Maluku, West Papua, Sulawesi, Surabaya
Planning and overall impression
This was kind
of an ambitious trip. Leaving from Bangkok on August 21st I covered
10000km across Indonesia over nine days before arriving in Kuala Lumpur
on August 30th. The idea as usual was to see a number of places I
hadn't visited yet. This included quite exotic locations such as the
Maluku, West Papua (Raja Ampat) and northern Sulawesi. In the end I
managed to visit some pretty cool places. The only issue is that travel
across the region is not that optimised. For instance I lost an entire
day getting from Ternate to Raja Ampat, even if the direct distance is
just 400km. Then, in eastern Indonesia there is a lack of tourist
infrastructure, probably because few tourists travel there.
Travelling to east Indonesia can be quite expensive. For instance,
there was a 1 million IDR (=60€) fee to get into Raja Ampat. Then,
visiting the islands was only possible with very expensive boat trips.
Accomodation in Raja Ampat is not cheap either, if you want to have A/C
and electric power. Because there are few tourists it is difficult to
share the cost with other travellers. And on the other hand, if you
have travelled for thousands of km to reach certain places, it makes
little sense not to visit these places just because the "last mile" is
very expensive. So, it's best to travel with a powerful credit card...
The food I had wasn't bad, but wasn't that great either. First of all,
because my time was limited, during the day I often ate in fast food
restaurants (and sometimes I just skipped lunch). I only ate a few
times in restaurants. Then, in east Indonesia there weren't that many
restaurants where I would have wanted to eat (some places were either
too dirty or too basic, or were serving weird food).
Accomodation was easily bookable in the international booking portals,
although perhaps not all available places were listed. At the time of
visiting, Raja Ampat had mostly expensive accomodation, or cheaper, but
very basic places.
Money / Exchange rate (August 2019)
1 Euro = 15800 IDR
1 Euro = 4.63 MYR (Malaysian ringgit)
Mobile phones and prepaid cards
There may be more options, but all I was able to find upon arrival at
the airport in Ternate was a SIM card from
Telkomsel for 150000 IDR with
17GB of data and 300 minutes of calls. I didn't need so much data and a
cheaper SIM card would have been welcome. Then, in Sorong mobile data
(and Internet access) was cut off by the Indonesian authorities due to
Tropical weather. Over these nine days it never rained, even if some
days the sky was overcast. August is supposed to be the off-season in
Raja Ampat and it is supposed to rain, but in practice it never rained
while I was there.
Health / Vaccinations
Probably there is the
usual health risk typical for a tropical country. Personally I didn't
bother refreshing my immunisations and I didn't take anti-malaria pills.
VISA / Entry requirements
No visa needed for nationals of most countries in the world.
No problems in Indonesia. It's a safe and stable country.
Given the huge distances I mainly relied on flights to get from one
place to the next. In Ternate and Tidore I chartered cars with driver
for the day. Transportation was complicated, or let's say expensive, in
21.8: Jakarta -> Ternate
Tiara Inn, Ternate. 245000 IDR for a basic room
with TV+chair, cupboard for the clothes, LCD TV, A/C (with a remote
control, but somehow not adjustable), attached toilet with cold shower.
A bit noisy. The room is quite basic.
Weather: in Ternate, mostly sunny, although the
sky is overcast every now and then (especially in the evening). Hot in
the sun, but lots of wind which cools down a bit.
- Ternate and Tidore: two neighbouring islands with plenty of history and sceneries
- Raja Ampat: pretty impressive island scenery
- Tangkoko national park: lots of interesting wildlife
We touch down in Jakarta at 12:07am and get out of the plane at
12:17am. Then I get through the passport control - very quickly, no
visa needed. I proceed to the luggage belt. There I spend almost 20
minutes waiting for the luggage.
When I reach the arrivals area, touts offer taxi services. No thanks, I
just need to catch my connecting flight to Ternate. Lion Air? It's
terminal 1, Sir. There is no train service now, you'll have to take a
So I quickly take some Indonesian cash from an ATM (max. amount:
1250000 Rupiah). Then I'm back. How much is the taxi? First they want
150000 rupiah, then we settle for 100000 Rupiah. But actually, as it
turns out later, it's a distance of less than 2km, perhaps only 1km. So
they have ripped me off.
Anyway, around 1am I'm at the check-in and at 1:10am I'm at the gate
waiting for the flight. Quite fast after all.
At 2:07am the plane starts
rolling, at 2:17am it takes off.
We land in Ternate at 7:45am local time.
The weather is a mix of sunny, blue sky and some clouds. There is some
light wind and it's not hot.
