Ambon: The Center of Maluku Province

The small island of Ambon was the centre of Dutch administration in Maluku, and today bustling Ambon city remains the main city of majority Christian southern Maluku province, even though a new provincial capital has been designated on Seram in 2013. Ambon has a mixed Christian-Muslim population and suffered from horrible communal violence between 1999-2002. Now that peace has returned, its excellent transport connections and facilities once again make it the common gateway to Maluku, and its colonial forts, green hills and pleasant beaches can also make it a worthy destination in its own right.

The island is made up by two "peninsulas", which are almost separate islands, joined by a narrow isthmus. Leitimur, the smaller, more densly populated half is majority Christian, and is also where Kota Ambon, Maluku's capital is situated. Leihitu, the larger peninsula is more sparsely populated and has a majority Muslim population. Due to its relative remoteness from Kota Ambon it recieves fewer visitors and has preserved its traditional culture better. While many visitors only ever see the city itself, they are missing the best of Pulau Ambon. Everyone should visit the beautiful rural parts of the island, and those with a few days to spare should also make an effort to visit the delightful, nearby Lease Islands: Haruku makes an interesting day-trip, Saparua is the best relaxing getaway for an overnight stay, while tiny, unspoilt Nusalaut is totally off the beaten track. With a week or so extra time, you could also consider visiting the large island of Seram.

Attractions Off the Track Tourist Traps Activities Shopping Local Culture Safety Getting There Accommodation Food

Main Attractions

Tourist Offices

There are two tourist offices in Kota Ambon.
The Maluku Province Tourist Office stands on the hillside above the Commonwealth War Cemetery in the Tantui neighbourhood. It has excellent, separate booklets on Ambon Island and the Bandas, and shorter but still very informative leaflets on other islands and archipelagoes in the province: Lease, Seram, Buru, Kei, Aru and Tanimbar. These are some of the best-written in all Indonesia.
The Ambon Municipality Tourist Office is on the ground floor of the City Hall (Balai Kota) in the very centre of the city. It has several brochures on the city and its surrounds, notably the Leitimur Peninsula.

 

 Benteng Victoria

This Dutch colonial fort in the centre of the city is currently occupied by the army and is not open for public inspection. Its main gate has been heavily modernized with the help of a couple of buckets of bright paint, so those desperate to catch a glimpse of what it may once have looked like should bear to the left, where a short, unrestored section of the original wall with inscriptions is still visible near a petrol station.

Pattimura Monument

Once standing in the very centre of Kota Ambon right next to the open field in front of the governor's office, this criminally ugly statue commemorates Maluku's best known "freedom fighter" - born on nearby Saparua island as Thomas Matulessy. Indonesia has plenty of ugly statues and monuments, but this one manages to outdo most - the main reason to have a look. By early 2008, the local government has sponsored a new, much more decent statue of the hero, standing in pretty much the same location. The monster  has been moved to a less prominent location on the grounds of the Siwalima Museum.

Tiahahu Monument

Standing high above Kota Ambon and looking over some of the best views of the entire island, the statue of Martha Christina Tiahahu commemorates another Malukan freedom fighter - this time a young girl from Nusalaut island. She is said to have fought alongside her father against the Dutch, and died at sea of hunger-strike after the Dutch captured her and put her on a ship to exile in Java. A far nicer statue than Pattimura's, and the view alone makes the trip up here worthwhile.

Churches

As you would expect from a colonial town with a Christian majority, Kota Ambon is home to numerous imposing churches.
Few are worth seeking out for their architecture, the grand, new Cathedral with its fine statues being a major exception. However the most visible symbol of Christianity is the Maranatha Church next to the governor's office. It was zelously guarded during the conflict, and can be seen from far out in the bay.

 

Mosques

The city also has some fine mosques, with new ones being built all the time. The one on this photo from Batumerah is one of the best of the new constructions, while the finest old specimen is the green Jami Mosque standing next the the much larger but ugly Mesjid Raya in the centre close to the port.

The Commonwealth War Cemetery

Commemorating the allied soldiers (mostly Australians) who died here fighting the Japanese in WW II, this cemetery is in beautifully landscaped grounds with manicured lawns and huge rain trees. Even if you aren't interested in military history, this is a peaceful haven from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Indonesian Heroes' Park

Not to be outdone by the Commonwealth, Indonesia has also established a similar memorial nearby, dedicated to the soldiers who fought to keep South Maluku in Indonesia. It is however far less attractive, with an overdose of concrete.

