North Sulawesi, found at the tip of the K-shaped island of Sulawesi, may not be as popular to the “eat-pray-love” crowd of Bali or the enlightenment-seekers meditating on the multi-tiered levels of Borobudur in Yogyakarta, but explorers and adventurers seeking a refreshing side of Indonesia will find something to like in this region. There’s an interesting mix of culture, islets teeming with diverse marine life, imposing volcanoes, enchanting lakes and a slew of activities that can keep people under the sun longer than intended.
The modern city of Manado, the capital city of North Sulawesi, has a bit of everything. There are mosques, churches, temples, houses, an international airport, bustling malls, luxury hotels, and busy streets buzzing with mikrolets (shared taxis) against a backdrop of a bay and active volcanoes. 300 years of Dutch rule left a religious legacy as majority of the people here are Christians – a sharp contrast from the rest of Muslim-predominant Indonesia. Manado even set a record with its Kristus kase Berkat (Christ Blessing), a 50-meter statue of a soaring Christ atop the CitraLand residential estate. The figure is Asia’s second tallest statue, the world’s fourth tallest statue of Christ and probably the first to depict him flying.
Also at the heart of the bustling city of Manado stands the 335 years old Chinese Temple, Ban Hin Kiong Temple, the oldest Buddhist temple in East Indonesia built during the Qing Dynasty. It’s a petite looking temple but is highly touted for its unique classic Chinese architecture. Special festivities happen hear throughout the year, fitting its name which means “abundant favors”.
North Sulawesi cuisine is probably one of the spiciest in Indonesia along with West Sumatra. The dishes are typified by the heavy use of meat, fowl and fresh seafood as well as the generous use of spices. Sambal, a chili sauce condiment is paired with most dishes. Have some Tinutuan or Bubur Manado, a staple rice porridge mixed with pumpkin, spinach, corn, kangkung and potato usually served during breakfast. More adventurous eaters can try the Minahasan Paniki, a spicy bat dish soup.
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.