Things then proceed quite fast. By 8:10am I already have my luggage.
Since I'm not in a hurry to get to the hotel, I first have some
breakfast at the airport.
Then I look for a SIM card. After a long discussion with a seller who
can't speak English
I buy a SIM card from
Telkomsel for 150000 IDR with
17GB of data and 300 minutes of calls.
My attempts to get a cheaper
card with a smaller data package (I don't need 17GB) are futile, as the
guy doesn't understand and doesn't sell anything cheaper.
Then follows some discussion with the taxi driver. Initial asking price
150000 IDR, even if the distance is only 6km according to Google Maps.
In the end we settle for 100000 IDR, but that is still too much.
So we arrive at the hotel around 9:20am. My room (the superior
booked) is not available yet, so I'm given a standard one.
Then I get in and get settled. I take a shower and prepare for the day.
At 11am I get out again.
Ternate is kind of interesting, but if I only
walk around I will not be able to see the attractions.
So I walk to the
tourist information centre.
By the way, very few people speak some English here.
In the tourist office three ladies greet me. Two can't speak English
(only Bahasa), but one speaks a little bit English. This is the person
who will act as my guide today.
This lady volunteers to show me around (for free).
The only cost is the
one of the car+driver. This will end up being 400000 IDR for over 5
hours of driving.
After a brief lunch in a
restaurant in the mall, we walk out and the
lady negotiates the price with the driver (400000 IDR).
So we start driving. Until 5:30pm we'll do a loop around the coast of
the island, We'll stop in several places, both historic ones
(fortresses, colonial era buildings) and natural ones (beaches, lakes,
Lots of black sand beaches. Some lava fields, a cool crater lake. Nice
view of a lagoon with the island of Tidore in the background.
Cool view of several volcanoes. In this place lots of islands are
volcanic ones (perhaps all of them).
Overall Ternate is an island full of interesting sights. The problem is
that to see these sights you need a guide and a car with a driver.
22.8: Ternate -> Tidore
Tiara Inn, Ternate. This morning when I extend the
room, suddenly the tab with the room rates is missing. In the afternoon
when I am back, the tab is still missing, but they show me a printout
paper where the room rates are all higher by 50000 IDR. Either they
suddenly increased their rates or they are cheating customers.
overcast in the morning, but later the
sky opens up. A mix of sunny and cloudy, no rain.
In the morning at 9:58am the lady from the tourist office already
knocks on my door. Soon after that we leave and with a motorbike taxi
(10000 IDR each) head to the ferry harbour (2000 IDR entry fee).
We take a boat (sort of a watertaxi) to cross over to Tidore (10000 IDR
Around 10:30am we arrive in Tidore.
There a guy with a car is
waiting for us. Probably the lady arranged things with him. For 300000
IDR he'll drive us around Tidore.
On the map Tidore looks a bit bigger than Ternate, but in practice
we'll complete the visit of Tidore much faster than I had expected.
fact the driver proceeds quickly along the western coast without
stopping a single time.
While in the car I book flights to Sorong (West Papua) for tomorrow.
Leaving Ternate in the morning, there is no way to get to
Raja Ampat on
the same day.
The direct line distance
between Ternate and Sorong is
just 470km, but I have to go via Ambon. And I am lucky: should I leave
Ternate on the 24th, I have to take a night flight to Sorong, arriving
for instance at 7:30am and at a higher cost. Flight connections in
Indonesia could be better.
Later I realise that all sights are in or around the city of Soasio on
the southeastern coast. There are no geographical highlights on Tidore
(no lake, lagoon, special beach etc.).
The first place we visit is
Benteng Tahula, a fort built by the
Portuguese. Very cute and photogenic and offers good views of Soasio.
Most likely it has been restored, because it is in a very good
After that we visit the (nearby) palace of the sultan. Right now it is
some sort of museum. It's possible to walk inside and take photos.
The third place is Benteng Torre, another Portuguese fort. This is
again photogenic, but is not so well preserved. In fact it is full of
black stones, most likely originating from an eruption of the Tidore
After that we stop along the east coast, at a beach where there is a
hot spring (right on the beach). We stop one more time for a photo of
the mangroves, then head back to the harbour where the boats to Ternate
It's 1:30pm and the day is practically over because there is nothing
left to see on Tidore. After 2pm we have a lunch in the restaurant.
During this lunch I want to give the lady a 100000 IDR tip for her
services. Surprise, surprise, she didn't do it for free as I was
thinking. Suddenly she asks for 1 million IDR.
I explain that because she is a government employee from the tourist
office and didn't say anything yesterday, i.e. didn't mention that she
wasn't doing it for free, I was thinking that this was a free service
provided by the tourist office to tourists.
