Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 8 April 2010 • Itinerary
And just when you think life can be a tad boring in the routine scene… a spontaneous offer that can’t be rejected, comes up. Horraaayy!! A new friend, which chose to be nameless and faceless yet will be called Compadre in this entry, was kindly in need of companionship to Maumere on the island of Flores. His quest: conquering Neptunes territory. My quest: holiday to the unknown! Now, usually girls in this country would not just go out with any stranger but, the catch? Boredom and accommodation expenses taken care off. I just had to tag along, being company as I know how. Say no to that? It’s not in my (brainless) dictionary.
Oh the anticipation!
There are several ways you can get to Maumere. Compadre chose to meet up in Kupang. So, I took the plane from Jakarta which was not surprisingly delayed but surprisingly delayed for 2 hours, d’oh! Turns out that we shared the same flight from Surabaya to Kupang. We took the late flight arriving at about 10 pm. We had to stay the night. I had the privilege to recommend an accommodation facility. I was curious about Avalon Bed and Breakfast mentioned over and over in backpacker sites. It won’t be reviewed here, but in another entry about Kupang. So hang tight!
Expectedly, the plane to Maumere the next day also was running late … it built my anxiety to see this interesting place. As an Indonesian girl that had one or two flights in her lifetime, I’ve come to learn to use my anger towards plane delays and convert it to excitement of the journey a head. These delays were still killing me inside. Why is it so hard to get there??? It seems forever. All I can hope for is that it’s all worth it.
Arriving at Maumere airport, Wai Oti, all anticipation was starting to pay off… big time! It was a beaut. Even though it was humble, the nature decorating the airport was not. And as an intermezzo, I finally understand why one of the best Indonesian add in the past was called ‘I love the blue of Indonesia’. It is the ambience color of the county and this airport this particular morning proves it. And I saw a man wearing a blue sarong at the airport. How thematic is that?
Compadre and I took the taxi service provided in the airport. Apparently Ankermi Resort is well known. Mention their name and the driver knew straight away where it was, and so did his fellow drivers.
A blink of the land and people
Maumere is actually to the west of the airport, but not far. While where we were going to was to the east. About an hour drive shows you the end of the year’s dry season and is a great way to see how these people in this part of Indonesia struggle and survive. NTT is one of the poorest provinces in Indonesia considering the climate being so dry making it hard for agriculture and the remote archipelago creating transportation obstacles. Not to mention less investment touches the area. Sounds complicated? It is! Developing this area is a challenge. As part of the company that is investing in the surrounded area, where I work now, let me just say… It is!
An irony that I still remember till today is, along the way you would see many electric cables running by without touching the houses it passes. The people can not afford electricity no matter how cheap it is even though it is subsidized by the government. The houses are also far from your standard comfort design being from wood and with just the necessary attributes. It’s not like slummy poor, just so so so humble to be exact. But I can be wrong. What I need is not necessary what they need, right? Never underestimate the power of Indonesians ability of acceptance because you will be surprised, but on to our story…
Ankermi Resort definitely has the eye for tourism!
I don’t know how to dive yet, but considering how much I love snorkeling, hopefully I have some feel to talk about it. I never considered this wet wonder since it’s a timely and costly hobby to maintain, or as I assumed it was. So, it was my so-called loss, tagging along but not being able to dive. But never a loss on a free trip! Woohoo!
Ankermi apparently is the place to accommodate your diving needs around these waters. Compadre did his homework. We were dropped off at the leafy gate and walked about 30 m down the closed door of the garden. Surprise! For someone that has seen quite a few rice paddies, this one definitely caught my attention. After a dry drive scene, the rice paddy is the last thing I would expect to see at the garden of Ankermi. It’s amazing how they have successfully established something that requires a lot of water. And it’s a great backup food supplies as I eventually understood.
We then settled in the modest and laid back mood. And may I add, I love showers without roofs, and this is exactly what this resort had. Compadre and I then decided to have lunch while he waits for the preparation of his first dive located right at the sandy bottom of the resorts waterfront or a muck dive. Wow! Check that out, I sound like a dive expert already huh?
