A seaside city of contrast, explore Makassar’s 21st-century shopping malls and 17th-century fortresses. Begin your island-hopping odysseys here.
One-time capital of pirate princes and gateway to Indonesia’s wild east, Makassar is a seaside city of colour and contrast. Part sleepy tropical backwater, part burgeoning modern metropolis, this is a place where you can explore crumbling 17th-century fortresses and glitzy 21st-century shopping malls, take a ride in a rattling pedicab en route for a pulsing nightclub, or simply kick back in the glow of a stupendous sunset.
Perched between the rugged green hills of South Sulawesi and the wide blue waters of the Flores Sea, Makassar has always been a city with its finger on the pulse. Originally a seat of powerful seagoing sultans, it has been a staging post for Portuguese spice traders, a stronghold for Dutch settlers, and a place of exile for rebellious Javanese princes. The past is still close to the surface here, and you’ll find plenty of living history in the backstreets and docksides. But this is also the biggest city in eastern Indonesia, with everything you’d expect in sophisticated shopping, nightlife and accommodation.
The ultimate Makassar pleasures could simply be enjoying a spread of fresh seafood in the company of cheery locals at a seafront café while watching the sun slips down over the far horizon. And when you’re done with the city, don’t forget that Makassar is the first stepping stone for all sorts of epic island-hopping odysseys.
Makassar is a great place to visit all year-round, however visitors may want to note December and January are usually the wettest months of the year.
Singaporeans and citizens of other ASEAN member states can visit Indonesia for 30 days without a visa. Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months and that you have a return or onward ticket. Visitors from many other countries can get a 30-day visa on arrival at Makassar for US$25.
Indonesian rupiah. There are ATMs and currency exchange counters at the airport. You'll find ATMs in Mataram, Senggigi and on Gili Trawangan. There are money changers on the other Gilis and at Kuta, but their exchange rates are not the best.
There are prepaid taxi booths at the airport, as well as regular air-conditioned buses operated by DAMRI to the city centre. Within the city there are plenty of metered taxis, though for a cheaper and more colourful ride hop into one of Makassar's many pete-pete (public minibuses) which run along a network of fixed routes from a hub at Makassar Mall. A ride in a becak (pedicab) is a fun way to explore the backstreets, but you'll have to bargain for a reasonable fare.
For a big city Makassar is remarkably safe, and the main danger is from the traffic - watch out for motorbikes approaching from every angle as you cross the street. There is some petty crime - keep an eye out for pickpockets in markets and while riding in pete-pete - but few threats to personal safety. As everywhere in Indonesia, don't drink the tap water. While there is very little danger of contracting malaria in South Sulawesi, there is a potential risk of dengue fever, particularly towards the end of the rainy season, so do your best to avoid mosquito bites.
|How are you?||Apa kabar?|
|Fine, thanks||Baik, terima kasih|
|Excuse-me! (to get attention)||Permisi!|
|Thank you||Terima kasih|
|What's your name?||Siapa nama anda?|
|My name is…||Nama saya…|
|Nice to know you||Senang berkenalan dengan anda|
|Are you on Facebook/Twitter?||Anda ada di Facebook/Twitter?|
|Where’s an internet café?||Warnet [warung internet] di mana?|
|Where can I get a taxi?||Di mana saya bisa mendapatkan taksi?|
|Where is the bus/train station?||Stasiun bis/kereta di mana?|
|A one-way/return ticket to…||Tiket sekali jalan/pulang-pergi ke…|
|Do you have a room for one/two?||Ada kamar untuk satu/dua orang?|
|When's check out?||Kapan waktu check-out?|
|Can you recommend a good restaurant/bar?||Bisakah anda menyarankan restoran/bar yang bagus?|
|A table for two, please||Tolong meja untuk dua orang|
|A menu, please||Tolong minta menunya|
|The bill, please||Tolong minta bonnya|
|Where's the toilet?||Kamar kecil di mana?|
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With thickset, red-roofed barracks and well-tended gardens, Fort Rotterdam is one of Indonesia’s best-kept colonial relics. Built by the Dutch in 1667, it has been a seat of government, a World War II prison camp, and is now a tourist attraction. There are a couple of museums within the complex, and behind the sturdy shutters and arched entranceways you’ll find evocative echoes of the past.
