Mobile phones
Getting around

Maluku, West Papua, Sulawesi, Surabaya

21.8: Jakarta -> Ternate
22.8: Ternate -> Tidore -> Ternate
23.8: Ternate -> Sorong (via Ambon)
24.8: Sorong -> Waisai (Raja Ampat)
25.8: Boat trip to Pianemo island
26.8: Waisai -> Sorong -> Manado
27.8: Tour to Minahasa region
28.8: Manado -> Bunaken -> Tangkoko nature reserve -> Manado
29.8: Manado -> Surabaya
30.8: Surabaya -> Kuala Lumpur
31.8: Kuala Lumpur
1.9: KL -> Dubai -> Munich

Planning and overall impression

This was kind of an ambitious trip. Leaving from Bangkok on August 21st I covered 10000km across Indonesia over nine days before arriving in Kuala Lumpur on August 30th. The idea as usual was to see a number of places I hadn't visited yet. This included quite exotic locations such as the Maluku, West Papua (Raja Ampat) and northern Sulawesi. In the end I managed to visit some pretty cool places. The only issue is that travel across the region is not that optimised. For instance I lost an entire day getting from Ternate to Raja Ampat, even if the direct distance is just 400km. Then, in eastern Indonesia there is a lack of tourist infrastructure, probably because few tourists travel there.


Travelling to east Indonesia can be quite expensive. For instance, there was a 1 million IDR (=60€) fee to get into Raja Ampat. Then, visiting the islands was only possible with very expensive boat trips. Accomodation in Raja Ampat is not cheap either, if you want to have A/C and electric power. Because there are few tourists it is difficult to share the cost with other travellers. And on the other hand, if you have travelled for thousands of km to reach certain places, it makes little sense not to visit these places just because the "last mile" is very expensive. So, it's best to travel with a powerful credit card...


The food I had wasn't bad, but wasn't that great either. First of all, because my time was limited, during the day I often ate in fast food restaurants (and sometimes I just skipped lunch). I only ate a few times in restaurants. Then, in east Indonesia there weren't that many restaurants where I would have wanted to eat (some places were either too dirty or too basic, or were serving weird food).


Accomodation was easily bookable in the international booking portals, although perhaps not all available places were listed. At the time of visiting, Raja Ampat had mostly expensive accomodation, or cheaper, but very basic places.

Money  / Exchange rate (August 2019)

1 Euro = 15800 IDR
1 Euro = 4.63 MYR (Malaysian ringgit)

Mobile phones and prepaid cards

There may be more options, but all I was able to find upon arrival at the airport in Ternate was a SIM card from Telkomsel for 150000 IDR with 17GB of data and 300 minutes of calls. I didn't need so much data and a cheaper SIM card would have been welcome. Then, in Sorong mobile data (and Internet access) was cut off by the Indonesian authorities due to the unrest.


Tropical weather. Over these nine days it never rained, even if some days the sky was overcast. August is supposed to be the off-season in Raja Ampat and it is supposed to rain, but in practice it never rained while I was there.

Health / Vaccinations

Probably there is the usual health risk typical for a tropical country. Personally I didn't bother refreshing my immunisations and I didn't take anti-malaria pills.

VISA / Entry requirements

No visa needed for nationals of most countries in the world.


No problems in Indonesia. It's a safe and stable country.

Getting around

Given the huge distances I mainly relied on flights to get from one place to the next. In Ternate and Tidore I chartered cars with driver for the day. Transportation was complicated, or let's say expensive, in Raja Ampat.


Back to the Thailand 2019 travelogue

21.8: Jakarta -> Ternate
Tiara Inn, Ternate. 245000 IDR for a basic room with TV+chair, cupboard for the clothes, LCD TV, A/C (with a remote control, but somehow not adjustable), attached toilet with cold shower. A bit noisy. The room is quite basic.
Weather: in Ternate, mostly sunny, although the sky is overcast every now and then (especially in the evening). Hot in the sun, but lots of wind which cools down a bit.

We touch down in Jakarta at 12:07am and get out of the plane at 12:17am. Then I get through the passport control - very quickly, no visa needed. I proceed to the luggage belt. There I spend almost 20 minutes waiting for the luggage.

When I reach the arrivals area, touts offer taxi services. No thanks, I just need to catch my connecting flight to Ternate. Lion Air? It's terminal 1, Sir. There is no train service now, you'll have to take a taxi.

So I quickly take some Indonesian cash from an ATM (max. amount: 1250000 Rupiah). Then I'm back. How much is the taxi? First they want 150000 rupiah, then we settle for 100000 Rupiah. But actually, as it turns out later, it's a distance of less than 2km, perhaps only 1km. So they have ripped me off.

