Manado, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Flying into Manado on a Tuesday afternoon.

Manado is located on the north coast of the wildly unusually shaped island of Sulawesi (formerly Celebes) and is the second-largest city in Sulawesi after Makassar and is the capital of North Sulawesi.

Manado is in the top right corner of this map I copied from Google images. On the bottom left is a map of Indonesia- easy to remember- red on white. Like chilli on rice!

Although on the coast and surrounded by beautiful ocean and coral for snorkellers and scuba divers, the waterfront has no beach- it is lined by volcanic rocks breakwaters. The islands to the north, accessible by boat, are the starting points for underwater adventures.

J and I discussing the qualities of coral.

It’s a prosperous place with good roads and a boulevard lined with western-style shopping centres; the city is nestled by a range of mountains and many coconut, banana and clove plantations. Along the coast is a row of high-end malls and a continuous, one-way traffic jam. It’s a gorgeous spot- not far from the equator and so it was hot! Also, it takes a long time to get to the nearby towns due to the mountainous terrain.

Manado is the cultural home of the Minahasen people. This mainly Christian group were colonised by the Dutch. The churches dotting the city attest to this influence; before the Dutch were the Spanish and Portuguese who arrived in the sixteenth century. Manado grew rich in the era of the spice trade; cloves and coconuts remain big exports.

Something for animal lovers to watch out for here- Rintek wuuk or RW (lit. Minahasan: “fine hair”) is a euphemism of dog meat. In Minahasan culture it is considered prestigious to consume rare and unusual meats. I was voyeuristically keen to see this advertised around the city, however not keen at all in trying any. I love dogs as pets, not as dinner.

If you want to avoid eating dog, watch out for warungs advertising “RW”.

We had come here to meet Fernado, a lovely young man whom J met on the online car-part community. He took J around all the old shops with old parts to do some ‘picking’.

Another boring car-parts store.
Good thing the es cendol seller was out front. Loved the Manado version- it included peanuts!
Es Cendol- one of Asia’s finest culinary inventions.
Es means ice. The green rice flour jelly itself is called cendol. It is made using rice flour and tapioca flour or starch and the little green bits are shaped like worms. The green colour comes from pandan leaves. Es cendol is served with cendol mixed with palm sugar syrup and coconut milk. It is very sweet from the palm sugar and rich from the coconut milk.
This one had peanuts in it. Just when I thought I couldn’t love this sugary deliciousness any more!
It didn’t rain that day, even though the clouds suggested it would!
The Soekarno Bridge, named after Indonesia’s first president. It was finally finished in 2015, after over a decade of building delays.

Most visitors come here for the scuba diving off nearby Bunaken island. We had a go at snorkelling- it was gorgeous- although we got completely ripped off by our ‘resort’ hotel who charged us $USD60 EACH for what was only 45 minutes of being in the water. My favourite moment was swimming with a beautiful turtle, and the water was the turquoise of postcard pictures.

Bunaken Island by night. The skies were clear and dotted with stars. If J and I hadn’t been married for so long the scene could possibly have been described as ‘romantic’. His enduring memory of this moment was of swatting away mosquitoes, while Miss E had stolen my phone to take some artistic shots and I was terrified it would fall through the cracks in the wooden slats of the boardwalk from our hotel. I won’t mention the name of the hotel as I wouldn’t recommend it. If you can’t say anything nice about a place, don’t say anything at all. I will, however, say that all of the staff were absolutely lovely and treated us with kindness and respect. The hotel was advertised as being only a few kilometres from the city centre, which was technically true. There was no mention of the 45 minute winding goat track that was the only connecting road, though… J is still complaining, to this day, about having to spend 80K++ for a lukewarm Bintang.

Fernando is Buddhist, so showed us around his local temple near the harbour which is also one of the major sights of Manado. There are many, many ornate Christian churches and this area in the imperial age was Portuguese before becoming firmly Dutch. So it a place where you can hear a call to prayer from the mosque while looking in a Buddhist temple after passing maybe twenty whitewashed Christian churches with colourful fences.

Fernado was very proud to show us the city temple; he knew the attendants inside and they allowed us to have a look through the whole temple, not just the display areas.
My favourite part was the kitchen; scenes of life from another time and the ubiquitous Indonesian hot water flask.

I also spent part of our little holiday sitting in a homogenous, neon-lit modern shopping centre which has a lack of shops and functioning escalators. It did, however, have a very good view of the dormant volcano ‘Manado Tua ‘, as well as ‘Kid City’, an amusement parlour. Miss E had been dragged around all day looking at car parts so this was her time. I was happy to have a quiet-ish place to sit and look at the photos of the day. I wasn’t very happy waiting nearly an hour for a coffee in a well-known coffee chain before they advised me that they had ‘run out’ of coffee…

It was more fun than it looks in this photo!
View from the shopping centre window. Manado Tua, complete with a conveniently placed cloud which makes it look like an active rather than dormant volcano.

I was most fascinated by the Christian cemeteries in Manado City. We had seen a few built on flat ground, but two, in particular, lining the one-way roads which transverse the city centre, are built on rises and resemble tiny, chaotic cities- kind of like shanty towns for the dead.

The graves themselves are adorned with shiny, coloured tiles and headstones. There are no plots and rows- if you were looking for a particular grave there is a good chance you will not be able to find it, or you simply can’t access it. Then if you find a path, there may be a locked gate to stop you in your tracks.

Fernado stopped for me to take some photos. And yes you will be right in thinking I keep calling him Fernando by mistake! He did not understand why I was continually keeping myself amused- ABBA were not as popular in Indonesia as they were in Australia! Plus Fernado was quite a bit younger than me… his taste in music may have been a bit more twenty- first century.

We also had our picture taken with a giant sandstone flying Jesus. There was a really good beer and ribs warung not far from the absurdly massive messiah.

My favourite bits of Manado were: the turquoise coloured, souped-up bemos; two tyres joined together to make planting pots then painted to look like giant macarons; es cendol with roasted peanuts, large plates of chilli squid; but best of all- snorkelling with turtles! I also loved chatting to people as I sat outside car part shops waiting for J.

A middle-aged white woman (my skin is impervious to tanning even in the tropics) sipping on an es cendol in the middle of the dusty commercial street is quite the curiosity and I enjoyed being able to practice my Indonesian and get to know some people from North Sulawesi. We had lots of fun looking at google maps and showing photos of what it looks like where we live.

This lovely lady was quite amused by my presence. I showed her pictures of Australia from my phone gallery. She came from Tomohon City, to the south of Manado. She was here to ‘do some shopping.’
J and Miss E are always on the lookout for Fireworks shops. I suggested our Lion Air flight may not appreciate having explosives on board so disallowed the potential purchase.

Manado City was a unique place to visit for a few days. There was a real mix of modern and traditional Indonesia with the high rise shopping malls on one side of the city and cafes with dog meat in the back streets and then a giant Jesus overlooking modern housing developments. If you were into scuba diving I think you would find it a treat. Otherwise, it’s just a nice place to meet some interesting and hospitable people and find some car parts. And eat some fabulous seafood!

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