13 June 2014

Manado - Lihaga

View from Manado harbour
Our dear friend Florian Spisla wanted to include a visit to Indonesia in his round the world ticket, to see us and to discover a new place. The goal was to meet on a nice island, which is easy to reach from abroad and great to hang out a couple of days. When Lisa asked her colleagues in Solo about the most beautiful places in Indonesia, everybody immediately answered „Bunaken!“ But there are no direct flights to Bunaken – Manado seems to be the gateway to heaven for divers, tourists from Indonesia and other parts of the world. We decided to see the gate also, as we had to pass through it anyway.

Sunset view from Manado
International as well as domestic flight connections to Manado are easy to get. Not really cheap, but quite frequent (we will post soon about booking flights in Indonesia/South East Asia to give you more detailed information). Before landing on the island, the airplane circled a little over Northern Sulawesi, so that we got the full view over all these beautiful little islands with yellow and white sandy beaches. It looks like paradise from above. Clouds gathering around the big volcanoes give it a little mystic touch - make it an interesting scenery that you can't wait to discover.

Manado Airport is one of the cleanest and prettiest that we have seen in Indonesia so far. Getting to the Baggage Claim, you see more and more guys with pink T-Shirts popping out of nowhere. They are luggage porters you can hire. Lisa got a little nervous about that, as in many countries they are very pushy and just grab your luggage so that you're almost forced to pay them. But they had great manners, as Indonesians usually do, and were decent, only working for you when you really showed them that you want them to carry your stuff. As we rather grab our bags ourselves, we just ignored them, which worked perfectly well.

Rooftop terrace of our guesthouse
Getting outside, the usual crowd of taxi drivers asked us where we wanted to go and if they could take us there. We negotiated a little, and got a good deal: it cost us 70'000 IDR/5 EUR from the airport to the guesthouse Istanaku, where we stayed for the first two nights. Going back to the airport to pick up our friend, we found out that with the argometer you pay about the same, depending on traffic jams. So that worked out just fine, as the “official” price would have been 100'000 IDR/7 EUR, but our driver still seemed to be happy with the money he got and brought us quickly and safely to our destination.

On the way to Lihaga island
Arriving at Istanaku, we were surprised about the incredibly lovely and helpful staff, and about the cleanliness of the rooms. Indonesian cleanliness standards are not the same as European standards usually. That is simply the experience we had so far. But this hotel (okay, it was brand new, they had not finished all the „monster“ graffitties on the walls yet) was spotless. Fresh white towels, not one single spot or hair on the bed sheets, the toilet had a little bit of mold behind the sink but we have seen way worse things in tropical climate. For breakfast they serve the usual tourist food (toast with salty butter, strawberry or pineapple jam, chocolate sprinkles and peanut butter) as well as Nasi Goreng and some other local dish that changes every day. We were happy to have a choice between tasty local food and a tourist breakfast.

After a rather noisy evening (the microlets (minibuses) play loud music along their way) and a rather rough wake-up, caused by super happy cleaning ladies who laughed and shouted through the house from 8am on, we ventured out to discover the city.

Enjoying the beach with friends
Manado is kind of disappointing at first sight. It might have been the cleanest or most modern city in Indonesia a long time ago. Today it just looks like other Indonesian cities. Loads of shops, cars and dirty streets, dangerous holes in the sideways, loud and a bit smelly. At second sight (after the first 20 minutes) we discovered that there are more churches in Manado than mosques in Solo. That the people are smiling, super friendly, welcoming us warmly, as in Central Java. That there are many bakeries that sell delicious sweets, that the microlets bring you everywhere for 3'000 IDR/0.2 EUR, and that it is easy to keep track where you are. Getting lost in Manado is hard. But finding the really beautiful spots too.

We got help from a local Couchsurfer, who showed us some very nice spots. It is your choice whether you want to dive into the colorful life of the locals and enjoy a huge variety of local food in some of the Warungs or whether you need some Western/Chinese/Japanese food. In the endless amount of shopping malls along the sea you get food from all over the world for middle to big budgets. Local food is usually rather cheap, if you dare eating it where the locals do – in the Warungs. We eat there a lot and never had any problems so far.

Lihaga island
Around Manado you have several possibilities to get your adventure. We will cover Bunaken in a seperate post, as we spent a couple of days there and information about it is easily found online. Other possibilities are to climb the volcano(es), see strange animals like tarsiers in the local conservation park, go to Tomohon (a mountain village with a little cooler climate than hot and humid Manado), and many more things. If you're interested, ask us. We can help you at least get the appropriate information, which is scarce about these things). Luckily we met somebody who makes us want to go back to Manado soon again to discover more of the wonderful places around.

Definitely one of the highlights was our trip to Lihaga Island. A two hours car ride (but there are some buses going, too), followed by a 20min boat trip to one of the most beautiful small, white beach, turquoise water islands. It is definitely worth a day-trip! We were lucky to have our local friend with us, which made it an easy trip. He gathered 10 of his friends to accompany us, as you have to charter a boat to the island, which costs about 700'000 IDR/50 EUR. There were other groups of people visiting the island, but besides taking photos with us, they let us enjoy the island with our friends. If we now made you want to go to Lihaga, contact us for further information, we can put you in contact with locals who can help you get there.

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