Siwalima Museum

One of the finest provincial museums in all Indonesia, the Siwalima Museum stands on a steep hillside on the western outskirts of Kota Ambon. It has a very well-presented (and well-labelled!) collection of ethnographic objects from all over Maluku (including North Maluku), with the emphasis on ritual carvings from the South-West. There are also ikat weavings, old chinaware, and the recreation of a local raja's room. The small souvenir shop nearby has some fine crafts, and the library has a good collection of books about the archeology and ethnography of the rest of Indonesia - the books covering Maluku are safely locked away!

Balinese temple

In the unlikely event that you have come to Ambon before making it to Bali, you could check out the Balinese Hindu temple clinging to the hillside right next to the entrance to the Siwalima Museum. And it could be worth asking if a festival is coming up - you never know, you may just strike it lucky!

Maritime Museum

Located on the same grounds as the Siwalima but lower down, closer to the road, this museum is devoted to the marine life of Maluku, as well as the history of fishing and navigation in the region. It is all interesting enough, however the star attractions are the enormous skeletons of whales that have beached around the island.

Off the Beaten Track

Mountain villages of Leitimur

The Christian villages in the hills behind the city have a tranquil atmosphere all their own. They are very neat, often have colonial buildings like old churches, and are surrounded by spice groves. If you don't get to remoter islands, they will give you a good idea of what the rest of Maluku may have to offer.

Soya Atas

The most famous of the mountain villages is Soya Atas. It is located very high up, and is home to a beautiful old church.
Many of the buildings here are relatively recent reconstructions, the originals having been destroyed in the conflict - by a group of Christian provocateurs, not Muslims, it was found out later! Nevertheless, the village remains so quaint, that having visited it both "before and after", I had trouble believing it was ever destroyed indeed! Soya Atas also has several ancient megaliths, and the mystical "Devil's Urn" that is never empty of water.

Beaches of Southern Leitimur

Falling somewhere between the tourist trap and off the beaten path categories are several beaches on the southern coast of Leitimur. They are pretty developed with picnic shelters, foodstalls, in a few cases even accommodation, and of course the inevitable ticket booth charging you for entry. The beaches themselves are not particularly beautiful, but are still a pleasant enough escape from the city if you come during the week when you are likely to find them pretty quiet. Namalatu and Santai beaches are the two most popular spots.

Pintu Kota

If a sandy beach is not your priority, continue eastward past the aforementioned beaches on the south coast to reach Pintu Kota. Here a rock archway overlooks a pretty scenic, though rocky bay. When the seas are calm, snorkelling here could be worth trying, otherwise follow the path to the top of the rock with the arch to see fine views of the mountains of Leitimur, and the remote, rugged coastline further east.

Waai

This Christian village on the east coast of Leihitu is famous for its sacred eels, living in a pool of crystal clear water which is also used by locals for bathing and washing a bit downstream. The eels often hide among the rocks, in which case you will have to pay a local to lure them out with eggs. This is supposed to be justified by the belief that spotting these eels brings you good luck.

Tulehu Hot Springs

The Muslim village of Tulehu just before Waai is of most importance to travellers as a transit point to catch boats to the Lease Islands or to Seram. However, it also has hot springs 2 kms inland, that are very popular with locals on weekends. On Saturday and Sunday they can get very crowded (as on this photo), but you could enjoy the warm waters much more peacefully during the week. It's an interesting change from the beaches!

Pulau Pombo

This postcard-perfect little islet surrounded by white sands is sitting in the straits between Ambon and Haruku, to the north-east of Waai. If you are not going to visit remoter parts of Maluku, chartering a boat to bring you out here could provide that essential "desert island" experience!

Liang beach

At the end of the road up the east coast of Leihitu is Liang village. Here a gorgeous, unspoilt white-sand beach stretches to the west with not another tourist in sight. You'd have to travel a long way to find another beach as fine as this one! Note however, that while rarely visited by tourists and deserted for much of the week, on weekends city dwellers descend on this beach en masse! You might want to avoid visiting then. It is now also possible to stay on this beach - read below.

Muslim villages of Leihitu

The Muslim villages on the north coast of the Leihitu peninsula are where the islands' traditions continue to thrive. While Christian Ambonese nowadays speak only Malay, the Muslim villages here have preserved their native tongues, traditional ceremonies and a more rustic architectural style. This sparsely populated, beautifully hilly and green area feels really remote from the city.

