3 years ago
keshie
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Talaud Island: Indonesia's northernmost paradise
A visit to Talaud Island is rarely just a tourist visit. If not to start a new life, people usually travel to Talaud for business or to conduct scientific research. That being so, I received many wondering looks from the local Talaud people when I told them I was there just to sightsee. I couldn’t tell them otherwise because it was the truth. I was curious about Talaud and wanted to know what life on one of the country's outer islands is like. However, there was little information about the island, so I had to fulfill my curiosity by going there. Talaud Island is the largest of 77 islands that make up the Sangihe-Talaud Archipelago, located north of North Sulawesi. Surrounded by the Celebes Sea and Pacific Ocean, Talaud Island is very close to Indonesia's border with the Philippines. There are not many transportation options for getting to Talaud Island. It’s either the four-times-a-week flight from Manado, North Sulawesi, or the three-times-a-week ferry that takes around 17 hours from Manado, weather permitting. Melonguane, the capital of Talaud regency As the capital of Talaud regency, Melonguane is the only town in the archipelago with an airport, which is located on the southern tip of Talaud Island. The beautiful lush green forest and coconut plantations on hilly land welcomed us upon our arrival. The airport is a small, simple building with mountains providing a stunning backdrop to the runway. Though the airport is unassuming, Melonguane was built as a town for the airport and it has grown to become the busiest town on the island. Life on Talaud seems to be slow and easy, but that may be purely superficial. Women gossip in the warung (roadside eateries) and boatmen nap on the beach at noon, which is only to be expected in a place with such a piercingly hot sun. A long stretch of houses and shop-houses lie parallel to the coastline, as well as a busy traditional market. Nutmegs were being dried outside of houses without anyone having to watch over them, as they claim the town – and the island in general – enjoys a very low crime rate. The local people were very friendly, and I had no problem finding my way around as everyone was helpful in offering directions. Bentor (motorized pedicab) drivers are eager to take you around and intercity shuttle cars are always standing by near the port. Beo, the oldest town on Talaud Island It took an hour to get from Melonguane to Beo by a shuttle car. It took an hour journeying through scenic lush forest, divided by a mostly smooth asphalt road. Beo was the first town built on Talaud, before the establishment of Melonguane Airport. Entering the town center, we passed a small cemetery, which was opened in the early 20th century. The gravestones, which are mostly designed in an art-deco style, were perhaps inspired by the Imanuel Church, which was built later. The church really stands out in the town, with its boxy features on the towers. In downtown Beo, which is smaller than Melonguane, I felt even more warmth from the locals. Like many other old towns with limited transportation, the buildings and activities were more centralized. Most activities are centered around the port, which is connected to the main market, creating an intimate interaction between its dwellers. In the market located by the sea, an elderly spice seller asked me detailed questions – I felt like I was being interrogated – of why I was there, if not for research or to visit family, and why a camera was dangling from my neck. The long talk, which took in her past days on Java, she explained how she had traveled to Talaud with her late husband, who had been in the military and was commissioned there, adding that she missed her faraway hometown. But now that she was making a better living, Talaud was now home and the place where she would spend the rest of her life. While cinnamon sticks are available at very cheap prices, the goods and spices shipped from other islands, mostly from Manado, are up to twice as expensive as in Jakarta. Gasoline is almost twice the average price, which makes the cost of living far more expensive than in many other parts of Indonesia. However, there is nothing the locals can do about it, which is reflected in their attitude: “Hey, life goes on”. They seem to understand that it’s what you make out of what you have that really counts. The Land of Porodisa On our way back to Melonguane, we were spoiled with gorgeous scenery. The four-colored sunset peeked out from between the tree silhouettes. Children and teenagers were swimming in the calm sea and playing soccer on the beach with the sunset in the background. Knowing that this was their everyday playground, I couldn’t help but be envious. Inspired, I then took a trip to Sara Besar Island the next morning. A 20 to 30 minute boat ride took me to one of the most pristine and stunning – if these words can even do it justice – white sandy beaches that I've ever visited. Sara Besar Island, which is is uninhabited, is one of the locals’ favorite destinations for weekend excursions. Sadly, the situation under the water was depressing, with discarded rubbish and dead coral. Some plastic food wraps and bottles - albeit only a few - were lying on the seabed. I hope this doesn’t get worse, as it would be a crime to ruin such a paradise. Having taken a swim in the clear water and sunbathing on the beach, and marveling at the Beo sunset, the abundant cinnamon, nutmegs and fresh fish, I could now understand why the Dutch named the Sangihe-Talaud Archipelago “paradiso”. And in keeping with the idea of paradise, Talaud is not an easy place to reach. However, once you are there, the scarce Internet and cellular network can help you forget all your daily concerns and lead you to embrace the beauty of the island.
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This looks totally untouched! So serene.
3 years ago·Reply