Makassar Attractions

Sulawesi-Map

I had been wanting to visit Sulawesi for a long time. When I was at school, aged around 11, I remember our teacher asked everyone to write a non-fiction essay on any topic we liked. Most of my classmates wrote about their pets or favourite football teams. I wrote about Celebes, which is how Sulawesi used to be spelt. Partly my odd choice was driven by practicalities. I had access to the volume of Encyclopaedia Brittanica which included the letter C, so here was my source of information in those days before the internet. But I was also attracted to the strange shape that Celebes made on the map, like some deformed sea creature or crocodile. I was also curious about the photos of strange houses with upturned gables. It wasn’t a great essay and I was probably told off for plagiarism but since that time Sulawesi has been on my ‘must visit’ list.

MakassarFifty years later, I finally made it to the southern Sulawesi city of Makassar and the surrounding area. I would have preferred to visit Manado in the more scenic north and the central highlands where the Toraja people have their upturned houses and unusual burial customs but they will have to wait for another day.

Makassar is not really a tourist destination. It is a major port and most foreign visitors are seamen but there are a few sights worth seeing.

Fort Rotterdam

Fort-Rotterdam-Makassar

This Dutch-built fort sits in the heart of town. Behind its robust walls are a number of buildings which would look at home in Holland. One of them houses a museum called La Galigo, which sounds Iberian but is apparently named after an ancient book written in the local Bugis language. The fort has been well preserved but I felt that more could be done to turn it into a world class attraction.

FortRotterdamMakassar

For me it was interesting to compare this Dutch East India Company fort with the English East India Company fort that I visited last year in Bengkulu. The English one looked more solid and better designed for defence but the Dutch one looked more comfortable for its occupants. Since disease was a bigger killer than invaders, the Dutch were probably right to concentrate on comfort and hygiene.

Dutch Era Buildings

Makassar has seen enormous urban regeneration but a few buildings survive from colonial times including:

MakassaarscheApotheek

Makassaarsche Apotheek ( a pharmacy).

FormerGovernorsResidenceMakassar

Former Governor’s Residence (now a police station).

ProtestantChurchMakassar

Protestant Church & Vicarage

FormerTownHallMakassar

Museum Kota Makassar (former town hall).

DistrictCourtBuildingMakassar

District Court Building.

CatholicChurchMakassar

Catholic Church.

Mandala Monument

MandalaMonumentMakassar

This striking monument commemorates the wresting of West Irian (Papua) from Dutch control in 1962 and its eventual integration into Indonesia.

Losari Beach

There is no longer any actual beach on this stretch of waterfront in the centre of town but it is a popular place for locals to hang out, eat and watch the sunset.

Fish Market

FishMarketMakassar

Like all fish markets in this part of the world, a tolerance for strong smells and gory sights is required to visit this colourful and lively place, especially the fish-gutting section which is enough to put anyone off becoming a pescetarian. Everybody who works here is covered in fish scales.

Paotere Harbour

PaotereHarbourMakassar

My trishaw driver told me that this is the best place in Indonesia to see traditional wooden Bugis sailing schooners (prahus) being loaded and unloaded, though I do remember going to a similar place in Jakarta many years ago.

FloresBoatsMakassar

I was told these boats belong to people from Flores.

BugisPrahusPaotereHarbourMakassar

While these ones are the Sulawesi Bugis boats.

Street Markets

I passed a couple of street markets in Makassar.

GoatMarketMakassar

This street was lined with kambing stalls and even though the goats were not tethered they obediently stayed in their stalls, oblivious to the fate which awaits them, poor things.

ChickenStallMakassar

Similarly these chickens were patiently waiting to be bought.

BananaStallMakassar

This banana vendor appeared to have enough stock to last for a while.

VegetableStallMakassar

Ukulele and tubers.

Benteng Somba Opu

TorajaHouseSombaOpuMakassar

Since I did not have time to visit the Toraja Highlands the next best thing was Benteng Somba Opu on the outskirts of Makassar where they have examples of the amazing Tongkonan traditional houses with the curved boat-like roofs.

SombaOpuMuseumMakassar

There are also replicas of other stilted houses here and a museum.

Toraja Church

TorajaChurchMakassar

Talking of Toraja, I noticed this Toraja Church decorated with tribal motifs. The steel towers, instead of bearing crosses, appear to be topped with a couple of parrots.

Vihara Girinaga

ViharaGirinagaMakassar

I noticed this yellow pagoda away in the distance from the roof of my hotel and set off on foot to find it. Forty minutes later I arrived, rather sweaty, just as a couple of volunteer staff were commencing their duties and they very kindly gave me a tour around.

