Baliem Valley, West Papua

West Papua is located in the most eastern part of our country, Indonesia. With more than 17.500 islands spread all over the country, West Papua is one of the biggest islands after Kalimantan (Borneo), Sulawesi (Celebes), Sumatera, and Java. I can say that I am lucky enough since I was able to visit those four big islands, plus some of the small ones.

I visited West Papua for the first time back in 2006 when I worked as a full-time worker at an international NGO based in Manado & cover the area of East Indonesia. I was so excited planning my trip to the heart of Papuan culture & tribal society: Wamena or mostly well-known as Baliem Valley.

Village chief mumi in Kurulu Village

The only access to get there is by flight from Sentani, Jayapura (less than one hour with small planes like Trigana Air). Unlike any other planes, there is no seat number in this plane, meaning you are free to rush & choose the most suitable seat for you once you are boarding. For no special reason, my favorite is always at the back, right beside the window.

Going to Wamena, there are several important thing you need to consider:

  • Make sure that you have done that ‘natural calling’ at the airport (I mean there is no airplane toilet on that Trigana Air except you can manage to hold it back for another 55 minutes till you get there)
  • When you arrive at the airport, watch your luggage very carefully. If you can carry it all by yourself, it will be better but in case you need a porter, deal your price first & keep walking as close as possible to him.
  • Most of the hotels/home stays in Wamena are within walking distance from the airport but with your luggage, you might need a pedicab or a rent car. Again, deal your price first.
  • Riding on a pedicab or ‘becak’, you have to warn  the rider to slow down because they often run the pedicab as fast as they want. Do not forget to deal the best price & do not hesitate to haggle.
  • For photographer, be careful! Do not use flash when you take photograph in public like at the market unless they will ask you to pay for each snap you take!

    I snap this photo without them knowing it 😉

  • When you visit one of the villages to see a mumi (like in Kurulu), you better ask a prior information about the sum of money to pay for each person (you decide how many people you want to photograph which suits your pocket). As I remember, we paid about five or ten thousand per person at that time.

    Photo with a village chief mumi in Kurulu village

  • Coming from Manado where the price for a litter of mineral water is only 3.000Rp, I was so shocked to find it more than 3 times expensive here, so are the meals at the small cafes/restaurants, and other stuff as well. So, I liked buying several things from Jayapura before getting to this extra-expensive area (due to the only way to get things here is by plane).
  • Where I live (in Tomohon) is known with its cold air but to my surprise, it’s much colder in this valley. So warm jacket is a must. Yet it’s quite hot during daytime (on sunny days).
  • In some spots, cell phone signal is good
  • Sometimes you can be assertive to any individual selling Papuan souvenir. A strict “No” is sometimes needed unless they will keep following you day after day till you finally want to buy.

    Some of Papuan souvenirs

    The locals make 'koteka' (penis gourd) from this kind of plant

    Once you are in Wamena, you will explore its rich culture & social life, gorgeous landscape, and the rest of its natural beauty like Baliem River.

  • The best time to visit Wamena is in August since they host an annual festival which you don’t want to miss.
  • Don’t be shocked when you see the elder ones loose some of their fingers. It has something to do with their culture of cutting a single knuckle when one of the family members died (I’m not sure if it also apply to the young people)
  • Most of the locals live in their traditional homes called Honai. Sometimes a small honai could accommodate up to 20 family members! Honai consists of three different shapes: for men, for women, and kitchen.

    Inside the Honai

    I wish to go back there someday.. 🙂 It’s a nice place to visit.

Categories: Indonesia, photography, Photos, Places of Interest, Tourism, Tradition, Transportation, Travelling, West Papua | Tags: , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

Tomohon: Horse Carts Parade

So, I’m back again for the umpteenth time to introduce more of my world, mostly about my hometown which you might start to get familiar with: T-O-M-O-H-O-N. There are thirty-five villages in Tomohon spread over five sub-districts.

Though it’s a new city, which officially inaugurated in 2003, but in the past seven years every Tomohoner has seen the fast development and change in its infrastructure, economic growth, and especially in tourism-related events.

When I was a little child, I usually got a fever every time I went down to Manado – the capital of North Sulawesi Province (about 25km / 15 miles away and reachable within 30 minutes drive through the winding road) due to a temperature difference; the average temperature in Tomohon during day time is between 17 – 30°C and 16 – 24°C at night, while in Manado the average temperature is between 24 to 30 °C. But now I am used to go back and forth on a daily basis with no bad affect on my body temperature.