So while Compadre dipped his whole existence in water, I took my first siesta on our bungalow porch. And according to vacation rules, that afternoon I did everything else with no extra effort than a siesta. There were a few people around, all foreigners, occupying the other bungalows. There were only 6 bungalows by the way and full booked, even so that’s not a lot of people.
The night crawled in and soon you know me tummy is demanding. I wasn’t that hungry but was more curious on to what food would we eat. We were kinda confused on how things worked. We showed up at 7 at the dining area, and found that it was going to be a buffet rather than ordering. What started as 3 separated tables, ended up with one long table decorated with laughs and chats. I love the ambience that this resort offers. Everyone was mingling and the host Mr. Kermi and Mrs. Claudia made sure the mingle was nice. Meeting all the visitors, I’ve landed my choice to favorite person to…*drum roll please*… Niel. The Swedish baby becoming an Indonesian beach boy. I think it was his blonde hair that got my heart. It’s between that or the squealing laughs he does which sounded so lovely.
I actually did learn something that night, which learned from Simone, Neil’s mum. She told me how she loved Indonesia’s ambience in nurturing children. It’s our tradition to love children no matter whose it was. A culture that is rarely found in Europe. I never thought of it that way but I guess it’s true. Everyone in the resort took care of Niel and Simone can trust people more in this country. It was a great insight to learn that night. No adlib here, just a friendly story of how Indonesia has a nurturing nature 😀
Pack up and let’s burn our backs! Yeah!
The morning was warm and sunny, and everyone was enthusiastic to do the dive today. Ankermi organizes distance dive trips, and is possible if there are 2 or more divers interested. I’m in for the snorkel.
It took a while to get a boat, said Pak Kermi. Twas a Idul Adha, a Moslem holiday where we celebrate animal sacrifice for God, and the boat owner was a follower, but still kind enough to sacrifice his holy day for the sake of tourism. It’s either that or Pak Kermi has great lobbying skills.
Me, Compadre, and 2 other resort visitors hopped on the boat at Ankermi’s port and headed out to the island in front of our beach front. Looked like near… but I’m no boat captain. It took about 1-1,5 hour boat trip to the pristine beach. Reaching the destination, Pangabatang, the divers got ready and jumped in with the guide. I jumped in the clear waters not long after, with Franc, a visitor from France.
It was a great swim in crystal waters and… finally spotting my first GHOST PIPE FISH ON MY OWN! It was soooo exciting. Totally need to reconsider taking up diving as a prospect hobby! So many colors and species! I desperately need an underwater camera by now. Not to mention the diving team chased 3 Eagle rays. I seriously should consider diving!
A pit stop to the sandy beach was next on the agenda… well it’s because someone has an ‘agenda’. A number 2 was on the schedule, and I shall not spill on to who the guilty party is. But it was a fab stop because the beaches was yummo! What does yummo mean? Try to picture a perfect beach, raw and deserted. See? Told ya it was yummo.
The day was still young… and so moving on to the Babi Crack island about 30 minutes from Pangabatang. It’s called the crack island because of the dive site crack made from the huge earthquake years back. The crack, which I happen to see from the top, is the habitat of so many swarming fish. It became a dive site along with the underwater cave, habitat to sharks. This crack also starts from a drop off, there for a bonus for anyone visiting. We had a late lunch on the boat that was prepared by the resort. And although the menu was very humble, it fed my worms nicely. But the fun wasn’t over… we saw a pod of dolphins with pilot whales while coming back. Ah… ain’t life grand?
Another great buffet that night, as I learned how Mr. Kermi and Mrs. Claudia established their life and business in this part of the water. It’s such a sweet story which I’ll leave you to hear it directly from its source. By this time, Compadre had another dive planned for him. A night dive, and Ankermi will always be ready for your request.
To see: People, surroundings, Maumere city,… check check check!
