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Upon waking this morning, David feels absolutely dreadful, with a sore throat, dry cough, and swollen, red, and runny eyes. He stays in bed while I go to breakfast.


I ask David if he wants any food brought back to the room, and he suggests that a sausage sandwich would be lovely. Unfortunately, sausages are not on the menu at all. I order two fried eggs for myself, which come on really thick toast, and are surprisingly served in a bowl. I also have a cup of tea, as I don’t tend to drink coffee when we travel (those of you who have read previous blog entries will know that I only really like a weak, black Nescafé Gold).


When I get back to the room, David has coughed so much that he made himself sick, with the resulting vomit being a worrying pink colour. I find this rather concerning as the colour could be an indication of the presence of blood – which is definitely not right.

Santa Cruz Cemetery

With David not feeling at all well, I go out with Danny on my own for this morning’s excursion. We start at the main cemetery in Dili, where Danny fills me in about some of Timor Leste’s poignant history.


It was here, in 1991, that Indonesian soldiers, armed with automatic weapons, indiscriminately killed 271 peaceful pro-independence protesters in a brutal massacre. At the time, the island of East Timor, as it was known then, was under Indonesian occupation.


Max Stahl

The incident was initially downplayed by the Indonesian government, who claimed the assault was carried out by a rogue fraction of the military. Max Stahl, a British cameraman, had managed to film the dead and dying as well as the atrocities that were carried out that day. To avoid confiscation of his footage, he then buried it in a grave. After being questioned for nine hours, he returned under cover of darkness to exhume the footage. With the help of a friend, he managed to smuggle out the videotape to Australia, and the footage was shown on British TV channel ITV a few months later in a program called In Cold Blood: The Massacre of East Timor. It was that footage that brought the plight of the East Timorese to world attention, causing outrage throughout the world. Max’s coverage is listed in Unesco's Memory of the World register as a "turning point" in the birth of a new nation.

Max was buried here after his death in 2021

In response to the massacre, activists around the world organised in solidarity with the East Timorese, and a new urgency was brought to calls for self-determination. In a landmark vote in 1999, 78.5% of East Timorese chose independence from Indonesia, which was the culmination of 24 years of occupation by Jakarta and, before that, hundreds of years of colonial rule by Portugal. The small country finally gained independence in 2002. I do not wish to make this into a political post, but if you are interested, I suggest you Google East Timor Genocide.


I wander amongst the graves, saddened by the poignant history attached to this place, and when Danny points out, rather matter-of-factly, the spot where his mother was shot in the back as she tried to flee from the violence, I go cold as a shiver runs through my entire body. I stop, my mouth agape, to listen to his own private memories of this incident (he was only 11 at the time). Suddenly this is no longer just a dramatic political event, it has become a personal tragedy. Tears well up in my eyes as Danny tells me how his mother later died from her injuries, unable to reach a hospital for fears of further assaults; and his father, who’d been stabbed in the leg, developed an infection in his wound and died a few months later. Danny was orphaned, aged 12, and quickly had to learn how to stand on his own two feet.


The rest of our visit to the cemetery goes by in a blur, as I feel Danny’s burden hanging over me like a dark cloud.


Resistance Museum

My visit to this harrowing museum does nothing to lighten my mood. Exhibits include photographs with explanations in several languages (no photos allowed), and at the end, a film tells the story of independence. Despite the commentary being in Portuguese only, the story is loud and clear. I feel shell-shocked as I exit into the bright sunny day, and my mood remains sombre as I reflect on the cruelty and unfairness that is the world, and how easy my life has been in comparison.


Tasitolu Church

It is estimated that 98% of the population of Timor Leste identify as Catholic. The simple structure, which functions as a church was built for the visit of Pope John Paul II in 1989, where he addressed the congregation in English and the local Tetum language.


It was also in this place that the independence of Timor Leste was declared in 2002, after which it was designated as a Peace Park due to its historical and social importance.


Tasitolu is now a protected area, with three shallow saline lakes.


In some years, the colour of the water in the lakes turns red as a result of algae, although some locals believe it is a result of the number of victims of the invaders during the Indonesian occupation who are buried here.


This area also became a refuge for a vast number of internally displaced persons during the 2006 conflict, in what became a tent camp for approximately 150,000 people.

Tasitolu Beach

There are plans ahead for building a large resort on the nearby beach in order to encourage increased tourism in the country. The beach area already has several dive sites which are developed for tourists. Reef visibility is said to be excellent, there are no currents, and the sandy bank slopes gradually.


Seeing many trees with buckets hanging from branches, I ask Danny about the significance. He explains that it’s an old tradition that when a child is born, a number of different offerings are added to a small basket, such as pens and books for future educational success, with the bucket placed high in a tree.


Fishermen from Ataora, carrying their successful catch of octopus

Dili Rock - the entrance to the city from Indonesian times


On our way back to the hotel, I ask Danny if we can stop in a grocery store, as I want to try and get some sausages for David following his unsuccessful request for a sausage sandwich for breakfast this morning. We enter Dili Plaza, a large, modern supermarket, but it seems that sausages as we know them in the UK, are not available over here. All I can get is frankfurters, but I guess that will do. I also pick up some sliced bread and tomato ketchup, as well as a few packets of tissues for the patient back in the hotel. Our apartment features a well-equipped kitchen area, so I am able to make a sausage sandwich of sorts for him.


The kitchen has a large fridge, 2-plate hob, and separate grill, microwave, toaster, and kettle, but only one plate and one coffee mug.


Feeling a little better, David joins me in the café for dinner this evening. He orders grilled salmon but eats very little of it.


I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoy my chicken schnitzel with pepper sauce.


This place makes the best Espresso Martini!


After what has been a rather emotionally draining day for me, I am more than happy to retire to bed straight after dinner, as suggested by a still-poorly and physically drained David.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this incredible Grand Tour of South East Asia.


Posted by Grete Howard 09:30 Archived in East Timor Tagged lakes beach church cemetery museum killing traditions graves resistance laundry murder independence superstition massacre martini dili vomit sausages occupation peace_park east_timor undiscovered_destinations timor_leste santa_cruz_cemetery santa_cruz_massacre sausage_sandwich vomiting_blood poignant max_stahl itv the_massacre_of_east_timor stabbing resistance_museum sombre_mood tasitolu pope_john_paul_ii tasitolu_church buckets_in_trees indonesian_occupation espresso_martini Comments (3)

Bali - Timor Leste

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David asks for two fried eggs for breakfast at the Harris Tuban Hotel in Bali this morning, but when they arrive, it seems that the chef thought he meant for two people, so he is carrying four eggs. I feel bad sending them back, but I really don't fancy eggs this morning. I stick with my favourite fried bananas.

The lobby at Harriis Tuban Hotel

I hate hanging around in hotels waiting to move on, so I am grateful for the early departure to the airport this morning (07:00). As always, we are early for the pick-up, but we haven’t been there long before the driver – also early – turns up.


I Gusti Ngurah Rai International Airport

One good thing to come out of mass tourism is that the airport is very well organised. The driver drops us off right by the Assistance kiosk, where I can sort out a wheelchair to take me to the check-in area. The girl locks up the kiosk and pushes me there – thankfully there is only a very short queue, and she can call another assistant, who brings another wheelchair in order for the girl to be able to return to her kiosk ready to assist further disabled passengers.

The check-in is smooth and easy, and the size and weight of the hand luggage is not even mentioned – which as a photographer is always a worry for me (the usual 7kg carry-on allowance is not enough for my camera equipment).