More discussion and in the end I give her 700000 IDR (just because I
think she shouldn't make more than the two car drivers).
It's 3 something pm, too early to go back to the hotel. I walk a bit
along the waterfront, until I get to the harbour. At 4pm I get back to
the hotel and take a rest. In the evening I get out again at 6:30pm for
23.8: Ternate -> Sorong
Sorong. 35 Euro for a large room in
what must have been a four star hotel in the past. Lots of furniture
(table+chair, small round table with sofa chair, cupboard for the
clothes, thing where to put the suitcase), adjustable A/C, phone, free
WLAN (very slow, in the evening almost unusable). The bathroom has a
shower and lots of space where to put toiletries. This is so far the
best place where I have been on this trip.
Weather: sunny with some clouds in Ternate. Quite
hot already in the morning. Overcast in Ambon.
I get up at 7:30am and at 8:45am I ask for a taxi in the hotel lobby.
Initially they say it's 150000 IDR (50000 for the motorbike taxi), then
I explain that I paid 100000 IDR to come from the airport. Even this is
too much for the short distance of 6km, but we settle on this. In
addition, there is a fee of 10000 IDR to get by car into the airport.
So we drive to the airport. There I check in and have some breakfast.
Then I proceed to the gate.
The plane starts rolling at 11:07am and departs at 11:10am, a small
five minutes delay. It's a B737 800 from Sriwijaya Air. It lands in
Ambon shortly before 12pm.
There I proceed to the gate, and my goodness, there is no restaurant.
There is only the food of the lobby of Sriwijaya Air (100000 IDR,
buffet), but I skip it because I don't like it.
Then it's three hours of waiting time for the connecting flight to
Sorong at 3:50pm.
The plane takes off early and lands in Sorong around 4:40pm. Things
then proceed quickly: by 4:50pm I'm at the baggage belt waiting for my
Something is wrong with my phone, because I have no Internet
connection. Later I hear that in the whole of Papua the mobile Internet
has been shut down because of the independence movement. Also at a shop
selling mobile phones they confirm this. What a weird place.
I get out of the airport and
ask for a taxi. People tell me it's a
fixed price of 100000 IDR (=6.40 Euro), a bit ridicolous for
short distance of 2.6km. I ask if somebody can do it for 50000 IDR and
somebody volunteers. At 5:05pm I'm in a taxi to the hotel.
So I reach the hotel. In front of the hotel there are some soldiers
with machine guns. Interesting - there must be a reason for this.
I check in (friendly staff). Some discussion about the taxi prices.
They tell me that a taxi to the harbour (1.2km) costs 100000 IDR.
Actually it's the same price, no matter what the distance is. This is
absurd, because a taxi, especially one in Indonesia, shouldn't cost so
I get settled in the room and at 5:50pm I get out again, this time to
have a look at the city. What immediately catches my eye are some
people of the Negroid/Australoid race, which should be typical of
Sorong is a bit less modern than Kupang (another "frontier" city in
Indonesia). Next to my hotel there is sort of a mall (Mal Sorong,
actually only a clothes store, a restaurant and a bakery).
I walk a bit eastwards, and see a big church, a big mosque, several
bakeries, some banks with ATMs, one or two hotels, some small shops.
Intermittent pavement on the sides of the road.
At 6:30pm I walk back to the Mal Sorong mall. There I have a dinner and
after that get back to the hotel.
24.8: Sorong ->
Waiwo Dive Resort, Raja Ampat. 67 Euro for a decent
room with two beds, adjustable A/C, a table but no chair, big mirror,
no LCD TV, big toilet with shower with some wooden structure where you
can put the suitcase and hang the clothes. This hotel is 8km from the
city of Waisai (6 from the harbour) and while it is on the sea, it has
no beach worth mentioning (just a 1 metre strip of sand under the
fact, this entire island of Waigeo seems to have no beaches.
The hotel restaurant is overpriced. A fried rice with chicken costs
150000 IDR, when in town it costs only 25000 IDR.
Weather: overcast in the morning in Sorong (and
it has been raining at night). But already before 9am the sky opens up.
A mix of sunny and cloudy on Waigeo island. No rain.
Early rise at 6:30am. At 7:45am I'm in the lobby and take a car
(negotiated down to 50000 IDR; 5000 IDR for the car to enter the
harbour area) to the ferry harbour. There I buy a ticket to Raja Ampat
There are only a handful of tourists this morning taking the ferry to
Raja Ampat. I see less than 10. At 8:30am I walk to the ferry boat and
The ferry sort of starts a
bit after 9am, then leaves the harbour
around 9:15am. The boat trip proceeds smoothly and we reach the harbour
in Waisai at 11:30am. By the way, freezing A/C in the ferry and not so
many foreign tourists (about a dozen in total).
