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Tomahon - Manado

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


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

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What a day and the market wasn't that bad, but I agree with you that the ending of those animals couldn't be a nice one!

Nice touch at the end, I completely understand the perfect ending! :) :)

by Ils1976

Thanks for your comments, Ils, I too expected it to be worse after the warnings.

by Grete Howard

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