At the gate

The porter asks if I am able to travel down an escalator, which I will do if necessary, but I find my balance – or rather the lack of – rather worrying. At the time of boarding, however, I am informed that the escalator is broken, so the porter pushes me to the nearest lift, which takes us down into a huge, and completely deserted, transfer area, through an unmanned X=ray machine and back to the gate. Here we have to enter another lift, which is too small to fit the wheelchair in, so it has to be folded up, with me and the porter standing next to it. There is no room for David, so he takes the nearby stairs. We eventually get to the entrance to the plane and are able to board.

Citilink flight Bali – Dili

The plane is not even half full, so we are able to claim three seats for the two of us, giving us plenty of legroom. The in-flight meal is a pleasant surprise for a budget airline, and very tasty.

Nasi Ayam Betutu – Balinese dish of white rice with betutu (a local spice mix) flavoured chicken that comes with boiled egg, sautéed long beans, and peanuts with spiced toasted coconut.

Soon after the meal is finished, I fall into a deep sleep, and awake with a jolt as we land in Dili.

President Nicolau Lobato International Airport

With no wheelchair waiting for me at the bottom of the steps when I exit the plane, I decide to walk the short distance across the tarmac to the small terminal building. The first stage in the process is to join the queue of visitors waiting to purchase the Visa on Arrival.

I get pulled aside by an official, who looks at my passport and declares: “Norway. You’re free, you don’t have to pay”, and ushers me through to the next queue, for immigration. It is very slow moving, and at this stage, I wish I had that wheelchair, as it is generally not the walking that bothers me, but the standing still for any period of time.

David is still in the line for the VOA, but manages to join me just as I reach the front of my queue. The immigration officer doesn’t seem to believe that Norway is exempt from having to get a visa. He checks the list on the wall, which to be fair, does not mention Norway. After conferring with a colleague, he double-checks the aforementioned list. Norway still hasn’t appeared. Eventually, he just shrugs and stamps my passport anyway. I’m in.

There is thankfully a bench in the luggage hall where I can sit and rest my painful back as I wait for David to complete the immigration formalities.


We pick up our bags and head for the exit. At the customs inspection we are asked for a form. What form? We are shown a QR code posted on a pillar. QR codes are great, and work really well, providing you have internet access. We don’t. Neither of us even have a phone signal – not that I am willing to pay to use data on my phone to access the code. An official takes David across to a PC and helps him complete the necessary documents. And so we’ve arrived at country number 144.

Beachside Hotel

Danny, our drive-guide here in Timor Leste, is waiting for us just outside the exit., and takes us straight to our hotel. We drive through the sleepy capital, Dili, and out the other side to a delightful hotel where we have a large room with a seating area, a kitchen, and a balcony looking across the road to the beach beyond.


Room Service

After sorting ourselves out, David pops down to the bar to get some drinks, and a very sweet girl brings two glasses of wine and some lemon drizzle cake to the room for our afternoon tea. She is adamant that she doesn’t want to accept a tip for providing room service.


After a lovely little snooze, we wake up just as the sun is setting, and pop down into the bar for another drink.


The drinks arrive quickly – mine’s a Bacardi and Coke, while David is amused at draft beer – in a bottle.



There is a limited menu with mostly Western food, and the hotel’s café stops serving food at 19:00, so we promptly order a couple of dishes to keep us going.

My felafer burger with hummous

David's beef lasagne

Beach Cinema

Every Friday and Saturday the hotel shows a couple of films on a huge screen on the beach. This is certainly a first for us, but we feel too tired to stay and watch, and soon retire to bed. While at home we rarely sleep before midnight, when we travel, we usually end up in bed some time between 21:00 and 22:00.


Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for putting together this amazing Grand Tour of South East Asia.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:19 Archived in East Timor Tagged bali indonesia flight airport cake visa cinema escalator immigration wheelchair customs south_east_asia dili east_timor citilink undiscovered_destinations visa_on_arrival check_in room_service qr_code in_flight_meal harris_tuban_hotel timor_leste i_gustii_ngurah_rai_airport president_nicolau_lobato_airpor beachside_hotel bacardi_and_coke draft_beer_in_a_bottle beach_cinema Comments (4)

Bali - Luwak Coffee and Kecak Ceremony

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After a bad night with horrid dreams, an upset tummy, and a painful back, I am more than ready to get out of bed this morning.


Feeling a little overwhelmed by the massive choice at the buffet, and trying not to aggravate my already jittery stomach, I settle for some fried bananas this morning. And what a great choice it is!


David orders two fried eggs, and while he is waiting for them to be cooked, helps himself to sausages, bacon, baked beans, and potatoes from the buffet. The eggs are slow to arrive, so he tucks into the rest of the food while it is still hot. He has just finished everything when the eggs arrive, so he wanders up to the buffet for round two of everything.



Unusually for me, I order the same food from the hotel restaurant for the third day running, sausages, while David has the Black Magic Burger.


Lumbung Sari Coffee House

On our way to the temple for this afternoon’s excursion, we have a surprise stop at a coffee house. Initially, I am a little reluctant to go down the steps to the gardens and further on to the café, as I am not a great lover of drinking coffee outside our own house. I often find the coffee served in restaurants and other establishments is too bitter for my taste. We usually take a small jar of Nescafé Gold with us on our travels for that very reason – please don’t hate me!


Indonesia is one of the world’s top coffee producers, and after we sit down at one of the many tables in the shade, the staff brings out a selection of coffees and teas for us to taste.


I try them all, and while most are reasonably pleasant, my favourites are the vanilla and the ginger coffees.


Kopi Luwak

As someone who loves new gastronomic experiences, I am really excited when I hear that this is an optional extra here (the coffee tasting is free, in the hope you will be so enamoured with their coffee that you purchase a bag or two), and I jump at the change of trying this weird, unique coffee.


Also known as civet coffee, it is the way it is produced that makes this a premium coffee. Raw coffee beans (known as cherries) are fed to a civet, a wild nocturnal cat, and once the bean has passed through the animal, it gets removed from any other faecal matter and roasted and ground as normal. It is believed that the enzymes produced by the civet and the fermentation that happens inside its body, help to create this, the most expensive of all coffees, which carries the moniker ‘The Holy Grail of Coffees’.


The flavour is quite bitter, and it leaves a lot of grounds behind. Is it worth all the hype? It’s an ‘acquired taste’, and I’m sorry to say that I still prefer Nescafé Gold, but I am delighted to have had the opportunity to try it.


It does make me think of the time we did a walking safari in Zimbabwe some 20 years ago, and the ranger used his stick to pick out an almond nut from a pile of elephant dung. Having broken it open on a rock, he declared that an almond that has passed through an elephant is considered a delicacy, and asked if anyone wanted to try it. I didn't have to fight off any of my fellow walkers for the privilege. What did it taste like? An almond. Nothing more, nothing less.

Uluwatu Temple

Having spent the last two weeks in Sulawesi, where we rarely saw another Westerner (or even domestic tourist), and were able to pull up right outside all the various attractions we visited, the well organised, but horribly commercialised Ulawatu Temple comes as a bit of a shock.


We are not here to see the temple itself, which I understand is now only open to devotees wishing to pray days following some abysmal behaviour by disrespectful tourists. Having seen similar shocking actions by a fellow traveller at a temple in China, I am sad to say that nothing surprises me any more.


We encountered some horrible traffic congestion coming here, cars bumper to bumper at a snail’s pace for miles, with young Western travellers on motorbikes (no helmets or protective gear of any kind) weaving in and out of the traffic without a care in the world. These days there is a huge car park some distance away from the temple (although our driver is thankfully able to drop us right outside), and the entrance to the temple is thronging with people, in stark contrast to the last time we came here in 1991, when it was all very laid back.


