Sunday, September 04, 2016

Makassar, Indonesia's Undiscovered Gem

When you say Indonesia, the first thing that comes to mind is Bali, followed by Bandung or Jogjakarta and so on, but over the years, people have been flocking to these cities over and over again not noticing some of the other fascinating places in Indonesia that are yet to be explored. One of them is Makassar, Indonesia's undiscovered gem in the South of Sulawesi island. 

For me, it was an eye opener and you may be curious on to why I said this - Well, let me just share with you that this is my first time visiting Makassar in this part of Indonesia and the best part was that I did not do any research whatsoever prior to coming here. My style nowadays is that I would rather accept everything as a surprise, versus knowing what lies ahead. 

I was actually very impressed overall with Makassar, the largest city on the island of Sulawesi, simply because it offered a wide variety of tourism genres for all walks of life and I will share with you some of the experiences I had when I visited this stunning city in July 2016.
The beautiful clear waters of Kodingareng Keke Island
For historical buffs, Makassar is the fifth largest city in Indonesia and located on the southwest coast and facing the Makassar Straits. Historically, Makassar has been a dominating free trade city since the sixteenth century and till today, the trading families still exist where some of the affluent people in Indonesia hail from Makassar. The Portuguese and Dutch both had both ruled in Makassar from the sixteen to seventeenth century and today, you can still see historical remains like Fort Rotterdam in the port city, which is one of the most thriving ports in the region. 

With an estimate population of two million people, Makassar is what my vision of an original Indonesian city looks like - motorbikes and cars at every possible road, traders and hawkers selling food by the five foot ways and road corners, Pete-Pete (Angkuts/Van Taxi's) monopolizing the streets and lots of friendly local faces. And mind you, all of this not fully disturbed by rapid modernization which gives the city time to slowly adept and grow. 

My group and me were put up at the beautiful Aston Hotel Makassar, a three star modern property located in the main city area and walking distances to most places of interest around Makassar. There are a number of 3-4 star hotels in Makassar while there are also a number of budget hotels and guest houses as well.
Sunset in Makassar by Losari Beach
So, what is there to do in Makassar? 

The golden question that many will ask, and for me just being there only once for a few days does not give me the authority to pass judgement and make a 'Top Places to Visit in Makassar' as others would easily jump on the bandwagon to capitalize on the title, but I can just share with you the places that I visited in Makassar during my recent trip. The list below is in no order too. 
Losari beach road in Makassar
Losaris Beach (Pantai Losaris)
Hands down the most popular place in Makasar where everyone, and I mean everyone goes there in the evenings to just relax, catch the sunset or hang out by the many roadside stalls selling desserts and drinks. Losaris Beach is probably the most famous landmark due to the huge red words spelling out Pantai Losari which means Losari Beach.

If you walk here from the main part of town, you will most likely see the main waterfront square before Losari where you can find the famous huge red words spelling City Of Makassar. This will be the main waterfront area where hundreds of locals hang out in the evenings to catch the beautiful sunsets.
Bantimurung Waterfalls
Bantimurung National Park
The closest national park to Makassar and only about an hours drive away. Here, you can find a beautiful waterfall which is open to the public and not far from the main entrance of the national park and as you explore further, the main trek filled with flora will lead you to a cave and another small pool or lake.

The total trek from the start to the lake will probably take you only thirty minutes. There are street vendors selling souvenirs and local restaurants. Entrance tickets for tourist is also Rp.255,000. More info and a need to translate is here -
View from Kodingareng Keke Island, Makassar
Visiting Kodingareng Keke and Samalona Islands 

Bangkoa Jetty in Makassar
For those who seek the sand, sun and sea, there are two islands located about 30 minutes from the city of Makassar. They are called Kodingareng Keke Island and Samalona Island which are paradise perfect offering crystal clear waters for snorkeling or even diving.

To get here, you need to go to the Bangkoa Harbor Jetty, which is also in the main town area where you have to walk through the main arch as in the photo, towards the jetty area.

There are also probably hundreds of people there, mostly locals so if you need assistance, you best look for someone who speaks a little English. A four hour boat charter will cost around Rp500,000 to Rp600,000 for about 6-8 persons and you will need to negotiate your price with the local boat men here.
Boat to Kodingareng Keke Island
Samalona is the closer island to the city and offers basic accommodation, similar to homestays and most visitors come here to have their food. Kodingareng Keke island is another 15 minutes away and this is the beautiful island that has no buildings apart from a fairly huge three level concrete lookout tower, which is awesome to take photos from.

The waters around Kodingareng Keke are simply amazing while there are healthy coral patches around the island making it ideal for snorkeling and diving.

As for the size of this island, you can walk from one end to the other in under five minutes. Snorkeling equipment is available for rental from Samalona Island for about Rp50,000 per set, so you need to ask the boatman about this before you head to Kodingareng Keke Island.
The Fort Rotterdam words in red outside the tourist attraction
Fort Rotterdam
Inside Fort Rotterdam
One of Makassar's most popular tourist attractions is not other than the 382 year old Fort Rotterdam, which is also located in the main city area. This fort, once used by the ruling Dutch, holds quite a lot of information about the long history of Makassar and Sulawesi.

