Travelling to Ambon in Indonesia - The Original Spice Island

The tiny islands of Ambon, Ban­da, Saum­la­ki,Ter­na­te and Tido­re - among the thousands of islands in the Moluc­cas seas,- chan­ged the cour­se of world histo­ry from the 15th cen­tu­ry onwards. The­se islands were what trig­ge­red the European Age of Explo­ra­ti­on.  

For in search of the Spi­ce Islands in the Far East, Chris­to­pher Colum­bus sai­led west – and dis­co­ve­r­ed Ame­ri­ca. Vas­co da Gama sai­led south and dis­co­ve­r­ed the long rou­te around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope in 1498 to final­ly reach India after a long and peri­lous voya­ge. Only later did the Por­tu­gue­se final­ly dis­co­ver the sea rou­te to Ban­da and Ambon. The­se small islands in the eas­tern deep seas of the Indo­ne­si­an archipe­la­go were for cen­tu­ries the sole pro­du­cers of the fra­grant nut­meg and mace in the world. At the time the­se spi­ces fet­ched their weight in gold in Medi­eval Euro­pe.

The tiny islands of Ter­na­te and Tido­re,  urther north of Ambon were pro­du­cers of cloves. Ter­na­te is whe­re the Majes­tic Mount Gama­l­a­ma and the asto­nis­hing Lake Toli­re are loca­ted. Indian and Arab tra­ders would sell cloves in Euro­pe for exor­bi­tant pri­ces, but kept the loca­ti­on of their source a tight­ly held secret. The­se are the Moluc­cas – or Mal­uku – the ori­gi­nal Spi­ce Islands, that are now divi­ded into the two pro­vin­ces of Mal­uku and North Mal­uku.  

It is from the­se islands that the Dutch East India Com­pa­ny first gai­ned their strang­le­hold on the spi­ce tra­de in the archipe­la­go, gra­dual­ly colo­ni­zing the Indo­ne­si­an islands over three cen­tu­ries, until it came to be cal­led the Dutch East Indies, the pre­sent-day Repu­blic of Indo­ne­sia.

As the glo­ry days spi­ces pas­sed, the signi­fi­can­ce of the Moluc­cas waned. But it is here whe­re the histo­ry of European explo­ra­ti­ons and colo­ni­za­ti­on began.
For­tu­n­a­te­ly the beau­ty of that era still remains. Today, the town of Ambon is the capi­tal of Mal­uku, occu­py­ing a small flat area by the beau­ti­ful Ambon Bay that is backed by lush green moun­tains and facing deep crys­tal clear waters that are ali­ve with color­ful coral gar­dens and untold spe­ci­es of mari­ne crea­tures.

Alt­hough small in size, Ambon island still offers ple­nty of expe­ri­en­ces for adven­tur­ous tra­velers. From explo­ring the char­ming Kota Ambon – the main town of the island, to wal­king up moun­tains through lush tro­pi­cal vege­ta­ti­on, the­re are many undis­co­ve­r­ed gems rea­dy for visi­tors to expe­ri­ence.  
The town of Ambon – Kota Ambon – is known as ‘Ambon Mani­se’ mea­ning sweet or beau­ti­ful Ambon. The name refers to both the beau­ty of the peop­le here and the beau­ty of the tro­pi­cal island loca­ti­on.

As one of the ear­liest pla­ces in Indo­ne­sia to be occu­pied by colo­ni­al powers, Ambon has a rich and anci­ent histo­ry. Many of the Ambo­ne­se today have mixed European and Ambo­ne­se heri­ta­ge.

Visit here and dis­co­ver cen­tu­ries-old fortres­ses and the lite­ra­tu­re of local king­doms which traces the sto­ry of the peop­le, from peri­ods of pro­spe­ri­ty to esca­la­ting and con­trol­led tra­des, harsh colo­nia­lism, a gru­e­ling strugg­le, and final­ly, to inde­pen­dence.  

The island also play­ed an important role in World War II when Ambon was used as a head­quar­ters for the Japa­ne­se mili­ta­ry. Rem­nants from the war still remain, both in muse­ums and the open air. Some war arti­fac­ts remain silent­ly under­wa­ter. Today, the­se rem­nants are among the most valued his­to­ri­cal sites in Ambon.  

Ambon is mul­ti­cul­tu­ral and home to various eth­ni­ci­ties inclu­ding the nati­ve Ali­fu­ru tri­bes, the migra­ting Java­ne­se, Suma­trans, Minaha­s­ans, the Butons, the Arabs who came in the 9th cen­tu­ry, the Europeans, and the Chi­ne­se who first came in the 7th cen­tu­ry to sha­re in the com­mer­ce of this pros­pe­rous spi­ce island.  Bet­ween 1999-2002 the island was the sce­ne of Chris­ti­an-Mus­lim vio­lence howe­ver sin­ce 2004 the island has main­tai­ned a peri­od of ongo­ing peace.


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