Day 59 : Back to Manado

Rainy morning
Boat ride back to Manado
Picked up by Gilbert, Alan and the two kiddies
Checked in to the lovely Hotel Minahara and spent the rest of the day relaxing there. They had the world’s most basic gym with equipment that didn’t really work, but we were just happy to be able to exercise. The only annoyance was the girl sitting in front of the gym window who just stared at us while we worked out. Even after 5weeks in Indonesia, it’s still a pain to have people stare at you. I guess we kinda know what it’s like to be a celebrity…?


Dive #2 : The current was so strong we could just float and let it carry us past the wall of coral and fish. The only problem was that the strong current caused our group to all bump into each other which led to a concentration of air bubbles. It was like being in a giant soda can. Being a new diver, the combination of all these things gave me a slight panic attack. After rising a few meters, I calmed down a bit and got on with the dive and enjoyed even more sea turtles and fishies.


Dive #3 : More sea turtles!


Dive #4 : Jamie goes night diving! Just the thought of night diving terrifies me so I decided to stay back.

J: Night diving was really cool…you can only see what you point your flashlight at and different things come out at night. I saw lots of crabs, lobsters and shrimp. The fish are slower because they are sleeping, so you get a really good look at them. The coolest thing I saw was a blue shrimp with a big white mustache.


Morning: 6am boat to Bunaken where we will dive!

The weather on the hour-long ride out was over-cast and misty. As we got closer to the island, we watched as a giant rain cloud passed over it. The clouds were so big and threatening, and it was wild to watch it completely engulf the island (and the volcano behind it!).

Good luck: the rain passed by the time we arrived on the island.

Bad luck: the resort’s electricity went out and we could only do one dive that day.

Dive #1 : Beautiful! We saw so many beautiful fish and coral – like diving in a giant aquarium! We saw sea turtles, a small reef shark, and a teeny little yellow sea horse about the size of your pinky nail.

Snorkel : Blue starfish! Horned starfish! A school of squid! And lots of beautiful coral and fish.

Evening: Beers at sunset while sitting on the doorway ruins of a once-waterfront building, watching the tide come in a wash up around our ankles.


Spent the day driving in and around Manado with Gaby and her family. We met up with the ex-mayor of Manado for lunch (we were with his son Gilbert’s family) at a restaurant built over a fish pond. Lunch was fresh from that very pond..

After lunch we visited their retirement house (which the ex-mayor had designed, as he was an architect before being mayor). We’d come to see an amplifier he’d built from scratch with parts from all over the world. He was really proud of it and excited to share it with us.

We then went to an ekat weaving work shop to have a look at the process of making the designs, and later to a coffeeshop where we had delicious snacks: bak pao! chocolate on bread! butter and honey on bread! It’s the simple things that taste so good.

That night we checked into what Lonely Planet said was a basic budget hotel ($10/night). I think they need to update their recommendations, because the place was a dump: mold-stained walls and rooms that reeked of smoke and funk. We were told by locals that it’s a rent-by-the-hour kind of place. We checked-out immediately and went across the street to a cleaner hotel.

Day 55 : MANADO

6AM flight out of Yogyakarta to Manado! And yet because of stop-overs and time changing, we only arrived at 215pm. The fabulous Gaby picked us up in what may be the coolest ride ever: a giant pink karaoke bus.

Day 54 : Yogyakarta and around

12pm: Bike to Nia and Ismoyo’s house and have a delicious lunch of rice, curry, and the best tempe in the world.

130pm: Visit the women who made our batiks for the design competition. Jamie and I go a little nuts and buy a bunch of fabric. Our vision is to make coats out of them. Now all we need is a tailor.

330pm: Visit a kris maker and see some of the beautiful daggers he’s made. Each part of the kris is made by a different specialist: one for the sheath, one for the dagger, one for the handle, one for the carvings on the dagger.

5pm: Visit a famous puppet maker. The man has so much character and good energy, he’s so at peace with his life and the world, it’s truly refreshing. He had just finished making a puppet of Bjork (wearing her famous swan dress) and Obama. It was fun to see how excited he was to share the different things he was working on. A very talented man with a very humble home and work space (aka the small desk next to his bed).


What an amazing way to spend our last day in Yogyakarta!


We stayed the night in Solo and visited the Danar Hadi batik museum and workshop. It was an incredible and huge collection of batiks from the past few hundred years, showing the various kinds of batik designs (from Dutch to Chinese) and the motifs particular to different parts of Indonesia. After the museum tour we went to the Danar Hadi batik work shop where we saw dozens of batik artists at work. What we learned: 1. the men draw/trace the designs onto the plain fabric. 2. only men do chap batik, only women do hand batik. We had no idea there were gender-specific roles.

While inside, we heard the huge storm going on outside. We were hoping it would be done by the time we were ready to drive back to Yogyakarta.. but our luck with driving in the rain continued and we enjoyed another 2 hour drive back through the rain.

Once we were back in Yogya, Jamie realized he needed to get rid of his beard before we headed on to Manado – facial hair makes diving a problem because it prevents your mask from sealing properly, so water leaks in. We found a spa that offered ‘shaving’ and decided to go for it. It was Jamie’s first Indonesian barber experience- and probably the barber’s first as well. He took nearly an hour to shave him, working so slowly and closely to Jamie’s face that at times his chin was resting on J’s shoulder. Luckily in the end we had a clean face and no cuts!


Day 52 : SOLO

We took the bike for a 2 hour drive north to Solo, one of the big batik centers in Java. We met up with Nia, Ismoyo, Joaquim, and their son Ika, hopped in their car, and drove to Mount Lawu – the most sacred Buddhist mountain in Java.

It was so serene and beautiful, driving up and up, through clouds and mist, catching glimpses of rice paddies and houses.

We visited an old temple and were given a wonderful tour by Nia – who is not only incredibly knowledgable but also has a really great voice. I think she should narrate documentaries or childrens’ books.

We then drove to Ismoyo’s late father’s temple for their meditation session. Set amongst tea plantations, we had to walk for 10 minutes along a path that disappeared and reappeared as the clouds moved around us. The temple itself was a simple and beautiful building. Behind it, he had re-built a scale model of the templed we’d seen earlier today. Really amazing and beautifully executed in black and gold.

Ismoyo’s father developed his own religion or philosophy, grounded in Buddhism and drawing from other religions around the world. While he was alive he accumulated a large number of followers who still practice his teachings today.

Yet another wonderful day with Nia and Ismoyo!


Market shopping, eating delicious food at Ministry of Coffee, and a puppet show with Nia and Ismoyo where we were entertained by a woman filming the entire show with her camera (without seeming to mind that the entire shot was blocked by the man sitting right in front of her).