Tengah-tengah

This Muslim village on the east coast of Leihitu is bypassed by the main road and therefore sees few outsiders. Nevertheless it is one of the most scenic villages on Pulau Ambon, with many of its tightly-packed, old-fashioned houses (many with thatched roofs) clinging to the steep hillside.

Benteng Amsterdam

Standing by the seaside in the north coast village of Hila, this is the island's finest remaining piece of colonial architecture, and in fact one of the best forts in all Maluku. The caretaker can open it up so that you can climb the stairs inside. Afterwards you will have to sign a guestbook and offer a donation.

Tourist Traps

Natsepa Beach

Not far up the east coast of Leihitu, Natsepa is Ambon's most famous, and for long time, most popular beach. Songs have been written to praise its beauty and every local will tell you to visit. It might then come as a shock to discover that Natsepa is not much of a beach by Malukan standards - it's more like a short, shallow stretch of the cost that becomes a broad mud-flat during low-tide. It has the inevitable ticket-office charging you for entry, and countless food-stalls mostly selling rujak (spicy fruit salad) for which Natsepa is also famous. On weekends it becomes extremely crowded. If still curious, it's easy to stop to have a quick look on the way to eastern Leihitu. During the week it is less crowded.

Alternative: Keep going north to Liang for a really fine beach! Closer to the city, the beaches of southern Leitimur are also better than this one.

Activities

 Diving & Snorkelling

While Ambon itself is hardly the best island for finding untouched reefs in Maluku, its central location has prompted the opening of a two dive-shops now. The more expensive, Australian-run Maluku Divers is now in a new location at Laha near the airport, while the somewhat cheaper, Indonesian-owned Blue Rose Divers is based at Santai beach in Latuhalat village closer to the city. Snorkellers can also look under the water at just about any beach around the island - with the southern coast of Leitimur supposedly having the best coral around Ambon itself, though reefs are better around Pulau Tiga off the northwest coast.

Shopping

Handicrafts

Typical local souvenirs made on Ambon include pictures made from mother-of-pearl and little figures (like ship models) made of cloves. You can also find crafts from other islands, such as ikat and sculpture from South-West Maluku, pottery from Saparua and nutmeg sweets from Banda. The best selection of souvenirs is found in the Batumerah area of Kota Ambon, where the workshops making the mother-of-pearl art have traditionally been located.

Local sweets

Traditional Ambonese sweets are another excellent buy. Once again, stalls in Batumerah seem to have the best selection, but you can find them elsewhere, notably in Mardika, too. While some of the fresh ones will have to be eaten within a day, dry sweets made with locally grown nuts and spices can last long and make good presents.

Local Culture

CORONATION OF A NEW RAJA   
     
Reception Ceremony

Pulau Ambon is not exactly famous for its traditional culture - in fact the Christian Ambonese are among the most "westernized" people in all Indonesia. I have always known that it is a different matter among the Muslims of Leihitu, but as my first visits to the island were during the years of conflict, it was not really easy to travel in Hitu. When I finally decided to have a good look at that area in 2006, I hit it lucky indeed - it turned out that the coronation of a new Raja ("King") was in prepartion in one of the villages, for the first time in 18 years, and I quickly altered my travel plans to be able to attend this event. I didn't regret! While I arrived there a day early to be sure I wouldn't miss anything, the main ceremony got underway when the guests of honour, the governor of Maluku province and the bupati (regent) of Central Maluku regency arrived. They had to pass by a long line of women holding a cloth hundreds of meters long, leading to a gate erected for the occassion to be welcomed by local beauties.

The village elders

Also waiting for the VIPs were the elders of the Muslim village in question (in white dress with batik turban) as well as those of their Christian "pela" brothers (in black, with red scarf). A quick explanation here: The pela system bonds different villages around Central Maluku as "brothers", even when the villages bound this way are far away from each other on different islands, and practice different religion. This tradition is unique to Central Maluku, and had long been held up as a model for inter-religious co-existence. Sadly, it broke down during the years of conflict, so I was very impressed to see it restored here.

Kids' welcome

Next the guests came to a group of village kids dressed in semi-traditional finery singing songs about their longing for the new Raja.

Islamic dance

The next group to welcome them was a group of men performing what was a typically Islamic dance, in Malay-style dress with Arab scarves.

Cakalele dance

And finally, the most interesting part of the welcome was performed: a traditional Malukkan cakalele dance. While I had the chance to see cakalele in North Maluku before, here it was particularly interesting. Even though the villagers were Muslims, they reached back to their "pagan" traditions, dressing up to look wilder than any tribe in the deepest darkest interior of Seram, singing in an archaic language and in general recalling the days before civilization hit the island.

