North Sulawesi: Manado and Tomohon

If I had been paying any attention, I should have known we were arriving in North Sulawesi in the middle of the rainy season. January is the rainiest month, February second (weatherbase). We flew from Sorong to Manado on January 28th. Oops.

Actually we didn’t have a lot of options. Our Indonesian visas were running out, and despite being a popular tourist destination, there are very few places to fly from Sorong ( The logical choices were really only Jakarta and Manado, and, well, we’d never been to North Sulawesi before.

After six weeks of snorkeling, we still wanted more so our plan was to head to Bunaken. The rain nixed that idea. It also may (or may not) be possible to snorkel with whale sharks in Gorontalo. However, the long trip and the uncertainty… well, we opted for the Minahasa Highlands.

First, two nights in Manado. After six weeks of few fresh fruits and vegetables, we were very excited by Manado’s market.

IMG_20230129_095450 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230129_102048 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230129_101655 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230129_183512 by bryandkeith on flickr

Here Ferda is excited about a very pink juice mix of sirsak (soursop) and naga (dragonfruit).

That is a very pink drink (from naga? (dragonfruit?)). by bryandkeith on flickr

Seems like mostly what we did in Manado was rest and eat — jackfruit, mango, pineapple, avocado, rambutan. We found a 4kg durian for 260,000 idr, but that seemed excessive. I did manage to replace the broken screen on my cell phone for 350,000 idr — an excellent find after a lot of searching for the correct screen.

Tomohon, the principal town of the Minahasa Highlands, is famous for its wet market (the most “extreme” in Indonesia, they say) where, in addition to normal (?) meat products you can buy cat, dog, rat, bat, and snake. To see the market in action you’re supposed to go in the morning. We didn’t. Before entering the market, Ferda had me take a look around to make sure she wouldn’t come across anything she didn’t want to see. The only thing unusual was a dog, blowtorched like they do with the pigs in Tana Toraja. I guided Ferda directly to the fruit where we bought jackfruit, dragon fruit, papaya, coconut, avocado — again no durian.

For meals we tried to stick to more traditional stuff like bakso and noodles.

IMG_20230131_170818 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230203_180222 by bryandkeith on flickr

The Minahasa Highlands are pretty, perhaps worth exploring a bit more by bicycle or scooter when it’s not raining so much. We stayed at a “resort” in Kinilow and did some walks from there when it wasn’t raining too hard.

IMG_20230201_161132 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230131_175203 by bryandkeith on flickr

One afternoon the rain finally let up, and we got a taxi to take us to the trailhead for Gunung Lokon, a nearby volcano.

IMG_20230202_163858 by bryandkeith on flickr

The taxi driver did indeed take us to a trailhead. See the sign? And the trail?

This is the trailhead we tried to use for Lokon.  It's the old trailhead, no longer maintained, not easy to find the route.  The new trailhead is ~1km WSW at about 970m (~100m higher than here). by bryandkeith on flickr

The trail was pretty clear for a while but then seemed to disappear entirely. We later learned that this is actually the old trailhead. If you go, have the taxi (or walk like most people — we started too late for that option) take you to the new trailhead, the one farther SW. Both show up on osm.

IMG_20230202_152430 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230202_152425 by bryandkeith on flickr

The next day the same taxi driver took us to the trailhead for another volcano, Gunung Mahawu. The volcano’s rim is only about a five minute walk from the parking lot.

IMG_20230203_150304 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230203_151534 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230203_154647 by bryandkeith on flickr

A local was there at the viewpoint to greet us.

IMG_20230203_154020 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230203_154301 by bryandkeith on flickr

I guess that’s a traditional Minahasa outfit. We extended our excursion by walking down to Tomohon.

IMG_20230203_162301 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230203_162639 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230203_172830 by bryandkeith on flickr
IMG_20230203_170854 by bryandkeith on flickr

We had dinner at a tasty restaurant offering Minahasa food. I asked about snake, but they didn’t have any. We mostly had veggies and rice plus some chicken and pork sate (skewers). Minahasa is largely Christian. The pork is an unusual offering in largely Muslim Indonesia.

IMG_20230202_171947 by bryandkeith on flickr

Only when we got up to leave, did I ask about other Minahasa specialties like bat. Sure, they had bat curry, right there prepared next to some of the other dishes we tried. They gave me a small plate to taste it.

Bat curry -- the only time I've ever tried bat.  It had a lot of bones. by bryandkeith on flickr

The curry flavor was good, the meat was chewy, but it sure did have a lot of small bones.

What a surprise, just a few meters away, we found a place selling fresh durian.

IMG_20230202_180928 by bryandkeith on flickr

It was fantastic (and priced at a very reasonable 75,000 idr)!

IMG_20230202_181822 by bryandkeith on flickr
an excellent durian by bryandkeith on flickr

What a great way to end our two months of travel in Indonesia.

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