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A week in North Sulawesi, Indonesia

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OK - we're back at it again. I'm here to lay on you some amazing food stuffs and regale you with more tales of getting sick while being half way around the world.  I swear, it seems like the more careful we are, the more assured we are of getting sick while traveling.  Prior to our trip, we basically quarantined for 3 weeks. Yes, I still went to work, but I wore a major N95 mask pretty much any time I was around people (and I still kept my distance as well!) or in an area where people had been a half hour before.  My mask never came off at the airport except for very brief stints when security demanded it.  And I finally removed it on the plane once we had been in the air for about 20 minutes when the air filtration system has "supposedly" reached the optimal point where it changes the air in the plane every 2-3 minutes.  And I put the mask back on whenever I had to leave my seat to go to the bathroom or the snack area! 


So, enough of my tale of woe (for now) and let's start getting into the fun stuff.


North Sulawesi is a fascinating section of Indonesia (not that it's all not interesting). Unlike most of Indonesia, the vast majority of people are Christian, not Muslim, as Dutch missionaries brought Christianity there a long time ago.  The area is a peninsula, surrounded by water on 3 sides which means that fish/seafood are very important. The interior is mountainous and traditionally, the local villages there have little access to the ocean and are in the middle of a large rainforest - so the traditional diet of the Minahasa people (the local people of the interior highlands) has a history of using any meat source available: dog, monkey, bat, snake, etc.  They also have created tons of small areas for fish farming - usually taking up the majority of a person's yard area.  There are usually at least a few people per village who have small fish farms at their house and they sell their fish to their village.


But before we get there, we had to spend a day in Singapore - oh the horror!  If you've read any of my stuff before (or see what I post in RecipEgullet or the dinner section) you'll probably know that I love Singapore, so having to spend the day there is certainly not a hardship.  This time we had to spend an overnight there since the flight from SIN to Manado (the main city of North Sulawesi) only goes 4 or 5 times a week and it just so happened that there was no flight the day our flight from NY landed.  We landed around 5:30AM and true to form of the efficiency there, we were checked into our hotel in the middle of the city in just under an hour after the plane arrived at the gate - that includes the time to get off the plane and we were in the rear 2/3 of the plane!  Since we had sent our immigration info in beforehand (using Singapore's immigration app) we were able to use their automated immigration lanes which is super speedy, but even still, our bags were waiting for us on the baggage claim belt when we got there.


One of the reasons I love Singapore is all of the tropical plants.  It's like the whole city is dropped into the middle of a giant garden.  This feeling starts at the airport:



The immigration hall







Baggage claim (obviously).


Once checked into the hotel, we took a nap for a few hours, then headed out for lunch.  A while back, I had realized that in all our time in Singapore, we had never had fish head curry!!!  How is this possible? It's one of their national dishes!  One of the most famous places to get it (and supposedly the inventor of the dish) is Samy's Curry Restaurant, located in the lushly green Dempsey Hill neighborhood.




One of our requirements for dining in Singapore on this trip was that we had to be able to eat outside, as we wanted to take all precautions against getting sick since our first few days in North Sulawesi was dedicated to scuba diving and we wanted to make sure we were completely healthy for that.  So that means N95 mask in the short taxi ride (the driver was masked also) and doing all outdoor activities.  A few weeks before, I had made a reservation for lunch and requested an outside table.  Unfortunately, when we got there, they couldn't find our reservation - basically because I had made it for the wrong day!!!  Arrgghhhh.... but they were super helpful and with only a 10-15 minute wait, they were able to seat us outside anyway.


This restaurant started as a standard South Indian style restaurant - which means that your plate is a banana leaf where they pile rice and a few sides (included) and then you add whatever else it is you ordered.  I didn't take photos of the whole menu, but here's most of it:










All prices are in SGD, where 1 USD = 1.35 SGD at the current rate of exchange.  I didn't know if just the fish head would be enough food for us, so I also ordered the Masala chicken which also looked really good.  The portion that arrived was a LOT larger than pictured in the menu and we barely made a dent in it - but it was really good.



The masala is typical of South India with mustard seeds and curry leaves.  I definitely have to make this at home!



My plate with rice, some type of onion/cauliflower side (on the left) and masala potatoes on the right. More mustard seeds.  Note to self, must order more mustard seeds.