Anyway, around 1am I'm at the check-in and at 1:10am I'm at the gate waiting for the flight. Quite fast after all.

At 2:07am the plane starts rolling, at 2:17am it takes off.

We land in Ternate at 7:45am local time.

The weather is a mix of sunny, blue sky and some clouds. There is some light wind and it's not hot.

Things then proceed quite fast. By 8:10am I already have my luggage. Since I'm not in a hurry to get to the hotel, I first have some breakfast at the airport.

Then I look for a SIM card. After a long discussion with a seller who can't speak English I buy a SIM card from Telkomsel for 150000 IDR with 17GB of data and 300 minutes of calls. My attempts to get a cheaper SIM card with a smaller data package (I don't need 17GB) are futile, as the guy doesn't understand and doesn't sell anything cheaper.

Then follows some discussion with the taxi driver. Initial asking price is 150000 IDR, even if the distance is only 6km according to Google Maps. In the end we settle for 100000 IDR, but that is still too much.

 So we arrive at the hotel around 9:20am. My room (the superior one I booked) is not available yet, so I'm given a standard one.

Then I get in and get settled. I take a shower and prepare for the day.

At 11am I get out again. Ternate is kind of interesting, but if I only walk around I will not be able to see the attractions. So I walk to the tourist information centre.

By the way, very few people speak some English here.

In the tourist office three ladies greet me. Two can't speak English (only Bahasa), but one speaks a little bit English. This is the person who will act as my guide today.

This lady volunteers to show me around (for free). The only cost is the one of the car+driver. This will end up being 400000 IDR for over 5 hours of driving.

After a brief lunch in a restaurant in the mall, we walk out and the lady negotiates the price with the driver (400000 IDR).

So we start driving. Until 5:30pm we'll do a loop around the coast of the island,  We'll stop in several places, both historic ones (fortresses, colonial era buildings) and natural ones (beaches, lakes, lagoons).

Lots of black sand beaches. Some lava fields, a cool crater lake. Nice view of a lagoon with the island of Tidore in the background.

Cool view of several volcanoes. In this place lots of islands are volcanic ones (perhaps all of them).

Overall Ternate is an island full of interesting sights. The problem is that to see these sights you need a guide and a car with a driver.

22.8: Ternate -> Tidore -> Ternate
Tiara Inn, Ternate. This morning when I extend the room, suddenly the tab with the room rates is missing. In the afternoon when I am back, the tab is still missing, but they show me a printout on paper where the room rates are all higher by 50000 IDR. Either they suddenly increased their rates or they are cheating customers.
Weather: overcast in the morning, but later the sky opens up. A mix of sunny and cloudy, no rain.

In the morning at 9:58am the lady from the tourist office already knocks on my door. Soon after that we leave and with a motorbike taxi (10000 IDR each) head to the ferry harbour (2000 IDR entry fee).

We take a boat (sort of a watertaxi) to cross over to Tidore (10000 IDR per person).

 Around 10:30am we arrive in Tidore. There a guy with a car is already waiting for us. Probably the lady arranged things with him. For 300000 IDR he'll drive us around Tidore.

On the map Tidore looks a bit bigger than Ternate, but in practice we'll complete the visit of Tidore much faster than I had expected. In fact the driver proceeds quickly along the western coast without stopping a single time.

While in the car I book flights to Sorong (West Papua) for tomorrow. Leaving Ternate in the morning, there is no way to get to Raja Ampat on the same day. The direct line distance between Ternate and Sorong is just 470km, but I have to go via Ambon. And I am lucky: should I leave Ternate on the 24th, I have to take a night flight to Sorong, arriving for instance at 7:30am and at a higher cost. Flight connections in Indonesia could be better.

Later I realise that all sights are in or around the city of Soasio on the southeastern coast. There are no geographical highlights on Tidore (no lake, lagoon, special beach etc.).

The first place we visit is Benteng Tahula, a fort built by the Portuguese. Very cute and photogenic and offers good views of Soasio. Most likely it has been restored, because it is in a very good preservation status.

After that we visit the (nearby) palace of the sultan. Right now it is some sort of museum. It's possible to walk inside and take photos.

The third place is Benteng Torre, another Portuguese fort. This is again photogenic, but is not so well preserved. In fact it is full of black stones, most likely originating from an eruption of the Tidore volcano.

After that we stop along the east coast, at a beach where there is a hot spring (right on the beach). We stop one more time for a photo of the mangroves, then head back to the harbour where the boats to Ternate leave.

It's 1:30pm and the day is practically over because there is nothing left to see on Tidore. After 2pm we have a lunch in the restaurant.

