People are Manado’s best asset. Manadonese are extroverts, warm and happy-go-lucky, drawing visitors naturally into the big family circle. Aptly, the city’s slogan is “Torang Samua Basudara”, meaning:” we are all one family”. No one here is allowed to feel lonely.
Manado is the largest, most-northerly city in Indonesia, capital of the province of North Sulawesi. It is better known for its breathtaking underwater life at Bunaken, an island that directly faces this city. But Manado has much more to offer, and you will miss much if you do not explore this part of the Indonesian archipelago. For Manado spells fantastic diving, adventures through the wild and cultural heritage attractions.
Located on a long promontory, Manado is backed by a number of active volcanoes, while facing the open sea. Its wide Pierre Tendean Boulevardbordering the water edge is lined with top class hotels and restaurants serving typical Manado cuisine. Having recently hosted the World Ocean Conference, Manado is fast growing into a favourite venue for international meetings and conventions.
From the Boulevard, you can see the perfectly cone-shaped mountain of Manado Tua, which, together with the islands of Bunaken, Mantehage, Siladen and Nain form the Bunaken-Manado Tua National Park, world famous among divers for its steep walls and fantastic underwater life. A deep trench separates this National Park from the city, preventing pollution of the park. Regular ferries take visitors to Bunaken.
Behind Manado, are a number of active volcanoes called Lokon, Soputan, and Dua Saudara whose lush green tropical terrain are ideal for trekking, eco-tours, bird watching and white water rafting. The Tangkoko National Park is habitat to the world’s smallest monkeys called tarsiers, cute little animals with saucer-large eyes. And all around you will see coconut trees and plantations. For, the region of Minahasa is also known as the land of the waving coconut trees or” Nyiur melambai”.
The majority population being Christians and Catholics, you will find Manado dotted with churches. Christmas is a particular good time to visit when the city and the surrounding hills come alight with Christmas decorations. A huge statue of Jesus Christ rises above the city, blessing its inhabitants.
There is also a sizable Chinese population here, so that Chinese New Year and Cap Goh Meh festivities are held in grand scale, especially around Chinatown and the Ban Hin Kiong Temple.
Manado’s cuisine is particularly tasty. Try the rice porridge, called Bubur Manado, and the fresh seafood served with cut green tomatoes and special chili sauce. Many of Manado’s cuisine are cooked in bamboo tubes, then baked over an open fire, giving it that particular zesty taste. Do not miss “klappertaart”, a special cake filled with large slivers of fresh young coconut.
Manado food is a haven for food lovers, – if you like hot, spicy food, that is. Favourite places to eat are along the Pierre Tendean Boulevard, or at Tino’or where dishes are served at a long table, – not unlike the way Padang food is served, – and you pay only for what you pick to eat. Some dishes, once chosen, must be paid for the whole plate, though.
One thing you can be sure of is that all food comes fresh from the sea or from the mountains. Barbequed fish with all kinds of sauces are a perennial favourite. The watercress or kangkung is fresh and crunchy and these come in long stalks from the river banks. A favourite dish is : Bubur Manado, or Tinu’tuan. This is healthy food, a must try in the morning. The base is rice porridge, mixed with fresh kangkung or spinach and maize. Eaten with salted fish and hot, Manado-style tomato sauce, it is delicious and will provide energy for the whole day.
Many Manado dishes are cooked in bamboo tubes, whether meat or rice. Try the nasi jaha, which is sticky rice in coconut sauce, then cooked in bamboo tubes over an open fire. Do take just a small portion, since the rice will weigh heavy on the stomach. Others, similarly cooked are beef , chicken and pork dishes. But be careful, most Manado dishes are chilli hot and spicy. Manado’s favourite desert is the : Klappertaart, or the coconut cake, a heritage from the Dutch. This is a soft, creamy sweet cake, filled with large slices of freshly cut coconut meat. Yummy…
Manado offers a wide variety of choices, from the 5 star Novotel Manado Golf Resort and Convention Centre, and the Sintesa Peninsula Hotel, to the Ritzy Manado, Hotel Quality Manado, the Travello Hotel, Puri Manado and many more. Standard and Budget hotels are also available.
Most visitors to Manado head straight to Bunaken and the National Park for fantastic diving in pristine waters. Bunaken is famous for its steep drop offs. The island of Bunaken is a short 40-minutes trip by boat from the Boulevard. Those who do not dive can still enjoy the colourful underwater life from glass-bottom boats. There are homestay facilities on the islands for those wishing to stay overnight. Walking around the town of Manado you will find churches almost around every corner. This area is predominantly Christian.