We are warned about the thieving monkeys, who will remove anything loose from your person, such as sunglasses and hats, even necklaces are apparently not safe.


Kecak Dance

In 1991 the dance was held next to a bar, with the audience consisting of a couple of dozen people in deckchairs.

Scan of an old print from 1991

In 2023 it is big business, with a purpose-built arena holding 1500 people.



Before the performance can start, a priest blesses the stage with some food offerings and lights the traditional Balinese coconut oil lamp in the centre, all adding to the building tension.


We chose to sit on one side of the arena (something I come to regret later when all my photos have the audience on the opposite side in them), whereas the people facing the sunset have a few issues with keeping the sun out of their eyes.



It's impossible to take photos from where I am sitting without getting the audience in the background in my photos.

Originating from the 1930s, it is also known as the ‘Ramayana Monkey Chanting Dance’. A number of men wearing chequered cloths around their waists, congregate in a circle, performing a mesmerising “chak ke-chak ke-chak ke-chak” continuous chant while moving their bodies rhythmically and waving their arms and hands. The chanting is both hypnotic and seductive, which is not surprising as the dance has its roots in a trance-inducing exorcism dance.


The performance depicts a battle from the Ramayana, in which the monkey-like Vanares (represented by the bare-chested performers), led by Hanuman, help Prince Rama fight the evil King Ravana.


Many other characters are introduced during the performance, and I have to admit that I get lost in the story pretty quickly. Here is Wikipedia’s take on it: “The story of the Ramayana is depicted, beginning with Sita and Rama's exile in the jungle of Dandaka. The performance reenacts the appearance of the Golden Deer, the abduction of Sita by Ravana, the battle between Ravana and Jatayu, the search for Sita by Hanuman, and ends with the battle between Rama and Ravana. The kecak chanters chant and sing in accordance with the mood and milieu of the story. “


My favourite is Hanuman, who is a bit of an acrobatic clown, climbing on the temple walls, sliding down the banisters, jumping down several steps, and even sitting in amongst the audience.


As the sun sets, the performance culminates in the burning of Hanuman, in which he is blessed by a priest and goes into a trance, thus not feeling any pain from the fire. This dramatic finale is really quite impressive to watch.


You can see excertps from the dance on David's short video here.

Phone Photography

While in some ways I think it is great that the advent of the mobile phone camera means that everyone can capture their precious memories for posterity, and that it means you always have a camera with you; it can also be seen as the bane of modernity in the way that people hold their phones up above their heads, without a thought to the anyone behind them also wanting to take pictures. Looking around, I can only spot two other people in the audience with ‘proper’ cameras, whereas there is a sea of lights from phone cameras.


Once the performance is over, there is quite a stampede getting out of the arena, with so many people being funnelled into a fairly narrow exit, giving me the start of a panic attack. I’ve always felt anxious in large crowds, and this evening is no exception. I stop for a while and concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply, and it helps. We finally make it to where the car is in the parking lot - so many of the tourist vehicles look the same, so I am glad our guide is in contact with the driver.

With 1500 people trying to leave on the same narrow road, you have to be patient as you are getting nowhere fast.

Ganesha Café


As part of the evening’s excursion package, we have dinner at Jumbaran Bay. I take one look at the outside seating and my heart sinks: it is everything I hate about tourist restaurants – lots of people = mass catering, cheap plastic chairs sinking into the sand, wandering minstrels singing at the tables. I ask if we can sit inside.


Seeing the kitchens doesn’t exactly inspire me with confidence either.


The restaurant keeps several different live crustaceans in tanks by the entrance – I suppose that means that at least the seafood is fresh.


We are asked about allergies, and whether or not we like spices. When the food arrives, there is enough to feed a small army – this is just for one person: soup with tuna meatballs, crab, fish, squid, prawns, and clams with various dips (chilli and tomato, chilli and onion, and garlic), as well as a green vegetable (probably water spinach), and a mountain of rice, of course.


It’s not only the food that is crabby, I am feeling pretty grumpy and irritable myself, my knee and back are hurting, and my tummy feels rather precarious after having suffered from the runs for several days. Having to fight with bones and shells for my food does not improve my mood whatsoever. After eating just a small amount of the massive portion, I rearrange the food on my plate trying to hide some of the flesh under the bones to make it look like I have eaten it more than I actually have.

We soon find the guide to ask if we can return to the hotel, explaining to him how I am not really feeling well. As soon as we get into the hotel room, I collapse in bed.

Thanks must go to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this incredible Grand Tour of South East Asia.


Posted by Grete Howard 12:04 Archived in Indonesia Tagged monkeys sunset bali restaurant indonesia temple priest dinner lobster fire tourism seafood coffee crabs blessing squid ramayana kecak hanuman clams oil_lamp trance_dance trance civet touristic chanting fire_dance undiscovered_destinations audience kopi_luwak harris_tuban_hotel fried_bananas lumbung_sari_coffee_house lumbung_sari coffee_house coffee_tasting bescafe_gold civet_coffee luwak_coffee the_holy_grail_of_coffees ulawatu_temple commercialised kecak_dance mobile_phone_photography ganesha_cafe seafood_restaurant Comments (2)

Bali - a day of chilling at the Harris Tuban Hotel

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We booked these three nights in Bali in order to catch up on sleep and laundry, and I certainly managed the former – I slept for over ten hours last night (albeit with some not-so-nice dreams)!


The hotel offers an extensive breakfast buffet, with so many great choices! We take our time trying different dishes, as we have all day to do very little today.


Broken camera lens – or not?

I was so tired when I got to the hotel last night, that I forgot all about the camera that fell on the floor at the airport yesterday. I anxiously take it out of the bag and carefully remove the filter on the end. After some gentle blowing and brushing (using a proper camera blower brush), I am relieved to find there is no permanent damage to the actual lens itself. Phew. Thank goodness for UV filters!


Pool time

We spend the morning in and around the pool, making the most of our chill time.


We made a point of booking a 'pool access' room so that we would be nice and close to the swimming pool. We certainly are!

The back door in our room (shown with a red square added around it) leads directly out to the pool

We chat for a while to a delightful young girl from South Africa, who is on her own, at the end of her trip before flying home. Thankfully, one end of the pool – and the surrounding area - is in the shade, as I am paranoid about getting sunburnt. I have photosensitive skin on the lower part of my legs from an infection following a sunburn some 20+ years ago. Also, my lips are ultra-sensitive to the sun after some serious sunburn (and a secondary infection) some years ago. I wear a shirt in the pool to be sure.



There is no buffet this lunchtime, so we order from the menu.

My Gado Gado: tomatoes, egg, cucumber, tempeh, tofu, cabbage rolls with green beans and beansprouts, crackers, and peanut sauce. It is a nice combination of texture, but I would have liked some more sauce and for it to be a little spicier.

David is a little more conservative in his choice: club sandwich, French fries, and tomato ketchup.


After our next stop on this trip, Timor Leste, we will be returning to Bali for a couple of nights (Timor Leste is not served by many airlines, meaning Bali is the easiest starting point). For some reason, when we applied for a visa for Indonesia earlier in this trip, we only got a single entry (I have no idea whether it was our mistake or theirs – it is irrelevant now, anyway), so I spend this afternoon trying to apply online for our return visit in just over a week. The site keeps asking me to repeat my passport number, then it wants other details again that I have already input, after which it tells me my user name is incorrect. Grrrr


Eventually, after three hours of tearing my hair out, I finally have the correct paperwork.