During this lunch I want to give the lady a 100000 IDR tip for her services. Surprise, surprise, she didn't do it for free as I was thinking. Suddenly she asks for 1 million IDR.

I explain that because she is a government employee from the tourist office and didn't say anything yesterday, i.e. didn't mention that she wasn't doing it for free, I was thinking that this was a free service provided by the tourist office to tourists.

More discussion and in the end I give her 700000 IDR (just because I think she shouldn't make more than the two car drivers).

It's 3 something pm, too early to go back to the hotel. I walk a bit along the waterfront, until I get to the harbour. At 4pm I get back to the hotel and take a rest. In the evening I get out again at 6:30pm for dinner.

23.8: Ternate -> Sorong (via Ambon)
Hotel Mariat, Sorong. 35 Euro for a large room in what must have been a four star hotel in the past. Lots of furniture (table+chair, small round table with sofa chair, cupboard for the clothes, thing where to put the suitcase), adjustable A/C, phone, free WLAN (very slow, in the evening almost unusable). The bathroom has a shower and lots of space where to put toiletries. This is so far the best place where I have been on this trip.
Weather: sunny with some clouds in Ternate. Quite hot already in the morning. Overcast in Ambon.

I get up at 7:30am and at 8:45am I ask for a taxi in the hotel lobby. Initially they say it's 150000 IDR (50000 for the motorbike taxi), then I explain that I paid 100000 IDR to come from the airport. Even this is too much for the short distance of 6km, but we settle on this. In addition, there is a fee of 10000 IDR to get by car into the airport.

So we drive to the airport. There I check in and have some breakfast. Then I proceed to the gate.

The plane starts rolling at 11:07am and departs at 11:10am, a small five minutes delay. It's a B737 800 from Sriwijaya Air. It lands in Ambon shortly before 12pm.

There I proceed to the gate, and my goodness, there is no restaurant. There is only the food of the lobby of Sriwijaya Air (100000 IDR, buffet), but I skip it because I don't like it.

Then it's three hours of waiting time for the connecting flight to Sorong at 3:50pm.

The plane takes off early and lands in Sorong around 4:40pm. Things then proceed quickly: by 4:50pm I'm at the baggage belt waiting for my suitcase.

Something is wrong with my phone, because I have no Internet connection. Later I hear that in the whole of Papua the mobile Internet has been shut down because of the independence movement. Also at a shop selling mobile phones they confirm this. What a weird place.

I get out of the airport and ask for a taxi. People tell me it's a fixed price of 100000 IDR (=6.40 Euro), a bit ridicolous for  short distance of 2.6km. I ask if somebody can do it for 50000 IDR and somebody volunteers. At 5:05pm I'm in a taxi to the hotel.

So I reach the hotel. In front of the hotel there are some soldiers with machine guns. Interesting - there must be a reason for this.

I check in (friendly staff). Some discussion about the taxi prices. They tell me that a taxi to the harbour (1.2km) costs 100000 IDR. Actually it's the same price, no matter what the distance is. This is absurd, because a taxi, especially one in Indonesia, shouldn't cost so much.

I get settled in the room and at 5:50pm I get out again, this time to have a look at the city. What immediately catches my eye are some people of the Negroid/Australoid race, which should be typical of Papua.

Sorong is a bit less modern than Kupang (another "frontier" city in Indonesia). Next to my hotel there is sort of a mall (Mal Sorong, actually only a clothes store, a restaurant and a bakery).

I walk a bit eastwards, and see a big church, a big mosque, several bakeries, some banks with ATMs, one or two hotels, some small shops. Intermittent pavement on the sides of the road.

At 6:30pm I walk back to the Mal Sorong mall. There I have a dinner and after that get back to the hotel.

24.8: Sorong -> Waisai (Raja Ampat)
Waiwo Dive Resort, Raja Ampat. 67 Euro for a decent room with two beds, adjustable A/C, a table but no chair, big mirror, no LCD TV, big toilet with shower with some wooden structure where you can put the suitcase and hang the clothes. This hotel is 8km from the city of Waisai (6 from the harbour) and while it is on the sea, it has no beach worth mentioning (just a 1 metre strip of sand under the trees) In fact, this entire island of Waigeo seems to have no beaches. The hotel restaurant is overpriced. A fried rice with chicken costs 150000 IDR, when in town it costs only 25000 IDR.
Weather: overcast in the morning in Sorong (and it has been raining at night). But already before 9am the sky opens up. A mix of sunny and cloudy on Waigeo island. No rain.

Early rise at 6:30am. At 7:45am I'm in the lobby and take a car (negotiated down to 50000 IDR; 5000 IDR for the car to enter the harbour area) to the ferry harbour. There I buy a ticket to Raja Ampat (Waisai).