Cool weather and fertile soil bring so much benefit to the local farmers to grow tropical plants including vegetables and flowers. We can even easily cultivate flowers, vegetables and spices at the backyard.

On January 26th, 2009, we celebrated Tomohon’s 6th Anniversary in which “Pawai Bendi” (or horse carts parade) hit the main road with their own unique decorations mostly by using marigold flowers; since Tomohon is also well-known as the City of Flower.

These horse carts are also part of public transportation here but they just serve some limited routes namely to Matani, Walian, Kaaten, and Kolongan villages (those which are closer to downtown). The fare is Rp.2.000 and they have their own station which is in front of Bethesda Public Hospital. But if you are in the vicinity of those four villages and want to have a ride, you can stop one when you notice it empty (without any passengers) or there is a space available.

Below are some photos I took nearby Tomohon downtown, the day when the parade was held.

Representative from my village 🙂

Say "cheese" 🙂

Just another 'proud contestant'

Coffee mix??

Enjoy the clip-clop sound of the horses hooves!

Categories: Flowers, Indonesia, Manado, Minahasa, North Sulawesi, photography, Photos, Places of Interest, Tourism, Transportation, Travelling | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tomohon Traditional Market

I’m in a rush of getting my translation work done before its due date in two days but I can’t hold it to post about this one. In most of the sponsors’ letters to each of their sponsored-child, they wrote about the unusual weather, Christmas holiday, motivational words, and also about fruits! Some say that mango and papaya are so expensive in stores because the climate condition there doesn’t allow them to grow such tropical fruits; could be in any of your home-country.

Based on that, I come up with an idea to post  about the traditional market in my hometown, Tomohon, because we could also find various kinds of tropical fruits of all seasons there.

Rambutan or hairy fruit

Durian fruit (this one, ...smells good...) 🙂

Lansat fruit (...)

Some other fruits including mangos and papayas

Almost every time when I go to the market, I could always see some tourists there. No wonder since this place has become one of the tourist destination covered in their highland tour package. Some could enjoy the visit but some could not, especially those who are dog lovers… Below are some more photos of the market (some have been edited into black and white)

You can bid for a lower price here

Favorite section at the market: 'cabo' stands for 'cakar bongkar'; second-hand clothing with very low price and still can bid...kind of worth-it...but (shrug-off)

I bet you know this 🙂


As a Minahasan, I used to eat this lovable domestic animal but since I become a dog lover I QUIT it!! I don't even eat those in the previous two photos.

The market days are on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and the most crowded day is on Saturdays. It starts from early in the morning till the afternoon. It also operates on every week day but less crowded and less items to find as well.

Located right beside the bus terminal, makes it easier to stop over at this market then continue to another places of interest with public transport fare of less than 1$ within some surrounding areas like Tondano and Manado.

Bus terminal next to the market

Enjoy the tour.. 🙂

Categories: Indonesia, Manado, Minahasa, North Sulawesi, Photos, Places of Interest, Tourism, Transportation, Travelling | Tags: , , , | 16 Comments

Bunaken: Divers Paradise

Today I found these old pictures so I’d like to share them here. It’s all about Bunaken Island. Have you ever heard of it? Its a National Marine Park in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. They call it a paradise for divers. I was lucky enough to always have a job related to travelling..several years Bunaken is one of the places I was able to visit many times. Yet, I never go there for diving nor snorkeling — I can’t swim 🙂 — so unfortunately I have no underwater photos. For more information about Bunaken, you can visit (

Manado Tua Island & Bunaken Island a view from Tumpa Hill (Gunung Tumpa) at Manado

At Liang Beach, west of Bunaken Island (Tumpa' Hill is visible in the distance)

At Pangalisang Beach, east of Bunaken Island

One of the resorts in Bunaken

Passangers boat to Bunaken

Enjoy the trip

For more information about how to go to Bunaken, please visit

Categories: Beach, Bunaken Island, Indonesia, Manado, Manado Tua Island, Minahasa, North Sulawesi, photography, Photos, Places of Interest, Tourism, Transportation, Travelling | Tags: , | 16 Comments

Kora-Kora Beach

As I said earlier in my other post, I started to love history, especially those that are related with my country, Indonesia. Previously, when I visited a place like this I used to merely enjoy the beauty of the nature & took some narcissism photos like these.  🙂 Now I see it from a different angle that take me back to the colonialism era our country endured in the past. I’m not trying to explain it though 🙂

Just a brief information about this place, it’s called Kora-Kora Beach and located in Kapataran Tondano. Spell it and it sounds like Japanese. But when I track back through history, this beach was named based on a Moluccas’ war ship that was shipwrecked on this shoreline  when a fight against Dutch took place.