Immediately I'm approached by the taxi drivers. They insist that it
costs 150000 IDR to go to the hotel (6km distance). Some discussion and
I negotiate it down to 100000 IDR.
Then the driver brings me to the tourist information, where I have to
pay a 1 million IDR conservation fee (Indonesians pay 500000 IDR). This
is ridicolously expensive and I wonder if this money gets into the
pockets of some corrupt politician.
So we get to the hotel. When
checking in, I discuss with the reception
staff the boat trips to the islands. Bad news, these are very
expensive, ranging between 6 and 20 million IDR per boat. Boats can
carry up to 10 people, but the challenge is to find the people.
The guy promises to check with other hotels and travel egencies if he
can put me into a group to share the boat costs. He also gives me the
telephone number of a travel agency which I can call.
To make it short, I will
spend the whole day trying to find people with
whom to share the cost of a boat trip (I go back to the harbour, call
several travel agencies, look in town for tour operators but find none,
talk to people). Without success, probably because at the moment there
aren't enough tourists on Raja Ampat.
If you travel to Raja Ampat as a single traveller in the low season, be
prepared to spend a LOT of money for boat trips. If money is a concern,
do not travel to Raja Ampat alone in the low season.
I take a taxi into town (this time 150000 IDR). Erwin, the driver,
tells me he knows two people who will go to Pianemo tomorrow and
perhaps I could share the boat trip cost with them. Boat costing only
4.5 million IDR (the hotel had quoted 6.9 million IDR, some other
travel agency 6 million IDR).
Later in the evening I hear
two different stories: that these two
people want a private trip without a third person and that these two
people have cancelled their trip.
Anyway, Erwin brings me first to an ATM where I take some cash, then to
a cafe where I have some food. This cafe (Kedai Kopi BK) actually is
After that I spend some time having a look at Waisai, then again I have
some early dinner at 6pm in the Kedai Kopi cafe.
After buying some food in a shop I take a motorbike taxi (ojek; 50000
IDR) back to the hotel. Very scary ride on the road (up and down the
mountain, many curves).
In the evening I discuss again the situation with the hotel staff. They
agree to let me cancel one night (I had booked two) for no extra charge.
At 10:10pm somebody from a Dobrai resort calls me and tells me that a
couple of customers in their resort want to to the Pianemo boat trip.
Total cost 6 million IDR, my share 2 million IDR. Horribly expensive,
but in the end I accept. Tomorrow they will pick me up at the hotel at
25.8: Boat trip to Pianemo
Waiwo dive resort, Waisai.
Weather: in the morning overcast, later the sky
opens up and turns blue. Quite hot, no rain the whole day. After 4pm
overcast again, fresh in the evening.
At 7:40am the guy from the
tour operator calls me on the phone. I
explain that I'll be ready as agreed at 8am. At 7:58am people come
knocking at my door.
So at 8am I meet the tour agency guy. He hands me over the receipt for
the 2 million IDR for the trip and I pay the amount to him. After that
we drive on his motorbike to the harbour of Waisai.
The boat is already there and we immediately start.
It's a fiberglass
boat with a covered roof. We first head to the Doberai Eco resort,
where we will pick up the couple with whom I'm sharing the cost of this
The sea isn't too rough, but rough enough so that the boat repeatedly
hits the water quite hard - bam bam bam - (also because the boat is
Shortly before 9am we reach the Doberai Eco resort and pick up the two
passengers. It's a Dutch couple, but they both live in Indonesia.
Then we start the trip. Initially we proceed in the large bay of the
Waigeo island. Then we pass through a narrow channel which separates
the Waigeo island from an adjacent island futher south.
After that we
hit the open sea again and the sea is rough again. And all this after
breakfast. The bumps are so hard that I wonder if the boat will be
Anyway, at 10:35am we arrive at Pianemo island. We walk on a plankway
and then walk up to the viewpoint. For this there is a comfortable
wooden staircase, which leads to a platform at the top. This is the
spot where you get the iconic Raja Ampat view of the karst rocks
covered with vegetation rising out of the sea.
It's impressive that there is rainforest, tall trees, until the sea
water level. However, there are no sandy beaches.
We'll stay in this place
until after 11:20am. After that it's a short 8
minutes boat ride to the second spot, Telaga Bintang. Here you walk
again to a viewpoint, but the way up consists of small stone stairs on
very sharp rocks. You need to be careful where to put the feet and
balance well your body. Shortly before the top you need to climb a bit
to reach the highest viewpoint.