Tiki-taka dance

The cakalele was followed by the boring official part of the ceremony: speeches, signing documents, etc. This was followed by a huge lunch, after which the government officials departed, leaving the ground over to traditional ceremonies once again. The first of those, accompanying the new Raja to the scene of his coronation was a unique dance called Tiki-taka. I was told this dance is only performed in this particular village, and then only for special occasions. It basically seemed to be a mixture of traditional cakalele and Malay-style silat.

Trance

Approaching the scene of the coronation, the Islamic tiki-taka dancers waged a mock-battle with the pagan cakalele group, whose numbers by now had been swollen by villagers who heard the call of their ancestors and joined them dancing in trance. Eventually many of these "possessed" people fell on the ground seemingly exhausted.

The coronation - at last!

Finally, the new Raja received his crown from the traditional elders. This was not quite this simple as the crown was passed around by other participants (all of whom were crowned, but passed the crown on) leading to considerable bewilderment and even outrage by those who didn't know what was happening. Once this was over, the Raja was escorted back to his home.

Pesta Dansa

After all the traditional and government events during the day, night was the time for fun finally. First both the host and the guest villages performed various songs and dancers on stage, but eventually time came for the most beloved form of Ambonese entertainment, the Pesta Dansa. This is a European-influenced line dance performed by couples facing each other - unthinkable in much of Indonesia. Here however, Christians and Muslims alike performed it with great gusto!

PUKUL SAPU

Reception Ceremony 
     
Another interesting event I have managed to catch in northern Leihitu is the yearly Pukul Sapu ceremony, held a week after Idul Fitri in the villages of Mamala and Morela. This is one of Ambon's most famous traditional events, and one of the few whose dates are predictable. As such it attracted quite a crowd of spectators, including high ranking government officers. The ceremony is held simultaneously in the 2 neighbouring villages, forcing one to choose where to watch it. I decided to go for Morela first, as that was where the governor and other VIPs went first, too. I figured that folks in Mamala might just wait for them anyway. On this picture, you can see the stage set up for the VIPs, with two Morela youth standing ready to welcome them.

Musicians

Most of the event was accompanied by a band of drummers and trumpeters coming from the Christian village of Waai, Morela's gandong.

The First Dance

The first dance performed was a very graceful, slow, stately one by a team of women wearing typically Muslim costumes. Two lines of women wearing blue blouses danced opposite each other, with the white-clad girl, seemingly playing the role of the ceremony-master, dancing in front of, or between them.

The Kids' Dance

The next dance was, much to the audience's amusement, by a group of small kids in very colorful costumes. Their hopping around may not have been very professional, but funny and cute it certainly was!

The "Amazons"

The next dance was a most surprising one! Young women in what seemed to me more like a traditional MEN's dress marched in holding spears and performing what seemed like a stately war dance, similar to Bali's Baris Upacara.

Traditional Music

Next, the scene was rearranged a bit, with a group coming in to play more traditionally Malukan music with gongs and drums. These were to accompany the following dance, an "Alifuru" style Cakalele.

Cakalele Dance

Like at the earlier even in Uring, the Cakalele dancers of Morela also masqueraded as primitive tribesmen from the interior. They smeared their faces black, and wore red sarongs and head-cloth. However instead of the more typical swords and shields, they were dancing with spears.

Finally: The Pukul Sapu!

At last, the actual Pukul Sapu ceremony kicked off. The name means "Beating Brooms", and indeed the young men of the village were beating each other with strips of rattan till covered in bloody scars. It was not a mock-fight, rather they took turns hitting each other in pairs, with the one taking the beating often holding up his arms both to expose his body for the beating, and to protect his ears/eyes from it.

Mamala's Ceremony

After this, the VIPs left for Mamala, and I soon followed them just in time to catch the traditional dance of that village. It seemed like a mixture of the two women's dances in Morela: elegantly-clad female dancers were dancing with spears here. By this time I had missed two dances in Mamala, however they were not by that village but by their gandong partners. No cakalele was performed in this village.

Pukul Sapu Again

Then came Mamala's turn to perform the Pukul Sapu. This village seemed to have fewer participants, and they included older ones.

The "Magic" Oil

In Mamala, the night before the Pukul Sapu ceremony a special "miraculous" oil is prepared to treat the wounds. This oil is said to cure anything, even broken bones, and it was much in demand by guests who were all trying to get some of it to take back home. First however, the Pukul Sapu participants were rubbed with it, supposedly making their wounds disappear in 2-3 days without trace.

