A city of millions, the population larger than that of Amsterdam. Located at the ocean, sunshine to go for days and more than enough hotels, restaurants and cafes serving at relatively cheap prices. These might seem like the ingredients for creating a vibrant city and attracting millions of international tourists every year. If you think this though, come to Makassar in Indonesia and you will be deceived. From what we’ve heard after being 4 weeks on Sulawesi, is that most international tourists who fly into Makassar either travel on directly, or the next morning, North or East bound to Toraja,  Manado or Bira. Neither have we seen many while in Makassar ourselves. Quite a shame if you ask me.

A personal travel philosophy: don’t skip a single destination, or at least try not to. Take a day, it’s usually all you need to breathe in the atmosphere. Walk around, explore. See, smell, listen. It might be dirty, it might smell, it might be loud, but you have to experience it. From there on you can say that you hated it and you can travel on, never to return. Or maybe you did like it, or you found something unexpected, giving you reason to stay longer or return another time.

We had such an ‘exploration day’. Starting off by sleeping in, cause hey, you’re not going anywhere and don’t have any specific activity planned. A short breakfast and the usual sunscreen bath later, we walked out into the merciless sun. Walking along the busy streets, you pass a lot of street vendors and karaoke bars (we had enjoyed this wonderful activity the night before). We passed the big port, towards the waterfront (we saw two other tourists!!). The waterfront is enjoyable in the fact that it is a bit away from the busy street and, of course, on the water. It houses replicas of the famous IAmsterdam signs, stating different words as ‘Toraja’, ‘Makassar’ and ‘City of Makassar’. Main difference with the one in Amsterdam? You can guess it… No tourists around.

Obviously it was now our moral touristic duty to get a picture with the sign. Furthermore the waterfront was filled with statues reminding of Toraja, and past presidents (I assume), ending with a relatively modern built ‘floating’ mosque which we were allowed to have a look inside. From here, a short taxi ride to the mall gave us an afternoon of shopping through local and international stores, and a few hours of totally bossing the arcade, before returning back to the sign for a sunset over the water. A full and fun day described in a few words,  ending with an Indonesian dinner at the food court, once again, at the waterside.

Of course visiting a city like Makassar has a much higher chance of being enjoyed by city people, to my estimation the smaller portion of tourists visiting the island of Sulawesi. Still, if you come for nature and quietness, it might be interesting to also see the opposite side. Like I said, just for a day, maybe two, give it a chance…

Written by: Menno van IJssel