Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by indohoyindohoy on 2 December 2010 • Itinerary
Makassar or Ujung Pandang is the capital city of South Sulawesi province, and it is the 5th biggest city in Indonesia. Our trip to Makassar in last August wasn’t my first time to the boogeyman city. I’ve been there twice, both visits were work-related, I didn’t have a chance to enjoy the city. But I was impressed with their various delish dishes, hence my main target this time was to relive my culinary memory in Makassar. Turns out, a bonus to dip in the Samalona water! Woohoo!
To tell you the truth, I got a little bored with Makassar. Well, aside from the food. But then I needed things to do in between meals. I guess what I felt was a combination of being physically tired and my over-expectation of the city. The vast and developed city sort of reminded me of Jakarta. Shopping malls, shop houses, and cafes, well.. I’m surrounded by it in Jakarta, so that was almost the last thing I needed in this trip. I wanted something different.. something..like the sea!! On our 2nd day I finally decided to dip in the water again. And it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my entire life! ha!
Snorkeling, and suddenly diving
Mumun was going diving with the Spermonde Dive club around Samalona island, only about 20 minutes boat ride from Makassar port (across the Fort Rotterdam). So I thought, why not I tag along for a snorkel or two?
Photo: courtesy of Reno
Snorkeling only 5-10 meters from the Samalona beach was really a sight for sore eyes, and in my case, for my crappy mood as well. I didn’t bring along my camera though, cos I just wanted the time all for myself down in the water, so I’m sorry guys, I don’t have any underwater picture from this snorkeling trip.
But even though I’ve snorkeled in the Togians, which is the best snorkeling site I’ve been to so far, I wasn’t disappointed at all with Samalona. I saw some beautiful fishes that I hadn’t seen before. And I was quite entertained when I saw a crab running fast to hide beneath the sand when I swam over it. There are quite a few sea urchins lurking in between corals, but only a small amount. Don’t worry about it.
And then, Mumun and the Spermonde guys were up in the surface after a 45-minute dive. One of them gave me a hand sign to come close to them, while I was swimming near our boat. I came closer, thinking that it’s a great spot to snorkel where they’re at. Turns out, he took of his BCD, oxygen tube and everything, and put them on me! wha..?? hahaha.. Cool, next thing I knew, I was 12 meters down with the other guy instructing me and helped me keep my buoyancy.
Some interesting creatures I saw there, as Mumun probably has described it for you in the diving section. I also saw this one fish, it was probably about 30-40cm long, silvery color, and I could see the teeth sticking out. “Wow! Is that barracuda?” I went up to the surface thinking I just saw a barracuda only 1 meter in front of me. A total awesomeness. And then on the boat on our way back to the city, I asked one of the Spermonde guys what it really was. Turns out, it was not a barracuda. “It’s a mackerel,” he said. Oh. Well. It was good while it lasted.
All in all, the snorkeling and diving around Samalona Island was a great experience. I’m all for safety when it comes to diving and just about anything (*cough*), but a little rule-breaking once in a while is freat for the soul 😉
Fun Fun Dive
Mumun left Tana Toraja ahead of Reno and me for Makassar. Besides visiting relatives, she had some diving agenda around Makassar. Here it is…take it away, Mumun:
I was in Makassar to meet family after so long. But a girl also needs her entertainment, no? Ok, here is my two cents of the city this time. As I have just got my diving license, I asked my friends in Jakarta if there was any diving community in Makassar. Luckily they said there is a crazy bunch there where I can mingle in. So, off I went to the Spermonde Dive Center located at the Pulau Bangkoa port. Not only does it have a dive center, this dive center is colored by lunatic divers that actively dive day and night. During my 6 days stay in Makassar, I did 5 dives in 3 days in a row. And I did my first night dive which was incredible! Their enthusiasm for the underwater world is contagious. Consider this a warning!
As the Lonely Planet, which we love, said in the Indonesian guide book, Makassar is not known for its diving. Unfortunately, it’s true. Not because it has nothing to offer, but because it’s less known compared to Selayar island, and the more famous Wakatobi archipelago. But Makassar waters are understated! What it offers is far from disappointing especially for a rookie like me.
The Spermonde islands are the surrounding mini archipelago located around the South Sulawesi. It all starts from Gusung, the tiny island 20 minutes outside of the Bangkoa port, and stretches to the Wakatobi islands and up to Mamuju area. It is a huge spread and each area offers different sceneries.
