I’m in Makassar, a city on the island of Sulawesi, which is one of the larger islands of Indonesia, on the other side of the world! Getting here required about 36 hours, four flights and five security checks, but everything went smoothly. The first ‘Indonesian’ thing I encountered was a bowl of orchids gracing the sink in the airport bathroom. What luxury!
Makassar is a hot, humid city of over a million with terrible traffic and broken, crowded sidewalks, making it very difficult to walk. Have you ever heard of ‘antimakassars?’ Back in our grandmothers’ days, they were crocheted doilies that were put on the backs of sofas to guard against shiny spots left by men wearing ‘makassar’ hair oil that came from this city! By the way, I’ve heard Indonesians pronounce it both ways—Mak’-as-sar and Ma-kas’-sar.
I got a nice bus at the airport (must be new as the Lonely Planet Guide didn’t mention it) that took me the 22 km to the city center from where I could hire a becak (pronounced bay’-cha), a bicycle rickshaw that took me to my hostel. The dorms here were a little much even for me as they were under the third floor roof without A/C so I have a private room with A/C, but the positive hostel things like eating breakfast with the other guests remain.
About 1:00 I walked around awhile looking for a place to eat, but none of the ‘local’ restaurants serve beer (Muslim country) so I went to a hotel for a beer and some satay, which was surprisingly good.
From there I went to the bay to see the boats—lots of small sailing catamarans were anchored there, perhaps in anticipation of some kind of regatta as there was a cannon (?) going off about every minute and an air of festivity.
My becak driver took me to the orchid garden, Taman Anggrek Clara Bundt, but it was closed—bankrupt, the driver said. Apparently in this recession even orchid gardens can go bankrupt! Next we stopped to see the towering Mandela Monument, and then went on to the old harbor.There was a myriad of working boats of all stripes there that were being offloaded of lots of stuff—like onions.
The becak driver took me back to the hotel and we made a deal for the next day to visit Old Gowa on the southern edge of the city which he said was “no problem!”
The next day, however became very complicated. Over night I had been thinking about having the becak driver pedal so far—about 12 km each way—but I thought I would go through with it. Apparently he had the same thought as he told me with his broken English that we would go to Fort Rotterdam and there the two of us would take a pete pete (local vans that act as city buses, pronounced pet’ay pet’ay). So essentially he would act as my guide. But when we were ready to set out, I saw him asking many questions about directions—obviously he didn’t really know the way. So I told him that I could go on my own as I had directions in the LP, although they were pretty sketchy. He readily agreed and I paid him for the becak ride to Fort Rotterdam.
I walked across the street and asked a man if this is where I would get a ‘Minasa’ pete pete to Old Gowa, and it was. Many sky blue pete pete were going by and soon the man waved down the right one and I boarded. There is seating on each side of the van, the better to crowd more people in, I suppose. Soon the driver motioned me to get out as he was turning off. I did and asked again for a Minasa pete pete, which I soon got. I told the driver where I was going and he nodded confidently. There were very few passengers during the whole ride, but this was Saturday.
Finally the last passenger was let off at the end of the line and the driver indicated to me that we had gone past Old Gowa and the Sultan’s Tomb. This was all signed with no English but somehow we communicated—he would take me there! I gestured, “How much?” (money) and he held up three bills totaling 30,000 R. I agreed and we were off.
The first stop was Makam Sultan Hasanuddin’s Tomb from the 17th C. He lost the fort here to the Dutch in a battle in 1669. There were several other Sultan’s tombs, as well. The pete pete driver waited for me and then we went on another five km to see Benteng Sungguminasa, a former fort of the sultan of Gowa, which was a huge, beautiful wooden palace in the Bugis style. Another building was the former royal residence, which is now a museum, unfortunately closed at that moment. These were very worthwhile to see.
We retraced our way back to the ‘end of the line’ and started back to central Makassar as a pete pete. Again we only picked up two passengers. I knew that his line ended at the Makassar Mall, so I mentioned my hostel and street and said I would get a becak. He let me off in a suitable place and called the name of my street to a becak driver who nodded that he knew the street. In about six blocks, I was back at my hostel. The price for the initial becak driver, the pete pete to the southern edge of town, the driver who became my guide with transportation for an hour, the pete pete ride back to town and the final becak ride cost a total of 50,000 R—$6.00. What an adventure!
When I returned it was time for lunch, which I prefaced with a cold beer at the hostel. Then I walked a couple of blocks to the warung recommended by my hostel proprietess, where I had really good soup, chicken, rice, some veggies and some very hot tomatoey sauce. The waitress started to remove my soup bowl when it was nearly (but not completely) empty and I wouldn’t let her—the proprietess-cashier had been watching and indicated that the waitress would get me more soup. She must have noticed that I really liked it!
Today I had a very relaxing day. I had breakfast with several other hostel guests and a nice chat with two Austrian young women. Then I slowly walked hither and yon, wherever something interesting took me. (One has to walk slowly, it’s so hot and humid!) I was on my meandering way to the Lae Lae restaurant for a fish dinner. I had planned this as it was highly recommended in the LP guidebook. The two young women at breakfast had done it yesterday and thought it superb. I arrived at the port, which had the catamarans on Friday, now all gone, replaced by racing jet skis. There were jillions of people watching while they maneuvered around some red buoys, making lots of racket and foam.
At noon I was at Lae Lae, and for a sinking moment thought they didn’t have beer, but they did! So, a big beer and then my choice of fresh fish in coolers—I had the man pick one for me—which was then grilled TO PERFECTION in front of the restaurant.
When my fish came it seemed like an awful lot, but I ate every little bit! It was served with sambals, rice and some green veggies.
When I had finished eating, I walked at a leisurely pace a couple of blocks where I could see pete pete running, and I flagged one down. I said, “Jampea” (the name of my small street) and the driver looked dubious but a middle-aged woman insisted I should get on as this was the right pete pete, so I did. There was lots of discussion as I saw a couple of landmarks that I recognized but the driver indicated that I should stay on, even though all the others got off. We drove quite far (too far north, in my estimation) and he seemed unsure of what to do. Finally he dropped me off and told me to take a becak, which I was prepared to do, anyway. BUT, just as I got off, I noticed a street sign (there are very few) saying ‘Sulawesi,’ a street near my hotel. I asked a man which way Jampea was and he confidently indicated the direction. So I walked about five blocks and there I was, at MY corner!
By the way, Makassar is unique in this way: the street signs are not set parallel to the street that they are indicating, but perpendicular, so the street is ‘behind’ the sign, not parallel to it. That was really confusing at first.
Tomorrow I shall leave very early to get a pete pete to the Malingkari Bus Terminal about 15 km south of the city center. Then I shall get a ‘kijang’ (some kind of bus, I guess) to go to a beach village south of here called Pantai Bira. I shall stay there until Friday when I will return to Makassar to hopefully pick up my passport with a visa extension! I could only get 30 days on arrival and I have heard getting an extension is a real hassle. My landlady at the hostel said she would do it (has done it many times) for me for a charge, so I have given my passport to her and some money. Hopefully all will be well! During the next few days, I may not respond to your emails as the LP book says there is no internet in Pantai Bira, but that may have changed.