In order to escape from my ever-increasing ire (which of course is not directed at him), David takes a walk, and is delighted to find some cider in the local supermarket!



I enjoyed the chicken sausages I had last night so much, that I order them again this evening.


David, on the other hand, tries out the Super Supreme Pizza with extra chillies.


Apparently, it is very spicy. There’s a surprise.


We finish with a cappuccino each, before retiring to our comfortable bed for another night at the Harris Tuban Hotel.


Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this unforgettable Grand Tour of South East Asia.


Posted by Grete Howard 18:47 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali indonesia breakfast dinner pool pizza swimming_pool buffet cider sunburn supermarket cappuccino sunbathe undiscovered_destinations evisa harris_tuban luncg broken_camera_lens e_visa indonesian_visa photosensitive_dermititis gado_gado club_sandwich grand_tour_of_south_east_asia Comments (4)

Manado - Makassar - Bali

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Today we are leaving Sulawesi behind and heading to a far more touristy destination – Bali.


Breakfast at Aryaduta Hotel in Manado is an almost Western affair, with some very nice fried egg on toast, but after struggling to eat it with the provided spoon and fork, I finally give in and ask for a knife.


Manado Airport

Having arrived too early to check in, we take a seat while we wait. I am not sure how, but my camera rucksack appears to take a leap off the bench and lands with an uncomfortably-sounding thud on the hard tiled floor. With much trepidation, I open the bag to be confronted with my worst fear: lots of smashed glass at the end of my lens.


Upon closer inspection, it appears to just be the UV filter that is damaged, but I don’t really want to remove all the broken glass, here, so I shall wait until we get to our hotel room later.

As usual, I have booked wheelchair assistance with the airline, and when the porter arrives with my carriage, he takes me straight to the Quarantine Health Office. Apparently I need a letter from them to be allowed to fly. This is another first, I have flown as a Special Assistance Passenger on over two dozen flights, on a dozen or so airlines, through nearly 20 airports, in several countries over the last couple of years, and never once has there been any suggestion of a medical certificate, especially since I specify that I only require the wheelchair through the airport to the gate and am capable of boarding the plane myself.

I digress. A nurse takes all my vital statistics (blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, temperature, pulse) and asks me several health-related questions, all of which she writes down in a book. Taking my passport, boarding card, and the aforementioned book, she disappears for several minutes, before coming back with a letter that she hands to the porter.


It appears that they find my health more important than my safety here in Manado airport, as I am pushed straight through security, bypassing the walk-through metal detector without as much as a cursory pat-down.

The flight schedule has changed a little since we booked – we were due to change aircraft in Makassar (two different flight numbers), whereas now it is the same aircraft flying all the way through. That suits us fine.

Just as the announcements for boarding start, three jet fighters take off and fly past the terminal building. The noise is ear-piercing and drowns out any messages coming over the tannoy.

The plane is unbearably hot, and we are delayed for over two hours on the tarmac before taking off. It’s like sitting in a sauna, fully clothed, with 200 other people. Looking around, all I can see is passengers fanning themselves with the emergency cards.

The moment we are airborne the chap in front of me reclines his seat, although it doesn’t stop me sleeping the majority of the flight. On arrival in Makassar, the crew suggests I stay on board while everyone else is made to deplane and wait in the terminal. Unfortunately, however, I have to move seats, from the extra legroom 5D to the much more cramped 12A.

Sitting in 12A while the other passengers have disembarked

I Gusti Ngurah Rai Airport

Bali’s main international airport has changed beyond all recognition since we were here last, some 20 years ago, and even more since our first visit to Bali fifteen years prior to that. It is huge and the arrivals is more like an enormous shopping complex than an airport. We walk what seems like miles, zigzagging our way past shop after shop, food outlet after food outlet – anything where the unsuspecting tourist can be separated from their money. I hate it. After Sulawesi, which was so delightfully uncommercialised, Bali is a bit of a shock to the system.

The pick-up procedure is well organised, with several lanes for the cars to pull up in to collect their passengers, however, and after an easy five-minute drive, we arrive at our hotel.

Harris Tuban Hotel

Our first impressions of the hotel are positive: it is bright, modern, clean, and welcoming. Check-in is painless, the staff speak good English, and our room is a mere hop and a skip away, overlooking the beautifully lit swimming pool.


Once I remove all the broken glass from my damaged lens, I thankfully discover that it was indeed only the filter that broke. Phew

It’s only when we start unpacking that I realise that no-one asked for the health certificate I have been carrying around with me. What a waste of time and paper.


Not having eaten since breakfast, we just drop our stuff in the room and head to the café for some dinner.

Colourful prawn crackers while we wait

A very welcome pina colada

Very tasty sausages - I have mash, David chooses fries, of course.

The dessert is an unusual combination, at least for us Westerners: crispy fried banana with grated cheese, chocolate sauce and ice cream. It works really well, though.

The dish is known as pisang goreng

After a long and tiring travel day, we crash into bed after dinner. Thank you so much to Undiscovered Destinations for all the hard work putting together this incredible Grand Tour of South East Asia trip for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 09:21 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali indonesia airport camera flights sulawesi manado wheelchair piña_colada makassar vital_stats lion_air aryaduta_hotel xrsay harris_tuban_hotel broken_lens health_quarantine pisang_goreng Comments (2)

Tomahon - Manado

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We are joined for breakfast this morning by a couple of endemic birds that set my twitcher brain into overdrive, as both are lifers (new birds to us).


Today is our last full day in Sulawesi, and we will be sad to say goodbye to Egi, who has become a good friend in the short time we have spent seeing the sights together in the far north of this island. Enthusiastic, hard-working, and keen to please, Egi never ceases to surprise us with his knowledge and experience, especially for such a relatively young man. He will be a hard act to follow in our next destination.

David and Egi

Basket Weaving Market

For some considerable distance alongside the road just outside Tomohon town is a linear market selling handmade baskets.


Tomohon Market


This infamous market has been variously described as ‘brutal’, ‘extreme’, ‘notorious’, 'barbaric', 'gruesome', 'shocking', and ‘cruel’, and we are warned that it is not for the faint-hearted. With an open mind, we start by exploring the fruit and vegetable section, the more ‘innocent’ part of the market, where, in addition to the more familiar vegetables, we come across many varieties not usually seen in shops back home.



Red onions


Snake fruit



The inside of the jackfruit


Shredded coconut




Palm sugar

A lady preparing a traditional dish called pangi

It’s the section of the market selling meat and fish that is known to cause offence to sensitive souls, and I can see why as we explore further.


Butterflied fish

Dried fish

Jungle pork (wild boar)

Jungle pork

Rats on a stick

Only rats that live in the forest and who dine on young leaves are sold as food, apparently.

The forest rats are distinguished by the pale tips on their tails.


I can't say it looks too delicious

Bat wings prepared in coconut milk are a local delicacy we are told. I’ll take Egi’s word for it.


What disturbs me the most, is the fact that all the bats sold here have their mouths wide open, as if they all died in a stage of fright.


Despite an agreement with the Humane Society International earlier this summer that saw a ban on the dog and cat meat trade in Sulawesi, we find the hind quarter of a dog for sale in the market. The ban, Egi explains, isn’t rigorously upheld, although it has been severely curtailed from the estimated 130,000 dogs that were previously slaughtered here annually for human consumption.


The ban was imposed, not just as a result of the cruel practices of torching the animals while they were still alive, before bludgeoning them to death, but also to prevent the spread of rabies.

