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Saturday, 4 December 2010

Manado - Indonesia

Manado, once described in guide books as one of Indonesia's cleanest cities, has changed a lot in recent years. After a period of neglect at the end of the 90's a huge building boom has started alongside the so-called "Manado Boulevard", the city's main road. Large areas have been gained by land reclamation projects along what used to be the city's coastline. New malls, shopping centers, department stores, hotels and restaurants have opened or are still being built. Especially the area around the Mega Mall, just a few hundred meters south of the city's landmark Ritzy Hotel, has become a new center of attraction and popular meeting point. The mall itself - apart from the usual Pizza Hut and Kentucky Fried Chicken - has some very reasonable shops and at present is one of Manado's few places where you can get a good cappuccino and other hot and cold coffee drinks.

Some other parts of the city are still in a less good shape but efforts are underway to prepare Manado for the "World Ocean Conference" (2009) and for "Manado: World Tourism City 2010". Yet garbage collection doesn't always work as it should, road conditions are sometimes poor, and power & tab water supply is often problematic. However, compared to a couple of years ago improvements are clearly visible.

In any case you are hopefully not visiting North Sulawesi with the expectation of everything being like at home. Be a bit open-minded and adventurous and a stay in Manado with its hospitable and fun-loving population will be a pleasant experience. However, in terms of typical tourist sites it doesn't have much to offer, so if you don't have lots of time better don't consider spending too much of it in the city. Rather go for some of the many attractions in the surroundings which are described on this site.

Budget accommodation: Since the demise of the Smiling Hostel there is no place anymore that can be described as a "backpacker's favourite". Try the friendly Bersehati Hotel with ok rooms, or Rex Hotel. The Celebes Hotel near the harbour has gone more upmarket but still has some cheaper rooms and is quite convenient if you want to take the public boat to Bunaken. The hotel has incorporated what used to be the Smiling Hostel building.

Middle class hotels: Most centrally located are Hotel Central, Hotel New Queen and Celebes Hotel (at harbour). The Hotel Formosa in the south of Manado (ocean side of Bahu Mall) has ok rooms but I found the glass wash basin in the bathroom quite dirty and a bit disgusting. Other options are Hotel Minahasa, Regina Hotel and Golden Dragon Hotel.

Luxury Resorts and Hotels: Without doubt the most convenient location right in the city center has the Ritzy Hotel Manado which is also the city's biggest hotel. Less centrally located is the Gran Puri. Still relatively new and with a good location at Boulevard Mall is the Quality Hotel, with nice rooms. Personally I found the restaurant there not very convincing though.
Outside of town there are for example the Tasik Ria Resort, Santika Hotel, Kima Bajo Resort and Hotel Sedona which is the only 5 Star hotel in the province (I can't really say that I understand a lot about these ratings but personally I wouldn't see Sedona as 5 Star hotel. Let's put it like this: Judging from my own experiences at this hotel there is quite a bit of room for improvement...).

More hotels and resorts are currently being built in and around Manado.


Restaurants:
Dining out in Manado has come a long way in the last few years with more restaurants than ever offering a wide variety of dishes. A few examples:

  • Raja Sate Restaurant, Jalan Boulevard No. 39 (near Mega Mall) - My favourite in Manado. Satay and more satays. From beef, goat to seafood satays charcoal grilled to perfection with accompanying sides of local spicy sauce. The curries and other dishes are also worth trying, and they are reasonably priced.
  • Lesehan Malioboro - Javanese style restaurant which offers the choice of dining in the main room or outside in small houses seated on the floor at low tables. No visit is complete without an order of Ayam Malioboro which is crispy fried chicken. Other recommendations are the Sayur Urap (spicy coconut salad greens and bean sprouts) and Sayur Gudeg Yogya (slightly spicy jackfruit and tofu infused with tamarind and served as a savoury dish). Round this out with an order of Gado Gado and tempe and vegetarians won't be disappointed.
  • Peony - announces itself as the "only Halal Chinese" restaurant in town so we have to assume there's something to please everyone in this newly renovated venue. The largely Chinese/Asian menu is tasty and a couple of favourite dishes include Curry Thai Fried Rice and BBQ Chicken Taliwang. Dim Sum (Yum Cha) is being offered at lunchtime on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. Sample dishes are brought out on a trolley for you to choose and then prepared while you wait.
  • Dolphin Donuts - Donuts and Western food
  • Green Garden - good seafood and Chinese cuisine at very affordable prices
  • Xanadu - good Chinese
  • Sky Dine & Lounge - quite "upperclass" place in Sario; good food and drinks, recommended hangout during the day
  • If your budget can handle it, try the restaurant at Ritzy Hotel Manado (former Novotel), it's worth it: "All you can eat" buffet on Saturday evening for 75,000 Rupiah - usually good salads. The American Breakfast Buffet for 50,000 Rupiah is also recommended.
! Fish lovers might try a short trip to Kalasey, just a few km south of Manado: dozens of fish restuarants, built on stilts over the beach, and extremely popular with locals. The barbecued fresh fish and other delicacies usually taste excellent. I'm not a big fan of these places though since I have seen that they are offering Napoleons and other species that you would rather like to see alive in the reefs than grilled on your plate!

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