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Sulawesi in September

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Jun 15th, 2009, 11:28 AM
  #1
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Sulawesi in September

We are considering Bali in September and......? We have been to Java, thoroughly enjoyed it. I am really considering Sulawesi but have read very few travel reports. I do know that the funerals are very exciting but I don't think I could handle seeing animals slaughtered (or hear it).

So, if I miss the funerals I am missing the best part? Meaning, If it wasn't for the funerals is it still a terrific places to visit?

Is is possible to self-drive?

Any suggestions you can pass on to me is greatly appreciated!
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Jun 15th, 2009, 12:02 PM
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We considered Sulawesi as well for our upcoming trip in May. All I can advise is plan well and know where you're going--I'm sure you've read that there are TONS of issues with religious violence in that whole area.

At the end of the day, we decided it was a bit too touch-and-go for us to be able to enjoy a relaxing time there, but if that kind of thing doesn't bother you, it's a cultural and scenic wonderland.
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Jun 15th, 2009, 04:43 PM
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Thank you filmwill for your time and thoughts. Yes, we had considered the problems could be a set back. But, it seems so often we change our plans because of political situation and then regret it. No airfare or anything is booked but I would love to hear if someone has been there and what their feelings are about Sulawesi.
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Jun 15th, 2009, 04:58 PM
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Watch for Marmot to reply, as I know she has been there.
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Jun 15th, 2009, 08:57 PM
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I've been to Central Sulawesi (Tanah Toraja)a couple of times, but not in the past five years. I've also been to North Sulawesi several times.

Ramadhan this year is from August 20 to September 20, culminating in a two week holiday at the end of September. Although many Sulawesi people are Christian or animist, travel is always difficult during Ramadhan and at Islamic holidays as many of the tour guides and travel industry personnel are Javanese.

You don't want to drive yourself in Sulawesi! Don't even think about it.

Tanah Toraja is several hours' drive from Makassar. Your resort will arrange transport for you. It's a phenomenally beautiful area.

I wouldn't be too concerned about sectarian violence in the Tanah Toraja area. It is quite isolated from the communities that have been affected.

The funerals ARE the big draws for ceremony and pageantry, but could easily be avoided. No question but that they are bloody affairs. (My husband referred to one trip as four funerals and a wedding.)

I would think that you would still find much of interest: the burial sites, the architecture, the arts and crafts, and the profound natural beauty.

If you wish to go to North Sulawesi you have to go back to Makassar and fly to Manado. There are also non-stop flights from Singapore. The marine life and inland nature preserves are astounding. I especially like the Kungkungan Bay Resort.
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Jun 15th, 2009, 10:02 PM
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I was in Tana Toraja about 3 years ago, during Ramadan. No problems whatsoever with guides, transport, etc. I did end up at a funeral, which I could have done without, but the scenery is fantastic, as are the villages, tombs, etc.

Agree that you absolutely, positively do not want to drive. You do want to get a local guide. I had a guy that grew up in the area, and knew everybody. The itinerary changed slightly depended on what he picked up from friends he met on the road.
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Jun 16th, 2009, 01:19 AM
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Hi there,new in here.Though have been going thru the forum for some time now.
Was in N.Sulawesi in March this year.Spent 2 weeks.Incredible place.Flew in from KL on Airasia to Manado.Stayed 3N on Bunaken Island & 2N in Siladen,great for scuba,so was the Lembeh Straits.Amazing reefs.Another 4N in the highlands-Tomohon.Stayed at a resort called Lokon Boutique Resort,which overlooks the active Lokon volcano.The Tongkoko nationak park,went trekking and had the opportunity to see Tarsiers ( worlds smallest primates ).N.Sulawesi is superb.Can provide more specific info if anyone needs.
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Jun 16th, 2009, 03:42 AM
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inquest nice to see you posting here.

Would like to hear more about the trekking and did you book everything yourself or go through an agent?

Any informative websites you'd like to share?