– Kodingareng Keke
This sand island is the next island after passing Samalona. It’s deserted. There was a resort there, but due to nationalism issues (don’t ask), they closed the resort. Which is a pity since it’s so beautiful and peaceful, far from the hustling and growing Makassar. A tan is a definite thing to get here. The water was perfect. On that hot day, the water was clear, and I even saw a mini lobster when just snorkeling 20 m off shore. Now, the island is less maintained, with bits and pieces of rubbish contaminating the white sands. Sad 🙁
I did 2 dives here. And during the 2 dives, I saw so many things. Again… I am a rookie. The corals were relatively nice and patchy, and the floor was dominated by sand coverage. Some corals were a bit damage and bleaching was noticeable but apparently it maintains a lot of fauna for this rookie (pointing at myself).
I saw a flounder fish camouflaged well amongst the sand, transparent shrimps, nudibranches, clown fishes, my first baby shark, and swam with the blue dotted sting ray. Cut life pragmatically, there isn’t much more to life than this.
I did the afternoon dive at Samalona with Vira, Reno, and Maya tagging along for snorkeling and just hanging out that afternoon. I even did two dives since everyone decided to come up early. The corals aren’t the best in the world and it also wasn’t the best visibility. However, because I took my time, I saw Morays, Lion fishes (a few actually), nudibranches, a hiding lobster and countless fishes in huge groups that I didn’t encounter in the Togian islands. So, it was far from disappointing. The Samalona Island also offered the huge red fan corals on one side but we did this area during the night dive. I needed to come back since a few years back for these coral, and I still need to see them again. I guess another reason to come back.
I did my first night dive and an afternoon dive here. My night dive was kinda like a bonus. The Spermonde gang usually do spear-fishing at night. Besides that it’s easier, they had fanatics for this night activity. Talk about night life huh?! Rahmat, Jitho, and Om Ajie are the craziest of the bunch, being able to do this 5 nights a week if they could. I didn’t care how much time they could do it that week as long as I get to tag along. And there I was, submerged in the water by 8 pm.
Night dives was a great sensation! You don’t see more than what your group flash lights show you. You can’t really know what’s behind you, and none of the others can either. You can easily get lost if you don’t stick together, very far from day diving. The creatures are different, and the best parts for spear fishers are the fish that are mostly asleep. Most amazing thing was Om Ajie collecting fish with his bare hands like picking strawberries in a patch. There is no better way to fish than this.
My favorite part of the evening is ascending and witnessing the lit Makassar from the water. I’ve been coming to Makassar all my life, but this is the way to enjoy it. We caught so much, I doubt we were able to finish it all. But don’t worry! The guys only had one miss catch, catching one coral fish.
This is a great experience that I thank Om Ajie for taking and watching after me. A risk not a lot of DM would do. I felt very safe diving with him. We then headed back to the port, and ask the small eatery on the corner to grill our fish. Now, that is the best way to enjoy your catch; fresh food with good company.
The urban hangouts
Ok, back to Vira here:
There’s probably nothing wrong with a town growing into a city and going for a metropolitan city. Roads, tall buildings, shopping malls are built, franchise restaurants and cafes are open, and people dress up in styles that you see in the fashion magazines with all the similar attitudes and gadgets in their hands. If I were feeling homesick, I’d probably feel home in Makassar (not that Jakarta is home, but I’m just familiar with it, like, 8 years of familiarity..does it make sense to you?).
Anyhow, towards the end of our Sulawesi trip, there was a time when some of us felt too tired to go some place that required driving out of town, there was also a matter of spending money for car rentals, also a matter of just wanting to chill in the city, so we ended up not doing much in nature. Reno and I even went for a movie at the cinema. After going underwater in the salty water of Samalona, we saw the movie “Salt” at the Mal Ratu Indah.
There are a couple of shopping malls in Makassar. We got in the Mal Ratu Indah, the Mal Panakukkang, and the Trans Studio (it’s a theme park inspired by Universal Studios, attached to a shopping mall – or the other way around).
Makassar is a pretty historical city, considering there used to be a powerful kingdom in some centuries ago. We did a little of the historical tour, just check under our History tab.