Another guy comes around with two vats of sauces and asks if we're having fish or chicken.  Since the fish head curry was to be the main event, I said fish and he put a ladle full of fish curry sauce on my rice (with a piece of okra).



Homemade pappadum (included), just in case there isn't enough food...


And of course, when in Singapore, a pitcher of lime juice:



This is how the main event arrives:



There is a ton of meat on this fish head, and it is perfectly cooked.  The curry also contained some small green eggplant and okra.  The curry sauce is really good - tons of spices and slightly sour from tamarind.  So aromatic.



A complete plate.  And yes, we used utensils.  Many of the South Indian patrons there ate traditionally, using the fingers on their right hand, but we don't have experience doing that yet and didn't feel like that day was a good day to start.


Holy crap, that meal was good.  We were stuffed to the gills.  So, what better way to work it off than by walking around the Singapore Botanical Gardens?



Edited by KennethT (log)
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I've lost track of how many times we've been to the Singapore Botanical Gardens.  But it seems like no matter how many, we always see something new.  This time, we stumbled upon a completely new to us area, The Dell, which was actually created in 1886 originally as a fernery since the area was nicely shaded by the surrounding trees and was an area of slightly higher humidity.  Unfortunately it's hard to show this place in photos to do it justice, or at least I'm not capable of it, but I would definitely head back to this area again.


And since this is not a plant forum, I won't bombard you with tons of plant/flower images.  Just a couple....



Who is this guy walking around looking for lunch?


Of course, one can't visit the BG without seeing the National Orchid Garden... with the world's largest collection of orchids - it is amazing.










Some of my favorites.


Also, the SBG has expanded their Cool House - it is so much bigger than it used to be, it's now like a mini Gardens By the Bay Cloud Forest!



Also, since it was 31 degrees Celsius with a Reel Feel of 38C, it was soooo nice to be in here.  I could have stayed all day...


It was getting to be about 5PM and we were getting exhausted.  So when we left the Gardens, we headed off to one of my favorite outdoor food areas, the East Coast Lagoon Food Village, which is out of the city proper, and on the waterfront on the way to the airport.  It's not the easiest to get to (have to take a taxi - the subway doesn't go there) but I think it's worth it.




We were hoping that since it was still pretty early that it wouldn't be that crowded yet, but we were wrong and really wrong.  It was packed!  I knew lots of people went there after spending the day at the waterfront park, but it was mid-week.  Maybe it was some kind of holiday I didn't know about?  In any case, some of the best vendors had really long lines so we were there a lot longer than we had anticipated.  By the end, we were falling off our feet - but that didn't stop us from having some great stuff.



This is a drink vendor who also makes their own sugarcane juice.  I missed it so!  Also got a couple of lime juices but they were mostly from concentrate.



Sugarcane on the right, lime juice on the left.



First up, Ah Hwee BBQ chicken wings.  Perfectly slow roasted over charcoal the traditional way.



Look at that color!!!  And it was so juicy.... drool....



This food centre has a good satay club - a bunch of different satay vendors lined up right next to each other.  The best one (according to a multitude of blogs) is Haron Satay.



Grilling the satay





Grilling in action



chicken and mutton satay served with their awesome curry sauce.  It's also typically served with rice cakes but I told them not to add them since we already had so much food and I wanted to save room.


Next up was some seafood - Sambal Stingray...





Oh, so good...  one of the things that makes this place great is that they add the sambal while the stingray cooks - many places just add it on top at the end.  So juicy and gelatinous with tons of flavor.


We also got from them:


Sambal kang kong.  My favorite vegetable.  The sambal has chillies, shallot, garlic, lots of dried shrimp and a ton of belacan - fermented shrimp paste.  So savory.... so good....


By this time we were exhausted.  The nap before was great and allowed us to enjoy a full day, but it was time for bed!  Luckily, we passed the last vendor I had wanted to hit on the way out...





Blogs abound singing this place's curry puff praises.  I was skeptical... but I am now a believer.  Best. Curry. Puff. Ever.  The pastry is light, flaky and buttery.  The interior has chunks of perfectly cooked curried potato and chicken - most places just have use some kind of paste.  I'm not usually a fan of standing around while eating, but this place was right by the exit we used and I devoured it while we were standing around waiting for our taxi.  I didn't get to take an interior photo as I was engrossed in eating it, plus my hands were  bit greasy and I didn't want to give it to my wife to hold so I could wipe my hands for fear that it would be gone by the time I got it back!!!

