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A sprawling and sunwashed port city, Ende is not exactly a tourism hotspot but has a certain maritime, beachy charm that becomes apparent after a day or so of exploration on the outskirts.
The capital of Ende regency, the town hosts a considerable Muslim population as compared to the interior of Flores, which gets along well with the majority of Catholic Christians. Ende entered Indonesian history when President Sukarno was exiled here by the Dutch government from 1934 to 1938, who hoped (in vain) that placing the charismatic activist here would prevent him from challenging the status quo. It's rumoured Indonesia's iconic "Pancasila" national philosophy came to Sukarno as he sat under a breadfruit tree in Ende, which still stands in the park near the town soccer field.
Ende has a decent range of accommodation and places to eat (at least by Floresian standards) and while its surrounding areas make for a lovely motorbike holiday, with black-sand beaches, friendly small villages and jaw-droppingly gorgeous jungle and mountain scenery all within easy reach, don't be surprised if you're one of the very few foreigners in town.
Most visitors blow through here on the way to Moni or Bajawa, but it's well worth a couple of days of exploration. The town straddles a southwards-jutting peninsula which culminates in the spectacular Gunung Iya, an active volcano which last erupted in 1969. While few climb the volcano, this is still a good town for wandering, with two oceanfront areas, plenty of black-sand beach and, on the west coast, spectacular sunsets featuring the enormous Gunung Inerie near Bajawa.
The town is quite spread out with hotels and restaurants dotted all over the place, though with a concentration towards the western port end of town, which also hosts the commercial "old town" centre of Ende. There's also Sukarno's bungalow and some particularly good eating. Ende is known for its fiery sambal so dine with care -- it certainly caught us by surprise. You can wrap all of Ende town's attractions in an hour or so, but if you plan to explore the surrounds, then allow for at least a stay of two nights.
Ende is backed by the Savu Sea on both its east and west sides with the distinctive twin volcanoes of Gunung Meja and Gunung Iya to the south. Jalan Ahmad Yani is the main drag through town and connects the east coast and the west. The airport is towards the east coast and the harbour to the west.
ATMS are plentiful and cover major Indonesian banks. Regional air carriers have offices at the airport, allowing you to easily purchase tickets to points onward. The small airport sees flights head to Denpasar, Labuan Bajo and Kupang, among other destinations, via TransNusa and Lion Air. Check with an agent for the latest schedule.
WiFi access is available at some hotels and there is also a decent 3G signal from Telkomsel. The rundown-looking internet cafe and laundry across the street from the Safari Hotel offers by far the fastest speeds in town.
Flores Tour and Travel Service T: (0813) 3923 9783 firstname.lastname@example.org
This local tour and travel company run by the rather bombastic and fluently English-speaking Vincent offers car hire to Kelimutu and surrounding areas, day tours to cassava plantations, Wolotopo, Blue Stone Beach and Maumere. Vincent can also sort out package tours and is a talkative source of useful information on the area. He works out of his home and prefers to meet with you at your hotel or at a restaurant.
Ifan, Ende guide at T: (0852) 3925 4778
Suggested Ende guide for the city and points beyond.
Sri Wahyuni at T: (0813) 5317 9577
Very professional young female guide who speaks good English and knows the Ende area well. Wolotopo, Ende Beach, Kelimutu and other points further afield are all possible. Sri is a student of local culture and enjoys explaining motifs and architectural styles.
By Stuart McDonald.