Balla Lompoa Museum
To kill time before lunch, Maya our host took us for a little historical tour to the Balla Lompoa Museum, which displays cultural and historical items from the Gowa kingdom. It was one of the biggest kingdoms in Sulawesi a couple of centuries ago, with their most prominent now-national hero, Sultan Hasanuddin, who lead the Makassar war against the Dutch’s VOC. And guess what. Maya is a descendant of the Gowa kingdom! A royal among us!
Unfortunately though, the museum didn’t seem to be very well taken care of. The displays were just there and looked old and dusty, some were poorly lit, and some didn’t have clear information on what we were actually looking at. Oh, having seen Singapore museums just killed this tour for me. This should be something that Makassar’s tourism board gives more attention to.
However, it’s interesting to know that the Makassareans have their own alphabet aside from their own language. It’s still taught in schools but they don’t really use it anymore. (Indonesia has countless of local languages and dialects)
Next, still in our first day in Makassar, we went to the Benteng Ujung Pandang (Benteng = Fort). It was built in by Gowa Kingdom in 1545, and was later occupied by the Dutch, hence the name changed to Fort Rotterdam; Rotterdam being the birthplace of Cornelis Speelman, then the General Governor of the Dutch Indies.
Photo: courtesy of Reno
I guess we all weren’t really in the mood for much historical tour, so we didn’t bother to spend not even a dime for a tour guide. We just went in with a IDR 2,500 ticket per person, took a walk around and that was it.
Maya, who lived most of her life in Makassar, acted as a semi-guide in our little tour. She explained that if you look at it from above, the fort is shaped like a turtle facing the Makassar Strait in the west.
Photo: courtesy of Reno
Here’s Mumun’s take on the fort, in a separate visit:
The fort was really nice, still consisting with the old doors and windows. The halls and tunnels are what they were, and there are still old remains such as canons and concrete bases of God knows what.
I did enter one museum, which had a few items for the kingdoms that ruled South Sulawesi. It’s too much tell, of course, and you should hear the complete story from the guide which I recommend since I didn’t use one and the run around was a bit boring. But there are some interesting things without the guides too. Like armors made of bones, how money were, old Sulawesi writing which is totally different to Javanese Sanskrit, and the cool cloth which I’m sure is a gift from the Javanese considering the patterns. I enjoyed it.
One particular area of the fort that I did want to see was the prison of Pangeran Diponegoro. This prince was a national hero originally from Yogyakarta. He fought against the colonialism and was banished to Makassar till the day he died. He is a very well known hero being strong hearted to free the Indonesians. For some reason I remember his name well from my history lessons. Maybe, because he was wearing his neat cape and outfit during the war, which was an all white ensemble from head to toe. He was a Moslem hence the outfit.
His prison was quite big considering it was a cell. His old bed, table, and chair remain in the room that used to be his prison. I can imagine him in this cell, reading or doing his daily routines which is far from the busy war schedule that his was used to, away from his family because of what he believed, it’s just heart breaking. I heart all the heroes that had fought for the freedom I enjoy today.
Lae Lae Seafood
Located by the sea, Makassar is privileged with sea creatures.. which later, of course, turned into delicious food. Our first big meal in the city was lunch at Lae Lae Restaurant. It’s one of the famous seafood restaurants there, and definitely Maya’s family’s favorite, that’s why she took us there.
Photo: courtesy of Reno
Here, you can choose your own food. Just go to the kitchen, which is practically at the entrance door, and point out which fish, lobster, or crabs you want to be served cooked and seasoned on your table. I don’t know much about cooking materials, so I let the others choose everything.
Photo: courtesy of Reno
Photo: courtesy of Reno
There were too many choices that we ended up having too much on our table. Everything cost about IDR 180,000 for the 6 of us. And everything was great! But OMG, we still had dessert waiting for us! On to the next… Pisang Ijo!
Jalan Datu Musseng # 8, Makassar
Es pisang ijo
After passing through streets with crazy traffic, we got to Bravo diner. Main target: es pisang ijo. It is – copied and pasted from wikitravel – banana wrapped in thick green rice flour layer, served with condensed coconut milk and syrup.
A portion of es pisang ijo costs IDR 13,500. It’s a big portion, I could have had it replace my whole lunch. But we couldn’t pass a chance to try the real pisang ijo (you can find it even in Jakarta but the originals would always have to be the best, don’t you think? At least it’s got that originality ingredient). So we ordered 3 portions for the 6 of us. I think it was quite a good after taste for Martin and Mie before they flew to Bali in the afternoon.
Jalan Andalas #154, Makassar.
