This is a travel blog for desktop travelers and other ramblers who want to know the world just a little bit better.

Right now I am living in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala where I'll be settled for a while. Thanks for reading!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tomohon - The Good, The Bad and The Gross

We arrive in Manado on Monday, Oct. 4. This is the largest city in north eastern Sulawesi and is the gateway to go to Bunaken, the island world renown for its coral reef walls. The city Manado is quite terrible with no real character, unless boiling heat, garbage, too much traffic and very little green is considered “real character.” But we have several important administrative things to take care of: laundry, internet, toiletry shopping and boat schedule checking out of Sulawesi so we stay for two days. Manado also has a great assortment of English channels on cable which slightly takes away the sting of being in a stinky city.

We find out that our boat is not until the 14th or 15th of October. With 10 days to kill we decide to take a small trip to Tomohon. It is a short one hour, approx (US $0.66) ride from Manado by public bus. In good Indonesian fashion the driver is holding his door closed with one hand while steering and shifting with the other up a windy hill.

The first thing we notice is that the temperature is much cooler as we gain some elevation. We are also surrounded by green farms and forests again which is much more typical in Sulawesi than the concrete landscapes of Manado. Tomohon is actually a weekend travel spot for locals from the city. Tomohon is labeled the Flower City. There are many florist and plant shops and there is an annual flower parade. Homes are decorated with many potted plants and gardens. In a way it reminds me of the Balinese who also take a lot of pride in their home landscaping.Two towns away is a beautiful lake sprinkled with fish farms.

Smoking crater and lake
Tomohon is also constantly under the watchful glare and threat of Gunung Lokon, an active volcano which last erupted in 2002. A much larger eruption in 1991 had Tomohon evacuated and killed a Swiss researcher. The hike to the rim of the crater takes about two hours up a riverbed of frozen molten lava from the past two eruptions. Out of the riverbed and closer to the rim, the climb up is just rocks. Not much grows around here. We also start hearing a churning noise as if we were approaching a steel factory while the smell of fire and brimstone is in the air. Once at the top we get a glimpse into the crater and see plumes of smoke are billowing out. There is also a small, greenish yellow volcanic lake. Like any warning system when this water turns red it means real danger. Regardless of the water color it is not recommended that we stay too long. The wind today is in our favor, but we are still inhaling sulphur and probably other toxic gases, so after some photo taking we head back down the solid lava flow and thank Gunung Lokon for at least waiting one more day until belching out her river of lava again.

A riverbed of solidified lava

Near the top of the crater
 If nature is not exactly your thing, Tomohon has one notorious attraction for the traveler to North Sulawesi - their market. The market itself, every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, is quite typical with the usual sellers of fruits, vegetables, fish and meat. What is unusual and the main attraction are the few sellers of bats, forest rats, snakes and dogs all part of the local cuisine. The bats and rats are impaled on sticks. Their hair is completely burned off with blow torches until they are charred black and look like over zealous Halloween party favors. The bats faces look frozen in agony. These critters look anything but appetizing. Though locals assure us they are very tasty. Pig heads also appear to be on the menu in Tomohon. It is all quite interesting, but my Western sensibilities find it gross as well. 

Forest rat (Tikus Ekor Putih) on a stick
20,000 Rupiah (US $2.25) for a large and 15,000 (US $1.60) for a small

35,000 Rupiah (US $3.90) for a large charred bats
On other tables in this section are whole dogs which like the bats and rats have been charred to a crisp and ready for purchase. I always knew that people in some Asian countries (ie. Vietnam, Korea) eat dog. I also know that Westerners love their canines, but the thought of dog meat never bothered me. Maybe because I never had a dog (as a pet, nor dinner). My logical and vegetarian perspective is what’s the difference between eating a dog or, say, a lamb? Lambs are much cuter than most dogs, but really tasty. Right? Dog is probably considered tasty, right? Even seeing the charred pooch chopped in pieces does not bother me so much.

This does not look appetizing! 
25,000 Rupiah (US $2.75) per kilo
However, it is our emotions that separates us from fish and Vulcans. And frankly, I feel a bit disturbed hearing the yelps of desperation and seeing cages full of scrawny, scraggly mutts that have an appointment with a baseball bat to the head.

I am not sure why, but more so than a cage full of scrawny, scraggly chickens or pigs that will meet a knife. I think even Mr. Spock would agree.

A different perspective: I am probably the strangest thing that this girl will see in the market today

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