Meat Market Macabre: The Gruesome Tomohon Market of Indonesia

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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.

I am a travel blogger and freelance travel writer. I left behind my cubicle-shaped cell to see the world. Now I inspire others to shake the shackles and escape through travel. This is my blog.

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