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Tangkoko - Tomahon

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


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

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You are so right when the Chinese are concerned and I can tell you that coz my brother is married to a Chinese! :) :)
Loved the remark on the Mc Donalds since I and my friend had a similar experience in Nepal and ever since when it takes a long time for food to arrive we say ... the cook is off to Kathmandu because when we were there it actually happened!!!

by Ils1976

That is too funny about going off to Kathmandu! :D

by Grete Howard

by Ils1976

Fascinating info about those warugas, and the lake is stunning in the sunshine. Glad you were feeling better enough to enjoy these sights.

by ToonSarah

Thanks, Sarah, my IBS is a real nuisance at times.

by Grete Howard

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