Friday, July 31, 2009

Discovering My Own Country

It’s July, and it’s that time of the year to get out of Jakarta and do some serious travels again. Simon (my friend from Canberra, grew up in Perth, originally Singapore) had already been here for 2 weeks, and his friend, Daniel (from Sydney, grew up in Wellington, NZ originally from South Korea) is joining us to visit Allen, his sponsor child in Manado, North of Sulawesi. Simon also has a sponsor child, Vicki. I just randomly tag along for the ride.

I have to be honest, in my opinion not many people who are born and bred in Jakarta have much perspective of what’s going on in Indonesia, outside of Jakarta (and maybe Bali). To my belief, people from Jakarta only like the busy happening places, and the places outside the big cities just seemed a little too primitive to be explored. We just assumed that there’s nothing there. When we get bored of Jakarta, we like to explore not the neighboring city, but to the same modern and happening countries around the world like Singapore, Japan, Australia, USA, Canada, Europe as if these countries ARE our neighboring cities. I've met countless ppl from Jakarta who lives in Aus or US but never met one person from Jakarta who have said that they've lived in a secluded place and spoke highly of it.

I’d like to omit myself from that category. In my defence, I 've learned to live, love and be content in quiet places. Even if I do go overseas for change, I’d like to go to places where there's no Indonesian in sight. I've had my chance of living primitively where seeing a traffic light was as rare and distracting as seeing a random spaceshuttle thats been build overnight next to a dusty road. But just like them, I never really thought of really exploring my own country before labelling them as 'primitive'.

So, we're going to Manado. We had to get up at 2am to leave home at 3am to not miss our 5am plane. It was a bit of an effort to get ready, but it was good to sleep through the 3 hour journey there.

"Lion Air... We Make People Fly!" ... and still had the energy to pose like that at 5am...

In the afternoon, we went to a bookstore just across our hotel and I bought myself a map of Indonesia. Our local friend and tourguide, Frejon keeps mentioning all these places and islands in East Indonesia that I've heard of but don't really know where they are, so I thought a map might come in handy. Ok, so the map turns out to be more than handy cause before I saw the map I thought I knew where I was, but after that I realize... I’m actually really really far away from Jakarta! Now it clicked to me why we flew 3 hours instead of the average one hour flight to my usual party places in Singapore or Bali.

And then I start to take notice of all the other island and places that I never notice... I never knew that Indonesia have islands that are very very close to the Philipines! Or there are flights that actually goes to the large-ish islands in between Sulawesi and Papua. I could also see hundreds of tiny islands that God knows how people do survive there. What can these islanders do for a living? How do they get around? Boats? Do they have a supermarket? Is it even possible to have a supermarket? Maybe they just have to kill animals and collect rain water constantly to survive. Can they speak Indonesian? Do they even realize that they belong to a country?

Despite my childish and primitive thoughts, I've found Manado is actually a city that is making huge development progress. Firstly, Manado's airport is an International airport. In this respect, Canberra, the capital city of Australia is more primitive because they only have local airport flying local planes. The upcoming world ocean conference "Sail bhunnaken" is going to be held in Manado and well over 100 countries are participating. I guess that's a good enough reason to have an international airport then....

Like Jakarta, Manado also have lots of malls which consists of the usual retail shops, coffee shops, bakeries, cinema, kareoke bars, etc. Whats best about this is that the malls are built only a couple meters away from the ocean. So there goes my assumption that everything outside Java is primitive. I totally love Manado's landscape! The mountains that raises up around the sea shore are a bit like Wellington in New Zealand minus the crap weather. In one of the hills, we found the most incredible, massive flying Jesus statue. Indonesia is the largest Muslim country by population, but Manado is predominantly, and (as proven by this statue) shamelessly a Christian city.

I'm also very impressed with the cleanliness of this city. Anywhere in Java you'd find people carelessly throwing non-recyclable rubbish in public areas. Here, they boast their national cleanliness award, and I actually feel quite comfortable using their public transport. In fact, I love it! They have a disco mini bus, with the loud music, hot pink seats and stuff... it's like a super convinient portable party! The ocean is very clean and then there’s the famous Bhunnaken island just 45 minutes boat ride away for an awesome experience of snorkeling and diving. I totally think that this place is better than Bali, though they don’t have many resorts and all those artsy touristy stuff yet (which could be a good thing for some people).

I totally love Manado, and I think my perspective of Indonesia will never be the same again after this....

One thing that we were missing in our trip though was that Manado is famous for it's bat (and other weird animals like rats, iguanas, dogs, etc) cuisine. Though for some reason I don't really feel like I'm missing out... :p

Picture of Manado Tua island (Old Manado)

No comments:

Post a Comment