It’s nice to spend time here, moreover there are two sweet resorts called Olivia Resort (-not me-) & Supit Reunion Resort to stay in. The last one needs a direct approval from its owner (the family of dr. Bert A. Supit) who lives in Tomohon which is less than two hours trip by car from this place.

With my hubby at Kora-Kora Beach

dr. Supit, who owns this 3ha land above this beach, said that there are actually two Dutch bunkers in this location. But during my visits there (three times) I didn’t notice the other one. Maybe it was covered by weeds like any other historical sites in Minahasa 😦

Dutch bunker overlooking the offshore

I ever stayed in this resort back in 2005 when I took 32 old people from Holland (the youngest was 72 years old!!) in their three-week-tour around Manado-Minahasa-Bitung (all in North Sulawesi). It was an exciting experience!

At night, as we sat at the porch overlooking the offshore of North Sulawesi, we could see ships from Bitung passed through. They usually head for Luwuk – Banggai in Central Sulawesi.

But, unlike any other beach, it’s not safe to swim here because the coastline is just a few meters away then it comes to a really deep ocean (as I was informed).

Well, I hope to be able to go there again one day and explore more of it.

Our Handprints at Kora-Kora Beach 😉

Categories: Bunker, Dutch, History, Indonesia, Japanese, Minahasa, North Sulawesi, photography, Photos, Tourism, Transportation, Travelling | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Christmas & New Year Celebration: Wrap-Up Tradition or ‘kuncikan’

Celebrating Christmas and New Year is a common thing we celebrate every year. But have you ever heard of a tradition to wrap-up those two big celebrations? We have that kind of tradition here in Minahasa. I am talking about a dominant tribe in North Sulawesi – Indonesia.

In Minahasa and some other places around Manado & Bitung,  we celebrate Christmas on December 25th & 26th (we call it the 1st & 2nd part of Christmas celebration). So is with New Year, it’s celebrated on January 1st & 2nd. Normally, we visit our relatives, friends, and neighbors on those dates. In some other places, they do not have any further celebration afterward. But for Minahasan people, it’s a little bit different.

The fact is, we have a unique tradition called kuncikan. Kuncikan is an Indonesian word (kunci: key, kuncikan: to lock / to end up / to wrap up) . The meaning of that word is not so familiar to the rest of Indonesian people since it’s just mostly used by Minahasan people to refer to the closing celebration of Christmas and New Year. Though in some areas they celebrate it every Sunday during the month of January, but generally, we celebrate it by the 4th Sunday or the last Sunday of January.

There is no official date for kuncikan. In some places, they hold kuncikan tradition every Sunday in January by riding on ‘bendi’, which is traditional two-wheeled carriage pulled by a horse, and visiting relatives & friends. It’s quite interesting since the main road traffic is dominated by bendi and along the roadside people are watching the passing bendis.

When I was a little child, I used to join the kuncikan celebration by riding on a truck, packed with other children in the village, and brought some rotten eggs. Wondering what those rotten eggs were for? Well, we call it our ‘war equipment’. This is how it works: on that day, children would collect as many rotten eggs as possible & spare a sum of money to pay for their ride on the truck for a back-and-fourth route. It used to be a harvesting day for truck drivers! There could be around 20 children in one truck and a single back-and-fourth route last in about 20 minutes. It was just a short route to some neighbor villages.

The riding started in the afternoon, some times around 2p.m. When the truck started to move, we started to sing joyous songs until we passed some other trucks from different direction (of course, the same purpose trucks for children to enjoy this fun thing), aaannnnddd…let the rotten eggs war begin!! Don’t try to imagine the smell on our heads & clothes when we got home after that!!

There is another unique way to celebrate kuncikan. In Manado, kuncikan is celebrated through a figura carnival. That’s quite fun to watch since you can see people put on weird-looking attire and make-up on their faces. An old lady in High School uniform, a grown-up man in Elementary School uniform, female wearing male’s attire and vice versa, any humorous idea they could think of will be performed on that carnival.

Figura carnival has been an annual tradition in Manado. Allegedly, it’s a Portuguese tradition that has been adapted in accordance with the local culture here.

I will post some pictures of kuncikan tradition soon after I have my pocket-camera repaired..(hope I could).

Categories: Camera, Carnival, Celebration, Christmas, English, Humors, Indonesia, Minahasa, New Year, North Sulawesi, Tradition, Transportation | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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