Ambon/Saparua

After Raja Ampat we flew to Ambon. It was a bit of a culture shock, a very busy and noisy city of about 400,000 people, but after a day or so, we got into it. Well sort of. I got sick, like I had the worst cold in SEA history. Coughing like a dog, sinuses full of snot and feeling really badly under the weather. For exploring the Spice Islands, not so good!

Initially we had the idea of going to Banda, but you can only go on a Monday or Tuesday and you can only get back on a Thursday (but you couldn’t book your ticket ahead of time on the one Cessna which flew to the islands) or on a Sunday by ferry. It didn’t really fit into our schedule (with only 30 days to explore the outliers of Indonesia, there is not a lot of wiggle room) and while we were trying to make it work and exploring other options, we met a Dutchie who lives on the Moluccas during the Dutch winters. He’d been pretty much all over the Maluku Islands so he turned out to be the best travel guide ever.

Since we only had a few days, he suggested to go to the Lease Islands (pronounced leh-a-say islands). A group of islands fairly close to Ambon and with regular ferry connections to and from the various islands. When googling the place we figured Saparua would be our best bet and so off we went. I was barking like a dog, blowing my nose every two minutes and not feeling well at all. But after a 24 hours’ sleep in Ambon, we figured I might as well be sick in a hammock somewhere.

 

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Being sick in the hammock on Saparua Island

The thought was theoretically perfect, unfortunately the execution was less so. The place we had chosen was another inclusive place. The local food (three times a day) was beautiful, so no complaints there. The hut in itself was ok, plain but functional but also very dusty. The bathroom on the other hand was horrible. The guest before us had left a little present in the toilet and everything in there seemed gross. We figured the ladies at the ‘resort’ love cooking, but cleaning not so much. The place was not cheap (like Raja Ampat there is no competition, so everyone can ask highly inflated prices) so we were a little upset with the whole thing.

We were the only guests there, and no one spoke any English as the boss man had just left that morning. With Google translate you can get some basic things done, but chatting and exchanging information is more challenging, let alone arguing and complaining. So we took our rescue in the hammocks, where we chilled most of the day. We did see some dolphins pass right in front of our noses; that was uber cool. One of them even did a backflip, which only happens of course when you don’t have a camera ready to go.

All in all, we had made peace with our situation, mostly because for that day there was nowhere else to go. We were stuck on the island and (hard to believe but) the place we were in was rated best of Saparua! So that didn’t bode well for any of the other places. After dinner we made our way back to our hut, and then we unfolded the mosquito net. I swear to God, it had not been washed since the 90s (when the place was established). Imagine having to go in and out several times a night and having to touch that grimy net! Disgusting!

That was it! Feeling horrible already, having to sleep in a dingy hut with a grimy mosquito net and a toilet with surprises, I’d had enough. I completely lost it and in the middle of the night I broke down. Poor hubby was sleeping the sleep of the innocent and had no idea what was going on.

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Escaping Saparua Island

In the morning our packing up was done quickly and we fled Saparua Island on a little private speedboat to the most luxurious spa hotel on Ambon. The new place had been booked online that morning for almost the same price as our place in Saparua although food other than breakfast was not included. Immediately on arrival, after a welcoming drink and a quick look at the pristine pool overlooking the ocean and the restaurant menu which actually listed wine (for the first time since Penang!). No comparison!

Unfortunately we had to leave the spa hotel after one night because it was fully booked by the local police force who had planned a bicycle race for charity that weekend, so we moved back into the center of town, close to the restaurants we liked. The day before we had to leave, I finally started to feel better, and we got ourselves a driver to show us the sites of the island.

The island is a lot bigger than we thought and accompanied by ‘Michael Learns To Rock’ (or MLTR) we toured around for the next 8 hours. We saw the fort, the most beautiful beach according to the Ambonese (Liang Beach, mostly because it is a good place to party during holidays, not so on a regular Friday), the giant fresh water eels in Waai, the most beautiful beach according to us (Natsepa beach), we ate the best Rujak ever and then went to see Pintu Kota Beach, the most famous one of all.

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We loved the drive (MLTR not so much though) and if I ever get the chance I’d love to come back here in healthy mode and do some exploring of the other islands properly. People everywhere are super friendly and helpful. Nature is beautiful and apparently in some places snorkeling and diving is amazing, all of which we missed out on unfortunately. There are many, many islands in the Moluccas and although Banda is the most touristic one, there are other, better islands closer to Ambon. Just be prepared for doing some light housework yourself….

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