There are only a handful of tourists this morning taking the ferry to Raja Ampat. I see less than 10. At 8:30am I walk to the ferry boat and sit down.

The ferry sort of starts a bit after 9am, then leaves the harbour around 9:15am. The boat trip proceeds smoothly and we reach the harbour in Waisai at 11:30am. By the way, freezing A/C in the ferry and not so many foreign tourists (about a dozen in total).

Immediately I'm approached by the taxi drivers. They insist that it costs 150000 IDR to go to the hotel (6km distance). Some discussion and I negotiate it down to 100000 IDR.

Then the driver brings me to the tourist information, where I have to pay a 1 million IDR conservation fee (Indonesians pay 500000 IDR). This is ridicolously expensive and I wonder if this money gets into the pockets of some corrupt politician.

So we get to the hotel. When checking in, I discuss with the reception staff the boat trips to the islands. Bad news, these are very expensive, ranging between 6 and 20 million IDR per boat. Boats can carry up to 10 people, but the challenge is to find the people.

The guy promises to check with other hotels and travel egencies if he can put me into a group to share the boat costs. He also gives me the telephone number of a travel agency which I can call.

To make it short, I will spend the whole day trying to find people with whom to share the cost of a boat trip (I go back to the harbour, call several travel agencies, look in town for tour operators but find none, talk to people). Without success, probably because at the moment there aren't enough tourists on Raja Ampat.

If you travel to Raja Ampat as a single traveller in the low season, be prepared to spend a LOT of money for boat trips. If money is a concern, do not travel to Raja Ampat alone in the low season.

I take a taxi into town (this time 150000 IDR). Erwin, the driver, tells me he knows two people who will go to Pianemo tomorrow and perhaps I could share the boat trip cost with them. Boat costing only 4.5 million IDR (the hotel had quoted 6.9 million IDR, some other travel agency 6 million IDR).
Later in the evening I hear two different stories: that these two people want a private trip without a third person and that these two people have cancelled their trip.

Anyway, Erwin brings me first to an ATM where I take some cash, then to a cafe where I have some food. This cafe (Kedai Kopi BK) actually is not bad.
After that I spend some time having a look at Waisai, then again I have some early dinner at 6pm in the Kedai Kopi cafe.

After buying some food in a shop I take a motorbike taxi (ojek; 50000 IDR) back to the hotel. Very scary ride on the road (up and down the mountain, many curves).

In the evening I discuss again the situation with the hotel staff. They agree to let me cancel one night (I had booked two) for no extra charge.

At 10:10pm somebody from a Dobrai resort calls me and tells me that a couple of customers in their resort want to to the Pianemo boat trip. Total cost 6 million IDR, my share 2 million IDR. Horribly expensive, but in the end I accept. Tomorrow they will pick me up at the hotel at 8am.

25.8: Boat trip to Pianemo island
Waiwo dive resort, Waisai.
Weather: in the morning overcast, later the sky opens up and turns blue. Quite hot, no rain the whole day. After 4pm overcast again, fresh in the evening.

At 7:40am the guy from the tour operator calls me on the phone. I explain that I'll be ready as agreed at 8am. At 7:58am people come knocking at my door.

So at 8am I meet the tour agency guy. He hands me over the receipt for the 2 million IDR for the trip and I pay the amount to him. After that we drive on his motorbike to the harbour of Waisai.

The boat is already there and we immediately start. It's a fiberglass boat with a covered roof. We first head to the Doberai Eco resort, where we will pick up the couple with whom I'm sharing the cost of this trip.

The sea isn't too rough, but rough enough so that the boat repeatedly hits the water quite hard - bam bam bam - (also because the boat is quite fast).

Shortly before 9am we reach the Doberai Eco resort and pick up the two passengers. It's a Dutch couple, but they both live in Indonesia.

Then we start the trip. Initially we proceed in the large bay of the Waigeo island. Then we pass through a narrow channel which separates the Waigeo island from an adjacent island futher south. After that we hit the open sea again and the sea is rough again. And all this after breakfast. The bumps are so hard that I wonder if the boat will be damaged.

Anyway, at 10:35am we arrive at Pianemo island. We walk on a plankway and then walk up to the viewpoint. For this there is a comfortable wooden staircase, which leads to a platform at the top. This is the spot where you get the iconic Raja Ampat view of the karst rocks covered with vegetation rising out of the sea.

It's impressive that there is rainforest, tall trees, until the sea water level. However, there are no sandy beaches.