Vihara Buddhayana

Still full of conflicting reflections from my visit to Tomohon’s notorious market (after all (cruel slaughter rituals aside), is there really a difference between breeding sheep for food and rearing dogs for their meat?), I find some peace and solace in this tranquil Buddhist temple.


Finding a Buddhist temple in a traditional area where the majority of the population follows the Christian faith, seems like quite an anomaly. The presence of the vihara tells that the people of Tomohon live harmoniously together, regardless of the differences in beliefs.

In the grounds, we see 18 statues of Arhats, representing Buddha’s followers.


The pagoda is unusual in that it has eight storeys – traditionally, the structure of a pagoda was based on divine numbers; even numbers were considered to be unlucky, so a pagoda always had an uneven number of floors.



Istana Kwan Im Temple

Inside the temple

Lions on the step of the temple, a symbol of strength and protection.

Throwing coins in the fountains is said to secure a future filled with longevity, status, rank, fortune, wealth, and happiness

The frog has long been considered a representation of wealth and prosperity, whereas turtles symbolise longevity.

The vihara, which was constructed in 2009, is set on a hill within beautiful grounds, and some spectacular surrounding scenery.



Raja Saté Restaurant

In less than an hour, we are back in Manado, where we started our exploration of North Sulawesi. We stop at a restaurant specialising in BBQ meat, where we see our first Western tour group on this whole trip. I am grateful that we arrive just before them, and manage to get our orders in while they are still trying to seat themselves.

The food is served on individual little metal BBQs at the table.

Ayam Saté - chicken skewers with peanut sauce

We are ready to pay and leave just as their food starts coming out. That’s one of the many things I dislike about group tours, the mess of ordering food in a restaurant when there are a dozen of you trying to decide what to have, some of whom forget what they have ordered by the time the food arrives, and then everyone trying to pay separately afterwards. I speak from experience.

Aryaduta Hotel

We are back in the same hotel as we were five days ago, with a lovely hand-written message from the general manager.


After a nice little snooze and some repacking of our main luggage, we discover that the timing of our flight tomorrow has changed, which means informing reception for the airport transfer in the morning.

Amico Italian Restaurant

Just like the last time we were here, the main restaurant in the hotel is completely devoid of any diners, and we continue to the much smaller and more intimate Italian restaurant, where we are joined on another table by three young girls who arrive shortly after us.

When he comes to take our order, the waiter informs us that they have no fries, but can do potato wedges, something that he repeats three times. It makes no difference to me on two counts: I prefer wedges to fries, and I am ordering pasta anyway, so not having a side dish of potatoes.

Meanwhile, as we are waiting for the food to arrive: my first Cuba Libre on this trip. It was the very first drink David ever bought me, the night we met 49 years ago, and has remained my favourite drink ever since.


The girls on the next table have finished two of their three courses before I receive my pasta.

Carbonara with beef ham

To me, no pasta dish is complete without black pepper, but when I ask for it, I am rather perplexed to see it brought out loose on a small plate.


I have almost finished my pasta before David’s burger arrives, and after all the fuss the waiter made about the fries being ‘off’, we are extremely surprised to see a small bucket of crinkle fries on his plate.


We joke that the kitchen probably only has one chef and one hotplate to prepare food on, hence why the food takes so long to arrive, and when it does, comes at different times.

We retire to the room for a cappuccino and a nightcap while perusing and updating social media. We have brought a handful of sachets of instant cappuccino from home, and David surprises me with a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk that he picked up somewhere along the way.


A perfect end to a perfect day.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this incredible trip for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 12:08 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia temple market buddhism pagoda bbq sulawesi fries bats chips birdwatching manado python pasta tomohon durian jackfruit cappuccino pangi buddhist_temple group_travel sate undiscovered_destinations basket_weaving aryaduta_hotel cuba_libre illegal_meats -dog_meat dragonfruit jungle_pork rat_on_a_stick vihara_buddhayana arhats amico_italian_restaurant carbonara cadburys_dairy_milk Comments (2)


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Breakfast is a simple buffet this morning, of bread, pancakes, omelette, and fruit.



We handed our dirties in to the hotel reception last night to be cleaned. This morning as we leave the hotel, we see all our clothes hanging on the line across the road from the lodge, at the roadside in the grounds of their coffee shop.


Gunung Mahawu

Trekking has not been in my vocabulary for the last few years since my arthritis took a sudden turn for the worse, so I stay behind at a small viewpoint while David and Egi, our local guide, climb to the top of this volcano.


The following three photos are screenprints from David’s video.


Mahawu is a stratovolcano that last erupted in 1789, which created a small, deep crater and sulphur pond at the summit. Although fumaroles, hot mud pools, and small geysers appeared after a brief burst of activity in 1994, Mahawu has been relatively quiet ever since.


Looking into the volcanic crater is not the only attraction on the summit, from a small viewing platform, you can look across to the active volcano Mount Lokon.


Panggung Traditional Houses

The majority of people in the village of Woloan work as carpenters and house makers. These beautiful wooden houses are often made to order for people in other parts of the country. Once they are completed, they are disassembled again and sold as flat packs, to be erected by the buyer in another location. Is this where Ikea got their idea from?


Bukit Doa

This park is part of a religious area known as Mahawaru Prayer Hill, with a path that tells the story of Jesus’ crucifixion.


We stop here, not for its religious significance, but to admire the view across the valley to the village of Kayawu and beyond to Mount Lokon.


There is also an amphitheatre here, which can seat up to 1500 people and is often used for religious performances, especially at Easter, as well as seminars and meetings.


It is also a favourite place for weddings – and romantic selfies, of course.


Nearby Kelong Gardens features an array of colourful flowers.



Bangkok Rose

Golden Shrimp Plant

Also in the garden are a couple of decaying wooden statues, showing how brave warriors would have dressed when going to war, wearing skulls of their ancestors, the head of a hornbill, and a tourniquet on the arm as a magic amulet to stop being killed.


Waruga Woloan

A few waruga (stone sarcophagi) have been moved here from elsewhere in the region, showing how the locals used to bury their dead. You can read more about warugas in yesterday’s blog entry here.


Restaurant Alang Alang

Now on the road to recovery from my rather unpleasant tummy upset, I get very excited about the menu in this European-inspired restaurant. Not surprisingly, considering how few Western tourists there are here in Sulawesi, the food has been predominantly Indonesian style so far. Normally I welcome trying local dishes, but for the previous few days I have been craving some familiar food, and in particular, mashed potato. Imagine my delight when I find just that on the menu!


Plain grilled chicken with vegetables - just what the doctor ordered to go with my mash

David's tuna steak with BBQ sauce

While we wait for the food to arrive, I enjoy a couple of glasses of fresh soursop juice.


Despite the fact that when we arrive at the restaurant, we are the only customers here, the food takes in excess of an hour to materialise. The mash is well worth waiting for though. While we are enjoying our food, a heavy rain sets in, so Egi suggests we go back to the lodge for a siesta and go out again later, by which time he thinks the rain will have passed.

Gunung Mahawi by Drone

Determined that I should see the volcanic crater for myself, Egi takes us to an area where a previous client sent a drone up to photograph the top of the volcano. As he predicted, the rain has indeed stopped.


Today, however, the summit is shrouded in mist.


The view over the surrounding landscape is pretty good, however.


Social Evening

We return to the hotel where we share a beer with Egi and a German girl called Iris who David and Egi met on their volcano hike earlier, who is a biologist travelling solo. Iris is also a keen diver and is looking for a guide to take her to some of the best sites in the area, so Egi introduces her to his friend. We have more drinks, and after the two boys depart, Iris joins us for dinner, resulting in a delightful evening.

