ETAs are placed in three cities on Sulawesi this year: Gorontalo, Manado, and Makassar. The only site I hadn’t yet visited was Makassar, and since I had to pass through it to get to Tana Toraja, I decided to plan my flights to allow me two separate days in Makassar, to have a least a little time to explore this massive city (the largest on Sulawesi).
While in Makassar, I was able to go to two different benteng (forts), Rotterdam, and Somba Opu. Fort Rotterdam, while not particularly impressive in and of itself (it’s not very big, and most of it has been restored, which means not much of anything original remains. However, there was a museum tucked off to the side that even included English translations of the signs (fairly high-quality translations, too), which gave wonderful insight into the various cultures found in southern Sulawesi.
The other fort, Somba Opu, has, for the most part, not been restored. In some ways, this makes it more beautiful, but in other ways it makes it just a little more sad. Perhaps the most interesting part of the fort was the grave of an ancient king, which local people still brings offerings of food to every Friday night. Throughout the site there are also various traditional houses, examples of the architectural styles found all throughout South Sulawesi. These are very cool to drive by, but sadly tourists can no longer go inside them, because families have moved in, and are apparently living there for free, essentially squatting, according to the person who showed me around.
Makassar, like Gorontalo, and much of Indonesia, is majority Muslim, and as such I also saw a number of masjid (mosques) while in Makassar. Masjid Al-Markaz Al-Islami is the largest mosque in Makassar, and is possibly the most beautiful shade of green I’ve seen. Masjid Raya is the second largest mosque, and it also houses one of the largest Qur’ans in Indonesia. My favorite, though, was Masjid Amirul Mukminin, which sits out on a pier, inspired by a similar mosque in Saudi Arabia.
Typically, I don’t enter mosques in Indonesia, because I am never sure whether not I would offend someone by doing so. But my new friend Fera, the daughter of one of my friend’s co-teachers, who is Muslim, told me it is absolutely fine to do so, so long as I am respectful, and check with whomever is in charge as to whether or not I need to cover my hair (for the two mosques we entered, I did not). While I still don’t think I will go waltzing into mosques unaccompanied any time soon, it was reassuring to know that I could.
Near the pier in Makassar, there is an area called Pantai Losari. Though its name implies it is a beach, it is more of a boardwalk, which is apparently full of various penjual (sellers) at night, and is a popular hang-out place. Since it was mid-day, it was fairly quiet, but we were still able to wander from statue to statue, all of which represent different aspects of the four main cultures in South Sulawesi: Makassar, Bugis, Mandar, and Toraja. Each culture has its own of the pier, something I thought was actually quite cool. There was even a small art gallery, which I, of course, also enjoyed.
The folks from my program placed in Makassar always say that while there are certainly a few interesting parts of the city, the best part of Makassar is the food. So I was sure to try a few kinds while I was there. On my way to Toraja, I had Sop Ubi, a soup similar to bakso, but with cassava in it. On my way home, Fera took me to eat Mie Titi, a seafood and noodle dish with crispy noodles, rather than the soft noodle more commonly found in Indonesian dishes; and later we had Pisang Ijo, a desert dish that is composed of banana, mung bean, sweetened milk, and ice (I was a little confused as to how it was from Makasssar, because I am fairly certain “ijo” is the word for green in Javanese, but either way it was amazing: I think I found my new favorite desert). My friends weren’t lying: all of the food was enak sekali.
Makassar is a large, fairly overwhelming city, and so I’m glad I had friends there to help me find my way around. Gorontalo, while technically a city, is essentially an overgrown town, and this small-town farm girl would not have been able to take on the Big Mak, as we call it, alone. Still, it is the center of everything in South Sulawesi, a perfect place for me to learn about this unfamiliar corner of Indonesia, and a city I wouldn’t mind visiting again.