I have never had the chance to stay in Kota Manado (the city of Manado) for very long. The first time I made it to Sulawesi Utara (North Sulawesi), I ended up staying in Pulisan, which is a beautiful coastal area, so I am not complaining one bit. My second visit to Manado was to help judge a couple of WORDS Competitions earlier this year, and my final visit was just recently, to visit friends who have moved to Manado on my way to Gorontalo.
Manado is probably most famous amongst foreigners for its incredible diving. In order to reach Pulau Bunaken (Bunaken Island), possibly Indonesia’s most well-known diving spot, one must pass through Manado. Even parts of the city butt up against the ocean, and there are several points that apparently offer great snorkeling without needing to leave the city. After falling in love with the ocean while living in Gorontalo, I always loved ending up by the ocean whenever I had a chance to visit Manado.
Kota Manado is, without a doubt, a city. Amongst those who live on Sulawesi It is perhaps most famous for its abundance of malls. And there truly are a number of them. Traffic in Manado sometimes echoes that of Jakarta, although my friends tell me the traffic in Manado is largely caused by the excess mikrolet or angkot (a form of public transportation), rather than merely due to overpopulation.
Manado is one of the few majority-Christian areas in Sulawesi, which does make it somewhat different from the places I have lived, all of which have been majority Muslim. There are churches, rather than mosques, around every corner, and Christmas, I have been told, is a months-long affair in Manado.
Religion may also play a role in the diet of many Manadonese as well. Pork, of course, becomes an option in a non-Muslim area. But the Manadonese are famous for eating “anything that walks on land, swims in the sea, or flies in the air,” and there are markets in Manado famous for selling such delicacies as bat, scorpion, rat, and snake. RW, or dog, is also a common dish in Manado. Many of these are also not permitted to be consumed if one is Muslim, as they are considered kotor (dirty), but these particular dishes probably have less to do with religion than the cultures of the area that existed long before Christianity or Islam was introduced to Indonesia.
Manado is an interesting place, very different from the rest of Sulawesi, but at the same time it also still feels very much like many of the other areas in Sulawesi. It is a fascinating place, one I wish I had been able to explore further.