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Love your blogs!  I'm so sorry you got sick AGAIN.  And you're so very careful.  Every single thing you've shown has me wishing for it right now.  I just came in from the garden so that lime juice looks especially refreshing.

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The next day was transit day.  On to Indonesia!!!  Our flight was at 9:30AM and since we wanted to minimize our indoor time, we decided to forego breakfast at the hotel and eat at the airport where you are definitely not short of options and there would be (hopefully) spaces where we could eat without many people around.


We decided on some nasi lemak to get us in the mood, even though it's more a Malay thing than Indonesia...



with chicken curry (ikan bilis at the top left, sambal at the top right).  I think they started to cook this chicken the week before and left it cooking all the way up until when I ordered it.  So dry, so so dry.  However, the curry was tasty so all in all I'll call it a draw.



Fish fillet which was more like a McDonalds Filet-o-Fish...  not bad, but not what we were expecting... we thought it would be more like an otak - fish turned into a paste with curry paste then grilled or steamed.



Lime juice (from concentrate).


The upside was that yes, we were able to find a table in a far away corner, at least 15 feet from anyone else, so probably as safe as can be while indoors.


Once we landed in Manado we still had a bit of a journey to get to our hotel which was on a small island off the coast of the peninsula.  It was over an hour's drive to get to the dock, and then maybe a 20 minute boat ride after that.


The drive to the dock was interesting as it passed a lot of rural village life.





Roadside vendor selling all sorts of things including shallots, green onion, bananas, fruit of all kinds plus tons of packaged stuff which I have no idea what it was.  I would have loved to be able to stop and look around....



Another roadside shop selling fruit and various poultry products.



Small neighborhood fish farm...



The next phase of the journey - the small boat on the left.  Don't ask how they got the luggage from the tall dock on the right down to that little boat.  It was hard enough getting me down there and I have legs!



Nice clear water - should make for some great visibility.


This hotel was interesting.  It turns out that it caters mostly to Europeans, and then within that, mostly to Germans.  Since their peak season didn't start for another couple weeks (starting around mid July through September), there were only 2 other couples in the whole place sharing it with us (both German).  We wound up having some nice conversations with both of them.



Welcome drink during reception - freshly opened coconut.  The property has many coconut trees, each laden with coconuts.  So many so that they felt the need to warn us to be careful while walking around as sometimes the coconuts fall from the tree.  They were debating providing hard hats (like those used in construction) to guests to use while walking around.  They also said that if we ever wanted another coconut drink to just ask - they always have tons of coconuts around.


It's a good thing that we had something to eat on the plane since we didn't get to the hotel until around 3:30 or so. 


Since it's a relatively remote island (there is actually a small village on the island though), all meals are included the hotel room rate.  The hotel tries to tread the line between offering local food and providing Western options.  Typically, as a rule, lunches were Western and dinners were local Indonesian, although they never called things using their local name.  I'm also glad I brushed up on my Indonesian since, while many hotel employees spoke fantastic English, some were basically taught a handful of phrases and if you didn't say what they were expecting to hear, they had no idea what you were talking about.


First dinner:


The menu when you walk in the restaurant.  When taking your order, you had to order each course, so we opted out of the salad.  An example of the language issue, when getting to order the dessert, if you said "I'd like the sliced fruit" you got the quizzical look - you needed to say "Fresh Fruits Sliced" as it appeared on the menu to get understanding.  But I liked to practice my Indonesian, so that was met with a totally different kind of quizzical look - like, what the hell was that? White guy speaking Bahasa???  One of them assumed that we lived in Jakarta... she couldn't believe we lived in NY and I learned via CD and phone app.



Garlic bread with tapenade.  I found this hilarious since, even though dinner is local, they couldn't use a local type sambal with krupuk?  The bread was sweet and had a texture more cakey than bready.  Had a great garlic flavor though.  The tapenade was also really garlicy. Yum.



Fish ball soup.  This was good, but made better when I requested some sambal to go with it, accompanied by more quizzical looks.  But seriously, what Indonesian would eat ANYTHING without adding sambal?  But with the chopped chilli and some lime, it was amazing.