PANAS GANDONG   
     
In 2008 I was extremely lucky to catch the largest ever Panas Gandong ceremony in the history of Maluku, in Asilulu village in the NW of Ambon. Villages bound by "Gandong" are considered descendants of the same ancestors, thus "blood brothers". Most gandong alliances consists of only a few villages, however the largest one has 7, with additional 8 villages that split off these. The 7 villages are spread out over all the 5 major islands of Central Maluku: Ambon, Seram, Saparua, Haruku and Nusalaut. 3 villages are Christian, 3 Muslim, 1 mixed. This alliance was holding its Panas Gandong ceremony to "renew" the ties between these villages - for the first time in its history. Attended by hundreds of people from all 15 villages involved, this was said to be the biggest such event ever.

Musicians

The various guests arriving in Asilulu either by road or sea were first greeted by this group of musicians, playing Islamic-influenced traditional music.

Kain Gandong

Guests from other islands started arriving the day before the main ceremony, so on that day, the welcoming comittee of ladies could consist of both Muslim women from Asilulu and Christian ones from Nusalaut. They were holding the very long "Kain Gandong", with which they eventually encircled arriving guests, dancing and singing while holding it.

Village Elders

Arriving guests were received by the Rajas and other elders of the villages already present. Christian ones were wearing black traditional clothes with red scarves. Note the old, Portuguese-style helmet!

The Hosts' Welcome

Arriving at the gateway erected to mark their entrance to the village proper, guests were welcomed by local youth of Asilulu, lead by the son of the village Raja, who gave a speech in the local natrve language. The latter holds great significance in traditional ceremonies, though somewhat ironically, none of the guests from the other villages could understand it! You can get an impression of what it is like from the script over the gateway.

Welcoming Song

Passing the gateway, guests were treated to a welcoming song by the local girls, once again sung in the local "bahasa tanah".

Cakalele

Proceeding further, guests were fronted with a cakalele dance performance, with warriors attacking them with spears!

Asilulu's Dance

Once the guests took their seats, the ceremony proper got underway. Most of it was surprisingly boring, with speeches by government officials. Fortunately, things got enlivened by traditional dance performances of the various villages. Asilulu itself presented this rather unusual dance by the village's "Alifuru" descendants.

The Guests' Performances

The various gandong villages were all supposed to perform their own traditional dances, but much to my disappointment, not all of them did. The best was this dance by Sila village from Nusalaut.

Pesta Dansa

As usual in Ambon, this ceremony also ended with an all-night dancing party. The only trouble was the sheer number of participants - there was hardly enough space for all of them to join the same dance!

Safety and Warnings
Many websites still warn against visiting Ambon. Such advice is based on the events that happened several years ago and should simply be ignored these days. In reality, Ambon has been as safe to visit as any other place in Indonesia for years now.
Getting There and Around

By air

Being the capital of Maluku province, Ambon is served by several airlines that fly here from Java, Sulawesi, Timor, North Maluku and Papua. It is also the hub of flights around Maluku province. Note that the airport is quite far from the city, across the bay on the Leihitu peninsula!

As of early 2013, the following airlines operated out of Ambon - these are just the flights that go without having to change planes. By changing in Makassar, Surabaya or Jakarta, you can fly to many places.

Sriwijaya: Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar

Garuda: Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar

Lion Air / Wings: Jakarta, Surabaya, Makassar, Langgur, Sorong, Fakfak, Kaimana, Manokwari, Nabire

Expressair: Ternate, Saumlaki, Sorong

Trigana: Langgur, Saumlaki, Dobo

Merpati: Kupang, Ternate, Labuha, Langgur, Saumlaki, Larat, Kisar

Note that even those Merpati flights that still run in theory are subject to heavy overbookings and frequent cancellations.

NBA: Bandaneira, Namlea, Namrole, Wahai, Bula, Sanana, Kisar, Kupang

UPDATE: NBA suspended its operations around Maluku in December 2012. As of February 2013, the latest info suggested it may well leave Maluku for good, and its routes may be taken over by Merpati. Check locally for the latest.

By sea

Pelni ships connect Ambon with all other regions of Indonesia, and with Ternate, Namlea, Bandaneira, Tual, Dobo and Saumlaki in Maluku. There are also smaller, more basic local boats to every significant island in southern Maluku province. The neighbouring Lease Islands and Seram have frequent speedboat and ferry connections with Ambon. There is even a car-ferry betwen Galala in Leitimur and Pokka in Leihitu to save you having to go round the whole bay separating the two peninsulas of Pulau Ambon.