What about prices; are daily expenses like food, transportation, etc on the cheap side?
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Jun 16th, 2009, 04:11 AM
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inquest, thanks for the tip on the Lokon Resort. Looking at the photos on their website reminded me how much I like North Sulawesi -- it's so fresh and orderly. I really enjoyed our daytrip to Tangkoko and always meant to do an overnight there. Never did see any tarsiers but the hornbills and larger primates (I think they were macaques)were fabulous.
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Jun 16th, 2009, 05:00 PM
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Well, now you're got me very interested. One more question - we do not dive but do trek so we would also like to hear more about your trekking.

Thank you all for taking the time to post and entice me!
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Jun 16th, 2009, 09:36 PM
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In fact,N.Sulawesi,took me completely by surprise.With very little info (mainly LP guide book,a little research online),I booked myself a ticket on Airasia from KL.The flght itself was around 3hrs.The window seat was mesmerising.Reasonably clear day.The aircraft flew over Borneo(Sabah,refreshed my memory of my '07 trip there)the emerald ocean below dotted with islands,got my adrenalin pumping.As we decended on N.Sulawesi,reefs & sandy beaches were visible a cloud cover,then suddenly the city of Manado came into view.I knew I would spend the next 2 fantastic weeks in this paradise.I did'nt know what to expect.Landed at a quaint little airport.A quick baggage claim & customs clearence,I was standind outside being pestered by the the taxi men.Bought myself a local SIM card.
I had booked myself at Minahasa Hotel(online again) in town for 2Ns.Called them up to counter verify the fare & reconfirm reservation.Set off on a 45min drive into town.
The hotel itself was lovely,set on a hillside,in town,overlooking the bay on oneside & a view of Mt Lokon on the other.Settled down with a gin & tonic,some tourism brochures which I picked up at the airport,chalking out a plan for the next 2 weeks.
www.hotelminahasa.com
Rated as one of the top 10 dive site in the world, Bunaken island,less than an hr speedboat ride away, would be my next experience.Stayed with Two Fish Dive Resort.Lovely people.Very hospitable.Going to great lengths to make you comfortable.This place is full of professional divers.Eat, drink & sleep-diving.Infact the conversation on the dining table is about what each experienced that day (non-divers will feel like fish out of water).Though I dive for 'recreation',not really in their league.A young Japanese girl was my 'dive master' for the next couple of days.4 dives in all.Encountered spectacular palette of reef & walls of adorned with hard & soft corals.Intense marine life so fascinating that one would'nt want to resurface.The 3rd day took me to Lembeh Straits for 'muck diving'.Critters so wierd & wonderful,I had to pinch myself it believe it.
The resort itself is quite comfortable.A cottage with sitout & a hammock,comfy bed & mosquito net,nice clean loo partly open to sky,was my abode for the next couple of days.What I missed most was the aircon.Its hot & humid (remember its a beach resort bang on the equator!!).Snorkeling in house reef & cold beer,brouht some welcome relief.
www.twofishdivers.com
Decided to treat myself to a little more luxury.
Enter Siladen Resort & Spa.Absolutely gorgeous.Did nothing other than laze around.Felt like a castaway who would'nt want to be saved.Spoilt myself at the Spa.Tried all treatments,whether I needed it or not.....Bliss!

sorry running out of time for now....to be con'td.
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Jun 17th, 2009, 12:21 AM
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Sincere apologies.A newbie not deft on the keyboard. Pl condone my typo errors.Promise to learn on the job.
To answer some of your queries:
Offwego;Great opportunities for trekking.primarily in Tongkoko & Bogani Nani Wartabone National Park,though I could'nt go to the latter.These rain forests hold some of the most amazing creatures evolutions has to offer.The Maleo bird,which dig pits in warm volcanic soil, near hot springs or on beaches to lay their gigantic eggs.The two cuscus species, bear cuscus and dwarf cuscus-strange marsupials(very rare),the tarsiers(saw it),Hornbill(saw it)& the macaques(saw it too)and a facinating variety of birds.
It was an overnight trek into the forest,the rangers take you to designated areas where you can expect to find the Maleo birds.I had the opportunity of seeing one.Extremely shy.We had to wait for over 4 hrs by a 'nest' before getting a fleeting glimpes of one(sensed our presence & was gone before I got my camera into focus).Fun & futile.
A family of tarsiers,though,were a lot more accommodating.Hidden in a hollow of a tree trunk.With their big bulging eyes.Looked straight out of an alien si-fi movie.The stays at Tongkoko are basic.Be prepared to rough it out.Worth every penny.The trip from Manado took us a good 3hrs,thru a city on the east coast called Bitung,then past a dormant volcano.The rain forest simply decends into Lembeh Straits.The shores are black volcanic sand.A sight to behold.
Entry to the park is IRp 90,000/-.The round trip,overnight,in a private taxi,form Manado costed IRp 10,00,000/-(1U$D=IRp 10,600/- approx).Prices are surprisingly very resonable/cheap.
http://www.lombokmarine.com/tangkoko-national-park.htm