We had to leave the next morning, and I sucked heavily on the last beach air and sipped hard on my morning coffee. Compadre did one more dive. A very enthusiastic diver he is! So I just lazed out the morning as any vacation should. I dipped in the water for the last time just trying to see how hard a muck dive is. Even though by this time I had burned my back badly, but I’m a born stupid so Carpe Diem! And … it was hard because all my common eyes could is just… muck, I didn’t see anything in the shallow waters. I guess I better leave it with the experts.
Because it’s located on the beach, I could walk on the beach checking out the scene afterwards. It was a good thing I covered my body since I met a bunch of local guys playing soccer in the near beach. Once I stepped 10 m from them, they were all over me, asking my name, where I’m from, and constantly asking me to take pictures of them. And looking back at my photos, some were even naked but still had the decency to ‘cover up’. It was fun… but too much for my burned back and my lack of time in the area.
Anyways… I then strolled around the area just to see what is happening around. Beautiful is one thing but exotic is the word for me for the area. Though a dry area, the vegetation was crawling in with the wet season. The hilly area is also filled with volcanic rocks from past blast. The downfall of things… it was damn HOT!! Wuff… the kind where you feel like you’re in an oven. Plus it was humid. Complete to make the walk about 1,5 hour before heading back with a fast pace.
By the time I came back, it was nearly time to leave. I decided to spend it on another siesta. So sue me hehehehe…
Still curious about this resort? Check out http://www.ankermi-happydive.com/, which will meet your lowest expectations and looking at the site, it can’t be that low right? *evil grin mode: on. And please do check their prices to make sure of your calculation of the amount and type of dives you plan to do.
After this experience, I was intrigued to learn diving. I had a feeling I need to step up in the exploring game. Having a munch at snorkeling made me hunger to see what more I can consume… oops … that sounds really greedy huh? Hehehehehe…
Maumere, the city that believes
We have already booked a taxi to head to Maumere. Ready to see what we can see in this limited amount of time.
Christian influence is very strong in these parts, and can date back to the Portugese colonialism. In the city you can also see a statue of a golden Jesus symbolizing the faith these people have. Woohoo! It was a sight ‘making’ sore eyes. Dude, our eyes needed some other sight to see so we roamed around the area especially to find 2 things. Souvenirs for those back home and the well-known elephant tusks.
We also dropped by the local market, trying to look for the local coffee. Both Compadre and I are somewhat fans of these seeds. The area is known for its coffee but the best coffee of the island, and is export quality, comes from Ende, a city located on the south coast. Even though I am Indonesian and have seen so many markets, I was surprised to see how exotic the goods were. No wonder this area was colonized! They sell many herbs and seeds and Mary statues that I’ve never quite encountered. Another nice experience in my own country. On that note, I have tried Ende coffee before, and I tell you, the rumors about this coffee were true.
Home … sweet sweet home…
As much as I hate holidays to end, I do like coming home to some extent. I have to… because it’s where we come back, no?
The next morning, I WAS planning to watch the sunrise since the hotel was facing the east, but… I was still on vacation so I forgave myself when I slept in. But waking up about 7-8 am was no loss. The beach front was deserted and the shallow beach was great to walk in while soaking in the morning warmth. Ahhh… my kind of tranquility. The last batch of coffee accompanied Compadre and me that last morning at Flores before we left this interesting area.
I spent another night in Kupang, but I’ll tell you later about since I think it’s enough to soak on for the moment. Well at least for me. Let me just daydream a while to the memory of a great trip hehehehehehe… It was my journey to a great place, at a great time, with an un-doubtable generous friend. Muchas gracias, Compadre!
How I heart the simple yet well-set restaurant, the long waited but fresh cooked food, the sea breeze from this patio designed area, and the local service. It’s well managed. It was not a five star facility, but it was heavenly service. Did I mention they have great coffee and fried bananas offered at morning and afternoon tea?
Till today, I miss Ankermi’s breakfast. Not because the taste was as if a world class chef made it, but because it was so humble and consisted with such essential ingredients. Especially for those from the west, I think you would agree with me on this when you see their pancake decorated with tropical fruits such as avocado, bananas, pineapple, and passion fruit. And the ‘can’t go wrong’ coffee they have completes it. How good does that sound?
