Saturday, May 3, 2014

Singing Songs of Nature at the Mollucas part 1: Ambon island, and Ora Beach at Seram

I was not really sure what to expect as I boarded that very early flight to Ambon from Makassar. All I wanted to have was a little break, a little adventure on my own again, after two weeks of nerve-wrecking days at work. 
Little did I know that I would be surprised at every single corner. 

This part of my country, the Mollucas, have always been a mystery to me. With its rich spice history, and stories of Bandaneira from some of my relatives who happen to come from that part of Mollucas, have always been intriguing. Yet all I could imagine was dark, blue, deep sea at some parts; and crystal clear sea with beautiful coral gardens at others. With hints of smell of cloves here and there. A very exotic picture, even for me as an Indonesian. 

So when I arrived in Ambon, I couldn’t wait to explore.

And yup. I was D.E.L.I.G.H.T.E.D by my short stay enable me to say confidently, that I will be back one day, I must!.

As a brief introduction to Ambon, sometimes people forget that the island of Ambon actually covers two peninsulas: Leitimur, and Leihitu or Hitu. Leitimur is dominated by Christians, while in Leihitu it is predominantly muslims.

Leitimur is where city of Ambon, the capital of South Maluku, lies. And perhaps driven by that fact, this peninsula is a lot more developed than Leihitu. And so places of interests are also a lot more developed (though I have to warn whoever is reading this, developed does not always mean great. I think my countrymen and women need  a long training on how to keep a place clean...). 

Leihitu on the other hand, is more rural and traditional. But it was EXACTLY that that really touched my heart and got my liking. It was here that I’ve finally found traditional houses of Ambon with their charming thatched roof and the adaptation of European facade with the tropical weather.

So whoever is going to Ambon, don’t just roam around Leitimur. Don’t just think of Ambon as a transit place to go further out to Seram or Banda or the Kei islands. Explore the peninsulas first – you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. 

Ambon – the City of Music, and other amazing parts of Leitimur

Leitimur - my first point to explore

I read in many reviews that Ambon is often described as a small, crowded, city. I guess there is some truth in it. But, don’t let that discourage you. I actually find Ambon very charming with its landscape. And it definitely made me soooo jealous of whoever lives there, for you can reach so many great beaches within minutes!. 

And the title, City of Music, really describes the whole ambiance of the city. Everywhere I turned, there would be music in my ears. Every single angkot, or inner city transport, will have a blaring music from its sound system.

 Leihitu - a place in history 

Since the first time I browsed about Ambon, I knew I had to go to Hila. This was the point where Islam finally flourished in Ambon. And interestingly enough, the oldest mosque AND church in Ambon, reside in Hila.

And when I visited Siwa Lima museum, I saw the miniatures of the church and mosque and learned about the story of the mosque. My interest rose!.

But what I did not expect, was that I would find many traditional Ambon houses in this place. I tried searching for them while roaming around in Leitimur, but couldn’t find any. So I was so delighted to see them in Hila.

Ora Beach at Seram island 

Seram island is part of Central Maluku. Masohi, the capital of Central Maluku, is located on this island. 

I did not plan to go to Ora, was planning to visit Saparua because I knew it took 6 - 7 hours from Ambon to go to Ora and that seemed to be too much for a short visit. But when I was already in Ambon, locals convinced me to go to Ora. So I planned to spend 2 nights there. Unfortunately, all rooms were full booked for the 2 night I planned to stay there so I had to be happy with just one night. 

Apparently, the 6 - 7 hours journey was not hard at all because all roads were smooth, and the view everywhere was just great to enjoy. 

And I was very impressed at the speed boat I took from Tulehu to Masohi. It was very organised!. Everyone got a seat number - whether you took the Executive or the Regular class. And, the best thing was, it was on time - both ways. This was so different from my experience using speed boat or ferry in Java and Sumatra, where it tends to be quite unorganised, chaotic even at busy times. To experience such regularity and order, was such a nice surprise.  

And if you think you’ll find roads that are not in good condition in this place so far out, well, be ready to get surprised. Roads are very smooth. I only experienced 30 minutes of dirt road towards Saleman, just before crossing to Ora beach. 

And Ora beach itself. was heaven on earth.

And with all those visual memories in my head, I can only say it was time well spent. Even that only one night at Ora, though I had to go at 7 from Ambon to arrive at Ora beach resort at 2pm only to go again at 10 the next morning, was not a night I regretted.

But of course, I haven't gotten enough dose of South and Central Maluku. I only barely touched it. So I will be back, one day. 

I miss the sky, the clear water, the charming friendly people, the crazy blaring music from the angkot, and also the food!

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