From here there are nice views of the karst rock formations, i.e. of
all rocks covered with rainforest rising out of the sea. Pretty
Shortly before 12pm we continue our trip, this time moving back east,
to the Mansuar island which is on the way back. It takes a bit over an
hour to arrive there.
At 1:05pm we stop at a pier on Mansuar island. Here is our lunch break
and first snorkelling stop. Pretty impressive coral and large,
There is also a beach with
some kind of accomodation
for tourists (I guess a homestay), because I see a family of Dutch
We'll stop here for about an hour and continue the trip after 2pm.
The next stop is the channel
between the Mansuar and Kri islands. Here
we do another snorkelling stop. I get into the water and start swimming
towards the small island between the Kri and Mansuar islands.
Suddenly a big fish bites my food. Incredible, this has never happened
to me. Not a shark, some kind of big yellow-brown fish. I swim back to
the pier where our boat is. Luckily one of the Dutch tourists has a
plaster and disinfectant. The boat staff says that never before has a
tourist been bitten by a fish and discusses which fish this might be.
After this accident, we change location and move to the sand bar of the
small island. Nice scenery of a sand strip surrounded by turquoise
More photos, then at 3:25pm we start the return trip. I'll be in the
hotel by 4:20pm and will take a rest.
In the evening I book a flight for tomorrow from Sorong to Manado.
Hotel Celebes, Manado. 410000 IDR for a big room
with a soft bed, table+chair, cupboard for the clothes, place where to
put the luggage, LCD TV, phone, free WLAN, toilet with shower,
adjustable A/C. Central location in Manado. The only problem is the A/C
unit which is very, very noisy.
beautiful weather in the morning in
Waisai: blue sky, sunny, a few clouds, almost no wind. Hot and dry in
the late afternoon in Malado.
At 7:55am I ask for a taxi to the harbour, then I pay the hotel bill
and have breakfast. The taxi (150000 IDR) will arrive after 8:20am and
at 8:30am we are at the harbour.
There I buy a ticket for the ferry to
Sorong (100000 IDR).
The 9am ferry departs at 9:20am. This time it's not freezing cold
inside, because the A/C is set up differently. The ferry is about
30-40% full, i.e. there are still many empty seats where to sit.
We arrive in Sorong harbour around 11:30am. Takes some time to leave
the ferry, but once out I'm soon surrounded by people offering taxi
Asking price for the airport is
100000 IDR, but we settle for
50000 IDR. So, shortly before 12pm I'm in the airport. Lots of armed
soldiers guarding the airport by the way.
It's too early to check in for the 4:40pm Lion Air flight to Manado. I
make it to the upper level, but to go to the restaurant area actually I
would need a boarding pass.
I explain my situation to
security and am
allowed to get through by leaving the big luggage with security.
So at 12:10pm I'm in the restaurant and can order lunch. Then it's a
long wait in the airport. But better being here than being in Sorong
city, where practically there is nothing to see.
At 3:45pm the boarding of the 4:40pm Lion Air flight to Manado starts,
almost an hour before the departure time. The plane starts rolling at
4:15pm and takes off at 4:20pm, 20 minutes ahead of schedule. It's
almost empty (perhaps 20% of the seats are taken).
The plane lands at 4:35pm local time (one hour time difference
That' s 45 minutes ahead of
schedule. Things then proceed
20 minutes later I have retrieved the luggage, taken cash and am about
to take a taxi to the hotel (90000 IDR, but then I give the guy 100000
IDR). By 5:45pm I'm in the hotel (heavy traffic in the centre of
In the evening I walk to the Mega Mall for dinner.
27.8: Tour to Minahasa region
Celebes, Manado. Today they fix the A/C (it's
no longer so
noisy). The shower has very little water.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds, no
At 8am I check in the reception if they can organise the Minahasa
highland tour. The hotel driver is busy, but another driver is
available and can do the tour. The price is 600000 IDR (and I'll pay
another 100000 IDR for the petrol).
So we start at 8:20am and initially drive inlands towards the
south to the city of Tomohon.
Brief stop at 8:42am at a monument of Jesus, a huge white statue of a
Jesus who is floating around, with long hair and dressed like a monk.
At 9:25am we reach the traditional market in Tomohon. It's a fresh food
market where you can buy vegetables, fruits and meat.
because they also sell dog, snake and bat meat. In fact here they
slaughter and grill dogs (it's part of the Minahasan culture to also
eat dog meat).
In fact today they sell meat of something which looks like a big boat
snake and several grilled dogs and bats.