Lunch is not included in the individual price. But considering on the first day, we just got there, we ordered in the restaurant. I had the vegetable curry, which is consisted of rice, tofu salad, and the curry itself. It was an interesting blend. I’ve never had curry with salad. The curry was delicious, taste and hot. I burned my tongue out of hunger and sipping the curry too soon. The salad was actually my favorite part having a strong sour taste with the rich curry. The salad had yogurt in it and tofu. It had a slight off taste, probably the tofu was a little outdated but I didn’t mind it at all. It was soo good and I was sooo hungry… and nothing could stop me! Mhuahahahaha…. (devilish laugh)
As for the dinner buffet, there is much to choose from, from fish, chicken, beef, tofu, tempeh, and vegetable side dishes, all cooked in various ways. I can only escort you to the buffet table, and it’s for your adventurous tongue to have a go at what is on the table. But, I put my ear as a guarantee that none of the food is disappointing, as a matter of fact it was all yummy! It’s a blend of Indonesian food with a little western touch but the home cooking kinda way. Just to make you feel as if you’re at… umm.. somebody else’s home. Well a home none the less.
And let’s add that I did try their arak or local liquor called Sopi mixed with honey. I haven’t tried a lot of the local Sopi, but out of the little amount I’ve tried I can only say that it was the best one yet.
Bunaken, a sailor’s parlor
We also tried a restaurant, Bunaken, located at the end of the port. Since Bunaken is located in North Sulawesi, I’m guessing the owner originates from there. Had doubts if they had any Timor cooking, but we’ll just have to find out.
We went there twice while we were in Maumere because they had what we were looking for. The local delicacy: Se’I meat. Se’I is actually smoked meet local style. I’ve heard that it is smoked with bamboo and banana leaves but I’ll have to double check that. It’s usually presented in pork, beef and fish meat. What I understood from our local driver is that Se’I is still a delicacy here and nobody eats it unless there is a special occasion. And this was also still much in their culture as in: why eat it on a regular basis or on an ordinary day? This was proven by how little amount of restaurants that provided it.
This picture was intentionally un-rotated
With that, we had papaya flower side dish, and also seafood. The seafood was great. The fresh seafood on a port isn’t really surprising, right? And for the drink, we had limited options for juices in the afternoon when the electricity was out.
Not sure how much we spent for lunch and dinner but I’m sure it wasn’t more than Rp 200,000 /meal. We ate with our driver to make things merrier.
Wai Oti Airport-Maumere
We tried to look for local yellow rice but failed to find any, and our driver seemed to have other appointments to attend thus unable to take us on the search to find the desired breakfast. Oh well… straight to the airport it is. When we got there, we were happy to settle with the yellow rice sold in one of the stalls at the airport. Not bad actually. After that… the usual delayed plane back to Kupang where we would have to spend another night.
Just to add information about Ankermi Resort, it will cost Rp 165,000 per person. You will not be charged per bungalow, but per person. This includes breakfast and dinner, but does not include lunch.
There are 2 beds in one bungalow. One bed is king size, but the bed is a hard sleeper being very thin but sleepable…is that a word? Anyways… Another double bed is located in the loft with a window just beside it. This bed was much more comfortable. The loft is made of bamboo floor and weaved bamboo walls. It’s a breezy area to sleep in.
First night sleep was great! There is no aircon, but I happen to sleep near the loft window sucking in night sea breeze. It was a nice chill because it had been raining and is coming in the wet season. I was glad to bring my sarong along for some warmth although it was for the after swim cover up. Gotta get creative on a trip right?
Not to mention, they have open top bathrooms aaannnddd a bungalow where you could have your siestas. As you probably can tell, I really really really like this resort.
Ankermi – Happy Dive
Watumita, Flores, Lesser Sunda Islands, Indonesia
Gading Beach Front Bungalow
Thank God for cameras and my curiosity for information. I took a picture of a poster advertising this hotel while I was waiting for baggage at the Wai Oti airport. These bungalows became our choice for the night in Maumere while waiting for the plane the next morning.