Paotere Harbour is the place to catch a heady hint of Makassar’s history of trade, spice and piracy. The city was a major maritime hub in the age of sail, home to the mighty Bugis seafarers who ruled the waves of Southeast Asia. Today their descendants still sail from the wharves here aboard elegant pinisi schooners, carrying cargo across Indonesia. Paotere is a busy working harbour, so don’t expect a sanitized tourist trap. However, the boats are very photogenic, the crewmen are always happy to chat, and there’s some great seafood in nearby restaurants.
Out beyond the oily waters of Makassar’s harbour lies Pulau Samalona, a tiny speck of sand and greenery a world apart from the city. You’ll need to charter a boat from the jetty opposite Fort Rotterdam to get here, but it’s worth the journey. The sand is soft and golden, and the waters are warm and clear with some decent snorkelling in the shallows. There’s a small community here, and the locals serve up fresh fish, soft drinks and coconuts to visitors. There are other quieter islands nearby too.
Trans Studio Makassar
Trans Studio Makassar on the south Makassar waterfront is Indonesia’s answer to Singapore’s Universal Studios. There are rides and slides aplenty, cinemas, live music and entertainment, all manner of eateries and a TV studio. It all amounts to some 12 hectares of air-conditioned fun for kids big and small.
An hour beyond the city, on the edge of the toothy karst hills of the Bantimurung-Bulusaraung National Park, Bantimurung is a favoured spot for day-tripping locals at the weekend. There’s a waterfall, and the surrounding hills are studded with natural caves, but it's most famous for its butterflies. The naturalist Alfred Wallace came here to collect specimens in 1857, and the cool forest is still home to dozens of brightly coloured species.
Makassar has an Indonesia-wide reputation for its cuisine. Start your foodie journey in Chinatown with a portion of pangsit mie Makassar-style – the local version of wonton noodles with thinly sliced barbecued pork – from one of the many cafes on Jl. Lombok or Jl. Sulawesi. Still in this neck of the woods, head to Warung Coto Nusantara on Jl. Nusantara to sample a bowl of coto Makassar. Not for the faint-hearted, this hearty, peanut-flavoured beef soup is made from all the nasty bits – heart, lungs, tripe, brain and more. Alternatively, skip a few blocks east to Jl. Irian to Warung Sop Saudara and enjoy a bowl of the eponymous 'brothers’ soup', another dark, meaty broth that’ll stick to your ribs.
If you’re in the mood for some of Makassar’s famous seafood, plot a course north to Paotere Harbour. Once you’ve taken in the sights and smells of this busy working port with its fleet of beautiful pinisi schooners, follow the scent of grilling fish to one of the simple seafood cafes on Jl. Sabutung, near the entrance to the port, and order a plate of barbecued seafood straight from the market.
Once the sun begins to set, join the locals for an evening promenade at Pantai Losari, the seafront stretch of Jl. Penghibur. You’ll find all sorts of snacks on sale here. Check out the local version of otak-otak, fish cakes steamed or grilled in banana leaves, or pisang epe, a flattened banana cooked over coals and served with a sticky, durian-flavoured syrup.
If you’re hitting the streets of Makassar with kids in tow, you’ll find plenty to keep them occupied. Start the day with a becak (pedicab) ride through the backstreets, or up to Paotere Harbour where children will enjoy examining the weird and wonderful fruits of the sea on sale in the local fish market.
Once the heat of the day begins to rise you could beat a retreat to the air-conditioned haven that is Trans Studio Makassar. This giant TV-inspired theme park on the waterfront was built with kids in mind. There are rides and activities which will occupy fun-lovers of all ages, and you could easily pass most of the day here.
There’s more to explore outside, however, so head back out and take a trip out to Bantimurung to see the waterfall and the butterflies. There are usually lots of local families escaping the city here, so your kids will likely find some new friends.
On the way back to Makassar stop to cool off at the Bugis Waterpark on Jl. Raya Baruga. There are some huge water slides here and pools for swimming. Finally, take the children for an evening stroll along the seafront at Pantai Losari and give them the chance to pick out their own fresh seafood dinner from one of the nearby fish restaurants.