BBQ seafood - although I think the shrimp were actually deep fried (the heads were nice and crunchy) and the squid (cut off in the photo) looked plancha'd.  Hiding underneath the shrimp was a piece of grilled fish - some kind of large fish but I couldn't get the answer as to what it was.  The previously requested sambal above - a dish of chopped chilli (holy crap that was hot!!!), chilli sauce and a dish of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) plus a dish with a couple lime pieces.


We must have opted out of the fruit - we were exhausted since dinner starts at 7PM and we were still crazy jetlagged.

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2 hours ago, KennethT said:

This is a drink vendor who also makes their own sugarcane juice.


There are street vendors with portable cane extraction machines all over town here. Now I think about it, I don't recall seeing that anywhere else. We don't have premise based cane vendors so much.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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17 minutes ago, liuzhou said:


There are street vendors with portable cane extraction machines all over town here. Now I think about it, I don't recall seeing that anywhere else. We don't have premise based cane vendors so much.

Most SG hawker center drink vendors don't do fresh sugar cane juice - most just sell beer, other prebottled drinks, plus fruit drinks typically made from concentrate.  The best vendors make some of their own, in addition to selling the prebottled stuff.  There's a great vendor in the Hong Lim Food Centre who does fresh sugar cane and his lime juice is fresh squeezed as well.  Everything in SG is premise based - no vendors have been allowed on the street for decades.


I saw a guy on a corner in Beijing with a portable cane juicer.  Not to mention a small army of mobile orange juicers scattered around.

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For some reason, neither my wife nor I took pictures of breakfast that morning.  I think we both had mee goreng - fried noodles.  Typically, when more busy, the hotel has a breakfast buffet with Indonesian and Euro options as well as an egg station to order, but with just 3 of us there, it was menu based for the first 2 days we were there until a group of 4 arrived (also German).


We spent that day in the hotel's salt water pool.  My wife was finishing up her diving certification and I was taking a "refresher" since I was certified in 1993 and basically stopped diving in 1996.  Life just gets in the way sometimes.  Anyway, since it had been so long, I decided it would be a good idea for me to brush up on my skills before jumping back in the ocean.  The nice thing was that their pool was truly a salt water pool.  Some places call it a salt water pool when they basically create chlorine by electrolysis of salt water.  So, technically there's no chlorine added, but the end result is still the same.  This place's pool seemed like they pumped it straight from the ocean.  True salt water, which is good because chlorine is not good for equipment!


Taking a break for lunch.... the menu:




View from our table:





More cakey bread, this time with a garlicky tomato and oil spread.



We also ordered some lime juice..... freshly squeezed and came with a small pitcher of simple syrup so we could adjust sweetness.



Pasta carbonara.  Definitely not something I would have expected in Indonesia.  This was when we discovered that lunches were Western as a general rule and when they got the sense I wasn't thrilled with that, they decided to make changes for us for lunches for the days following.  I also asked if they had any mango, either ripe or green and was told they had a mango tree in the village but the mangoes were still small and green and they didn't think we'd like it.  But I told them that we LOVE green mango - my wife prefers them to ripe ones - which got more quizzical looks but then they decided they would bring us some the next day and provide the chilli/sugar/salt dips to go with it and we were ecstatic.


Anyway, fish fillet in lemon butter sauce:




One thing that got me was the ornamental green rose at the top - it was the base of a small bok choy!  So of course, I then asked if in the future we could get a stir fried greens or something like that....



Dessert.  The menu said brown sugar, but it should have read palm sugar.  I found out later on that there is some very good locally made palm sugar in the highland area in the interior of the peninsula.  So, anyway, great sugar flavor... texture wise, it reminded me of a 1950's jello mold, made with a LOT of gelatin.  Or maybe they used agar which would make more sense in this part of the world, plus the jello was kind of brittle as you'd get with agar.



Fresh fruit sliced.  Awesome pineapple, alhtough we're not huge fans of ripe papaya.

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Sunset that night:




Dinner that night....






Garlicky cake/bread with tapenade



"Vegetable Fritter" - it's actually poh pia - an Indonesian spring roll - and a quite good one at that, although I wish they had put the sweet/sour sauce on the side.