This so called resort is located on the beach front, with waters as calm as silk in the morning and night. It’s probably because the weather is superb and the area is protected by the island in front of it. The resort offers calm surroundings and a great hammock to sleep on. It also offers boats to head out to the snorkeling areas. It was tempting I tell you, but we just didn’t have enough time to jump in. Just a morning walk was all we can do.
Choices of rooms are small bungalows or just your ordinary room with establishment made of wood. You have TV but it really isn’t worth it in this part of the world.
Bungalows are equipped with air-con but fans are also available just in case you’re
sick of the cold dry air. Not like us Indonesians. We love that darn AC!
Prices are various but for a bungalow with AC and TV will cost Rp 200,000 / night. But all other rooms will cost less.
The Gading Beach Front Bungalow
7 km north of Maumere
There are many ways to Maumere. Since this trip was especially for this tiny city, we made a direct shot to Kupang then taking a plane to Maumere. Plans such as Riau Airlines, Transnusa, Trigana and Merpati are some of the airlines that are well known to fly small airports including that in Maumere. And we are talking about small airplanes, as in double propeller planes. It’s a seducing flight, I tell you, since there seems to be so many coastlines and underwater world seen from above.
A lot of travelers, as I have come to understand, prefer going through the island of Flores to enjoy having Maumere as one of their stops. Basically they are traveling from round Sumbawa to Alor or just wondering around the area. There is so much to see around this territory!
Busses are available from east to the west of the island and vice versa. Not sure how much they cost but as I vaguely heard I think it wouldn’t cost you more than Rp 50,000/pax. The busses are mini busses with no air-con and tight seating. Sometimes you can even catch a truck if you happen to miss the bus. Schedule? Sorry, I’m clueless.
Souvenir was not hard to get. The driver took us to the Art Shop on Gajah Mada street right in front of the Gelora Stadium. Judging by the look of the shop and the people coming in, it’s a well known shop. This shop sells everything from T-shirt, weaved cloth, statues, bags, accessories made of bone, etc. My favorite shopping item was my T-shirt stating NTT: Nona Tenun Terus, Nanti Tuhan Tolong which translates to: young lady is always weaving cloth, later God will help you! We sure hope so. This T-shirt cost Rp 125,000.
Now about the ivory/tusks… Compadre happened to read in a prominent paper that the area is well known for the elephant tusks people sell. Now there is no record of elephants ever occupying the island! Fall from the sky? Not really. Indian and African traders are said to be the source of this luxury. Tusks were sold around the area and were popular since it is used as a dowry to wed a girl. We happen to find the house, which is well known to sell tusks and handicrafts made of it. It was located on Patirangga street # 7. How can I forget the name of the craftsman? Darn!
Dropping in his house, I was awed by his detailed work on ivory. He makes things from mini statues, smoking pipes to earrings and super mini elephant that you decorate with gold and make a pendant out of it… how cute? A mini elephant made of ivory. I purchased a star shaped earring as a souvenir of my visit to his house, and as a reminder of the 1.5 meter TUSK THAT HE HAS IN STORAGE. The small tiny earrings cost Rp 50,000 rupiah for a pair. A mini elephants cost the same. He is really really nice to show us that and I’m sure he will show it to anyone with good intentions. As you all know, ivory is a ‘delicate’ item on the market, but as I come to understand these tusks are from the past and are no longer a must to wed beautiful girl. Maybe there is an upside of turning everything in to money, more elephants can live!
As for the coffee we bought at the market, it didn’t cost me more than Rp 30,000 for about 2 kg of coffee. The Flores coffee is sold in almost all the shops on Flores Island. And as all markets, you will be able to buy anything here cheaper that what you find in supermarkets, not to mention, more raw materials. I haven’t tasted the coffee yet till now, it’s still locked up in my food cabinet. But as soon as my taste buds have a go, you’ll be the first to know how it is.