David and Egi (a screen print from a video)

Back on the local food - fried egg noodles

Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this incredible Grand South East Asia Tour.


Posted by Grete Howard 15:10 Archived in Indonesia Tagged beer flowers indonesia volcano mist weddings sulawesi amphitheater laundry ikea sulphur amphitheatre mash sulfur stratovolcano selfie drone undiscovered_destinations drone_photography tomahon waruga dronography gunung_mahawu mount_mahawu mount_lokon lokon panggung panggung_traditional_houses panggong_tomahon bukit_doa kayawu waruga_woloan woloan woloan_traditional_houses restaurant_alang_alang mashed_potato Comments (2)

Tangkoko - Tomahon

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Still feeling rather fragile from two days of a severely upset tummy, I forego breakfast this morning.

Having struggled to get my poorly knee in and out of the vehicle, Egi (our lovely driver-guide here in North Sulawesi) suggests that I try sitting in the front with him. This seat is more comfortable all around.

The road leading from the park follows some amazing hairpin bends, on a road allegedly paid for by the Chinese. It always worries me when I hear that, as they rarely build roads in other countries out of the kindness of their hearts; they invariably want something in return – usually land. We have come across Chinese roads in several countries in the past – I remember being told that the government of Guyana refused their ‘kind’ offer, as the Chinese wanted a kilometre of land on either side of the road for building it. That is a LOT of land ownership! there My concern is that with all the land grabs in various countries, the Chinese are slowly taking over the entire world.

A straighter stretch of the Chinese road

Waruga Sawangan

A waruga is a type of stone sarcophagus traditionally used by the Minahasans people who live in this area.


The ritual involves creating your own burial place (which would be shared with other members of your family), by collecting a stone from the river, carving it, and carrying it on your back to place it in an area near your home. Bas relief carvings on the stone wall surrounding the burial park, show how the sarcophagus was created.

Carving the tomb

Carrying the huge carved blocks of rock

Bodies were buried in a crouching position, resembling the position of a fetus in a mother’s womb, with men facing left and women facing right.


Our guide, whose name I do not manage to catch, has several ancestors buried here. She explains the meaning of the various details carved into the tombs.


A cow on the roof of the tomb indicates that a hunter is buried here

The number of lines carved into the apex shows how many family members are entombed in this particular grave

An illustration showing the birth of a baby on the tomb of a midwife

The tomb of a brave soldier

The graves vary, depending on the profession or social status of the person who is buried there.


There are 144 such sarcophagi in total in this park (including more inside the forest), some of which have been moved from other locations around the area. The practice of burying the dead in warugas was stopped some 250 years ago to prevent the spread of cholera.


The Minahasans believe in the supernatural and it is thought that if you break into one of the warugas, you will find magic, hence some of the tombs have been destroyed.


All the tombs face east to make the most of the good spirits of the sun, whereas the bodies are buried facing north, as it is believed the Minahasans came to this area from the north.


Double Restaurant

Part of a fishery, the restaurant sits on a cliff overlooking Tondano Lake and its fishing ponds.


Moving from one pen to another is quite a balancing act!


The food is incredibly fresh, of course, from swimming to table in a matter of minutes. We are served two different fish, rice, corn fritters, a blisteringly hot chilli relish, and water spinach. Still not trusting my digestive system, I try a spoonful of rice with some kecap manis (sweet soy sauce) and the fresh chilli sambal (which is how I find out just how spicy it is), and one of the fritters. The latter is very moreish, but I resist the temptation out of toilet anxiety.


The lakeside features many restaurants and bars, including this floating one.


Another tourist eatery

Keramik Pulutan

The type of clay used in the pottery is only found in this village, and one family runs the entire ceramics business.


The potter has to be extremely careful not to get air bubbles in these large pots during the creation process, as that would make them crack when they are fired.


Chopping the wood for the oven


Closing up the oven


Making pots for firing gold in illegal gold mines (makes the gold more pure).


The pots are dried in the sun for an hour before being fired in the oven for a further 5-6 hours.


Lake Linow

The volcanic lake (basically a water-filled crater) has several hydrothermal vents that spew hot gas from the edges and depths of the lake. We can smell the sulphur in the air before we see the gas eruptions.


The area around the lake is constantly changing shape as new fumaroles appear from the ground beneath.



Having read about how the lake changes colour from a deep blue to an iridescent green according to the chemical composition of the water, I am disappointed when we arrive to find it a somewhat dull colour.


David goes off for a walk on the paths at the edge of the lake, while I send up my drone.



Then the sun comes out. Wow!


Mountain View Hotel

Reminiscent of a ski lodge, the all-wood hotel is set on a slope down from the road, with individual cottages spread around the verdant grounds.

Some ‘interesting’ figures guard the entrance to the hotel.

The beautiful grounds

The restaurant at the top

Having initially allocated a room for us near the bottom of the slope, when the staff realise that I have some walking difficulties, they change it for the room nearest the restaurant and car park.

Our room straight on

The manager checks the room out before we get in, and finds the shower is leaking, which is easily fixed when the maintenance man arrives with a new hose later.

Amusing sign on the underneath of the toilet seat

We sit on the small veranda of our ski-chalet-like cabin with a drink before dinner, chatting with an ex-pat Englishman who has arrived with a group of European visitors. Exchanging pleasantries, he is completely staggered when we tell him about our itinerary.

With no sign of the other guests, we are the only people at dinner.


Still feeling rather fragile, while David orders sweet soy chicken and chips, I stick to a simple meal of omelette and toast. Immediately after the kitchen receives the order, a man exits from there, jumps on a motorbike and heads off. David jokes “He’s gone off to get MacDonalds”. Five minutes later he returns with a cardboard box in a carrier bag (making it impossible for these two nosy tourists to ascertain what is inside), goes to the kitchen and opens the box before he disappears into the depths of the kitchen. We immediately hear the recognisable sound of a deep fat fryer, so it seems David was not too far off the mark when he said about MacDonalds! The box is later put in the fridge- freezer which lives in the dining room. A few minutes go by, and a plate of chips arrives, much to David’s delight.


My omelette is next to come out, which I enjoy with a cup of tea.



David has almost finished his chips by the time the sweet soy chicken arrives, but he declares it is definitely worth waiting for: “Best meal yet!”


As she clears the table after dinner, the manager asks: “Madam Grete, can you tell me what time you will take breakfast tomorrow?”

We retire to our chalet just as the Europeans arrive back at the hotel, presumably having eaten their dinner elsewhere. As they are staying in rooms lower within the grounds, the hotel returns to a delightful quiet once they have all said their goodnights. But not for long. By 21:30, the most awful screeching sound starts, which appears to emanate from a local bar. After a few minutes of the ear-piercing ‘music’, I can steadfastly confirm that karaoke does not sound any better in Indonesian – it is positively painful to listen to. As if that isn’t bad enough, soon music from another local establishment pierces through the paper-thin walls of our room. Great! Now we have competing discos on two different sides, plus the loud noise of motorbikes passing on the main road just above our cabin.

After years of travel, both David and I have the uncanny ability to switch off unwanted sounds when we want to sleep, which is very useful at times like these. We later hear the Europeans checking out, complaining that the hotel is “too noisy”. Good luck finding a place to stay in this small town on a Saturday night that isn’t close to a noisy party!

I wake at 01:30 to use the loo, having suffered no difficulty getting to sleep in the tumble-drier-like mêlée of rival noise-making, to find it eerily quiet once again.

