Our itinerary originally had one half day in Ambon. Lion Air had other ideas and maybe thought that was not enough time to get a good grasp on the city. So to avoid another Lion Air screw up we arrive an entire day early.
Ambon is truly an Asian City. Busy, noisy and sweltering hot. The roads are jammed with vehicles. Mostly scooters, but there are many more cars than Ubud or Lembongan. The use of the ‘talking horn’ is still prevalent but it is not a constant as in some cities. The beep, beep is meant to tell other drivers, ‘hey, I’m passing’ or ‘I’m just around the blind corner so if you’re there watch out’, sometimes I think it means ‘hi friend’.
Ambon’s motto is ‘the city of music’. And to its name as we spend 3 hours walking around town on Saturday afternoon there are numerous times we hear music. Not just from a passing auto or from someone’s house but live music in the city square, and very loud amplified music from a school yard dance for the students. There is music at the restaurants, not so unusual, but as I type this at 7pm I hear singing from somewhere on the street and it is not quiet. There is the Muslim call to prayer that plays over the several minarets around town and although it might not be considered music to some it is very lyrical and I find I have to stop and listen. I enjoy the tones, the tempo, the pauses, just the way the whole things sounds.
The music everywhere, the street noise, and the regular noise of the city makes for a very loud din. My ears are ringing for the first time since we arrived in Indonesia. All of this may not be some peoples cup of tea but I find it energizing.
Ambon is definitely off the tourist route. We met a couple of folks from the Netherlands today in the lobby of our hotel and there were a couple of other white skinned people at the hotel restaurant having dinner. (We were too lazy to go find a place to eat tonight, we bad) but those are the only obvious tourist types we have run into.
Every where we went today we were greeted with ‘Hi mister’. Not a lot of English here but everyone has that down pat. We did feel like we were quite an anomaly. One other thing people want of a camera carrying tourist is their photo taken. Several times in the couple of hours on the road we heard ‘hey mister, photo’. I would oblige and then show them the result. One of the advantages of the digital age and the cameras that came along with it.
Another indication not many people include Ambon on their tour route is the lack of restaurants. Not just tourist restaurants but any kind of food establishments. There are a few traditional Indonesian restaurants with whatever is on offer that day in a non heated, not refrigerated sneeze guard, but these are a bit sketchy for gringos. The food is spicy so that probably helps but it has been in 30C heat all day and might not sit well in untrained stomachs. We finally came across a very crowded café, the Pelangi. When we find the place it is chock full of local people. There were a couple of seats so we sat down. Great lunch, freshly cooked and pretty tasty.
All in all Ambon is a pretty casual place. Although busy it is not threatening at all. The traffic seems to have a tolerance for pedestrians and especially tourists. As we walked slowly across the street, cars and scooters actually stopped for us. The people are super friendly. They are not aggressively trying to sell us something or upset because we are invading their private world. They seem more intrigued we would be here at all. Really, although there is not much here that would be considered tourist worthy, no theme park or zip line, it is a good place to see what the country is really like. What makes the citizens tick.