Marmot:Yes.They are the Crested Black Macaques.Witnessed a large tribe.Look very menacing with their large, canines.Infact,there are cases where many tourists have been attacked,inspite of warnings put up at the park headquarters.One of them (a large male) even walked straight up to me,sat near my leg,practically in contact, for a good min or so(seemed endless to me).I could feel the coarse bristle.I froze.Frankly,I felt numbness in my left leg for some time after it left.I've got some great pics & a short clip.
Impacked:N.Sulawesi is truely a divers paradise,most of the farangs on the aircraft,arrived with huge luggage obviously containing serious dive gear.Initially.I too was apprehensive when I landed in Bunaken(Though having dived in a lot of sites in the fareast,I consider myself an absolute novice).Surrounded by these pros,it was a bit unnerving.The staff made me feel very comfortable.I was very anxious on my first dive.Primarily the currents are very strong.I had the dive master with me all the time.
If you can swim you can snorkel.Dont miss out on it.The reef abound with marine life.My advise is 'go-for-it'.My partner,who was in the same predicament,had a great time snorkelling.
Will be happy to answer more questions.For now I've kept some brouchers,which I've got back with me,somewhere very safe.looking for them.Will provide all info soon.
...more to come...Tomohon & the highlands in detail...
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Jun 17th, 2009, 08:21 AM
  #13
 
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Thank you, inquest for some first-hand info on Sulawesi. There isn't much on this board about it. I did a bit of research recently as I was thinking about it for this year, and could find relatively little on it. I do have the LP book, but felt like it just wasn't enough.

I'm looking forward to more of your report.