We'll stay in this place until after 11:20am. After that it's a short 8 minutes boat ride to the second spot, Telaga Bintang. Here you walk again to a viewpoint, but the way up consists of small stone stairs on very sharp rocks. You need to be careful where to put the feet and balance well your body. Shortly before the top you need to climb a bit to reach the highest viewpoint.

From here there are nice views of the karst rock formations, i.e. of all rocks covered with rainforest rising out of the sea. Pretty impressive scenery.

Shortly before 12pm we continue our trip, this time moving back east, to the Mansuar island which is on the way back. It takes a bit over an hour to arrive there.

At 1:05pm we stop at a pier on Mansuar island. Here is our lunch break and first snorkelling stop. Pretty impressive coral and large, colourful fish. There is also a beach with some kind of accomodation for tourists (I guess a homestay), because I see a family of Dutch tourists.

We'll stop here for about an hour and continue the trip after 2pm.

The next stop is the channel between the Mansuar and Kri islands. Here we do another snorkelling stop. I get into the water and start swimming towards the small island between the Kri and Mansuar islands.

Suddenly a big fish bites my food. Incredible, this has never happened to me. Not a shark, some kind of big yellow-brown fish. I swim back to the pier where our boat is. Luckily one of the Dutch tourists has a plaster and disinfectant. The boat staff says that never before has a tourist been bitten by a fish and discusses which fish this might be.

After this accident, we change location and move to the sand bar of the small island. Nice scenery of a sand strip surrounded by turquoise waters.

More photos, then at 3:25pm we start the return trip. I'll be in the hotel by 4:20pm and will take a rest.

In the evening I book a flight for tomorrow from Sorong to Manado.

26.8: Waisai -> Sorong -> Manado
Hotel Celebes, Manado. 410000 IDR for a big room with a soft bed, table+chair, cupboard for the clothes, place where to put the luggage, LCD TV, phone, free WLAN, toilet with shower, adjustable A/C. Central location in Manado. The only problem is the A/C unit which is very, very noisy.
Weather: beautiful weather in the morning in Waisai: blue sky, sunny, a few clouds, almost no wind. Hot and dry in the late afternoon in Malado.

At 7:55am I ask for a taxi to the harbour, then I pay the hotel bill and have breakfast. The taxi (150000 IDR) will arrive after 8:20am and at 8:30am we are at the harbour. There I buy a ticket for the ferry to Sorong (100000 IDR).

The 9am ferry departs at 9:20am. This time it's not freezing cold inside, because the A/C is set up differently. The ferry is about 30-40% full, i.e. there are still many empty seats where to sit.

We arrive in Sorong harbour around 11:30am. Takes some time to leave the ferry, but once out I'm soon surrounded by people offering taxi trips. Asking price for the airport is 100000 IDR, but we settle for 50000 IDR. So, shortly before 12pm I'm in the airport. Lots of armed soldiers guarding the airport by the way.

It's too early to check in for the 4:40pm Lion Air flight to Manado. I make it to the upper level, but to go to the restaurant area actually I would need a boarding pass. I explain my situation to security and am allowed to get through by leaving the big luggage with security.

So at 12:10pm I'm in the restaurant and can order lunch. Then it's a long wait in the airport. But better being here than being in Sorong city, where practically there is nothing to see.

At 3:45pm the boarding of the 4:40pm Lion Air flight to Manado starts, almost an hour before the departure time. The plane starts rolling at 4:15pm and takes off at 4:20pm, 20 minutes ahead of schedule. It's almost empty (perhaps 20% of the seats are taken).

 The plane lands at 4:35pm local time (one hour time difference with Sorong). That' s 45 minutes ahead of schedule. Things then proceed quite quickly.

20 minutes later I have retrieved the luggage, taken cash and am about to take a taxi to the hotel (90000 IDR, but then I give the guy 100000 IDR). By 5:45pm I'm in the hotel (heavy traffic in the centre of Manado).

In the evening I walk to the Mega Mall for dinner.

27.8: Tour to Minahasa region
Hotel Celebes, Manado. Today they fix the A/C (it's no longer so noisy). The shower has very little water.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds, no rain.

At 8am I check in the reception if they can organise the Minahasa highland tour. The hotel driver is busy, but another driver is available and can do the tour. The price is 600000 IDR (and I'll pay another 100000 IDR for the petrol).

So we start at 8:20am and initially drive inlands towards the  south to the city of Tomohon.

Brief stop at 8:42am at a monument of Jesus, a huge white statue of a Jesus who is floating around, with long hair and dressed like a monk.

At 9:25am we reach the traditional market in Tomohon. It's a fresh food market where you can buy vegetables, fruits and meat. It's special because they also sell dog, snake and bat meat. In fact here they slaughter and grill dogs (it's part of the Minahasan culture to also eat dog meat).