By road

Ambon island has a good network of roads reaching all of its villages. Buses, bemos and ojeks are the main forms of public transport, though taxis could also be hired.

Accommodation

City options

Ambon has the widest range of accommodation among all the islands and towns in Maluku, including several star-rated hotels. Most accommodation is in the city of Ambon, but there are a few options elsewhere too, notably on the most popular beaches and near the airport. Unfortunately, accommodation here tends to be relatively expensive for what you get - and cheapest budget places tend to be quite scruffy, too.

If you do decide to stay in the city, the area right behind the Governor's Office has a good selection to suit all tastes. In the street right behind the office stand side by side 2 budget places, the Beta (Ambon's original backpacker hotel) and the less tempting Tranzit Rezfanny, with the more mid-range Hero now reopened as the modern Citihub Hero. Those looking for more comforts will find the brand new Orchid Hotel just around the corner to the left, while next to that is the Mutiara, probably the most atmospheric of Ambon's top end hotels with a touch of colonial style. Another good new mid-range hotel is the Amaris on Jln Diponegoro.

Beachside options

Many visitors to Ambon who stay in the city end up disappointed when they find out that instead of a quiet tropical paradise they find themselves in a busy, noisy urban environment. The obvious answer to this is staying on one of the beaches- this is now possible in 3 different areas around the island.

The widest range, meaning 4 places at last count, is in the village of Suli just before the overrated Natsepa Beach. I am reluctant to recommend these as beach accommodation though, as while they are on the coast, none of them is actually on a beach! They have the rocky shores on one side, and a busy road on the other. However, they include 2 of Ambon's top hotels: the very luxurious and ultra-expensive Aston Natsepa Ambon (see photo), and the more moderately priced, and better landscaped Baguala Bay Resort. Two ageing, cheaper places stand further west of these, but anyone wishing to find cheaper accommodation on a beach is better off going to Latuhalat or Liang - see below!

Colin Beach Hotel

Standing right next to Namalatu Beach in the village of Latuhalat just 15 minutes from the city, this once neglected place has recently reopened under a new, local management and this new name. With AC rooms from 200.000 Rp in a beautiful garden and great sea views, this is probably the best value beach place on Ambon now!

Not yet in Lonely Planet as of 2010, it receives few visitors, but if it gets "discovered", this is bound to change. You can call to ask about current rates and make a booking at: 0911-323125

Pak Agus' Homestay

Just across the road from Namalatu Beach, and up the hillside reached by passing under an overhanging rock, Ambon's oldest homestay offers AC rooms for 100.000 Rp now. The owner, Pak Agus Latuhilin, does not take bookings by phone, but there is usually no problem just turning up and getting a room.

Santai Beach Cottages

Also in Latuhalat, but maybe 10 minutes walk to the east right on Santai Beach, this set of bungalows is identical in price to the Colin. However, while they do stand within the grounds of Santai Beach, they are far less atmospheric (feeling more like a motel) and those inland look at unkempt, weedy garden. They seem to be mostly used by the clients of Blue Rose Divers who are based here, too.

Penginapan Hunimua Indah

On the very best and longest beach in Ambon, this new, homestay-like place not far from the jetty in Liang is a great new addition to the scene. It is run by a very friendly Muslim couple, and the setting near Liang village offers a rather different, perhaps bit more traditional atmosphere from that found in Christian Suli and Latuhalat. It is set in spacious coconut groves, and you can have a wide range of food at the warungs serving passengers of the ferry just 2 minutes walk away. Bookings should be really unnecessary for now, but it has a contact number: 081247355506

Food
Ambon has plenty of restaurants serving a wide selection of food. The very best of them must be the new, Chinese-run Imperial seafood restaurant on Jln Diponegoro. As in much of the rest of Maluku, most restaurants serve the standard Indonesian fare. Traditional Malukan food like papeda and sweet potato is not easily found, but one place serving it is located in the narrow lane behind the City Hall which also houses the municipality tourism office. Come early, ideally before noon - most of the traditional dishes are served for lunch only, and by 12.30, there's very little left!

The best option!

To sample some of the best of traditional Ambonese cuisine you will have to get invited to eat at home with locals. I had a splendid oportunity to share in a buffet-style feast at the coronation ceremony described in my local culture entry ... delicious stuff!