Ikan woku with stir fried banana blossom heart and krupuk udang (shrimp chips).  Woku is a typical curry made in North Sulawesi made with shallots, galangal, chillies, turmeric and a bunch of fresh herbs including sliced turmeric leaf, pandan leaf and basil.  Very interesting - I've never had anything like it in other parts of Indonesia.  Don't ask me what type of fish it was... it was really meaty and dense.



Pork stir fry.  I was happy to get some stir fried greens!



Watermelon, really good dragon fruit and pineapple.  I actually didn't get a quizzical look when I asked for some lime - actually got a big grin when she saw me squeeze it on the dragon fruit...

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So interesting .  thank you for taking the time


to ' record '  this trip , and then share it with us


I take it now there might be 7 or so guests 


at where you are staying.


and the menu board reflects the hotels 


offering to those guests .


thus the menu has European , and then some Indonesian influences 


however , if you ask for some more local fruit , you might get it ?


so interesting .


Im guessing where you are does not have a significant area


where you might tell the hotel , you  are going to dinner 


down the street , sort of thing ?


very very nice place Im betting.

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The beginning of the end.  When I woke up in the morning, I had a little intestinal distress but I didn't think much of it at the time.  I figured that maybe it was the spicy food (not that any of it it was THAT spicy) or maybe I was just a little nervous about going in the ocean for the first time in a long time later that morning....





Mee goreng with fried chicken.  I had asked for the mee goreng but I then asked if I could get it with some chicken.  I did it in Indonesian because I didn't think she's understand the English... I said "Saya mau mee goreng dengan ayam" which literally means I want fried noodles with chicken.  I assumed that meant that the chicken would be stir fried with the noodles, which is not unheard of in Indonesia - it's actually quite common.  Anyway, I got fried noodles with deep fried chicken fingers.  Maybe I'll blame the misunderstanding on Duolingo.  It was tasty, in any case.  Also, pineapple and dragon fruit.


I had asked for some sambal (who can eat noodles without sambal?) and she brought this without saying what it was:




I had no idea what kind of sambal it was - there's probably at least 30 different types of sambal in the Indonesian canon.  From the chunky look I thought it could have been crushed peanuts in there (not typical with noodles, but whatever) and when I asked if it was sambal kacang (peanut sambal) she got a horrified look on her face and started running away.  Then I took a sniff and knew exactly what it was... it was sambal terasi - chilli sauce made with fermented shrimp paste.  So as she was mid stride, I called it out to her and she turned around and grinned.  Yes, that's what it was. hehe....


After breakfast, we got on the dive boat to take us to the first site. It was a nice dive - maybe 45 foot visibility but midway through I started getting a bit more intestinal distress.  Not good when wearing a wetsuit!  And definitely not good when at 15 meters below the surface.  This morning was supposed to be a 2 tank dive - so after the first dive, you spend about an hour on the surface hanging out and exhaling excess nitrogen (called the surface interval) and then you go for a 2nd dive.  I started feeling really lousy during the surface interval.  The crew had a bunch of sliced fruit for us as well as water and some chocolate cake.  I tried it all, hoping the water and sugar would make me feel better.  Nope.  As the hour went on, I started wondering how much of a faux pas it would be to hang my butt over the edge of the boat and did I really care.  Anyway, I decided not to go on the 2nd dive but insisted my wife did as she had to do 4 certifying dives and I did NOT want to get in the way of that.  So I sat there in the shade trying to not get sick, while listening to the 2 crew members chat amongst themselves thinking I had no idea what they were sayign, but I actually could decipher more than half of it.  I'm glad they weren't talking about me... that would have been awkward.


At the dock, we saw some crabs... I instantly thought of lunch.  The crew thought that was hilarious.




So, once back on dry land, we went back to the room to "freshen up", me mostly in the bathroom.  Then off to lunch.  I wasn't terribly hungry, but I know the staff would have been really upset since we spoke to the chef and he announced that they'd have chicken curry for lunch, plus, our green mango grown in the village next door.





lime juice



The mango is the pale green thing.  The other one is another local fruit typically eaten green but I had never heard of it and couldn't find it in photos anywhere.  They served it with some salt/sugar/chilli (the white stuff) and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) with chopped chilli - both typical with eating green fruit.  Both were great.



Pasta with tomato and eggplant.  I wonder where they got parmegiano out there?



Chicken curry.  Typical Indonesian curry with lots of turmeric.




