It's the first official day that we get to explore Makassar! The spread at the hotel's buffet breakfast included Nasi Putih, fried chicken, various stir-fried dishes, and sweet cakes -- most of which we thought were not particularly delicious. However, it did provide us the fuel we needed to explore the city. While the food in the hotel was not spectacular, the food we had almost everywhere else in Sulawesi was simply delicious.
Having eaten our fill, we took a Grab to our first site of interest – Fort Rotterdam, about a 5 minutes’ drive away from our hotel. Upon reaching, the appearance of the site pleasantly surprised me. Huge granite walls that rose 7m above the ground surrounded the fort, and they funnelled towards the entrance of the site. the stark difference between the architecture of Fort Rotterdam and the other structures around the city showed that it was built in a different time. I really admired the fact that this historical site has been preserved through the centuries, even as the city surrounding it developed rapidly.
After paying an entrance fee and turning down a few of the local guides, we made our way into the fort. As the guides spoke no english, we spent some time exploring the Fort on our own, using it's Wikipedia page as our guide. At first glance, nothing in particular stood out – there was a front yard with several buildings around it. We then learnt that the structure of Fort Rotterdam was in the shape of a turtle, with 6 bulwarks forming the feet, head and tail of the turtle shape. 5 of the bastions are still visible today, namely Bonie, Boeton, Batjang, Mandassar, and Amboina. Bastion Ravelin has not been preserved. And as we trotted along the perimeter of the fort, I laid my eyes on strange structures in the ground. Upon closer inspection, I recognised them to be bunkers – a reminder that this was a fort was built on top of a structure of war purposes. It was refreshing to observe the 17th Century style of buildings. We also learnt that within the fort, 11 of the 13 buildings are 17th Century original buildings, most still in good condition.
Subsequently, we also paid a visit to a small museum situated within the fort, where we learned more about the history of the fort, as well as the history of Makassar. There were many models that came with explanations of the early life of the Bugis and Gowa in Makassar. It was evident that effort has been put in to maintain the exhibits within, and I’m glad we made our way in despite its nondescript appearance. It is worth noting that this was one of the better maintained museums that we have visited on this trip, even having air conditioning in the museum.
Next up, lunch! Having spent the whole morning in the Indonesian heat, we sought refuge in an air-conditioned restaurant recommended by local food blogger Miss Tam Chiak. A couple of things caught my attention there. Firstly, we saw several people who looked of Chinese descent, which was different to what we have observed thus far in the malay-majority country. Secondly, the people of Makassar really embrace life in a port city – a plethora of seafood was available to order from, and the food was grilled in an open flame at the shop front, which also served the purpose of attracting customers. Perhaps it was due to their familiarity with preparing seafood, that I found the grilled squid to be exceptionally delightful. While the food was extremely affordable, I was made acutely aware of the privillege that I held, being able to comfortably afford meals that were quite obviously pricey, by local standards.
After our extremely satisfying lunch, we proceeded to our next site – Balla Lompoa Museum. Balla Lompoa, meaning house of greatness, is a reconstruction of the Royal Palace of Gowa, founded in the reign of the 31st Gowa King. It is built in the style of a typical Bugis house, with a staircase more than 2 meters high to the entrance.
The architecture of the palce impressed me, once again. Wooden “palaces” were built on stilts which elevated them by several metres, and the roof presented intricate designs. However, the site in general felt abandoned and neglected. While we were waiting for everyone to arrive, we were approached by a barefooted boy, dressed in an old shirt and shorts. He stared at us expectantly while holding out both hands, obviously begging for money. We tried our best to ignore him, however, as we were unsure what to do.
When everyone arrived, we paid a small entrance fee and went on to explore the museum, only to realise that only one exhibit was open. The museum staff informed us, only after we asked to visit more rooms, that this was because of ramadan and they wished to reduce the physical strain of having to maintain all the exhibits. While it came as a shock to all of us, especially after paying the full entrance fee, we made the most of it. However, majority of the displays were elaborated in Bahasa, and we only understood part of it through translations by our friends, Haw Wen and Kai Zhien.
The sun was setting soon, signalling the end of another eventful day. We tried to catch the sunset at a nearby rooftop, but unfortunately the weather wasn’t in our favour. Instead, we ditched that plan and Grab-ed back to an eatery near our hotel for dinner. We all ordered a Makassar speciality noodle dish, Mie Ti Ti. It was similar to the Singaporean dish Ee Mian, but quite salty. The food was nothing exceptional, though. However, we were serenaded by an 11-year-old girl who sang beautifully while playing her guitar just outside the shop. It felt very much like a blessing, and I could not help but feel our day ended on a right note, thanks to her.