Saturday, August 14, 2010

Playing Hooky in Ambon

Heading east to the Maluku Islands, formerly known as the Moluccas, had always been on my things-to-do-before-I-die list, thanks to the alluring descriptions in travel guidebooks and images friends had posted on Facebook. So when my editor assigned me to cover Sail Banda 2010 on an invitation from the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, I believed I was the luckiest writer in the office.

I woke up early for a sleepy-eyed cab ride to Soekarno-Hatta International Airport to catch my flight for Ambon, the capital of Maluku province.

The rushed and panicked crowd milling around the check-in counter of the low-cost airline I was flying with made it feel more like a hectic marketplace than an airport.

The flight to Ambon took about four hours, with a 20-minute transfer at Makassar Airport in South Sulawesi.

I took the opportunity to look around the new terminal, built in 2008, and its bright, modern interior put gloomy, dull Soekarno-Hatta to shame.

Stepping off the plane at Ambon’s Pattimura Airport, I was immediately aware that I was quite far away from home, both physically and psychologically.

The way people looked, talked and called to each other was different, and that’s what I’m after when traveling. Ambonese people tend to be tall, dark-skinned and speak in fast, high-pitched voices that get even faster near the end of their sentences.

The first thing that excited me was when I heard people use the word “beta,” which means “I” in its land of origin.

Full article by Ade Mardiyati

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