After lunch, we hung out in the room as I started to feel worse by the minute.  Achy, fever, lots more intestinal distress, and exhaustion.  Crazy exhaustion.  So bad that I didn't go to dinner!  I think my wife did and the staff were all worried about me.  They made her accept some "herbal tea" which they brought to me, which turned out to be ginger tea (made with fresh ginger) which actually did help my stomach a bit.  That and 4 Immodium and Tylenol...

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12 minutes ago, rotuts said:



So interesting .  thank you for taking the time


to ' record '  this trip , and then share it with us


I take it now there might be 7 or so guests 


at where you are staying.


and the menu board reflects the hotels 


offering to those guests .


thus the menu has European , and then some Indonesian influences 


however , if you ask for some more local fruit , you might get it ?


so interesting .


Im guessing where you are does not have a significant area


where you might tell the hotel , you  are going to dinner 


down the street , sort of thing ?


very very nice place Im betting.

At this point in the story there are 6 guests at the hotel, total.  The next day would bring 4 more, bringing the total to 10.  I think at peak season there's maybe 40 or so?


As I explained above, the island we were on is really small.  I think there are only 2 hotels and a small village on teh island.  We could see the village from the first dive site - it was really small.  The area around the peninsula of North Sulawesi has tons of really small islands, many of which are barely inhabited.  Lots of small dive hotels in this area at a range of price points, many of which are the only things on the island.  There is a lot of great diving in this area - it's well known for it, hence all the dive hotels.


So no, there is really nowhere else on the island to go for meals other than the hotel restaurant, hence why most hotels include the meals in the price of the room (alcohol is extra) since you really don't have a choice but to eat there.  Theoretically, we could have taken a 10 minute walk from the edge of the hotel property down an unlit path to get to the village to eat there but I'm sure the locals wouldn't be too pleased as they never see the tourists and pretty much all of the villagers work for the hotels.  So I'd feel really awkward imposing on them like that on their private time.


But I'd imagine any hotel would want to see their guests happy - happy guests = good reviews = more guests.  So they make European food thinking it would make their guests happy, but if they find that they want more local food, why not make it for them?  I think the chef was actually very happy we enjoyed the local food so much.  I spoke with him on our last night there after dinner and he was surprised at my knowledge of Indonesian food in general, and my desire to learn more about the local food of that specific area.

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34 minutes ago, KennethT said:

we could have taken a 10 minute walk from the edge of the hotel property down an unlit path to get to the village to eat there but I'm sure the locals wouldn't be too pleased as they never see the tourists and pretty much all of the villagers work for the hotels.  So I'd feel really awkward imposing on them like that on their private time.


Interesting take, never thought of it that tourists supporting the village shops would be imposing. 


Do other people feel like they should self-segregate to the tourist areas?  Does it depend on how big the village is? 

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18 minutes ago, pastrygirl said:


Interesting take, never thought of it that tourists supporting the village shops would be imposing. 


Do other people feel like they should self-segregate to the tourist areas?  Does it depend on how big the village is? 

What tourist areas?  The island and village are REALLY small. Other than the 2 hotels and small village, there is literally nothing else.  There is no central power station on the island.  The hotel is mostly self sufficient with solar power and diesel generators and I gather the village is the same way.  Many dive hotels in the area don't have hot water or power at night.  Many don't have ensuite bathrooms but it's more like camping with a common bathroom that you need a flashlight for at night.  I don't think there are any shops, other than maybe one or two selling household goods for the people that live there.  I think less than 50 people live in that village.  As far as I'm aware, there are no restaurants.   I think there's a small school as there are a handful of children who live there.  I would never even have known about it but one of the hotel workers I was talking to said that she lived there and if we were REALLY interested, she could take us there to show us around but she made it seem like there wasn't really anything to see.  If I were feeling better we may have been inclined to take her up on her offer one afternoon just to check it out (and then we'd be the tourist attraction! Many of the younger residents have never seen white people before in real life so I'm sure we'd be fascinating for them and they'd all want to have their picture taken with us).

