Our one night in Manado was not enough! Bec and I both agree that Manado is a city we would love to return to and explore properly sometime in the future. Part of the attraction was the incredibly warm welcome from Franky and his wife who run the Libra Homestay. If you check the reviews for this place, I can guarantee that they will all be glowing and rightly so. No sooner had I booked our stay, than Franky emailed me with clear directions so that we could direct our taxi there. On arrival, his lovely wife, Dietje, served us with a slice of creamy agar agar and an iced blackcurrant juice. They asked about our plans and when I explained that the first thing I needed to do was book our tickets to Ternate for the following day, Franky immediately got out his laptop and booked and paid for our tickets online, adding the cost to our bill! Over and above the duties of a homestay host. His trust in us was incredible and I will always remember him for it.
Their 5 bedroomed house is large and beautiful and as their children have all grown up and are now married with their own families, Franky & Dietje decided two months ago to open up their house to visitors to keep them busy in their retirement, so the house wouldn’t be so empty! Needless to say, they have been run off their feet and the night we were there,they were fully booked! As usual, we were the only Australian guests, the others were a mixture of Indonesians and Europeans. Our room was compact yet not too cramped and had an ensuite and a private courtyard as well as being air conditioned! For only Rp210,000 a night (breakfast included), it was definitely the nicest place we stayed in while in Sulawesi.
One interesting fact about Manado was the small number of motorbikes. I asked Franky about this and his reply was fascinating. He told us that he had heard about a link between the number of motorbikes on a city street and whether it is in a developing or ‘developed’ country. Developing countries have huge numbers of motorbikes on the streets compared with ‘developed’ countries which have only a few. He then joked that maybe Manado is a developed city! But isn’t his point an interesting one! However, he is right about the residents of Manado being wealthier than other Indonesian cities if the sheer number of cars on the road is any indication. He then told us about his new car. I had noticed that it had Jakarta plates and he explained that he had bought it in Jakarta because it would be 40 million Rupiah (AUD$4000) cheaper! He then had it shipped to Manado in a container, which cost 8 million Rupiah but even still, he made a huge saving.
One other very interesting point about Manado is the large number of churches. In the time I was there, I only noticed one mosque. As a result of the largely Christian population, the dress code seemed far more relaxed. It felt odd at first seeing Indonesian women out in the streets wearing short sleeved shirts, shorts, lower necklines and knee length skirts and dresses. As there seems to be very strong links between Ternate and Manado, I wonder if this is why Ternate, a largely Moslem city/island, also has a very relaxed attitude to the dress code for women in every day life. Important to add though that on religious days in Ternate, modest clothing, including a head scarf, is worn by all women and young girls.
As Bec and I only visited Manado because it is the gateway (would ‘diving board’ be too literal a term?) to Bunaken, we didn’t have enough time to truly explore aspects like ‘makanan khas Manado’ (traditional Manado food). Bec will always remember Manado for ‘es teler’ because that is where she first enjoyed this beautiful Indonesian treat. If you have forgotten what is in ‘es teler’ is, refer to my first Sulawesi post.
Our only evening in Manado included a trip to a local supermarket where we enjoyed looking at what was available on the shelves and with strong discipline, did not buy too much, hoping that we would find it again later in Bali so that we wouldn’t have to carry it around with us for too long before heading home to Australia. The packet mix I had to employ the greatest amount of will power for was for durian ice cream mix. We bought this once before and it was incredibly delicious however only if you don’t look at the ingredients! I just hope it is still available somewhere in Bali!
After our visit to the supermarket, we found a nearby restaurant which sold food and a good selection of ‘es’ drinks. While Bec ordered an es teler and a mango juice, I ordered gado gado and an es buah. While I much prefer pecel usually, this gado gado was one of the nicest I have had in a long time. The peanut sauce tasted like it had been made from scratch rather than from a packet mix (which are usually quite bland) however the thing which really made it delicious was that it was quite spicy. Fresh chili with fresh peanuts is a combination made in heaven!
We decided to catch an angkot home as Franky had given us detailed information (Route 11) and a hand drawn map showing the angkot route that we needed to get back to Libra Homestay. It also would only cost Rp3,000 each (AUD30c), a very important factor! We stood out on the footpath and each one that came along, we asked if they went to Jalan Siswa. After asking quite a few, one of the drivers pointed out to us what to look for. We knew were looking for a number 11 on the angkot’s but couldn’t see the number anywhere. Turns out that the route name and number was a illuminated sign in the windscreen, right down the bottom left hand corner! How we missed it I have no idea but once pointed out, it was so obvious! Almost immediately, an angkot with the sign ‘Jalan Siswa’ came along and we jumped on board. I fogot to tell the driver where we wanted to get off but luckily someone got in after us and told the driver she wanted to get off at the Getsemani Church. I commented to her that we also were heading that way and she immediately introduced herself to us and chatted the entire way in amazing English! Maya was so friendly and truly encapsulated to us the people of Manado.