THIS is what I had been looking forward to since Trip Day #1. Wait, no, since Trip Planning Day #1. Haha.. konro or also know as iga, or ribs to you.
We had our konro on the second day, in a diner called Karebosi. The diner is also known for its konro soup, but somehow all of us ordered the grilled ribs with the peanut sauce. Add some drops of lime, you’ll get a mixture of salty, spicy, and soury taste on top of the soft and juicy meat peeled from the bones. Oh now I long for a grilled konro.. I don’t know if I’m gonna be able to sleep tonight thinking about it..
While we were wolfing down the ribs, Marlies and Jaap came to join us. They’ve been texting with Reno and were on their way to.. I forgot where, and stopped by, but decided to have lunch later on.
A set of rice + grilled konro + tea = IDR 37,000. Not bad at all, huh?
Jalan Gunung Lompobattang # 41
Ph. +62 411 312157
Opens at.. 10 or 11 AM
This is our third lunch in Makassar. We were going to have it at their branch in the Mal Panakukkang because it was the closest to Maya’s place. Turns out it’s closed. But it was a must, so we moved to their other outlet on Nusakambangan Street. On a hot sunny day like that, Reno and I rode a motorbike following Mumun and her aunt in their car. We were practically sun tanning! Man, was Makassar hot or what! It’s actually the hottest (temperature-wise, literally) place we’ve been in the whole trip.
I have heard of Surya crabs since long ago, but I never went to the restaurant. So I was surprised to find that it’s actually a nice, middle-upper class restaurant. The interior was more like the 80s, but it’s clean, tidy, and the waiters are in uniforms and all. Okay, I got my debit card and credit card ready just in case it cost more than the cash I still had..hehe.
We ordered the black peppered and sweet n’ sour sauced crabs plus stir-fried khailan veggies and some juices. Great food, costing us IDR 370,000 for 4 people (Mumun’s aunt was eating with us as well). I have no specific say about this, but I do remember the crabs in Kenari Restaurant in Balikpapan (East Kalimantan) were as good with bigger portion. And I don’t know why I’m comparing the two crab diners.
Every city has to have their ‘to see and to be seen’ hangout place, right? Well, so does Makassar. And their latest thing was Popsa, a food court by the beach across the Fort Rotterdam. It’s where the cool kids hangout, they say. And to me, it was really nice to just laze around, munching on snack (or meal) and sippin’ some cold beverages in Popsa. You can feel the wind from sea in the middle of an urban ambience.
For more references on local cuisine, which aren’t listed many in your guide books like the Lonely Planet, check some more here.
Long story short, we missed our flight out of Makassar. So we got tickets for the next day flight and decided to spend our last night in a hotel instead of in our free stay (Mumun had been sleeping at her aunt’s place, Reno and I at Maya’s place).
Our pick was the Hotel Adhyaksa on Adhyaksa Street. It’s clean and the staff were helpful, but the rate, which was about IDR 360,000 – 450,000 / night, didn’t include breakfast.
Photo: courtesy of Reno
There were many hotels to choose from in that area, like the Amaris Hotel, which seemed nicer and had a little higher room rates, and we also checked out a hotel near Hotel Adhyaksa, named Wisma Akik Hijau, which has cheaper rates starting from IDR 175,000 with air conditioner. It seemed clean as well, but not as nice as Adhyaksa. Well, niceness often comes with a price.
Our hotel was in walking distance, less than 5 minutes walk, to shops, bakery, 15 minutes walk to KFC, and at night there are local food stalls on the sidewalk on the very street. So don’t worry about finding food, local and international ones around the area.
Hotel Adhyaksa also provides a transfer to the airport for IDR 90,000 / car. It takes approximately 30-45 minutes to the airport on a good day, meaning no traffic jam whatsoever.
Jalan Adhyaksa # 31 C-E
Ph 62 411 449483
Wisma Akik Hijau
Phone 62 411 432 976.
Our 9 hour bus trip from Rantepao was mostly filled with sleeping, sleeping, and sleeping. It cost us IDR 90,000 / pax by Bintang Prima coach, a very comfortable and quite fancy one. At about 6 or 7 AM they dropped us off at a bus terminal across the governor’s office, if I’m not mistaken.
You can also fly directly to Makassar from Jakarta, Manado, Bali, Yogyakarta, and many other points in Indonesia by many choices of airlines, as well as to and from Kuala Lumpur by Air Asia.
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