Dodwell in SFO Manado - Post 1

May 26, 2013

Manado city

As if I don’t already travel too much, I decided in May to take a voyage over to the “dark” side – a meeting of senior finance officials. There were a number of very good reasons for this journey outside safe and familiar territory: mainly, I had been unable to attend the Sydney Asia Pacific Finance Forum (APFF) that ABAC organized with the Australian Treasury (because of the Surabaya SOM2 cluster), and wanted to hear ABAC colleagues summarise outcomes and next steps – and to gauge senior finance officials’ views.

But then there were two other very good reasons: first, Indonesia has encouraged much talk of closer links between the “SOM track” and the “SFOM” track, as the trade/commerce meetings and finance official meetings are contrasted, and I have a strong sense that financial system reform, and  investment liberalization and facilitation are going to be high priorities for China during its 2014 leadership of APEC. That suggests we should get to understand better the culture, dramatis personae, and agenda priorities of the finance officials over the coming months.


Gala party at House of Governor of north Sulawesi

  Second, and much more personally, the SFOs (Senior Finance Officials) have picked much more interesting places to hold their meetings: In contrast with the large urban sprawls chosen for the SOM clusters (Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan), our finance officials have been much more creative with Makassar; Manado; Lombok and others similarly remote and exotic. I sense this is as far on the wild side as you can get as a serious minded APEC official.

That is why I flew to Manado, a scruffy little city in the far, far north east of Sulawesi in Indonesia. Apart from impossibly fragile internet links and a comprehensive absence of nightlife, the city was really charming – and so idiosyncratic. Within minutes of leaving the airport, you sniff something different. In the short journey between airport and hotel, we passed at least a dozen Christian churches. Sold by the Spanish to the Portugese in the 16th century, then captured by the Dutch a century later, this area was comprehensively proselytized. It was rather stunning at the wonderful Gala Dinner hosted in his residence by the Governor of North Sulawesi, for the Governor to invite a Christian minister to offer prayers of welcome, and blessing the dinner – in predominantly Moslem Indonesia. Was this all a plot to prepare us for Bali’s distinctive Hindu culture?

Ancient coelacanth discovered in Manado Bay


It is a city surrounded on land by three large volcanos, and out to sea by some of the richest coral reefs in the world. The temptation to play truant and explore places life would never again offer opportunity to visit was hard to resist. But since I was travelling on expenses, and under some invisible duty to report back on a set of important discussions, this was a temptation I was forced to resist. Manado has nevertheless suddenly appeared on my “Bucket List” of must-visit places to visit before I die. And as an aside, for anyone tempted to venture into this exotic region, Trip Advisor says the Lumba Lumba resort is way the best. I visited this tiny boutique diving retreat, and can promise the world’s most intoxicatingly memorable sunsets from the restaurant deck of this simple resort. The name kept reminding me of Italy’s infamous Berlusconi and his “Bunga Bunga” parties, but before you smirk,  Lumba Lumba means “Dolphins”, and the diving in the area out to the Bunaken National Marine Park matches the best in the world.


⇒  More blog posts from the SFO Manado meetings series.

⇒  Dodwell's other meetings blogs.


[ Back ]