Tomohon — Minahasa’s City of Flowers
TOMOHON, North Sulawesi (JP): When one thinks about Minahasa, a district in a North Sulawesi province, one often thinks of cloves, kolintang (a traditional bamboo musical instrument), the Bunaken sea garden, or bubur Manado (Manado porridge). Though the beautiful landscapes and the distinctive Minahasan villages are not easy to get to, they are in fact theattraction of this mountainous district. The beauty is hard to describe unless experienced firsthand.
Compared to the three other North Sulawesi provinces, Minahasa is the most heavily populated and highly developed district. Minahasa is naturallya peaceful place. It is no wonder why it was rumored that many Jakartans wanted to flee to Minahasa for fear of unrest in Jakarta prior to the May election. As a people, Minahasans are naturally friendly, extroverted and lively and they warmly welcome their guests. Unlike in Jakarta where newcomers are targeted by devious taxi drivers, in Minahasa, the taxi drivers will take you directly to your destination with reasonable prices, despite the fact that you are not a native Minahasan.
The climate there is normally temperate, but in the middle of the year when it is usually hot, it also rains. “”It has been raining quite frequently in Tomohon lately,”” said the taxi driver, who took us from the Sam Ratulangi Airport in Manado to Tomohon.
Tomohon, twenty-five kilometers to the south of the capital of the North Sulawesi province, is the best place to enjoy the beauty of hilly Minahasa and life in a Minahasan village. Situated on a hilltop between two volcanoes — Mt. Mahawu and Mt. Lokon — it is a good place to escape the heat.
Besides the attraction of its mountains, Minahasa also boasts a historical site on the way to Tomohon. In Pineleng we passed the gate leading to the grave of Imam Bonjol, a Dutch colonial fighter in West Sumatra, who was exiled to Ambon and later to North Sulawesi and died therein 1864. Along the main road connecting the cities of this predominantly Christian district stand many bible schools and churches of various dominations.
The rain stopped as we were about to enter Tomohon and wet fresh air welcomed us as we entered this town. The first impression I had of this city was one full of flowers. On either sides of the road, in flower kiosksand in the gardens of wooden Minahasan houses, I saw flowers galore. They included hibiscus, gladiolus, lilies, irises, asters, carnations and bougainvillea. It is no wonder that this town is popularly known as the “”City of Flowers””. It seems the townspeople do their share to perpetuate this reputation by planting neat rows of colorful flowers in their gardens and along the streets of Tomohon.
Kakaskasen village is a wonderful place to stay. Most homes are typical wooden Minahasa houses with flower gardens. To truly enjoy the atmosphere of a Minahasan village, stay in the Volcano Resort located in the middle ofKakaskasen II village.
Like other Minahasans, the people in Kakaskasen village are quite friendly. Children especially enjoy greeting foreign tourists with a warm “”Hello Mister””. Dogs are also welcomed in Minahasa. Each house in the village usually has more than one dog, and these dogs are free to wander about.
Our taxi driver was right about the climate. The clouds began to gather in the afternoon and rain fell almost every afternoon. At night the air waschilly and it made the stay in this famous Christian education center perfect. The weather, however, will not keep you from enjoying the surroundings of Tomohon. In the morning the weather is normally perfect.
As a small city, it is possible to reach every corner of Tomohon in one day. A stroll down to the center of Tomohon for a look around is worth doing. The center of Tomohon is a bit crowded in the afternoon. The facilities are quite comprehensive — including a bank with an ATM, shops selling sundries, a wartel (telecommunications kiosk), an Internet kiosk, restaurants, and even a pub.
You won’t starve in Tomohon because there are a lot of toko kue (pastry shops) and restaurants. But beware — the local cuisine is known for its dog flesh and pork. Walking around a traditional local market in Tomohon, it is common to see heads of dogs or pigs on the table for sale. Moslems, who eat neither pork nor dog flesh, must be careful. However, most restaurants’ menus are posted on boards at the door and Moslems can find suitable food at Restaurant Padang, where only chicken, beef, or fish are served. And it is best not to miss the typical local Minahasan dishes such as ayam rica-rica (hot sauteed chicken), ikan mas bakar (grilled carp fish)or cah kangkung.
The Vihara Buddhayana complex and Buddhist temple in Kakaskasen III village are interesting phenomena, taking into account that the main housesof worship are churches. The dominant red buildings of vihara attract visitors from the main street. A friendly guard from the vihara complex will accompany visitors through each building. Climbing to the top of the seven-floor pagoda is worth your time. From there you have a wonderful viewof Kakaskasen village and Mt. Lokon from a distance. It is a breathtaking panorama.
There are four eight-sided buildings and one cave-modeled building in thecomplex and each has its own purpose. “”Most buildings here are for meditation and each building is used according to its purpose, for instancefor a special festival””, said the Moslem guard. A Buddhist visitor who was going to meditate there told me that most Buddhists who come to this complex are from Manado.
From Kakaskasen, you can reach other interesting places inexpensively by angkutan kota, the public transportation. Local people call this minibus oto (Rp 600 one way). Directions can be attained from the billboard in the Volcano Resort’s reception area. Although some of them are written in clumsy English, the attendants will help you with information. Interestingneighboring areas include Tondano Lake, Kampung Jawa in Tondano, the waterfall near Rurukan, waruga (sarcophagus) near Sawangan village, the Japanese caves near Sonder and other villages. If you plan to take a day trip, do it early because in the afternoon the buses run early.
The Minahasans speak bahasa Manado dialect, but they also speak Indonesian well. As an Indonesian whose mother tongue is bahasa Manado, I had no problems in asking the directions on my travels. If you are not an Indonesian, knowledge of some Indonesian is necessary for you to ask the directions.
Some real adventures can also be found in Tomohon, if you want to try to trek on Mt. Lokon. The first thing you have to take into account when goingto the Mt. Lokon crater is the weather. In the early morning it is usually warm, but beginning at noon, it starts to be cloudy and then rains. Along the clay and rock-paved path to this mountain, you will pass a deserted village and sometimes friendly farmers working on their land.
We were not lucky enough to reach the Mt. Lokon crater because on our waythe weather suddenly changed and started to rain. (Wahyuni Kamah)
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