Makassar. Just the name sounds exotic, conjuring up images of the sea-going Buginese and Makassan traders, ports crowded with sailing ships and their cargoes of spices. Times have changed and the current mayor has a vision of Makassar as a 'world city', but in many ways Indonesia’s fifth largest city (1.3 million people in 2010) still feels like an overgrown port town, with a simple charm that has disappeared from many of South East Asia's more visited destinations.
Becaks (bicycle cabs) are still part of the street scene, the roads are lined with warungs (food stalls) and the locals still flock to the waterfront promenade of Pantai Losari to enjoy the sunsets over the ocean with a coffee, fruit juice or local specialty pisang epe (grilled banana) while their kids ride the mini electric cars that will prepare them for Makassar's sometimes crazy traffic.
The people of Makassar are very friendly to overseas visitors and are keen for you to experience everything their city has to offer. Tourists from Western countries are still enough of a novelty that you'll often feel like a celebrity, so get used to posing for photos with everyone from schoolkids to middle-aged mums and dads.
The city government's ambitious plan for Makassar to be a kota dunia (world city) is reflected in the current building boom, with new office towers, shopping malls, hotels and apartment complexes popping up everywhere. Tanjung Bunga, an up-market suburb being built on reclaimed land, is home to the huge Trans Mall and Trans Studio theme park. New toll roads service the airport and areas to the north. And there are campaigns to keep the city clean and the people healthy, with free aerobics sessions on the waterfront every Sunday morning.
Only an hour’s flight from Bali and two hours from Jakarta, Makassar offers a blend of the old and the new Indonesia, and exploring both is a rewarding experience.
It can be difficult to find good information about Makassar online and that’s why we’ve put together this website, combining reviews of our favourite places and events with customised Google maps so you can see what's where.
Weather Makassar is darn hot, particularly from August to October when the temperatures can hit the high 30s Celsius (around 100 Fahrenheit) and it rarely rains. Temperatures are a lower but humidity is higher in the wet season, with tropical deluges common in December and January. As a result, the town is quiet in heat of the afternoon but comes alive around dusk. (For more details about the climate see weatherspark.com.)
Accommodation We've left the comparisons of hotels and homestays/B&Bs to the experts: AgodaandTripAdvisor. But take a look at our Staypage for general information about the main accommodation districts in Makassar.
Dining There is no shortage of eating options in Makassar, ranging from simple warungs to high-end restaurants. The city is known for fresh seafood, including ikan bakar (barbecued fish), and Coto Makassar (beef soup). You'll also find Western and Japanese options and cafes serving the famous Toraja coffee. See the Eat & Drink page and map for some of our recommendations.
Shopping There are almost as many shopping options as restaurants, from the markets of Pasar Butung to the shiny, new shopping malls at Ratu Indah and Trans Mall. On the Shop page you'll find our map of some of these, along with other useful places like pharmacies, a hospital and a few government services you might need.
Attractions There's plenty to see in and around Makassar, as well as being a base for trips to Tana Toraja. Unless you’re travelling by air-conditioned car or coach, the trick is to get out as early as you can, take a siesta in the middle of the day, then head out again to enjoy the sunsets and warm evenings. The See & Do page gives you the heads up on places to visit or just hang out.
Transport Beyond taking a becak, you'll know you're really getting the hang of Makassar when you travel in a pete-pete (pronounced "petay petay"), one of the little blue micro-buses that provide cheap transport around town. We've made it easy for you by creating maps of the main routes. See the Travel page for details.
What's on? It may come as a surprise but as the 'gateway to eastern Indonesia', Makassar hosts a remarkable number of festivals and events, from concerts to marathons. We've listed as many as we can on our Events page, as well as links to sites where you can find out more details.
Finally, for stuff that wouldn't fit anywhere else, there are some general bits of advice on the Tipspage.
We hope Survivor’s Guide: Makassar helps you get the most out of your time in Makassar. The site can only be useful if it’s kept up-to-date, so please send your comments, corrections and additions to us via the Contact page.