This amazing once-in-a-lifetime Grand Tour of South East Asia was arranged by Undiscovered Destinations, our tour operator of choice.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:44 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia lake tomb karaoke grave sulawesi pottery chips ceramics sulphur sulfur drone upset_tummy sarcophagus drone_photography tangkoko tomahon undsicovered_destinations chinese_road waruga waruga_sawangan sawangan manahasans grave_yard double_restaurant fish_restaurant tondano_lake keramik_pulatan pulatan lake_linow linow sulphur_lake sulfur_lake dronography mountain_view_hotel Comments (5)

Tangkoko Batuangas Reserve

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Having gone to bed with a fever and slept since lunchtime yesterday, I wake up at some stage in the night with a warm feeling in my nether regions and a desperate urge to poo. Too late. I try to clear up the mess as best as I can from the bed, my nightdress, the floor, and the toilet, before going back to sleep. The same thing happens a short while later. I can’t remember the last time I felt so ill, and messing the bed has only ever happened to me once before in the 40+ years I have travelled with severe IBS. I am mortified. I make a further eight visits to the toilet before the alarm goes off at 05:00, by which time I feel like a wet rag.

I leave a tip and an apology for the maid

Tangkoko Batuangas Reserve

At 05:30, David goes off with Landy, the local wildlife guide, for another exploration of the national park. Egi (our guide here in north Sulawesi) stays behind in case I feel well enough to venture out. I don’t. The following photos are screen prints from David’s video.

The park entrance

Nice wide and even paths, at least initially

Cuscus Bear

Orche Bellied Boobook Owl

Black Naped Oriole

Red Backed Mountain Thrush

Knobbed Hornbill

Sulawesi Dwarfed Kingfisher

Spot Railed Sparrowhawk

Crested Macaque



Plantain Squirrel

Green Backed Kingfisher



When the explorers return, I join David for breakfast, eating a small omelette and half a slice of dry bread. Egi offers us the opportunity to visit a local village, but I decline and go back to bed, where I spend the rest of the day


We both miss lunch, but David does go to dinner, and even remembers to take photos of the food (and drink)

Rice, shredded vegetables, fish, squid, vegetable fritters and a Bintang. Plus papaya for dessert.

It’s days like this that I am incredibly grateful that we travel on a private tour, and with a reputable company that can make changes and alterations to the itinerary without affecting anyone else. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations and their local team for looking after me these last couple of days while I have been feeling poorly.


Posted by Grete Howard 12:56 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia squirrel sulawesi macaque owl oriole tarsier diarrhea hornbill undiscovered_destinations upset_tummy thrush tangkoko tangkoko_batuangas_reserve ibs unwell cucscus_bear Comments (6)

Manado - Tangkoko

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After feeling nauseous and having diarrhea before going to bed yesterday, I had a dreadful, dreadful night. I estimate that I was awake some 40-50 times during the restless night, including waking with a start from several horrid nightmares; and up four times with an upset tummy. Everything hurts this morning: my back, my legs, my knees, my tummy, my head… This is the worst I have felt for a long, long time, and I have no inclination to eat breakfast this morning.

Ban Hin Kiong Taoist Temple

Established in 1819 during the Qing Dynasty in China, this is the oldest – and largest – Chinese temple in Manado. Ban means abundant, Hin means blessings or prosperity, and Kiong means palace.



After a fire in 1970, the temple was beautifully renovated into what we see today, a popular place for tourists and locals to visit; as well as a place of worship for the followers of Tridharma. The temple also plays host to various annual festivals.



As I am still feeling like ‘death warmed up’, I stay in the car while David goes with Egi, our guide, to explore the temple.




The Statue of Christ Blessing AKA Yesus Statue

This statue of Jesus stands 50 metres (158.3 feet) tall and consists of 20 metres of pedestal and 30 metres of statue, and not only is it the largest Jesus statue in Asia, but it was also the tallest ‘flying statue’ in the world at the time of its completion, and is among the five largest statues of Jesus Christ in the world as well in the top ten tallest sculptures in Asia.


The ‘flying’ reference is explained by the fact that the statue is mounted on a pedestal at an angle of 20°, which creates the impression of Jesus soaring in the air.


Tongkoko Sanctuary Villa

I sleep 99% of the way to Tongkoko, still feeling very rough. Our room is still being cleaned when we arrive at the lodge.

Going off to check out our room

When Egi spots all the steps leading from our room to the restaurant, he contacts Theo, the manager of the local agent who has arranged this part of the trip. Theo suggests that we move to another lodge without such a climb. While he sorts out the logistics, all our luggage goes back in the car and we travel the mile or so to the next place.

The steps lead further up, about the same distance around the corner, not easy to navigate when you have limited mobility

Tongkoko Lodge

Lunch is served as soon as we arrive at the lodge, but I have no appetite whatsoever.


We are given a ‘holding’ room while Theo sorts out accommodation for us, so that I can go to bed. I have a temperature of 38 °C now (100.4 °F), and fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Tangkoko Batuangas Reserve

While I sleep, David goes off for a hike in the national park with Egi and a local guide called Landy, to look for endemic birds and animals. The following photos are from David’s mobile phone.

Crested Macaque

Knobbed Hornbill


After their return, Egi confirms that Theo has arranged for another couple to swap hotels with us (with their agreement), so that we can have their room here at Tangkoko Lodge, and they take over our room in Tangkoko Sanctuary Villa. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for the agent, and I am very grateful to Theo for sorting this out. We move to our 'permanent' room, which is not much different from the ‘holding room’ just bigger, with one double and one single bed. I choose the single, and go back to sleep while David goes for dinner. That is me for the day!

I am intrigued by the light switch being so high up the wall, especially considering Indonesians are so short

This trip was arranged by Undiscovered Destinations, our favourite tour operator.


Posted by Grete Howard 11:01 Archived in Indonesia Tagged temple sleep sulawesi taoist_temple manado chinese_temple macaque tarsier undiscovered_destinations upset_tummy tangkoko ban_hin_kiong jesus_statue feeling_ill the_statue_of_christ_blessing knobbed_hornbill horbill crested_macaque Comments (4)

Makassar - Manado

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Today we are moving on to the northern part of Sulawesi, flying from Makassar to Manado.


A driver picks us up at 09:30 to take us to Makassar Airport, where we make our way on foot to the Lion Air Customer Service area, which is where, after checking in to our flight, we pick up a wheelchair and porter.

Being the local budget airline, the gate is the furthest away from the check-in and security area (reminiscent of Ryanair in Bristol). Seemingly very fit, the porter pushes the wheelchair at such a speed that David struggles to keep up the pace as he follows on foot.

In complete contrast to the check-in area, which is grubby, dirty, and very run-down, the departure gate is bright, clean, and modern.



When it is time to board, the porter returns and explains, in good English, that the plane is parked a long way away from the gate. He pushes me back to security, down in a lift, and out onto the apron, where a full-sized bus is waiting to take just the two of us to where the plane is parked. This is certainly a new experience for me (although we did get transported by a Mercedes from a plane to the terminal once)!


Although perfectly capable of making my way the short distance from the bus to the plane, the porter insists on pushing me in the wheelchair.

My seat is 28A, but the purser takes one look at my leg brace and insists I sit in C and proceeds to rearrange the other passengers so that the middle seat between me and David is free.


Before we leave the runway, an announcement comes over the tannoy: “You are on flight JT778 to Manado, please check your boarding card to ensure you are on the correct flight”. Another first, but a really good idea.

We have a new departure time of 12:35, a half-hour on from the original time of 12:05, and with further delays, we don’t take off until 13:40. I sleep through most of the one hour and 45 minutes flight, very grateful to have the extra space for my legs (as I am 30+ cms – around a foot – taller than the average Indonesian, there is painfully little wiggle-room for my knees on this plane.