Edited by KennethT (log)
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Posted (edited)

I didn't bother getting up for breakfast that morning.  I insisted taht my wife leave for her final 2 certifying dives.  She reported back later that they had a breakfast buffet as there were now 10 people staying at the hotel at this point.  To tell the truth, I was laying there for a couple hours, achy and having weird fever dreams and I was just too exhausted to reach over and get the bottle of Tylenol and water that were literally 3 feet away on the bedside table.  Way too much effort required.  I finally mustered the energy to take some around 10AM and started to feel a bit more human an hour later.  I think my wife went for lunch around 1 after she got back but I was not up for it.  When she came back, she said the restaurant staff were really worried about me and they sent me some ginger tea.  They also wanted to send lunch to me (so I didn't ahve to leave the room) but I really wasn't hungry at that point.


I think I turned a corner that afternoon (what's in that ginger tea?!?) and was actually able to go to dinner that night, which was also our last night there.







Gado gado is an Indonesian salad of sorts but my stomach definitely wasn't up for that.  Same for any kind of cream soup.  However, I did get the Ikan bakar rica = spicy grilled fish.  People in North Sulawesi feel they have the tastiest food in all of Indonesia because theirs is the spiciest.  A common dish there is Rica-Rica - which is usually something grilled topped with a sambal of insanely hot chillies.  This one wasn't so bad - it was barely spicy - enough to make my mouth happy and not upset my stomach.



The fish was local yellowfin tuna, cooked in traditional style, which means completely and thoroughly cooked.  With white rice, shrimp chips and stir fried bok choy.


The next morning, I managed a little bit more:



mee goreng, ikan goreng (fried fish - I think this was more of the same tuna) and some kind of chicken sausage and onion stew.



Pineapple and dragon fruit.


This concludes the surf portion of this trip!!  Next, on to the turf!!!  Spoiler alert - I started feeling better, and then my wife caught it from me!


Edited by KennethT (log)
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12 minutes ago, pastrygirl said:

@KennethT thanks for elaborating, that's even more rural than I was imagining.  Can't go out to dinner if there aren't any restaurants.

oh yeah.  It's really rural.  In fact, many of the hotel employees don't even live there - they live in housing on the property and go home to the mainland once a week.


The hotel has an internship program for the few teenagers on the island.  One of them was one of the servers in the restaurant - she was a sweet girl and was always with a smile, even if her job was probably incredibly boring - constantly filling and refilling water glasses for all of 6 people.  It's a good thing those water glasses were so small otherwise she's be out of work in a hurry!

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After breakfast was another transit day. Small boat to the dock on the mainland, then 1.5 hour car ride to the city of Manado.  There isn't much touristy stuff in Manado, so the original plan was to use it as a base to explore the Minahasa highlands around the city and maybe hit a market or two.  In addition to the standard fruit I usually look for, I was also looking to bring home some kencur - Indonesian sand ginger.  It's used in lots of Indonesian dishes, but is impossible to find in the US unless you want dried which is a totally different thing.  I had already applied for and received permission to bring it in from the USDA, just as long as there is no dirt or pests attached to it. I had also wanted to find an Indonesian mortar/pestle - which looks more like a flat plate than the Thai style.


When we arrived at the hotel, our room wasn't ready yet, so we hung out in the lobby a bit and then went to the hotel restaurant for lunch.  Interestingly, I'd say at least 95% of the hotel occupants that I saw over our 4 days there were domestic Indonesian travelers, and most of the hotel staff spoke no English at all, which is pretty uncommon.  Really glad I brushed up on my Bahasa!!!  The hotel has the only Italian restaurant in the city but they also have some local Indonesian dishes.  I took a photo of the menu of the local section:




Ikan kuah asam - a fish soup with big chunks of some kind of white fish in a clear sour broth.  The fish was dry (that's the style of cooking fish here - you'll see why later) but the soup had a nice sour flavor.


Served with rice:




Cakalang bakar dabu-dabu - grilled skipjack tuna with sambal dabu-dabu.  Dabu-dabu (which means chopped) is local to this area, although it has spread all over Indonesia.  As far as I know, it is unique among Indonesian sambals as it is a raw sambal - most sambal are ground and then fried to bring out the flavor.  This one is a raw combination of green and red tomato (both underripe and sour), shallots and chillies.  Hot oil is then poured over the sambal to help bring out some flavor, but it is still essentially raw.  And holy crap is it hot!!!  This was one of the hottest things I've had in my life.  The tuna was also very dry, but lubricated by the sambal as well as my excessive salivation and mucus coming out of my nose.  It turns out that the local Minahasa people pride themselves on the fact that the locally grown chillies are hotter than any other in Indonesia!  They say that because theirs is the spiciest, their food is the best.


