Manado – Sulawesi, Indonesia

My working year starts in August. From then till Christmas is when I make my money. Four solid months of toil. Dear reader, I see you roll your eyes, but it’s the time when everything that could ideally be stretched out over the year is packed into that period and the hours can be very long. Before I left for Hong Kong, I worked full time while doing my masters degree – utterly exhausting and teaching, be it practical and theoretical, became my world, but it was good preparation for the first term in a Hong Kong school.

At the start of term, I start jumping out of bed as soon as my alarm goes off, eat a decent breakfast and even find the time to put in my contact lenses and wear mascara. Fast forward to November and I’m hitting that snooze button, get up at the last possible minute and grab a banana for breakfast as I run out the door. I may or may not put contact lenses in and finish my makeup at work. By December, I have to be dragged out of bed and I’ve given up on any semblance of self-care, and am just going through the motions till the end of year Christmas lunch signals that long-awaited break.

While my colleagues all think I am heading home for Christmas, something I’m happy for them to presume, since it means they won’t try and get me to work during the holidays, I have something else in mind. An isolated beach, a villa that’s all mine, a stash of books I’ve been meaning to read for the past four months (including this one, which broke my heart) and a private chef cooking up some of the most amazing Indonesian food I’ve ever eaten.

villa
The villa
manado
Falling asleep to the sounds waves crashing, instead of the inconsiderate antics of my awful neighbours. What a luxury!
bubur manado.jpg
One of my favourite new things I’ve tried all year – bubur Manado, or Manado-style congee. Spinach, corn, root vegetables, tofu and fried onion. Add a fresh sambal and a beautiful view of Bunaken, and it was a very memorable breakfast indeed. Enak sekali!

I can’t say I did a lot of exploring beyond the beach and a foray into town, as that really wasn’t the purpose of this trip. Those with more energy would find themselves diving in Bunaken National Marine Park. The time spent before and after in Jakarta was a lot more active, but the little exploring I did showed me a different side of Indonesia, particularly the differences due to Manado’s largely Christian population.

I seem to find myself in the fascinating archipelago that is Indonesia every few years and I know I’ll keep coming back to new islands and regions. I left Manado feeling more centred, a few kilos heavier thanks to the amazing food and grateful for the often stressful but amazing lifestyle in Hong Kong which allows me to visit places like Manado.

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