Meat Market Macabre: The Gruesome Tomohon Market of Indonesia

Posted by - July 18, 2012 | Category: Peculiarities

Tomohon Traditional Market, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES OF DEAD ANIMALS AHEAD

Travel ain’t always pretty. In fact, it can get downright grisly. And nowhere is that more apparent than at the Tomohon Traditional Market in the hills of North Sulawesi, Indonesia – home to an entirely different sort of meat market.

Well, they have fruit and veggies too, but trust me, that’s not the memory you walk away with. Because for every corner with a scene like this

Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 8

There’s another one with a scene like this…

More dog meat at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

If you’re getting a little squeamish already, I’ll give you a nice little exit in the form of this post with pretty photos of origami. Click away…

Are they gone?

Alright then, on with the gore…

I was in North Sulawesi for the ASEAN Tourism Forum Travel Conference and it was there that I met up with Mario-Ben Gavriel from Flower’s Lane Vacations (Tomohon, ironically, is also known as the City of Flowers) for a rat-hunting tour. And while I did end up schlepping through the jungle for the honour of hunting, preparing, and eating a rat, it was a walk in the park compared with the sights and smells of the Tomohon Traditional Market.

I had heard of the market before, and I’d even seen photos of it, but honestly, photos cannot do a place like this any justice. I think it is the first time I smelled death and that last desperate gasp of air when warm blood turns to cold.

The Tomohon Market starts out innocuous enough – lots of pretty red and green chilli’s…

Chilies at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 3

And then onto your assorted fruit and veg section…

Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 2Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 3Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 4Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 6Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 7Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 9Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 10

They even make and package tofu here…

Making and packing tofu -- Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 12Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 14

It’s not until you get to the tail-end (no pun intended) of the vegetable section that you notice that this is not your typical market.

Chilis, dog's leg, and rats Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

They do however sell the freshest chicken possible…

man on motorbike with live chickens -- Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 11

That’s when the smell hits you.

Bats. And plenty of them.

dead bats for sale - Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Bats at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

But be aware that wings are sold separately…

Bats for sale at Tomohon Traditional Market in North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Tomohon Market  and Rat Hunting 084

Preparing roasted rats for sale at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Rats are even more common here than at your average food market.

Dead Rats for sale at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Tomohon Market, Roasted Rat for sale in Indonesia

There’s even an odd snake thrown in here and there…

Snake at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

This is probably one of my favourite photos from the market. Can you spot how many dead (and living) animals there are in this scene?

(Click on photo to enlarge)

Man with blow torch roasting a snake -- A typical scene at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Animals for sale at at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Body of babirusa (wild pig) Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Pig's heads -- Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia 13

I’m not entirely sure how this chap can keep his breakfast, much less eat it in these surroundings.

Severed Pig's head at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Pig's head at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

This is the head of a Babirusa (wild pig) with tusks partially removed.

Babirusa (wild boar) at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

This is a dead sloth — completely illegal according to my guide Ben – but something that does turn up from time-to-time in the market.

Dead Sloth at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

There are plenty of various monkey bits scattered throughout the market as well.

Monkey entrails at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

The saddest thing for me though was seeing the dogs, not just the dead ones…

Dogs and snakes sold as food at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Dog meat at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

But the living ones too.

Dog in cage at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Dog's awaiting their fate as food at Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, Sulawesi, Indonesia

Dogs crammed in a cage awaiting slaughter Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

Is this not the saddest face ever?

Dogs crammed in cage Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

For me, it was easier to stomach the entrails of monkeys, rats on a stick, and decapitated pigs then it was to see these live dogs awaiting their fate. Maybe it’s because the bats, sloths, and snakes and all those things just seemed so foreign.

I have friends who have dogs though.

And maybe it was because I knew exactly what the fate of all these poor little guys would be.

I like to travel with the mindset of “It’s not wrong, it’s just different.” I had a hard time sticking to that here though.

What are your thoughts? Would you visit the Tomohon Traditional Market or one like it?

If this market is not for you, check out other Things to Do in Manado.