Some dogs are waiting in a
cage to be slaughtered.
Around 10am we leave this market and drive to the next place, the Linow
lake, a volcanic crater lake at 800m of altitude. The lake is somehow
greenish and smells a bit like sulphur.
We stop at a cafe next to the lake and have some tea,
views. Then at 11am we continue driving to the next place.
After a couple of photo stops along the way (a cute church and a
hideout for the Dutch people) we reach Bukit Kasih at 11:48am.
a sacred area with Christian chapels and Buddhist shrines and also a
place with hot soil from which sulphur fumes come out.
I spend some time here taking some photos, then around 12:40pm we drive
to the next place, lake Tondano. This is a quite large volcanic lake,
around which there are some volcanoes. The wind is quite strong and
there are waves in the lake. Nice panoramic views also here.
At 1:40pm we do a lunch stop at the Lake Tondano restaurant, then
continue driving to the Woloan village.
This place is 3km from
and consists of a number of platforms at an altitude among trees.
People come here to have their own picture taken. In fact from the
platforms it is possible to take nice pictures of the surroundings.
There is a big volcano in the background and rice fields in the valley
We spend 20 minutes here, then we drive to the Puluten village,
arriving there at 4:20pm.
In Puluten people sell apparently self-made pottery (large and small
vases for instance). Overall this place is rather unimpressive.
We then drive back to the hotel, arriving there at 6:20pm.
28.8: Manado -> Bunaken
nature reserve -> Manado
Weather: sunny, bliue sky with a few clouds,
quite hot. No rain.
Quite intensive day today. In the morning I leave the hotel after
breakfast at 8:20am
and walk to the
nearby harbour. There I ask at the
harbour information counter about a private boat trip to the islands of
the Bunaken marine park. The idea would be to use a boat to visit all
First unpleasant surprise are the prices,
which range from 1.1 to 2.5
million IDR depending on the size of the boat. Then they tell me that
these prices are point to point: they bring me to one point on Bunaken
island and back.
Long discussion and finally we settle on 1.2 million IDR for a loop
around Bunaken, which will give me opportunity to see the marine park.
So we leave at 9am towards Bunaken. Getting over to Bunaken with this
small boat takes 45 minutes. While we approach Bunaken we are greeted
by a swarm of dolphins.
We initially stop at the southern tip, then proceed counterclockwise
around the island.
Bunaken itself is nothing so special and has no very nice beaches but
the waters around it are quite special. Very clear and lots of animals,
which makes Bunaken a diving hotspot. In the background there is an
island with a volcano (Manadotua).
The tourist centre on Bunaken (where all shops and restaurants are) is
on the southwestern coast. Here there are souvenir shops and big and
Shortly before 12pm we leave Bunaken for Manado, arriving there at
Since I still have some time until my next trip (am planning to go to
the Tangkoko reserve at 2pm), I walk to the Kong Miao Litang Chinese
temple which is only 600m from the Celebes hotel.
This is kind of cute, but
less flashy than Chinese temples in Malaysia. And the (ethnic) Chinese
I meet in the temple are not fluent in Chinese.
Shortly after 1pm I'm back in the hotel. I take the second shower of
the day and get ready for the trip to Tangkoko (cost is 600000 IDR and
I give a tip of 100000 IDR for this and yesterday's trip).
At 2:10pm we leave by car. The driver does not drive along the northern
coast as I was assuming. He drives inland towards east to the city of
Bitung first. In Bitung there are lots of Christian churches, all very
cute and modern.
The last part of the road is a narrow mountain road full of curves. We
reach the Tangkoko reserve at 3:52pm. Near the reserve there are a
couple of hotels and homestays. The reserve itself is located along the
I pay the entry fee (100000
IDR) and another 100000 IDR for the
compulsory guide. We are here quite late in the day, because the plan
is to see tarsiers and these animals are night active.
The guide will show me around for two hours in the park. First we walk
for a while along the coast, then walk a bit deeper into the forest.
The forest is rainforest (actually many teak trees) but is quite dry.
We are in the dry season and it hasn't been raining for a while.
Quickly we run into a colony
of black monkeys, Celebes crested
macaques. These are not really afraid of humans, but keep a distance of
about 5 metres to us, which later become 3 metres. When I get as close
as 2 metres, some monkeys become aggressive and show the teeth. So I
step back a bit.
We'll run into these monkeys a lot over the next hour. In fact they
seem to be everywhere.
Next, the guide finds a tree where a tarsier is hiding or resting. With
some effort I manage to take some photos of this animal.
Later in the day we'll see birds and Sulawesi cuscus bears. The latter
are high up in the trees, quite far away. I guess I should have brought
a longer lens.