As soon as we land, several passengers get up from their seats, long before the plane has come to a stop and the seatbelt sign has been switched off. I never understand what the rush is, you still can’t go anywhere until the doors are opened and the passengers in front of you have left.


There is no wheelchair waiting for me at the exit door, but I find one at the top of the tunnel. Manado airport is bright and modern, with long corridors, so I am grateful for the transport.

Egi, our new guide, is waiting for us outside. He is the driver as well as guide, and after my initial surprise at his hippy look of long hair, camouflage shorts, and flip-flops, he immediately grows on me. Unlike Nadja in the southern part of Indonesia, he is young (early 30s), laid back but bouncy and enthusiastic, dynamic even.

My first observation is that Manado looks distinctly different from Makassar, with nowhere near as many motorbikes (70% of all vehicles in Makassar are bikes), the buildings are not as tall, and there are no three-wheel taxi bikes, not as many warungs (streetside stalls) or bicycle shops. Unlike Makassar, which is predominately Muslim, Manado is 80% Christian.

Aryaduta Hotel

Checking in is painfully slow, and before we go to the room Egi says: “If the hotel has run out of beer, get them to ring me and I’ll bring you some”. How very sweet and thoughtful.

Reception area and lobby

The room is big and bright, with great views of a brick wall.


The brick wall outside our window

Going nearer the window, we see can see the swimming pool, and beyond.

The pool on the rooftop some floors down

The view beyond does not offer any great vistas, with wasteland, a building site, derelict and abandoned buildings, fires, and what looks like an illegal campsite.

The image on the left below shows the importance of camera angles when taking a photograph.

Website versus reality

Not long after we arrive, there is a knock on the door and a very courteous lady bringing us a “complimentary from the hotel” tray of sweets.


This hotel seems to employ staff who are trained to be over-attentive, with lots of “excuse me, sir”, “sorry ma’am”, “thank you, sir” and lots of bowing and scraping. While it is always nice to be treated as someone special, I find it way over the top and too pretentious.

This is manifested in a phone call some time later while we are both enjoying a little pre-dinner snooze, just to ask “Is everything OK?” Grrr I wanted to reply; “No, you just woke me up to ask me that!”. I don’t of course, I just confirm that “we are both fine, thank you”.


Like so many places elsewhere on the Sulawesi part of this trip, the huge restaurant is completely empty.


Beyond the large dining room is a small Italian Restaurant, which is much more intimate and our style. There is still only us in here, but so what!


The menu features Cuba Libra, the first one since arriving in Indonesia, so everything else this evening is irrelevant.


There are only so many gorengs (fried rice) a girl can eat, so I get very excited about the thought of a pizza. I order pepperoni on mine, whereas David has chicken on his.

My pizza


Having not eaten since breakfast, I tuck in enthusiastically, but can only manage about two-thirds of the pizza.

As we enter the lift, neither of us can remember our room number, and there is nothing on the room card to indicate which room we are staying in. Thankfully we do remember which floor, and once we get there, we recognise the layout and the position of the door – otherwise it would mean one of us would have to return to the reception.

Soon after arriving in the room, I start sneezing constantly, and blowing my nose, feeling incredibly nauseous, followed by three visits to the toilet with the runs in quick succession. I retire to bed with a bucket by the side, just in case.

This trip of a lifetime was arranged by Undiscovered Destinations.


Posted by Grete Howard 13:43 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia airport pizza sulawesi manado wheelchair italian_restaurant makassar delay nauseous lion_air wheelchair_assistance aryaduta_hotel cuba_libre Comments (5)

Malino - Rammang Rammang - Makassar

View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.


Despite the hard bed, I had a reasonable sleep last night – better than anticipated, but not as good as I have been enjoying on this trip.


Acho, our trusted driver, picks us up from the hotel room to drive us to the restaurant for breakfast, the best part of a mile further up the hill. Perched on a hilltop, the panoramic windows and outdoor terrace offer stunning views of the tea plantation-covered slopes of Mount Malino.



The restaurant offers the same three choices of goreng (fried rice) as it did for dinner last night. I give the ‘smashed chicken’ a miss this morning and opt for the nasi goreng instead. It is marginally more enjoyable.



Located at 1300 metres above sea level, the temperature this morning is a cool 16 °C with a chilly breeze. Initially rather cautious about launching the drone in this wind, I am impressed with how well it copes with the gusts.



The panoramic restaurant

Malino Highlands

Tea plantations

Tea pickers

The Malino Highlands Hotel is part of an estate complete with tea plantations, greenhouses, cafés, a menagerie, and a mini zoo. We take a different route back to the hotel through the sprawling grounds.



Tea plantations

Amazing tree roots

Beautiful hydrangea

After settling the bill at the hotel, we start our drive back to Makassar, passing through pine forests in an area popular as a weekend retreat for workers from the capital. It’s an up and coming area, with lots of new-builds and restaurants.

Malino town is a low-key place, with no high rise buildings, and full of street stalls selling fruit such as strawberries and passion fruits, which this area is known for.

Malino Mosque


We stop for lunch in Maros in another empty restaurant. Empty other than us, staff, and two playful kittens, that is.




No goreng this lunchtime, although there is rice, of course (no Indonesian meal would be complete without rice), as well as a lime and tomato salad and a dish of spinach.

Pumpkin soup to start

Tuna – a lovely meaty and creamy fillet, with no bones (a definite bonus!)

The prawns taste better than they look.

In one of the towns we pass through, we meet a cavalcade of mourners on their way to a Muslim funeral. There must be well over a hundred cars with flashing lights, and motorbikes carrying white flags. Unfortunately, it is impossible to photograph the procession as they are passing quickly in the opposite direction. It is quite a spectacle though.

Rammang Rammang

The best way to explore this UNESCO Global Geopark and World Heritage Site is by a small wooden boat known as a jolloro along the genteel Pute River.



Concerned about my agility, I am delighted when I manage to climb the steep steps on the side of the jetty down into the boat. I will worry about getting out later.



Surrounded by tall palms and sugar-loaf hilltops, and passing through narrow gorges created from the erosion of the local limestone, it’s a relaxing way of spending the next hour or so.


The name Rammang Rammang means ‘a set of clouds or mist’, referring to the fact that the area is often shrouded in mist, especially early in the mornings. Today, however, is a nice clear day.


The boat trip finishes at a different jetty to the one we started out from, and here the steps are even higher. There is no way my knee will allow me to haul myself up from the boat onto that lower step.


After a few minutes of discussion, the boatmen have a solution: they take out one of the seats by removing the rope lashings that secure it to the boat and fetch a small ladder for me to climb up. That is what I call special service!


It works a treat, and I tip them generously before we meet up with Acho and the car again.

Karst Formations

Formed by limestone erosion over the last 30 million years or so, Rammang Rammang is the third largest karst area in the world after Tsingy in Madagascar and Shilin in China.


Back in Makassar, we return to the same hotel and the same procedure: with no restaurant on site, we resort to another burger and apple pie from MacDonalds. We also indulge in an ice cream tonight.

Waiting to check in to Santika Hotel in Makassar - travel light? Never heard of it!


This evening it is David’s turn to feel unwell.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing Gran Tour of South East Asia for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 13:08 Archived in Indonesia Tagged mosque indonesia sulawesi kittens boat_trip ladder tea_plantations makassar hydrangea drone undiscovered_destinations nasi_goreng macdonalds malini malino_highlans_resort tea_pickers playful_kittens rammang_rammang Comments (6)

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