After checking into our room and unpacking a bit, we took a quick walk around because I needed to find an ATM and I wanted to get more water for the room.  Quite a few people who were just hanging around on the street were eyeing us like pieces of meat - I don't know if they're just not used to seeing white people or anything else but it did make us a bit uneasy - which could have entirely been in our heads.  But we decided to have dinner in the hotel as I still wasn't feeling 100% and all of the places I was looking at going to were a taxi ride to a different neighborhood and we had to wake up early to meet our driver for our highland trip.


But first, a few street shots:









Fresh squeezed lime juice



Ayam woku (chicken in woku curry) - this was awesome.  Similar to the ikan woku (fish woku) that we had on the island, woku curry is a specialty of the Minahasa people of the region.  It has a pretty standard bumbu (spice paste) of galangal, shallots, chillies, etc. but also uses a bunch of leafy herbs which are finely sliced - turmeric leaves, green onion, pandan leaves and basil.


Served with:


Rice and krupuk udang (shrimp chips)



Mee goreng - this version used a lot of kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and they must have had a really hot wok because there was a great char aroma to it.



Edited by KennethT (log)
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Breakfast at the hotel the next morning.  One thing about a hotel that caters to domestic travelers is that the breakfast buffet is almost entirely Indonesian.  They also highlighted a dish that's very common in the region - one that I had seen roadside signs for all over the place during our transit:



Similar to the Javanese nasi campur or slightly similar to the Malay nasi lemak, it's rice with a bunch of stuff around it.  Where the Javanese version would have 1 or two different types of beef floss, the Manado version uses a fish floss.  Here's the setup:



The pot full of turmeric rice is cut off on the right.... 



My plate, going clock wise from the top: krupuk udang (shrimp chips), some kind of bean cake cut into strips (the Javanese version is more sweet), mung bean noodles, fish floss, shredded fish, sambal terasi (chillies with fermented shrimp paste).



Kue - pandan chiffon cake



mee goreng



Some kind of vegetable fritter



soup setup - this isn't like the Javanese soto ayam, it's much more simple.  Chicken broth, egg noodles (mee), shredded cabbage, fried shallots, fried tofu, some kind of fish floss.



With some sambal and lime (of course)


We then met up with our guide/driver.  We had wanted to see a few of the waterfalls/jungly things in the highlands as well as the main market in Tomohon (a small, charming city in the highlands) which is very well known.  He was great but I felt bad for him as he said that we were his first tour since COVID!  Ever since then, the area doesn't see nearly as many tourists as it used to and is taking a long time to come back.  And we found that most of the trails to get to the various waterfalls were completely overgrown and neglected. Most were impassable after a certain point but we did get to see some.


Our first stop was the small village of Kali (which means river), as the river runs through it.  It's REALLY small - like 1 street, with 1 general store and a few houses around.  We parked in one family's driveway (for 20,000IDR = a little more than $1) and then started our walk.  One thing they do in this village is manage clove and nutmeg trees.



Nutmeg and mace drying



Clove buds on the tree


Harvesting cloves is different here than what we saw in rural Bali - in Bali, someone would climb the tree and then climb out the branches to pick the buds, but here they have these rickety looking bamboo ladders that they lean up against the outside branches which somehow seems less safe than the climbing method.



bamboo ladder



cloves drying



Nutmeg on the tree.  I didn't realize that nutmeg was a fruit.  When harvesting, they peel off the skin and fleshy parts - the nutmeg is the seed inside and mace is a the stuff that surrounds the seed underneath the flesh of the fruit.



Nutmeg closeup


They also make palm wine in this village.  A specific type of palm tree has a very sweet fruit which is pressed and then fermented to make the wine.  It's also distilled to make a really strong palm spirit.



Here, they use an even more rickety bamboo ladder to get up to where the bunches of fruit hang.  It's basically a single bamboo pole with holes cut out - the climber puts his big toe in the holes to climb



Closeup of the fruit


Continuing on the overgrown trail.... this is one of the nicer sections, however the stones were slightly mossed over, damp and REALLY slippery.




And who doesn't love muddy sections covered in slippery wet leaves?




But we finally made it to the waterfall - it was definitely worth it!





And back to the village to move on to Tomohon...



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