At 6pm we are back at the car. Then we drive back to Manado, arriving
shortly before 8pm. I spend the rest of the day in the hotel.
29.8: Manado -> Surabaya
Hotel Kokoon, Surabaya. 265000 IDR for a nice high
end room with two beds, A/C, LCD TV, phone, table+chair, electronic
safe, some kind of open cupboard for the clothes. Elegant room with
Weather: sunny, blue sky with a few clouds in
Manado. Hot, no rain. Sunny and blue sky also in Surabaya.
At 9:30am I leave the taxi
with a Grab car (67000 IDR) to the airport,
arriving there by 10am. When I get into the check in hall, the 10:40am
Lion Air flight to Surabaya can be still checked in. Great, I could
have taken the earlier flight, but I didn't think that it's possible to
get to the airport so quickly and that
40 minutes before the departure
you can still check-in.
So I go to the departure gate and wait. The 12:25pm Lion Air flight is
delayed until 12:50pm, but then takes off exactly at 12:50pm. It's a
half-empty B737-900 plane and I'm next to the emergency exit.
We land at 2:22pm local time, at 2:30pm I get out of the plane.
go relatively quickly. By 2:50pm I'm in a taxi (120000 IDR) to the
hotel (after skipping the taxi counters in the terminal, where they
were asking for 155000 IDR for the trip).
At 3:30pm I'm in the hotel, 20 minutes later I leave the hotel for a
walk in Surabaya. The hotel is centrally located, very close to
Chinatown, so I can just walk there.
For the next 1:30 hours I'll walk around the old town. The area is kind
of interesting (and seems to be very muslim), but there is not so much
impressive architecture. After reaching a mosque, I walk through
something which looks like a Middle Eastern bazaar.
The big problem is that I'm not familiar with Surabaya, so don't know
where to go and what to see. In a European or Middle Eastern city it's
usually sufficient to walk into the historic core to see interesting
buildings and streets.
But not in Surabaya. If there
buildings in the old town, it's not easy to find them.
At 5:20pm I take a taxi to the Tunjungan Plaza mall (should be one of
the better malls in Surabaya). Turns out to be a good idea, because
this way I manage to see some parts of the city which are a bit more
For instance the taxi passes by some kind of independence square with
monuments and colonial style buildings, green areas etc.
The fare for the taxi (this taxi is a metered one) is 25000 IDR, but
when I hand over a 50000 IDR bill, the driver has no change. In the end
I ask some people on the street if they can change a 50000 IDR bill.
The Tunjungan mall is nice and next to it are some five star hotels. To
reach it you have to cross a street with heavy traffic.
There are some traffic lights which can be activated by pedestrians,
but when they turn red and you could cross, some motorbikes ignore the
red traffic light and still drive through. Very dangerous and
The mall is nice, but seems to be a bit old already. The shops inside
however have interesting goods on sale.
I walk to the food court on
the 5th floor and have some dinner there
around 7pm. Then I walk back to the hotel (a 3km walk; not a problem
since the air in the evening is fresh) and arrive at 8pm.
Some mess with the reservation: I had initially booked via booking.com.
Because the process was not completed and I never received a booking
confirmation, I booked the hotel again directly on the website of the
hotel. But Agoda, which seems to be related to booking.com, withdrew 20
Euro from my credit card without telling me.
The hotel staff informs me about this and I waste time on this problem
which shouldn't exist.
30.8: Surabaya -> Kuala
Seri Pacific, KL. 240 RM for a nice big room with a four star standard.
Much better than the rooms of the Cititel or Boulevard hotels, where we
used to stay previously. Lots of furniture, even a sofa. Nice big
toilet, breakfast included (because we booked it). The location is
good: opposite a mall, next to a metro station at the intersection to
Weather: sunny, blue sky in Surabaya. Blue sky
with some clouds and sunny in KL. No rain the whole day.
At 8:30am I'm in the lobby, then it takes more than half an hour to
check out and get into a taxi. We
leave around 9:05am. The
driver is a bit
slow, we reach the airport only at 9:55am (125000 IDR for the taxi).
I check in pretty quickly and at 10:30am have some meal in a
restaurant. Then I proceed to the gate and wait there.
The 11:55am Citilink flight is a bit delayed. The plane (an A320-200)
takes off with about half an hour of delay, but lands almost puntually,
shortly after 3:40pm in KL (KLIA terminal).
