Those Islands on the Far East

Ever wonder why you need to take a holiday every once and a while? Here’s some good reasons!

1. Because it is okay to leave your routines, works, e-mails, all works-related once a while and retreat to a beautiful beach with white sands and coconut tree where you can sit leaning to that coconut tree and read some actually good books instead of bury your head in tons of office paperworks that are seriously, will never ending. There will always be another paperworks and another and another and….

2. Because you are bored. Boredom dulls your creativity, clouding the inspiration you need to, for example, ace your undergraduate theses, boredom making you see the world in a boring way and years of that could lead you to a boring you.

3. Holiday is holiday. Hooo-lyyy-daaaay. No reason not to be excited about it, you gotta take care of yourselves, discover the world with your own eyes.

That, being said, beyond any plans and expectations, suddenly I got a 10 days Christmas holiday to, as my friend Jody the Red Ranger said, one of the real paradise on earth. He is not overrating it because, yes, that place definitely is a paradise land!! And that place was…

*drum rolls*
The last time I went back to this little piece of heaven was almost three years ago. I was really surprised when Mom came to me and told me something like “let’s go back home to Ambon, visit gramps for a few days.” I was jumping, way higher than my 11 years old brother because, this is Ambon, and this year my cousins are also going back home for Christmas, so it’s like a big family reunion, and… how can I not be excited about that?

Ambon is an island located on the north side of Banda Sea, part of chain of volcanic islands. She is also a part of the Maluku Island, which is separated by deep deep deeeeep waters from both Asian and Australian continent and said to be the islands that have never been connected to any of the continents by its land. Ambon is basically surrounded by oceans. And that makes the island have gorgeous beaches.

So where exactly is this Ambon place?
This is, you know, the world.
This is Indonesia.
See the island that looks like the letter of K? And the other one on the far right that looks like a.. bird? Okay. So the “K” island is called Sulawesi, or Celebes in English. The one on your right is the Papua island. All of this matters because I need those two islands to show you where Ambon is on the map. And because I want you to remember those two islands’s names since they too have amazing things to offer. Ambon’s set of islands spread between those two islands. They look small but believe me, they have big things going on. Ambon is rich of spices – the nutmeg, cloves and also mace, which by the way,was all the reason why Portuguese and Spaniards and Netherlanders came here hundreds of years ago in the first place. She is also consisted of endless beautiful beaches, deep cultures and obviously, delicious sea food. Yum.

Now, shall we begin?

A Shield Maiden of Maluku
My journey to this eastern paradise start with a very, very, too early flight. Alarm won’t stop bugging so I woke up and walked to the bathroom with my eyes half closed, and successfully fell asleep during shower. The last time I fell asleep while taking a shower probably was like, 8 or 10 years ago during junior high school time. HAHA. It takes roughly 3 hours to fly from Jakarta to Ambon, and around 45 minutes addition if you have to stop over, usually in a city called Makassar. Ambon’s one and only international airport is Pattimura Airport, and it is not really a grandeur airport, and has no wi-fi working either. But… it is enough to merely serve as a port of entry. It is located in Laha, just outside of the city of Ambon.

My suggestion? Let those porters take care of your baggage (if you have ones), it will make your life easier. Then pay them around 20,000 rupiahs, they will be glad and so will you. Breath the tropical air and remind yourself that Ambon is literally surrounded by ocean, so naturally it is striking hot by day. Drink plenty of waters, use pretty hats, invest on some decent sunscreens and put them on, the last thing you would want is a stroke heat (not cool at all), premature sunburn even before you step your feet on the beaches, or worse, a bigger chance of skin cancer.

Okay now, there are public transportation with clear writings on top of them telling you where that particular angkot is going (see here if you have no idea what an angkot looks like), and there is also other option if you are willing to pay extra money. Angkot costs you around 3,000 rupiahs, I have never encounter an angkot charge you more than 5,000 rupiah. If they do, they’re jerks, fight them. Other option is to rent a car with the driver that will take you from Pattimura Airport to the city for 150,000 rupiahs. Nope, there are no cab here. Actually, those cars are the cab.