Tomohon Traditional Market, Tomohon, North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Best visited early morning Saturday when the market is in full swing. For guided tours of Tomohon Traditional Market (including the rat-hunting tour) you can book directly through Mario-Ben Gavriel at Flowers Lane Vacations or through LocalGuiding.com.

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119 comments - add one
  1. OMG… really surprised and sad to see these animal especially the roasted dogs and those who were inside the cage. Anyway, I’m from Bali, Indonesia, but I don’t know this area and its habbit. I don’t even find any human eating rats in my region. Maybe I have to come there and hunting some photos.

  2. Wew!
    Actually, that’s in my country. Glad that market only in Manado, North Sumatra (cmiiw).
    Anyway, please not because this market you don’t want to visit Indonesia. We have more beautiful and exotic places.

  3. indonesia adalah negara yang kaya budaya,agama dan ras,..dalam damai satu kesatuan negara,…soal makanan..banyak sekali makanan yang sangat mengerikan bila belum pernah melihat.tidak semuanya orang indonesia yang memakan dalam mengerikan.. the best indonesia..I love Indonesian…

  4. saya dari jawa indonesia. tidak semua pasar tradisional seperti tomohon, saya muslim dilarang untuk memakan babi, anjing, kera, ular, kucing, tikus dan yang mengandung alkohol.

  5. I am from Java Indonesia. not all traditional markets like Tomohon, my Muslim is forbidden to eat pigs, dogs, monkeys, snakes, cats, rats and containing alcohol.

  6. Im Indonesian people, I have read the entire comments about your post. Actually, Indonesia have so many culture and your post about Tomohon was only one of million cutlure that we have. Not all Indonesian people did that things to animal like that. You could visit Java, Borneo and Sumatera because, they did’t do the same like Sulawesi. That’s why I told you “Indonesian people have so many culture” They don’t same one by one. So do not ever think bad of every ppl.

  7. actually this market only located in Tomohon , if you go to other place in Indoenesia you will not see like in Tomohon its depends on culture , like me I live in west Sumatera and there is nothing like Tomohon . And actually some Indonesian people are disgusting when they see this in the market

  8. Geez, it turns out in Sulawesi (Indonesia) resale of the animal. And that makes the animal terrible is baked. And thank God I live in West Kalimantan (Indonesia), and have never seen such an animal

  9. Every day there are so many cows, pigs, and other animals slaughtered in various markets around the world. But we feel different emotions when it involves dogs or cats, because for most people these animals have become friends. It feels like they kill your friend, and there is nothing you can do about it.

    I have 3 dogs, and I consider them as friends. So it is disturbing my mind when I saw the face of the dog that is in the cage. This one looks very sad. And I am pretty sure that this dog already dead.

    And still,… hundreds of them will die in this way in the traditional markets in North Sulawesi…every day.

  10. i know that our Tomohon was wrong. but its just a culture, based on all the comments were judging our culture. everybody has different personalities, cultures, and mindsets. so, please respect it. :)

    1. @Firajoti: like your comment .. :)

      *for the indonesian that wrote comments that judging, please pack your bag, open your mind, leave your ego of your culture/tribes, and set yourself for travel & dive in to other indonesian area with different culture .. to remind yourself about the Bhineka Tunggal Ika that we have and hold always .. Gb all

  11. Ah! Sh*t! I’ll have a very bad dream tonight! It’s better for me if I never seen anything like this (-_-‘) …. poor dogs. whoaaa!

  12. It’s kinda terrific when I scrolled down through the page. But then as I scrolled down, I remembered how Indonesia has a lot of different cultures. Some parts of Indonesia don’t do what the others do. But it’s okay because the culture has lived with them for such a long time.
    Indonesians people are not always backward. The cultures are what I’m proud of. It only proves that we still have some traditions or things that we could pass to our next generation and proudly tell them that their country is so rich with varieties.
    Beside, in every cultures, there’s always been a reason why they did that.
    But of course, for a lot of people some of our cultures are too primitive.
    Well… Varieties are good in my opinion *shrug* and it doesn’t happen in every regions here in Indonesia so I don’t really see it as a problem though.