In fact today they sell meat of something which looks like a big boat snake and several grilled dogs and bats. Some dogs are waiting in a cage to be slaughtered.

Around 10am we leave this market and drive to the next place, the Linow lake, a volcanic crater lake at 800m of altitude. The lake is somehow greenish and smells a bit like sulphur.

We stop at a cafe next to the lake and have some tea, enjoying the views. Then at 11am we continue driving to the next place.

After a couple of photo stops along the way (a cute church and a hideout for the Dutch people) we reach Bukit Kasih at 11:48am. This is a sacred area with Christian chapels and Buddhist shrines and also a place with hot soil from which sulphur fumes come out.

I spend some time here taking some photos, then around 12:40pm we drive to the next place, lake Tondano. This is a quite large volcanic lake, around which there are some volcanoes. The wind is quite strong and there are waves in the lake. Nice panoramic views also here.

At 1:40pm we do a lunch stop at the Lake Tondano restaurant, then continue driving to the Woloan village. This place is 3km from Tomohon and consists of a number of platforms at an altitude among trees. People come here to have their own picture taken. In fact from the platforms it is possible to take nice pictures of the surroundings. There is a big volcano in the background and rice fields in the valley below.

We spend 20 minutes here, then we drive to the Puluten village, arriving there at 4:20pm.

In Puluten people sell apparently self-made pottery (large and small vases for instance). Overall this place is rather unimpressive.

We then drive back to the hotel, arriving there at 6:20pm.

28.8: Manado -> Bunaken -> Tangkoko nature reserve -> Manado
Hotel Celebes, Manado.
Weather: sunny, bliue sky with a few clouds, quite hot. No rain.

Quite intensive day today. In the morning I leave the hotel after breakfast at 8:20am and walk to the nearby harbour. There I ask at the harbour information counter about a private boat trip to the islands of the Bunaken marine park. The idea would be to use a boat to visit all of them.

First unpleasant surprise are the prices, which range from 1.1 to 2.5 million IDR depending on the size of the boat. Then they tell me that these prices are point to point: they bring me to one point on Bunaken island and back.

Long discussion and finally we settle on 1.2 million IDR for a loop around Bunaken, which will give me opportunity to see the marine park.

So we leave at 9am towards Bunaken. Getting over to Bunaken with this small boat takes 45 minutes. While we approach Bunaken we are greeted by a swarm of dolphins.
We initially stop at the southern tip, then proceed counterclockwise around the island.

Bunaken itself is nothing so special and has no very nice beaches but the waters around it are quite special. Very clear and lots of animals, which makes Bunaken a diving hotspot. In the background there is an island with a volcano (Manadotua).

The tourist centre on Bunaken (where all shops and restaurants are) is on the southwestern coast. Here there are souvenir shops and big and small restaurants.

Shortly before 12pm we leave Bunaken for Manado, arriving there at 12:40pm.

Since I still have some time until my next trip (am planning to go to the Tangkoko reserve at 2pm), I walk to the Kong Miao Litang Chinese temple which is only 600m from the Celebes hotel.

This is kind of cute, but less flashy than Chinese temples in Malaysia. And the (ethnic) Chinese I meet in the temple are not fluent in Chinese.

Shortly after 1pm I'm back in the hotel. I take the second shower of the day and get ready for the trip to Tangkoko (cost is 600000 IDR and I give a tip of 100000 IDR for this and yesterday's trip).

At 2:10pm we leave by car. The driver does not drive along the northern coast as I was assuming. He drives inland towards east to the city of Bitung first. In Bitung there are lots of Christian churches, all very cute and modern.

The last part of the road is a narrow mountain road full of curves. We reach the Tangkoko reserve at 3:52pm. Near the reserve there are a couple of hotels and homestays. The reserve itself is located along the coast.

I pay the entry fee (100000 IDR) and another 100000 IDR for the compulsory guide. We are here quite late in the day, because the plan is to see tarsiers and these animals are night active.

The guide will show me around for two hours in the park. First we walk for a while along the coast, then walk a bit deeper into the forest. The forest is rainforest (actually many teak trees) but is quite dry. We are in the dry season and it hasn't been raining for a while.

Quickly we run into a colony of black monkeys, Celebes crested macaques. These are not really afraid of humans, but keep a distance of about 5 metres to us, which later become 3 metres. When I get as close as 2 metres, some monkeys become aggressive and show the teeth. So I step back a bit.   

We'll run into these monkeys a lot over the next hour. In fact they seem to be everywhere.