By the way, as you get more comfortable with this site, you might want to cut and paste your report into a new post and title and tag it as a trip report.
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Jun 18th, 2009, 12:03 AM
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Kathie,though the LP has about 10-15 pages of info,most of it is outdated & has not been revised.Thanks,its a good suggestionthat I compile a trip report,title & tag it.I've found the fliers will get data out of it & post it as I continue my story..hope its of help to the fodorites.
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Jun 18th, 2009, 01:18 AM
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A 3hr drive back to Manado,from Tongkoko,in the evening,strolled thru the streets,ending up at the Manado Town Square Hypermart.An upscale mall,had practically everything from saloons to lounge bars,food court,coffee shops,souvenir shops et al.Supped at the noodle Bar,back to Minahasa Hotel.
Took a taxi to the highland country.Not too far away barely 25km(took 1hr).Driving uphill,negotiating bends as we climbed the ambience changed.Fresh cool & crisp mountain air filled the lungs as we left behing the heat & humidity.Arrived at Tomohon-The city of Flowers.A picturesque little town.Practically every town house has a small patch of garden with a flower bed.Colorful & vibrant.There is one main street,about 4km long,that runs thru this town & everything can be found here.
Nestled inbetween 2 volcanos,Lokon& Mahawu,the fertility of Tomohon's soil is the reason for the booming agri business.
Arrived at the gates of the Lokon Boutique Resort.A sprawling over a hundred acre property,beautifully landscaped is right under the nose of the smoking Mt Lokon.Just stood there gaping,this was the closest I had come to a active volcano.The resort stretches to the base of the mountain.Ushered into the reception area.A welcome drink served by a pretty hostess.Minahasa hospitality is legendary.Gentle & warm,with a perpetual smile.
The reception,furnished with ornate wooden couches,wall adorned with artefacts seemed a cosy place to lounge,till the checkin formalites were over.
The property itself is huge.A golf buggy with our baggage & we in it,drove towards a trditional Minahasa Wooden cottage,built on stilts.A stairway led to a large porch,which overlooked the lawn(can all it a meadow),had a magnificent view of the smoking volcano.Well appointed suite,comfy kingsize bed,made up this place of ours for the next 4 nights.
A double large gin & tonic,I settled into the lounge chair.
....more to follow
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Jun 18th, 2009, 06:23 AM
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Thanks, inquest!
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Jun 18th, 2009, 07:00 AM
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Thanks, inquest. Did you come across hot springs?
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Jun 18th, 2009, 01:18 PM
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Great post. I'm returning to North Sulawesi and the Kungkungan Bay Resort for more great scuba diving in the Lembeh Strait, but this makes me want to do some land exploring too. Last time I was in Makassar I wanted to visit Toraja, but didn't have enough time and heard it was quite a long drive. I could make the time this trip in October, but wondered if there is a best time of year for Toraja or not.
Any thoughts on this?
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Jun 18th, 2009, 08:34 PM
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As I've mentioned earlier,diving in Lembeh is unique,unparalled & was one experience that I never expected.Out of this world.Strangest of strange marine life.Macro life forms that are baffling.Visibliblity is'nt good,maybe a few metres but what it holds is a treasure trove.
The season in Sulawesi is between April & Oct.Being in the tropics expect any thing.Cloud bursts are common.It clears as quickly as it arrives.Stay optimistic.You'll be rewarded.The only consideration is the dive environment.Climatic changes have a huge impact on ocean currents & visibility factor.Check with the dive school/resort you have booked with.
Toraja is a long haul overland either from Manado or Makassar.There are small aircrafts (18 seaters)flying out from both these places.Delays & cancellation are common.Make time for it.Have'nt been to Toraja.Would like to some day.
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Jun 18th, 2009, 11:09 PM
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Please stop me in my tracks if you think I'm being boring, irrelavant or overly elaborate.
Cut back to the resort.My gin & tonic & the intoxicating mountain air had a heady effect on me.It was time for an afternoon siesta.
It was early evening when I met Monica.A petite girl in her mid 20s.Dressed in a business suit & designer eye-wear sitting on her pretty nose,introduced herself,enquiring about my well-being and comfort level in my cottage & so on.Spoke fluent english.She happened to be the owner of the resort.
Educated in the US.She had chucked up a career to manage this place started by her father years ago.She told me of the years of neglect & the effort that had gone into bringing it back to its present form,as it was no easy task.Found her very enterprising.
On Monica's advise,the next morning,I booked a taxi from the resort to take me around the sights of highland district.
My first objective was to climb a volcano.Lokon was ruled out as it was too dangerous.The department of volcanology had put out a warning for anyone attempting to climb.
I was left with Mt Mahawu.No choice but to settle for the second best.It was'nt really a trek.Setting of a wee late in the morning,our taxi meandered thru green fields & brought us almost to the top of the mountain.A 15min walk up a path and steps got us to the rim of the volcano.Standing on the edge of the huge crater,could see the beautiful cauldron with a bubbling greenish blue sulphur pool.Pondering about its past history,eruptions,extent of damage,number of lives lost to its fury.All in admiration.Photo ops & time to move on.
We were on our way to Lake Tondano,an hr drive away,was visible from the mountain top,tucked away between a hilly terrain, a massive body of water.Set off in that direction.Drove past quaint little villages,little cottages with colorful flower beds & frolicking children.Here time stood still.
As we passed a large town,a dilapitated ancient looking traditional wooden house caught my eye.Stopped the taxi to explore.The gates were locked.Jumped over the low walls & walked towards a rusted sign board which indicated it was built sometime in the late 1800s.Happened to be the residence of a local chieftain.Must have seen its glorious days,it was now lying in neglect.The main door would'nt open or rather never been open for a long time,had to climb thru a shutterless window.Admiring the interiors as I walked past into the main hall,was in for a surprise.Whale bones scattered everywhere.Spinal discs,ribs,jawbone strewn about.Could'nt get the answer to the history nor the mystery of the place,my driver-cum-guide spoke a very little english.Unresolved,Enigmatic,time to move on.Early breakfast had started have its effects.Pangs of hunger.Next halt.Lake Tondano.
...shall continue
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