?
There was also a broken down water slide… hmm, there’s always something about them. I actually dreamt of going on it a few nights after seeing. It was a nightmare… I had scratches all over my thighs and ass. What a horror!
Ok fair enough, you couldn’t snorkel in it, but a nice swim sometimes is all what you need. At the time I was swimming there, there was a soft current, so I advise you not go too far out take care in these waters.
Hukurila is also bay. It’s located on the south coast of the island. To get there, you can take the public transport from Ambon city heading to Hukurila. You can just stop in the Hukurila village which is basically the bay itself. It’s a small tidy beach and swimming there means the bay is yours and the locals’.
The bay has a snorkeling area but I think their selling point is the diving. Upon the visit, I saw a dive center. The owner happened to be taking a few foreigners diving just on the other side of the bay. His assistant, while tending the oxygen tanks, said the area has an underwater cave. I visited Hukurila when I wasn’t certified yet. Don’t say it! I know! It’s already on my to-do list!
Pari Divers – Ambon
Phone/Fax: +62-911 348 473
Fax: +62-813 43 092 093
What I enjoy most of this part of the trip is passing through the small villages that are tidy, clean and small. Nothing fancy and everyone seems really friendly. Saying hi to anyone that passes by, whether they know them or not. I like this!