Next, the guide finds a tree where a tarsier is hiding or resting. With some effort I manage to take some photos of this animal.

Later in the day we'll see birds and Sulawesi cuscus bears. The latter are high up in the trees, quite far away. I guess I should have brought a longer lens.

At 6pm we are back at the car. Then we drive back to Manado, arriving shortly before 8pm. I spend the rest of the day in the hotel.

29.8: Manado -> Surabaya
Hotel Kokoon, Surabaya. 265000 IDR for a nice high end room with two beds, A/C, LCD TV, phone, table+chair, electronic safe, some kind of open cupboard for the clothes. Elegant room with quality furniture.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with a few clouds in Manado. Hot, no rain. Sunny and blue sky also in Surabaya.

At 9:30am I leave the taxi with a Grab car (67000 IDR) to the airport, arriving there by 10am. When I get into the check in hall, the 10:40am Lion Air flight to Surabaya can be still checked in. Great, I could have taken the earlier flight, but I didn't think that it's possible to get to the airport so quickly and that 40 minutes before the departure you can still check-in.

So I go to the departure gate and wait. The 12:25pm Lion Air flight is delayed until 12:50pm, but then takes off exactly at 12:50pm. It's a half-empty B737-900 plane and I'm next to the emergency exit.

We land at 2:22pm local time, at 2:30pm I get out of the plane. Things go relatively quickly. By 2:50pm I'm in a taxi (120000 IDR) to the hotel (after skipping the taxi counters in the terminal, where they were asking for 155000 IDR for the trip).

At 3:30pm I'm in the hotel, 20 minutes later I leave the hotel for a walk in Surabaya. The hotel is centrally located, very close to Chinatown, so I can just walk there.

For the next 1:30 hours I'll walk around the old town. The area is kind of interesting (and seems to be very muslim), but there is not so much impressive architecture. After reaching a mosque, I walk through something which looks like a Middle Eastern bazaar.

The big problem is that I'm not familiar with Surabaya, so don't know where to go and what to see. In a European or Middle Eastern city it's usually sufficient to walk into the historic core to see interesting buildings and streets. But not in Surabaya. If there are interesting buildings in the old town, it's not easy to find them.

At 5:20pm I take a taxi to the Tunjungan Plaza mall (should be one of the better malls in Surabaya). Turns out to be a good idea, because this way I manage to see some parts of the city which are a bit more interesting.

For instance the taxi passes by some kind of independence square with monuments and colonial style buildings, green areas etc.

The fare for the taxi (this taxi is a metered one) is 25000 IDR, but when I hand over a 50000 IDR bill, the driver has no change. In the end I ask some people on the street if they can change a 50000 IDR bill.

The Tunjungan mall is nice and next to it are some five star hotels. To reach it you have to cross a street with heavy traffic.

There are some traffic lights which can be activated by pedestrians, but when they turn red and you could cross, some motorbikes ignore the red traffic light and still drive through. Very dangerous and ill-mannered.

The mall is nice, but seems to be a bit old already. The shops inside however have interesting goods on sale.

I walk to the food court on the 5th floor and have some dinner there around 7pm. Then I walk back to the hotel (a 3km walk; not a problem since the air in the evening is fresh) and arrive at 8pm.

Some mess with the reservation: I had initially booked via booking.com. Because the process was not completed and I never received a booking confirmation, I booked the hotel again directly on the website of the hotel. But Agoda, which seems to be related to booking.com, withdrew 20 Euro from my credit card without telling me.

The hotel staff informs me about this and I waste time on this problem which shouldn't exist.

30.8: Surabaya -> Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Seri Pacific, KL. 240 RM for a nice big room with a four star standard. Much better than the rooms of the Cititel or Boulevard hotels, where we used to stay previously. Lots of furniture, even a sofa. Nice big toilet, breakfast included (because we booked it). The location is good: opposite a mall, next to a metro station at the intersection to two lines.
Weather: sunny, blue sky in Surabaya. Blue sky with some clouds and sunny in KL. No rain the whole day.

At 8:30am I'm in the lobby, then it takes more than half an hour to check out and get into a taxi. We leave around 9:05am. The driver is a bit slow, we reach the airport only at 9:55am (125000 IDR for the taxi).

I check in pretty quickly and at 10:30am have some meal in a restaurant. Then I proceed to the gate and wait there.

The 11:55am Citilink flight is a bit delayed. The plane (an A320-200) takes off with about half an hour of delay, but lands almost puntually, shortly after 3:40pm in KL (KLIA terminal).

