As my trip to Raja Ampat drew to a close, I spent my last few days at Minahasa lagoon Resort. Arrival at this boutique hotel near Manado was a welcome respite of luxury after a "Lonely Planet" boat charter. Minahasa lagoon is quite literally a place which makes one's jaw drop at its exquisite beauty and fabulous jungle locale.
Following a lazy afternoon by the infinity pool and a long massage, I decided to try dinner at the resort's much touted Jungle Restaurant. I prepared carefully by dousing myself in insect repellent and wearing long loose clothing, and carried a dive torch to light the way.I strolled through the grounds up a path through the security gate. The loose gravel crunching beneath my feet was drowned out by the shrill chirping of cicadas and night insects. Clouds from the afternoon's thunderstorm cleared for a glimpse at the indigo night canopy filled with constellations. The guard showed me a small entry gate across the road, and motioned up the hill into the trees. Perched atop a steep slope, I saw a balcony and faintly lit wooden structure. I began climbing the rickety wet stairs as they creaked and swayed under my weight. One flight led to another, and then more. I now understood why all guests were asked to sign a liability waiver to stay here and venture up the hill.As I climbed higher the stairs grew increasingly steep and narrow, tapering to a ladder. I felt clammy from the intense humidity, and was wary to brush aside what felt like wings or webs of insects.
I arrived at last at a platform outside the restaurant, which resembled a large tree house with an open kitchen and a fire pit on the top level. Three small tables lined the outer balcony peering out into the darkness that was the sea. In the distance tiny lights twinkled on the horizon, probably small boats moored for the night, or another resort on a nearby island.The ambiance was exotic and stunning. A waitress appeared and asked only one question"Spicy, or not spicy?". A traditional Indonesian feast appeared: raw grated cucumber and carrot salad with pineapple and ginger and sugar crystals, wood grilled lake fish,chicken satay with peanut sauce,fried pork, and the ever present fried rice with water spinach.I could barely finish the delectable morsels.No alcohol was served, obviously to ensure my safe descent back to the main resort. As I finished the platter of intricately cut tropical fruit, I just sat and absorbed the buzz of the jungle night sounds, the crackling fire and billowing smoke when the fish was grilled, the sizzling bursts of the ingredients in the wok,and the clanging of cooking implements.I wanted to keep that magic interlude long after the plates were cleared away and the last bit of dessert consumed. It was in every sense, a dinner in paradise.