  13. I’m reading Kafka on The Shore by Murakami and as part of the story, there’s a man called Mr. Johny Walker, who’s hunting and killing cats. He needs the soul of those cats for him to make the flute –a flute that can’t be heard with normal ears, and he must face a man named Nakata, a man with limited abilities but –strangely– he can talks with cats.

    So, what I want to say is, let’s read something more useful, written with beautiful words and has deep meanings in life rather than yelling each other’s words after checking some pictures on this site. I believe we need to study the culture to comment, to be open-minded.

    Murakami in the same book wrote ““Narrow minds devoid of imagination. Intolerance, theories cut off from reality, empty terminology, usurped ideals, inflexible systems. Those are the things that really frighten me. What I absolutely fear and loathe. Of course it’s important to know what’s right and what’s wrong. Individual errors in judgment can usually be corrected. As long as you have the courage to admit mistakes, things can be turned around. But intolerant, narrow minds with no imagination are like parasites that transform the host, change form, and continue to thrive. They’re a lost cause, and I don’t want anyone like that coming in here.”

  14. Sory guys, I represent Indonesia to apologize to all of them, indeed all animals perjual traded it in, but it was only in my part of course only one island, only one island in Indonesia. In fact there are many in the Indonesian market really is not like that”

    1. Hi guys, I am soryy,,, I represent Indonesia to apologize to all of them, indeed all animals are traded in per-sale, but it was only in my part of course only one island, only one island in Indonesia. In fact there are many in the Indonesian market really is not like that”

  15. This is so irritating, i should admit it. I’m from Indonesia, but in the other area. I visited Manado once, i thought it was beautiful, because i visited Bunaken and Tondano lake, and a beautiful cafe in Manado where we can look exactly the mountain. If you don’t post this stuff, i may never know about this. I knew they eat dogs, but not the other animals like that and the way they sell it that so scary. Nausea, that’s what i feel when i saw your posts. But well, i try to understand that is their culture and you should know they are very traditional i can’t explain. But trust me, you should go to the other parts of Indonesia, like Bali, Lombok, Medan (Toba Lake), East Java (Mt.Bromo)……. :)

  16. I am from Indonesia, we live in many cultures … and one of them is the market in Manado this …. but other markets did not sell cat meat, dog, etc … to its customers …

  17. Every province in indonesia different culture, so you can’t assumed every place indonesia same with tomohon, maybe the local people usually consumption like dog, pig, monkey, rat, snake etc. It’s not same if you visited to other places in indonesia like bali, lombok, jogjakarta,kalimantan, ambon, papua or jakarta. I suggest you please visited to other place in indonesia. you can say amazing indonesia, trust me.

    Indonesia lover

  18. i think this article is very subjective about local culture. first, This is the culture of the local people of North Sulawesi, they usually consume dog, rat, snake and other extra ordinary animals as daily food (Maybe a lion if it exists), not much different from other cultures in other countries. second, I think the problem is just how the animal slaughtering. as local people of North Sulawesi, i think our way of killing still more humane than other cultures. the last, all the meat slaughter animals or animal’s meat processing every where is not always fun, there are still many amazing place in North Sulawesi :)

  19. God, Plz save them, think about their PAIN, CRY, TEARS. all animal are like us(not only dogs), they have their own languages, tastes, habits etc. While they are not interfering in our lives then why we are doing same for just “TASTE” only.. Its so ridiculous and inhuman. Hate it, anywhere in the world with any animal.

  20. Man on the lam, what an odd find indeed. I’ve seen bandicoots go under the knife in rural West Bengal, but this is quite something else!

    I’m off to Indonesia in November, and find this market’s gruesomeness oddly intriguing. Maybe it’s my confused thoughts about non-vegetarianism made worse by my love for animals. And maybe this meat market will point me towards clarity. :-\

  21. Without considering those bats this market doesn’t look very different than the markets here in Ecuador, it specially reminds me the Pompeya market in the Amazon region where they sell monkeys, wild pigs and even armadillos and anacondas aswell of many other kinds of wildlife… some of them are protected species taken from national parks obviously are the oil companies who facilitate hunting and protected wildflife trading with the roads they build.

    Great article.

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