During the Dutch colonial times, the Minahasa region was one of the best educated in the East Indies. The first protestant church built here by the Dutch is the Gereja Centrum, once known as the Oude Kerk, or the Old Church. In front of the Chruch is a World War II monument. Asia’s largest statue of Jesus Blessing is located at the Citraland residential estate and can be seen from most parts of Manado. With a 20 meter high pedestal base, the 31 meter statue in white stone shows Jesus Christ rising off the pedestal at a 20 degrees angle, stretching out his arms to bless the city. This is the second largest statue of Jesus Christ in the world after the one in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
Manado is a melting pot of many different ethnic groups and religions. Wander around the popular China town and admire the Ban Hin Kiong temple, built some 335 years ago during the Qing dynasty. Every February, colourful Toa Peh Kong ceremonies are held here as are Chinese New Year celebrations. Further into the countryside, you will find rows of traditional Minahasa houses which are raised from the ground, and are made of wood. To enter the house there is a short staircase to its front or on both sides of the house. Neat flower plots surround the houses, give the neighbourhood a distinctly European atmosphere. Today, custom-made wooden houses can be ordered at the village of Woloan, not far from the Manado city. These houses may be disassembled and shipped to any location in the world.
Manado has recently undergone frantic development in preparation of the World Ocean Conference in May, followed by the Sail Bunaken in August 2009. Five star hotels, a brand new convention hall with attached 18 hole golf course, and mega malls have been added to the city to host the more than 7,000 delegates that included a number of heads of state. The road from the airport to the city has been considerably widened, and the Boulevard by the water edge spruced up.
Today, Manado is a thriving city and prides itself on a number of brand new malls, like the Mega Mall, the Manado Town Square and the Boulevard, all along the Pierre Tendean Boulevard. Going up the highlands, make a stop at the at the village Sawangan to see the Waruga megalithic sarcophagi heritage park, where are 144 ancient stone graves dating to the 16th century peculiar to this region.
Then continue to visit Tomohon, the city of flowers where annually the Tomohon Flower Festival is held. Tomohon is a cool mountain resort, where a number of religious institutions have their seminaries. Nearby is the Bukit Kasih, the Hill of Love, a place of worship and meditation for Catholics and all Christian denominations. There are also a mosque and a Hindu temple. When in Tomohon, take time to visit the market, where all kinds of meats are sold, from chicken, beef, venison and pork, to other local delicacies, like bats, field mice, dogs and monkeys.
Take time to visit Lake Linow at the village of Lahendong near Tomohon. The lake changes colours from red to green or blue, best seen around 3.0 pm when the sun shines directly on the lake. This is a place for relaxing and taking in the beauty of nature. Further up the mountain, passing clove and vanilla plantations lies Lake Tondano situated at 600 meters above sea level. This is a beautiful, large crater lake where visitors can watch fishermen at work, or waterski at Remboken. Nearby is the village of Pulutan where you can buy pottery and ceramics, and visit traditional houses at Paleloan.
If you wish to see the tarsiers in their habitat, then trekking through the Tangkoko-Batuangus National Park is the answer. The Park is situated north of the harbor of Bitung. Located at the foot of the “Dua Saudara” – or Two brothers – volcano, the area offers impressive views of hills and valleys. Here you will see a number of tarsiers – the world’s smallest monkeys, that are as small as a fistful. These are shy animals. Tangkoko is also home to the black macaques, maleo birds and hornbills. Tangkoko is also ideal for birdwatching. The road to the Park is now well paved so that travel is easy by car or van. There are cottages and small restaurants near the Park. If you are into mountain climbing, the climb the active Mt. Mahawu. The climb to this beautiful crater takes an easy one hour walk where you will have a spectacular panoramic view on the Bay of Manado, Mount Klabat, the Lokon and Soputan volcanoes and the Maluku Sea. Climbing the active Lokon volcano takes two hours. The trail is more difficult as it requires walking over slippery rocks of a river bed before reaching the crater.
On the return journey, enjoy a relaxing hot thermal bath at Ranopaso. The Minahasa highlands also offer exciting, adrenaline pumping white water rafting. A number of Adventure operators offer rafting along different rivers. Nearest to Manado is the Sawangan river, starting at the village of Timbular, some 27 km. from Manado, pass the flower city of Tomohon. Other rivers to raft are the Nimanga river and the Ranoyapo. Manado Adventure (www.manadoadventure.com) operates 2 hours rafting on the Nimanga river along a 9 kilometers stretch over 35 rapids, starting at the Tangkuney village. Alternatively, raft the longer 35 km. Ranoyapo over 60 rapids during a 9 hours journey.
There are taxis available, which are best taken from the hotels. The “mikrolet” mini buses are your best bet. They have fixed routes and are not as crowded and are better organized compared to those in Jakarta.
The Sam Ratulangi International Airport of Manado is able to receive wide-bodied aircrafts. SilkAir was the first international airline that flew Singapore-Manado directly. The airline now serves Singapore-Manado four times weekly.