Inside there is also a museum called La Galigo which has exhibitions about history and culture of Sulawesi dating back to the 17th century.

Outside the main entrance, you can see huge red words spelling out Fort Rotterdam which is a popular place to get a photograph. Inside, you can spend around one to two hours exploring this place and learning about the interesting history since the Portuguese first came in 1511 before having the Dutch take over in 1667.
Trans Studio Theme Park in Makassar (Image from Indonesia Tourism)
Trans Studio Theme Park
Asia's largest indoor theme park and the third largest in the world at a whopping size of 20,000 square metres, however due to our travel schedule, we did not manage to visit this place. But I will list it down here as those traveling with kids should make a stop here as this indoor theme park is really huge.

Trans Studio in Makassar is also an integrated park with a shopping mall and a resort therefore it would be a perfect one-stop for any family visiting here. There are a total of 21 rides and four main areas to explore here. For more information on Trans Studio Theme Park in Makassar, please visit -
Coto Makassar, a must-try local dish here
Trying the local Makassar Food

Hands down, anyone visiting Makassar must try the local food here and without fail, the Coto Makassar (Pronounced as Choto) is the most famous dish which can be found around the city. Some of them from roadside vendors while others in proper restaurants. I had walked about 500 meters from the Aston Hotel Makassar down the road to a well known Coto Makassar restaurant called Coto H.Daeng Tayang along Jl.Sultan Hasanuddin.

Local Makassar dishes at one of the restaurants
Another well known dish is called Pallubasa at a very amazingly popular restaurant called Pallubasa Serigala, where only locals are seen here. However, due to some local influencers in our group, we were taken to this astonishing place to try this dish which is very similar to Coto Makassar, but with an egg mixed in. The Pallubasa Serigala Restaurant is located along No,54, Jl. Serigala in Makassar and you cannot miss the orange signage in the front.

Other must-try food in Makassar is the Pisang Ijo which is actually banana wrapped in a green pandan layer of flour, served with a dash of condensed milk and sugar syrup. These can be found at almost every corner of Makassar and along with another similar dish called Pisang Epe or grilled banana that is condimented with brown sugar syrup and a topping of your choice from cheese, chocolate and durian.
A huge monkey structure before entering the Bantimurung National Park in Makassar
If you explore Makassar on foot, you would most likely see a lot of many other foods that range from noodles, fish and meats, however you should know that there are a lot of Chinese influenced dishes that carry Indonesian names like Pangsit Mie and Mie Kanton where Mie is actually Mee or noodles. For the food traveler, it is recommended to explore the various delicacies around Makassar, but do it in the day.

I visited Makassar in July 2016 under a familiarization trip organised by the Ministry of Tourism Indonesia and from the Wonderful Indonesia campaign. This was also the inaugural trip under this years campaign called Trip of Wonders where we also visited Lombok, Gili Tarawangan, Banyuwangi, Mount Ijen and also Bandung.

I had previously visited other parts of Indonesia under the same campaign which took me to places like Komodo Island, Borobudur, Jogjakarta, Palembang, West Java and many other very interesting places. If you plan to visit Komodo, I have an article on how to get to Komodo Island for those needing some information and you can also read my article on places to visit in Indonesia for 2016.
Samalona Island, 15 minutes from Makassar
The experiences gained has helped me understand the many other unique places that Indonesia has to offer apart form the usual popular tourist places. As this was my inaugural trip to Makassar on Sulawesi Island, I believe that this place would be the next popular destination for Indonesia as there is so much natural attractions offered which has yet to be discovered by many travelers.

One of the much talked about places in Sulawesi is also Tana Toraja, which is located 328 kilometers north of Makassar and is one of the must-visit places if you love culture. However, the journey here would be something to remember as it takes about 8-10 hours via bus from Makassar to this highland county. Again, for those who are planning to visit this place, I can easily say that Makassar is truly Indonesia's undiscovered gem waiting to be explored.


The Travel Junkie said...


Timo said...

You can also visit Rammang-rammang and Tanjung Bira on your next visit to South Sulawesi ;)

gbeejipp said...

LOL! I think you have missed out on most of its top travel destinations such as Rammang Rammang and the Toraja Highland.

Malaysia Asia said...

Thanks Jipp, noted on that but as mentioned, this was purely on Makassar as I only visited all the places listed here. I did mention that there are other places of interest our of Makassar and I will include them when I visit those places next time :)

Malaysia Asia said...

Thanks Bowie! (TravelJunkie), it was truly a pleasure to have met you on this trip! Hope all is good with you over there.

Malaysia Asia said...

Timo, thank you and yes, I want to visit those places if given the opportunity the next time. I have heard all good things about Rammang-rammang, Tanjung Bira and Toraja.