Then thing proceed relatively quickly: there is not too much queue at the passport control and the luggage is also quickly available. I walk to the arrivals area, change the remaining IDR into RM, buy a SIM card from DiGi for 20 RM (7 days of validity, 2.23 RM of airtime, 1 GB/day of WeChat/Whatsapp/Facebook balance, 10 minutes of local calls, 500 MB/day + 2GB of data + 10 minutes of calls to Singapore, Indonesia, China, Thailand, Japan, India).

At 4:45pm I'm in the taxi (a Grab car, which will bring me to the hotel in KL for 73 RM). There is some traffic jam, so I only reach the hotel at 6:10pm.

There I meet Shirley and the kids. The meeting is short because they are actually going somewhere to buy something.

By 6:30pm I walk out again. Initially I go to the Sunway Putra Mall (the one opposite to the hotel). This, well, is a mall. Not comparable to the Midvalley mall (it's much smaller), but there are enough eating opportunities. It's just a matter of understanding where things are.

I have a dinner in the mall, then take the metro to the Tang Hua station (the one closest to Bukit Bintang), then walk to Bukit Bintang. This street has again changed: the Sungei Wang mall no longer exists, but on the other hand the Lot 10 mall is still there.

There is a new metro station at the intersection of Bukit Bintang and Raja Chulan streets.

And there are people on the streets, because tomorrow is Merdeka (=independence) day and people are in party mode. For instance a band is doing a small open air concert.

After 8pm I decide to get back to the hotel. I give the metro a try. Turns out that all the various metro lines which KL has been adding in the past years have now been integrated into one metro network, i.e. one ticket (a plastic coin token) is enough to get from A to B and you can change lines in certain stations. In other words, KL has now an integrated metro network, which is quite an achievement after so many years.

Some stations have pretty long distances to walk if you want to change lines (for instance the Plaza Rakyat - Merdeka interchange) but these are in A/C underpassages.

This basically means that travellers are now less dependent on taxis and can more rely on public transportation.

I buy two tickets, one for RM 1.90 (PWTC - Hang Tuah) and one for RM 2.10 (Bukit  Bintang - PWTC; PWTC is the metro station near the hotel). I'm back in the hotel after 9pm.

31.8: Kuala Lumpur
Hotel Seri Pacific, KL. The shower is good (plenty of water). The buffet breakfast is also good, although the choice of fresh fruits is limited.
Weather: sunny, blue sky the whole day. No rain, which is a bit unusual for the season. Not too hot.

In the morning at 11am I take a Grab car (RM 28) to Templer park, a rainforest place north of KL. I arrive at 11:40am and what a surprise. Or perhaps the Templer park I visited 20 years ago was in a different location.

Anyway, there is a big parking, you have to pay an entrance fee of RM 5 and it's full of people. Later I realise that people come here because of the waterfall: it's a pleasant, cool forest site, where to have a picnic and swim in the pools of the waterfalls. The air is fresh and it's nice to relax here with the family. And it's not far from KL

There is a trail along the waterfall and I climb to the highest point. After that it would be possible to continue walking in the rainforest, but the trail gets much worse and it's not clear where the trail goes. Besides, I'm sweating a lot and would need a shower.

So at 1pm I start walking down, back to the parking. There, around 2pm I take another Grab car (RM 27) back to the hotel, arriving at 2:31pm. Then I take a shower and a brief rest.

Later in the afternoon I take a Grab car (RM 15) to the Midvalley mall. There I have some food and a haircut. Around 6pm I'm at the Midvalley KTM station, but manage to miss the 6:07pm KTM train (didn't know which platform to take and by the time I was down the train had already left.

The next train is only at 6:31pm, but only goes to KL Sentral. So in KL Sentral I change lines and manage to be back in the hotel after 7pm.

In the evening we have a dinner with Sara, the sister of Shirley. Tomorrow we have to get up early to catch the flight back to Germany.

1.9: KL -> Dubai -> Munich
Home, sweet home
Weather: sunny, blue sky in KL.

We get up at 6am, then at 7am take the taxi to the airport (RM 104). At 7:50am we reach the airport, then check in. Long queue this morning, about 30 minutes waiting time. Then we proceed through passport control.

We stop at a Burger King restaurant for some food, then at 9:30am are at the gate.

The Emirates plane, an Airbus 777-300, takes off around 10:40am with some delay. Freezing temperatures inside, not sure what Emirates are thinking. It should be obvious that people who have spent some time in a tropical country and got used to the tropical climate won't feel comfortable in a cold plane.

On the A380 flight from Dubai to Munich this time there are no A/C sockets.

We land at 8:30pm in Munich and manage to retrieve the luggage by 9:30pm (long waiting time at the baggage belt; here the Munich airport needs to do something because there are not enough belts).

Copyright 2020 Alfred Molon