Makassar in Sulawesi is a harbour city that is steeped in history. Once owned by the Dutch, there are still remnants left from these colonial days, but the city has modernised into the most progressive of all Sulawesi’s main urban areas.
I found Makassar to be very laid-back (by Indonesian standards), and an altogether different experience than what I had encountered in other cities such as Jakarta or Medan. True, I only stayed here in Makassar for one night before heading up to Tana Toraja, but I still got a little taster of the what the city had to offer. Aside from its grim appearance, I learnt that the people of Makassar love their food and are genuinely curious as to what tourists like me were getting up to in their city. In a country with such tourist hotspots as Lombok, Bali, Yogyakarta, and Bandung, it is quite surprising to the locals here that you would be spending time in a city like Makassar (I didn’t have the heart to tell them I was only here enroute to Torajaland)! Then again, one curious market trader even had the cheek to ask me if I was lost! Ah, that famous Indonesian sense of humour…
Attractions in Makassar are few and far between. It is a city where you can explore the region and learn a little about the people and their culture here. It is not Indonesia’s answer to Orlando or Las Vegas! However, there is actually a nice indoor theme park called Trans Studio, which I didn’t have time to visit, but many people rave about.
The main attractions in Makassar, aside from Trans Studio, are unquestionably Losari Beach, Fort Rotterdam, and the famous Paotere Harbour. There is also a place called Watansoppeng around a couple of hours drive out of the city, which is famous for its giant bats hanging from the trees (Bat City)!
A bit like the city of Medan over in Sumatra, which is used as a base to explore the nearby jungles and volcanoes, Makassar is usually used as a stopover point before heading up to Tana Toraja in the centre of Sulawesi, which is a whopping 8 hour drive away!