After one week of restful holidaying, it is time to turn on the brain cells again. For one week, surrounded by the idyllic beauty of Manado, my mind just shuts off – it wanted to admire the surrounding paradise-like charm and did not want to dwell on more earthly matters like work. Enjoy the pictures, and also for those who are planning to go to Manado, i hope this blog helps you in your planning. If you are still considering Manado or not….think no more. Just go!
From the airport, getting to your resort is not difficult. You do not need to get a hotel transfer, which cost a lot more than what a taxi would charge. However, I understand most travellers are concerned which taxi to take; there are many taxis waiting and touting. As always in Indonesia, go for the Blue Bird Taxi. The taxis are blue, and just walk up to a driver and show the the resort’s address. Blue bird taxis are reliable and go by meter. If you need a BlueBird taxi while in Manado for example to go between resorts, malls, etc, call: 0431861234.
For reference, our bluebird taxi fare was about 20% of what a hotel transfer pick-up would cost for a one hour drive from the airport to the resort.
We stayed at Villa Dahlia Resort, a new resort by Kalassey Beach. It is a rocky area facing the sea and gave amazing views of the sea and Bunaken Island. This resort has a lovely compound, a small canal connecting the sea which allows all kinds of interesting sea life to enter. We saw sea urchins, fish, crabs, lion fish through the crystal clear, shallow waters here:
And these are views of Bunaken Island taken from the backyard of the hotel:
Villa Dahlia has 3 pools – one infinity pool, one salt water pool and one wading pool for children. Our families and kids absolutely loved the pools. But what really made the place wonderful is the people. The staff is so lovely and kind in every way! We had a problem at night – the aircons at the poolside block of rooms are just not powerful enough to cool the rooms, so it felt like running a heater in the middle of a 36 degree celcius day! So they allowed us to change to a bigger chalet on the garden wing. To make things worse, the curtains fell at mid-night, leaving our room fully exposed and the bright resort lights shining in so brightly! But the staff were great! they helped us to change rooms at mid-night. and the rest of the stay was just wonderful from that point on. Check them out at:
Our first excursion was to Bunaken Island. This is undoubtly one of the best dive sites in the world. We did not dive as we had kids with us, but the snokling and even the underwater view by glass bottom boat was awesome! Kids totally love it. I bet the waters have visibility of 30-40m! We spent one whole day on Bunaken Island, where they served us fish cooked over open coconut fire. There are resorts on the island, but unless you want to do nothing but dive, there is no need to stay there.
Dinner is at the wonderful City Extra Restaurant. This restaurant is owned by the owners of Villa Dahlia. So far, it has played host to 3 Indonesian Presidents before. The good thing about Villa Dahlia is it is not too far from a row of restaurants and eateries that grill fish. It is about 300m away so it is all walkable. In Manado, there is no central tourist area like Phuket’ Patong or Bali’s Kuta. In this sense, it is nicely untouched. It is hard to find pubs etc there. The resorts are quite scattered from the city, so the city area – Manado Town Square is still pretty local. But they are not far from Villa Dahlia and can be reached by Mikrolet (pronounced as Mee-cro – let), their version of public transport or Taxi. Mikrolets have their own system of where to pick up customers, so if you are not sure, just do as the locals do. each ride regardless of distance is about Rp2000-2500 (USD 1 = RP 10000).
The next day we went to Tangkoko National Park. This place is a treasure trove of wild life! It is a whole day trip. We saw a whole clan of Black Macaques, insects, birds like the kingfisher, hornbill, the mysterious animal known as the Kos-Kos which looks like a Koala, and the world’s smallest monkey the Tarsier! The day tour takes you through idyllic countryside, and lunch is a 15 course, i repeat, 15 course meal!
One thing about our guide, he is a freelancer who was engaged by our hotel to take us to Tangkoko National Park. he can be engaged directly BEFORE you arrive at Manado. There is a rule between the tour guides and the hotels, and they usually will not service you once you stay in a hotel that offers land tours because they dont want to jeopadise their working relationship with the hotels. So if you want to book a freelance guide to take you for the whole day with a car, do so BEFORE you arrive and check into a hotel. you can call:
Antji – 4628124424322. He is experienced and speaks good english. Only thing is his driving can be pretty fast…i leave that to your imagination.
The last 2 days were spent at Tomohon Highlands Resort. This place is ranked number 1 at Tripadvisors and deservedly so! Nestled amidst a highland village, it is cool and surrounded by awesome views of mountains and volcanoes. The owner Charlie is a great guy. Email them for promotions which are not listed in agoda etc. for example, agoda said they were sold out, but when i emailed Charlie, he got 2 suites for us. They usually throw in free pick-up services or transfers, so do ask!
You can check them out at http://www.highlandresort.info/
The service is excellent, and we had great fun going on the Minahasa Highland tour. We visited the Tomohon Traditional Market, which is an explosion of colours. There is an animal section, which we avoided because they slaughter dogs, which we love – i dont want my kid seeing her favourite animal in distress, so we stayed in the vegetable and fish sections. Still very interesting and lovely, and the picture below shows one of the highlights of Tomohon cuisine – BBQ rats!
After that we headed to a few interesting places. One of them is the mysterious WWII tunnels left behind by the Japanese. We walked through the chambers imagining what had happened here. Apparently there are several tunnel complexes all over the highlands of Manado. There were ammo storage rooms, armouries, prisons, all kinds of creepy chambers. It was too dark to take pictures in there, but this is how it looks like from the gate:
After that we went to Tondano lake for lunch. An awesome place. The lake is so big it takes about 2 hours to drive around before we ended at this pottery village.
We had a nice break next at a natural hot spring, soaking with the locals. Imagine this – a natural hot spring, totally unfurnished, right by the green padi fields, waters so jade, so still. A light layer of steam condenses over its surface, and local farmers come for a soak after a hard day in the field. So idyllic….so blissful! Bring your swim wear! You dont want to miss this authentic experience.
And lastly, we ended the wonderful day with a coffee break at Lake Linow, the lake that changes 7 colours throughout the day as the water moves and the sun reflects off the sulfur in the water. Surrounded by grassland with smoke coming out of the ground, it looks so beautiful it is surreal. We are at this lovely new cafe that overlooks the lake, and if you come early, spend some time paddling or kayaking across its still, colourful waters. The scenery was so beautiful it left me speechless for a few seconds.
Manado is so lovely. Personally, i like it so much more than Bali because it is so untouched by mass tourism. With a heavy heart, we left the island with a ton of photos and great memories. I hope you enjoy the pictures and enjoy Manado!