I had intended to take a ‘car’ (SUV) to Kotamobagu, but none was going on Wednesday, so I had to take a bus. Unfortunately it went at 6:00 AM, which meant that I needed to be picked up with a tuk tuk at 5:30. I was ready but my person didn’t show up (shades of Ethiopia!). I hailed one off the street who got me to the terminal at 5:50, just in time to buy my ticket and board the bus, which left at 5:59! I was assigned to a front seat next to the driver, along with another woman but there was no decent place to put my feet. This reminded me of Bangladesh where on buses, the women were always seated in the front on the motor covering, which was not only warm, but afforded no backrest and was very dangerous. If there were the tiniest collision, these women would all be pitched forward into the windshield. Once again the women get the uncomfortable and dangerous seats!
After a half hour, since I could see that the regular seats behind me were fine as to foot room, I climbed over the seat to sit in one of those, to the protests of the other woman. I took a seat anyway, and was much more comfortable.
The EIGHT-hour trip was over a narrow highway, winding into the mountains, which made pretty scenery, but also made slow going. As usual, we had a good lunch stop. The food in these bus stops is surprisingly good—perhaps the large volumes (many buses stop) assure that the food is fresh. Here the choices were two kinds of fish, chicken, and tofu, plus a big pink hopper of steamed rice and some extra sauces.
During this ride, again, there were houses built all along the highway, except high in the mountains, so, again, the view was very limited. I think this also points out their huge population pressures. Indonesia has the fifth largest population in the world, after China, India, USA, and Russia.
Eventually I arrived in Kotamobagu at the terminal, and hired a tuk tuk to take me to a hotel listed in the Lonely Planet. It was full! We went to about 10 hotels and about 7 were full and three were awful but expensive! Finally we found the Garden Palace Hotel, which was OK, but not great. Luckily almost right across the street was a supermarket and next door, an internet.
Exploring Kotamobagu, the next day, revealed quite a modern town with several big shopping malls. There were no tourists that I saw. The people were very friendly—a mother was eager to show off her beautiful baby, whom I photographed. I had to hunt high and low for toilet paper, as my hotel didn’t provide it. Those with Eastern toilets often don’t, but I found a good supply at a downtown supermarket. Now if I could just find some contact lens cleaner solution. I did have a nice lunch at a rumah maken, though—some good fish.
Saturday morning an SUV came for me at my hotel, as promised—I wasn’t sure that the hotel lady understood what I wanted, but she apparently did, and had made the arrangements! The driver shuttled several of us passengers to the ‘terminal’ where several SUVs were getting ready to depart. The scenery was splendid on the way to Manado, and I enjoyed seeing quite a few oxen teams on this route. There were only five of us passengers, and one young man could speak some English. An older woman bought some rambutan from a roadside vendor while we were stopped for construction, and the young man bought matoa. They shared them all around the car. The fruits were similar—you break through the outer covering and find a gelatinous fruit inside with a big nut in the middle, which you discard. They are closely related to Chinese lychees.
By the time we arrived in Manado, I was getting very nervous about finding a hotel room as my LP guide said that the budget hotels are often full with Indonesian businessmen and, of course my experience in Kotamobagu was on my mind. We drove all over town about three times on various errands before the driver finally brought me to the Rex Hotel, as requested. It wasn’t great, but I took it anyway, grateful to have a room! I did notice a nicer looking hotel next door. When I asked for a towel, soap and toilet paper, the desk clerk said that those were not provided! I had been feeling quite tired and knew that I needed some rest-time. So I went next door and found a lovely hotel with all the amenities, including an elevator (!) So I told the Hotel Rex desk clerk that I was not going to stay there since towels, toilet paper and soap were not provided (by now I noticed there was no fan, either) and so went next door to the Hotel Regina. I am living in fine style with a TV with many English channels, A/C, and a Western bathroom with WARM water! I have stayed several days and have rested up well between seeing things.
By now it was 1:30 so I went looking for a beer and something to eat. None of the rumah maken (local modest restaurants) served beer, but I saw a sign for the “69 Café” with an arrow pointing back down an alley, and the sign had a Bintang Beer ad attached to it! So I followed the arrow and poked my head into an alley off the alley, where there were tables and chairs and a cold drink refrig with beer in it. I called and called before a young woman finally came and she looked so surprised to see me! I asked for a beer, and again, she hesitated, got somebody else, who also looked surprised, and finally got out the beer, after I asked her three times. I sat at one of the tables enjoying my beer, when I noticed that there were three rooms with room numbers on them. There was also a board with Indonesian writing—“1 something, 35,000; 2 something, 50,000; 3 something, 60,000.” Did this refer to hours? Was this a brothel? The 69 Café?
I finished my beer, and then went to look for a restaurant. I found a rumah maken with several dishes in the display counter. When I asked what one was, the woman said, “That’s mouse,” and then, “that’s dog, that’s pork, that’s fish—”. We’re in Minahasan country now (name of the people who live here) who are said to eat anything with four legs except a wooden table. I heard the woman make some joke about “Mickey Mouse” to the laughter of other eaters. So I ordered the fish—no mistaking that! I certainly found Manado interesting!!
Sunday was a good-luck day. Not only did I manage to find the Garuda Airline office but they were OPEN and changed the dates of my two flights (Manado to Makassar, and Makassar to Denpassar) in a jiffy with no charge! Since I’m going home from Denpassar, Bali anyway, I decided I shall spend the last nine days of my trip there, Eating, Praying and Loving! I haven’t been to Bali since 1992. Oh, and I managed to buy some contact lens cleaning solution, too, at an Optik store, after going to three other places. Then I came across, what else? A McDonalds! I checked out the menu for fun, but it didn’t seem too familiar. The hamburgers seemed to be decorated with lots of chilies, accompanied by rice, in certain cases. I ate in another restaurant nearby in a beautiful setting right on the sea with a wonderful sea breeze keeping me cool, while I ate the best fish, scaled, cleaned and grilled right there! When I arrived back at the hotel, my tee shirt was soaked, as usual. It’s really hot here, so much the better to have A/C!
I made a big excursion to see the Public Museum of North Sulawesi, walking a long ways, even getting lost once. It turned out to be a Wild Goose Chase since it was closed until January. Actually nothing is really a wild goose chase since it’s always fun to just walk around town, observing life here. So I took a picture of a statue through the fence of the museum and had to be content with that. Going back, I got lost again, and finally took a bendi back to the hotel.
The next day I visited two Buddhist Temples—yes they are here, too. The temples were beautiful and colorful, and seemed to be much in use—lots of people putting incense in the sand holders. In the second one, Kienteng Ban Hian Kong, a young man accompanied me to all three floors, while only letting me photograph in certain places. Of course it was necessary to leave my shoes at the door, which always is cause for a bit of anxiety. Whatever would I do if somebody took my shoes, since they’re the only pair I have along except for some scuffs.
That about does it for Manado. I’m going to take a little day trip to Airmadidi on my own tomorrow using the ‘mikrolet,’ which are blue bemos. There are some pre-Christian tombs to see.