The first place I visited in Ambon was Karang Panjang. Karang Panjang is a hilly area and was famous for the 8-meters-tall statue of Christina Martha Tiahahu, a national heroine that fought the Dutch colonialism in Indonesia.
That’s her. All straight back and fiercely gazing upon the city ahead.
This statue is built with Christina holding the spear, gazing over the city of Ambon and its bay, as if she was stand guarding Ambon. A shield maiden, she was. Her father was Captain Paulus Tiahahu of the Ulupati clan, the very best friend of Pattimura, Ambon’s most famous fighter and yes, the international airport was named after him. Captain Paulus Tiahahu led a unit that was a back-up unit for Pattimura during the war. He was unhappy that his little girl (aged 17 that time) developed a persistent will to go along with him into the war. But he was pretty much could not do anything about that anyway since Christina practically was raised around the soldiers. Her mother died when she was an infant and Christina was described as a strong willed and stubborn girl, and her main activity was to follow her father everywhere he goes including when the captain was planning a battle.

Christina bravely fought in several battles and nicely participated in an attack to the Duurstede fortress in Saparua, her hometown. Along with her father and Pattimura, their forces killed all the Dutchmen inside the fortress in the year of 1817. Their number actually was not that large, that time Indonesia was not yet united thoroughly, and resistance movement was done sporadically, so in a matter of a year, Christina, her father and his bestfriend was captured. Pattimura was immediately sentenced to death and hanged in Ambon the very next day. Christina’s father was facing the same fate but Christina herself was released, considering her young age. Probably the Dutch was hoping Christina learned her lesson and stopped playing around with spears and find other hobby beside getting herself involved in guerilla style of war.

Christina did learn her lesson. That she was, from the very beginning was a protector of her people, of her land, of her home, so she fought back and she fought hard. She had no other thing to do, beside freeing her land of the Dutch and hopefully rescuing her father in the process. Outnumbered, Christina was captured again. This time, it was the Dutch who learned their lesson. They could not underestimate this fierce young lady of Saparua, so they put her on board a ship to Java island, where she would be working as a slave at the Dutch’s coffee plantation.

Christina would rather die. 

She refused to eat anything and when fell sick, she refused any medication. Then on January 2nd, two days before her 18th birthday, she died. She received the burial at the sea and every year on her birthday, people will cast thousands of flower petals into Banda Sea on a special ceremony dedicated to remember what she had done to free her land.

And that ends the story of a shield maiden of Maluku, the brave Christina Martha Tiahahu. Karang Panjang hill’s view of the bay and the city is at its best during sunset. When I was going there I had some luxurious view of the bloody red skies and a magnificent sunset, but by the time I reached Karang Panjang, the sun was fully set. But here, I’ve been googling the picture for you so you would have the rough idea of what I’ve been talking about 😀
this beautiful shot was taken from here
the last bit of sunset my camera managed to capture
If you are interested and fascinated in the tale of Christina Martha Tiahahu, you could actually extend your trip to Duurstede Fortress located in Saparua. You will have to take a boat from Ambon city and make an hour trip to reach Saparua. I haven’t been there yet tough, so I don’t have detailed information on that. Who knows maybe you’ll go there first and tell me instead 😀

A Still of Christmas

Christmas tree from rice sack materials. Yep,  it’s on the street
Since I went back to Ambon during Christmas period, I thought it probably would be fun telling you about Christmas tradition in Ambon. Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, at least for me, and Christmas in Ambon is very special. People really got into this mood of celebration and prepare everything neatly. Everyone will get creative and decorate their homes, gardens, street with Christmas ornament and Christmas lights.

Being in Jakarta almost whole my life, it is way so different celebrating Christmas here in Ambon. People make christmas tree out of rice sacks, used pet bottles, fishermen used their fishing thread to create the shape of Christmas tree with the help of some woods then attach christmas lights on it. In Jakarta, you will mostly see the decorations inside shopping malls. So it was a brand new experience, celebrating Christmas here.
This one is the Christmas tree from Lapangan Merdeka, the city square of Ambon
People also make all kind of noises. Fireworks of all sorts, firecrackers, mini explosion sounds here and there and this special little thing! The Bamboo Cannon.

Photo was taken from here
While bamboo cannon requires, obviously, bamboo to make, the joyous people of Ambon choose to use a slightly easier-to-get material: used tin can! So they recreate the bamboo cannon using used tin can, tape, used plastic bottle and also used parts of a lighter.

My cousin ready to get the cannon on the show

See how my cousin’s expression was? Hahahaha..

The sound of the cannon actually are 4-5 times louder than the one on the video, depends on how many methanol/ethanol/alcohol you put inside the cannon. Children of all ages (including this guy here who happened to be my cousin and happened to be 28 years old or something) LOVE to play with this cannon. 
Combined with other firecrackers, paper trumpets, fireworks (even before Christmas and/or New Year) and laughing sounds here and there, they sort of marking the beginning of the joyous and festive mood of the month over the whole city.

It is maybe late but.. merry christmas and happy new year! 🙂

Published by reylasano

she writes your stories

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