Makassar – our first time in Indonesia

We arrive in Indonesia. Makassar is the first city we see, the first place where we meet the colorful and curious Indonesians and Makassar’s cuisine tops the “heat” record on our spiciness scale (sorry Thai cuisine… you have been officially dethroned).

Makassar is the largest city of Sulawesi island and the capital of the southern province. The city has a big harbor which has been of importance for spice traders in colonial times, and still today is the most important harbor in eastern Indonesia. With about 2.5 million inhabitants in the larger metropolitan area, Makassar has a vivid city center and a lot of street life to discover.

Arriving in Indonesia – Three lessons about Indonesian people

We arrive by plane in Makassar. The Visa on arrival counter is no problem to find. The administrator is exceptionally friendly and – surprise: very fast.

travel tipp infoEntering into Indonesia via Makassar as a German has the disadvantage that you need to spend the 35$ on the Visa on arrival, while other international airports in Indonesia, such as Bali or Jakarta do not require you to pay that Visa fee anymore for German citizens. If you plan your trip, we would recommend to take this into account.

Directly on arrival we get a first taste of the outstanding hospitability of Indonesians: I befriend an Indonesian guy who sits next to me on the plane. We talk a bit about our plans and he learns that we will stay in the city center of Makassar. He immediately offers us a ride to our hotel even though it’s a detour for him to do so. His whole family awaits him at the airport, all extremely friendly and curious. They all insist that we come along. We jointly squeeze into the car, with lots of giggling and communication through gestures. They take us into the city center and drop us of at our hotel. What a mind-blowing openness and kindness! This is not the last time this happens to us during our trip in Indonesia.

At night we take a taxi to the city center in order to eat. We end up in a local kitchen where they only serve two dishes: Beef rip in a greasy, sweet peanut sauce and beef rip in soup. The restaurant is full of locals, and again we experience another merit of Indonesians: They are very curious! All guests give us full attention and we hardly get our meals down so much must we smile around.

In our hotel we have a nice balcony from which we can see over the whole city. In the evening the muezzins start to sing over the whole city. We have been to Istanbul before, and there the muezzins’ calls for prayer are graceful and in tune. Here, every muezzin sings his own tune, slightly higher or lower than his neighbor muezzin. Add in the honking from the busy streets and a rock playlist blaring from every other warung (small street restaurant), and you have reached the comfort noise level of the average Indonesian. Indonesians love noise!

Visiting Makassar

Besides being an attraction ourselves (we have to stop for countless selfies with locals), we also visit some of the touristic places the city has to offer. We peek into the Fort Rotterdam, an old fortress built by the Dutch colonialists in the 17th century. Nowadays it contains a museum (without English description of the exhibits – but you can hire a guide at the entrance) with several exhibits around Sulawesi culture and daily life. The fort is also used as location for cultural events.

The midday heat strikes us very hard in this hot part of the world (35+ degrees Celsius), and we escape into the shadowy corridors of the colonial buildings within the fort. An Islamic school class has just finished their English lesson. Of course the pupils have got homework: They have to interview foreigners in English about their and Indonesian culture. We are “victims” of this exercise in basic English, but after 3 groups interviewing us, we have to disappoint the other 20 pupils who want to ask us the same questions all over again.

After the fort we walk down south alongside the harbor where you can hire a boat to get to one of the small islands in front of Makassar. Certainly an interesting excursion, however one that we decide to skip.

We continue down the Pantai Losari, the harbor promenade, where we have to stop every five meters to be on a picture for the family album. “Hello, Mister!” they all scream after the blond, tall guy next to me. Some of the women even give us their little kids into our arms. Some are rather unhappy about mommy’s decision, but for a fast picture we manage to keep them smiling.

At the end of the Losari promenade, we visit the modern mosque Masjid Terapung. We take off our shoes, of course. But I am even allowed to enter without a veil. It’s another proof for me how tolerant the people are here. From the mosque roof we have a nice view over the harbor, but we leave soon due to the tiles that have heated up heavily in the sun – we are barefoot, ouch!

We meander through the streets a little bit to the east of the harbor promenade. We discover the Chinese gold seller’s section, the guitar sales stands, and a group of well trained youngsters doing tricks on skateboards and somersaulting from an official monument.

At night we eat very well and… extremely spicy… in a small restaurant near our hotel: My chicken is covered with a 5mm thick layer of ground fresh green chilies. Christian’s fish has a layer of ground red piri-piri. Our Bangkok spiciness record is broken!

A warm and heavy tropical rain starts in the evening and lasts through the muezzins’ cacophony until the next morning.

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