ViharaGiriNagaInteriorMakassar

This Buddhist temple is not quite complete but it has amazing altars, murals and displays on each of the eight floors of the pagoda, including one floor with a mini Angkor Wat model, very beautifully done at considerable expense.

Bantimurung National Park

Makassar COLLECTIE_TROPENMUSEUM

As mentioned in my last post, this national park is famed for its myriad butterflies. Other attractions include a couple of caves and a very lively waterfall.

I have marked all these places on this map, as accurately as possible, in case you would like to visit any of them.

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4 Responses to Makassar Attractions

  1. JayDann Walker says:

    How did you get from the airport to the city? Taxi fares to Makassar (and back to the airport) are ridiculously high, more so than just about any other destination inIndonesia with the predictable exception of, possibly, Jakarta.

    Other than this you did well and found a few interesting places in Makassar that I missed when I was there in July (2017). Before setting out I was told by several Makassarese in Java that it was a good city to give a miss to, somewhat expensive for not very good food (correct) and travel (not really, Uber is now everywhere in Indonesia!) and mercenary locals out to extract as much as they could from the rare foreigner in town for their services (also mostly untrue altho I did meet one or two who seemed wildly money-minded to me). All this said, I was there fore three days and as I usually enjoy walking about and photographing what I see, I found the city center badly planned and laid out and distances quite great to get to and from different areas. I was two times at Losari Beach and got to talk to some interesting young locals who told me a bit about what goes on (and mostly what doesn’t) in the city.

    In summing up, three days in Makassar was, for me, a very long time indeed.

    I will be doing Banjarmasin in Central Kalimantan over the end of year break.Am told by everyone who has been there or comes from there that there is very little for a tourist to see and do in the city, which appeals to me as someone who enjoys being in places not many others want to travel to…

  2. JayDann Walker says:

    May I add a few additional bits of information for your readers?

    Good food is at somewhat of a premium in Makassar. Visitors should check out the menus in their hotel cafes and restaurants, which seems about as good as it gets. Also a handful of Chinese eating places on Jl Penghibur (fronting Losari Beach) with passably good fresh food. BonCafe on Jl AP Pettarani was close to my hotel and seems very popular with locals, in what looked like a restored Dutch mansion with a good Western menu, affordable and top service, but is about a third of the way to the airport in the city’s east end.

    Some may find this of crucial importance, but it’s virtually impossible to get alcohol in Makassar. Not even beer. Not even the best restaurants serve it. Some large hotels may – I just went dry for three days, and survived. Take some with you from Java if you must.

    In the city center shopping malls you will find all the usual US brand name cafe bars for the usual range of predictable cafe food and good coffee. I enjoyed mine at the (many and clean) street stalls for less than US$1.00 per shot, double shots free.

    There are several shopping malls, the biggest (and best) is MTC Karebosi, on Jl Ahmad Yani directly opposite the Lapangan Karebosi (the city’s alun-alun as it’s called in Java, or central park area) is by far the best with a good range of almost everything (except, alas, beer).

    Oddly, I didn’t make it to Paotere Harbor, likely due to the many friendly but insistent local tour guides hassling (hustling?) me to let them guide me there for ridiculously high fees. The daytime temperatures and humidity were also rather high, as I’m over the Big Seven-0 hill and a way beyond, I didn’t cope well with the climate and sought out shade or air-conditioning as I went. Ducking into the (many) big city hotels kept me cooled down and ready to wander further afield. Having seen your intriguing photos of this harbor, I will definitely go at Easter next year when I return to Makassar for a further two days.

    Fort Rotterdam is definitely worth going even though the uniforms at the entrance insisted all the Western visitors paid them US$20 for the pleasure, which I politely firmly declined. A small donation in rupiahs saw me safely into the restored (and very Dutch in atmosphere) central fort area which is well kept and pleasant and, in the shade of the verandahs around the old buildings, nicely cool. An essential ‘BTW’ is that buying one museum ticket gets you into the two (separately located) museums, so you don’t have to pay up twice. Allow 2-3 hours to see the place through.

    Devotees of colonial architecture will be disappointed, the best was bulldozed in the 1990s but there is still some (sadly I missed that fine circa 1930 Art Deco-Art Moderne apotik) but you have to walk and find it on your own. Exploring the area surrounding the Lapangan Karebosi will yield a few treasures.

    I will stop here, I’ve gone on too long as I usually do about my travels to such places. Suffices to say visitors to Makassar will find it a low-key experience but it offers a few good things to do to those willing to get out and explore. Too bad about those airport taxi fares, drivers want US$20 to travel six kilometers, hiss boo (we bargained it down, as you can)…

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