Exploring Maluku: The Journey to Ora Beach

This article is part 1 of 6 in the series Exploring Maluku

“Attention to all passengers of Lion Air heading to Ambon, please board the plane immediately.”

The announcement to board the plane is finally announced. Our flight to the main capital of the Moluccas (Maluku), Ambon, was supposed to depart more than an hour ago. But unfortunately, there was a delay, which none of the staffs bothered to announce. Oh well, what would Lion Air be without all the notorious delays and bad service? This airline was and is still known for that! None of the passengers seemed to be worried or bothered about the delay, though โ€“ which kind of proved that everyone expected it. Wouldn’t it better for Lion Air to change its motto from “We make people fly” to “We make people wait”?

Ambon island from the sky
Ambon island from the sky

The journey to Ambon took about 4 hours โ€“ surprisingly far as it’s still part of Indonesia. I guess one needs to travel to realise how enormous this country is. This is my first ever trip to the Eastern part of Indonesia and I am quite thrilled by it! I am actually on the way there! It’s a dream for every Indonesian to be able to travel to this part of the country as the transport is not exactly cheap. Spending our honeymoon here is truly a dream come true! In the airplane, I am surrounded by a majority of Indonesians who have dark skin and different facial features (than I am used to) and are speaking languages I do not understand. It feels strange. It feels like I am in another world. I feel like I am flying overseas!! It proves how diverse Indonesia is. It’s surreal and exciting at the same time ๐Ÿ™‚

As we approach the main hub of Eastern Indonesia, we can see an array of mountainous islands with beautiful shores. The island of Ambon is covered in green with hilly lands, signifying the lack of development that has engulfed the islands of Sumatera and Java. We arrive in a sunny Ambon at 8:30 AM, much later than we expected. Pak Toni, the driver from the Ora Beach Resort, greets us and immediately tells us that we missed our boat to Seram Island. What a disappointing welcome gesture! ๐Ÿ˜€ I was already thinking about jumping into the sea as soon as I reach Ora โ€“ that dream needs to be shelved for awhile. Gotta wait for tomorrow when the sun is up!

Not knowing where else to go, Pak Toni brings us to a resort, not far from the airport, which is owned by Ora Beach. The ride to the resort is quite interesting. There are many crosses of different sizes along the main road, which signify Christian villages. There are some villages in between that have no crosses, in which mosques are spotted around the area. A number of crosses stand along the main road and houses โ€“ I’ve never seen anything like this anywhere before! Is this a common sight that can be found in the east of Indonesia? If not, has it been like this for many years? Or is this clear separation between Muslims and Christians done after the infamous sectarian conflict that has scarred the region known for its pluralistic society? I have too many unanswered questions in my head about the conflict and I do not know if this is the right time to ask those questions to the locals. Is the conflict a taboo topic to discuss here? Will I get in trouble by asking this? Curiosity killed the cat, they said. Perhaps I should save those questions for another time!

The statue and monument of Martha Christina Tiahahu
The statue and monument of Martha Christina Tiahahu

Instead of doing nothing in the resort, we decided to do a short tour around Ambon with Pak Toni. We drive towards the city centre on the other side of the island to the monuments of Pattimura and Martha Christina Tiahahu, two of the well-known war heroes who fought against the Duch colonials. As a kid, I used to read a lot of stories about these fighters; in particular the women fighters. I was and still am very fascinated by their strength, determination, and will to fight this country for the independence. Christina Tiahahu is one of them. This statue of her โ€“ stands 8 meters tall atop a hill overlooking the Banda Sea, where she was buried at the age of 17 โ€“ honours her struggles and fight against colonialism during the Dutch era. It’s crazy to imagine how young she was! These days, people would think a young girl like her does not have a “proper” childhood, but really, ask yourself: did you do anything significant before you turned 17?! Well, then, just shut your mouth up, can you? ๐Ÿ˜›

Bubara fish for one person
Bubara fish for one person

The city of Ambon is beautiful as seen from the other part of the island, but somehow I get less excited when we are actually there. I guess modern cities are no longer my cup of tea anymore. The 500k Rupiahs that we paid to Pak Toni for the tour feels like a total rip-off. It is quite expensive and we regret paying that much. What can we do? Nasi sudah menjadi bubur (“The rice has become porridge”). So we tell him to bring us to a good place to eat that is famous among the locals here. Not knowing what to expect, we arrive at Dua Ikan Restaurant in Lateri, an empty restaurant for such a big place. It has a nice ambience overlooking the Ambon Bay. Both my husband and I have zero ideas on Moluccan foods so we ask Pak Toni to order for us. He orders 3 fresh Bubara fish (giant trevally) and a vegetable dish called Bunga Pepaya. In Jakarta, a fish is most probably shared and consumed by 3-4 people. But in Moluccas, with is rich with fish and other sea creatures, everyone gets to eat one fish alone. Yep, alone and no one to share with. The lunch costs us close to 500k Rupiahs but it is worth every penny! We both love it!

The monument of Martha Christina Tiahahu
The monument of Martha Christina Tiahahu

By 3.30 PM, we board the express ferry heading for Seram Island. The ferry seems very packed with people and their goods. I wonder if there are still some empty seats left. I catch a glimpse of the lower deck and it does not look bad at all. We follow one of the staffs to the upper deck, who directs us to our seats. Surprisingly, this ferry is equipped with VIP and VVIP classes! It looks clean and brand new! And we are both told to sit at the VIP class. Wow, I did not know that we are booked for a VIP class! It’s such a comfortable deck, with only a few people here. In the end, VIP or not VIP, it does not make any difference, I think. Both Foogie and I immediately fall asleep as we have not had enough rest since we boarded the plane in Jakarta last night. After around 2.5 hours, we arrive in Amahai, located at the edge of Seram Island.

Dua Ikan Restaurant
Dua Ikan Restaurant

Our driver, Pak Udin, greets us at the ferry terminal of Amahai. The journey from Amahai to Saleman Village takes about two hours, before continuing on a short boat ride to the Ora Beach Resort. Yep, it is a long, tiring journey to see this paradise on earth. Common scenes of Christian crosses and mosques are seen along the road to Saleman. Banners about the Easter Day decorate each town we pass by. Churches of different Christian denominations are scattered everywhere. Reminders and Gospel messages about Christianity and Jesus are a common sight. I am quite amazed by this. Even my husband, who was a practising Christian, is surprised to see it. If we look at the statistics, we shouldn’t be surprised why such scene is common โ€“ almost half of population in Maluku province are actually Christians. That probably explains why ๐Ÿ™‚

Bhinneka Tunggal Ika. Unity in Diversity.

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