Then thing proceed relatively quickly: there is not too much queue at
the passport control and the luggage is also quickly available. I walk
to the arrivals area, change the remaining IDR into RM,
buy a SIM card
from DiGi for 20 RM (7 days of validity, 2.23 RM of airtime, 1 GB/day
of WeChat/Whatsapp/Facebook balance, 10 minutes of local calls, 500
MB/day + 2GB of data + 10 minutes of calls to Singapore, Indonesia,
China, Thailand, Japan, India).
At 4:45pm I'm in the taxi (a Grab car, which will bring me to the hotel
in KL for 73 RM). There is some traffic jam, so I only reach the hotel
There I meet Shirley and the kids. The meeting is short because they
are actually going somewhere to buy something.
By 6:30pm I walk out again. Initially I go to the Sunway Putra Mall
(the one opposite to the hotel). This, well, is a mall. Not comparable
to the Midvalley mall (it's much smaller), but there are enough eating
opportunities. It's just a matter of understanding where things are.
I have a dinner in the mall, then take the metro to the Tang Hua
station (the one closest to Bukit Bintang), then walk to Bukit Bintang.
This street has again changed: the Sungei Wang mall no longer exists,
but on the other hand the Lot 10 mall is still there.
There is a new metro station at the intersection of Bukit Bintang and
Raja Chulan streets.
And there are people on the streets, because tomorrow is Merdeka
(=independence) day and people are in party mode. For instance a band
is doing a small open air concert.
After 8pm I decide to get back to the hotel. I give the metro a try.
Turns out that all the various metro lines which KL has been adding in
the past years have now been integrated into one metro network, i.e.
one ticket (a plastic coin token) is enough to get from A to B and you
can change lines in certain stations. In other words, KL has now an
integrated metro network, which is quite an achievement after so many
Some stations have pretty long distances to walk if you want to change
lines (for instance the Plaza Rakyat - Merdeka interchange) but these
are in A/C underpassages.
This basically means that travellers are now less dependent on taxis
and can more rely on public transportation.
I buy two tickets, one for RM 1.90 (PWTC - Hang Tuah) and one for RM
2.10 (Bukit Bintang - PWTC; PWTC is the metro station near the
hotel). I'm back in the hotel after 9pm.
31.8: Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Seri Pacific, KL. The shower is good (plenty
of water). The buffet breakfast is also good, although the choice of
fresh fruits is limited.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. No rain,
which is a bit unusual for the season. Not too hot.
In the morning at 11am I take a Grab car (RM 28) to Templer park, a
rainforest place north of KL. I arrive at 11:40am and what a surprise.
Or perhaps the Templer park I visited 20 years
ago was in a different
Anyway, there is a big parking, you have to pay an entrance fee of RM 5
and it's full of people. Later I realise that people come here because
of the waterfall: it's a pleasant, cool forest site, where to have a
picnic and swim in the pools of the waterfalls. The air is fresh and
it's nice to relax here with the family. And it's not far from KL
There is a trail along the waterfall and I climb to the highest
point. After that it would be possible to continue walking in the
rainforest, but the trail gets much worse and it's not clear where the
Besides, I'm sweating a lot and would need a shower.
So at 1pm I start walking down, back to the parking. There, around 2pm
I take another Grab car (RM 27) back to the hotel, arriving at 2:31pm.
Then I take a shower and a brief rest.
Later in the afternoon I take a
Grab car (RM 15) to the Midvalley mall.
There I have some food and a haircut. Around 6pm I'm at the Midvalley
KTM station, but manage to miss the 6:07pm KTM train (didn't know which
platform to take and by the time I was down the train had already left.
The next train is only at 6:31pm, but only goes to KL Sentral. So in KL
Sentral I change lines and manage to be back in the hotel after 7pm.
In the evening we have a dinner with Sara, the sister of Shirley.
Tomorrow we have to get up early to catch the flight back to Germany.
1.9: KL -> Dubai ->
Home, sweet home
Weather: sunny, blue sky in KL.
We get up at 6am, then at 7am take the taxi to the airport (RM 104). At
7:50am we reach the airport, then check in. Long queue this morning,
about 30 minutes waiting time. Then we proceed through passport control.
We stop at a Burger King restaurant for some food, then at 9:30am are
at the gate.
The Emirates plane, an Airbus 777-300, takes off around 10:40am with
some delay. Freezing temperatures inside, not sure what Emirates are
thinking. It should be obvious that people who have spent some time in
a tropical country and got used to the tropical climate won't feel
comfortable in a cold plane.
On the A380 flight from Dubai to Munich this time there are no A/C
We land at 8:30pm in Munich and manage to retrieve the luggage by
9:30pm (long waiting time at the baggage belt; here the Munich airport
needs to do something because there are not enough belts).
Copyright 2020 Alfred Molon