Tomohon: The Land of the Minahasa

Just south of Manado lies a little enclave of Christianity known as the land of the Minahasa. This enclave is called Tomohon – and it’s full of surprises!

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Cakalang Fufu being roasted in a Tomohon village
Cakalang Fufu being roasted in a Tomohon village

My trip to Tomohon was for a much lesser time than expected, due to an unforeseen emergency with a few friends back in Manado, but in the short time I got in the area I did my very best to check out the local markets and a little bit of culture. From Manado, I didn’t use a tour guide like I did with my other day trips to Tangkoko and Bunaken, I just went independently and used a taxi van, which cost me 350,000 Rupiah for the day, and this is quite a good price seeing as Tomohon is around 1 hour’s drive away from downtown Manado. When around town here, I was actually tempted to use a small rickshaw to get around – though not a horse-drawn one, like the ones you see here quite frequently (and they’re also famously present in Yogyakarta). Besides, I needed my taxi to take me back to Manado!

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Unlike much of Indonesia, Tomohon is a famous enclave of Christianity. The friendly people here can be seen praying in churches in much the same fashion as other Indonesians in say Java will pray in mosques. I am told the people of Tomohon are devout Christians and take their religion very seriously, and this is perhaps why I saw so many churches in such a relatively small town. I saw a couple in Manado, too, but nowhere near as much as here. Despite their religious ethics, it seems this does not transpire to the Pasar Ekstrim of Tomohon, as the Minahasan People are well-known to kill and eat dogs, much their Korean counterparts. I didn’t like to see dog meat on sale, but apparently it’s a local delicacy here and not to be sniffed at if you’re offered it in somebody’s house.

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The lake at the foot of Mount Lokon
The lake at the foot of Mount Lokon

Tomohon lays between two volcanoes – Mount Mahawu and Mount Lokon – and due to its elevation it has a much cooler climate. Although at no time did I ever feel cold per se, I still noticed a big difference to other areas Sulawesi, especially the dirty, stuffy south at Makassar. The terrain and agriculture plays an important role to the Minahasan People of Tomohon. It is a major source of trade and income, and their crops can be exporting all over Sulawesi. Nowadays, tourism is the leading money-spinner in town, although the agricultural history of the place cannot be understated.

A traditional house at Woloan Village
A traditional house at Woloan Village
Megalithic Waruga coffins
Megalithic Waruga coffins

My taxi driver was brilliant in the sense that he knew precisely where I would like to go. He recommended me a visit to Woloan Village, where I could see not only natural and traditional Minahasan stilted houses, but also the creepy megalithic coffins called waruga. These tombs were really interesting to me, and I couldn’t believe that I was going to miss seeing these if it hadn’t been for my taxi driver! It’s really good to know that not all taxi drivers in Indonesia are trying to con you!

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