Monday, January 29, 2007
Monday, January 22, 2007
Left: Typical traditional house. Photo by. I. Amerl
(By I. Amerl/Canada)
Makassar(HM). The Capital of South Sulawesi, has once again returned to its original name - Makassar. And what's in a name? Well, this one definitely cannot leave you cold... A name which conjures up images of lonely perahus sailing around the archipelago and beyond, undeterred and breathtaking in their simple elegance; of Bugis pirates and mystical lands from long ago where the scent of the spice trade is as strong as the tales of black magic; and yes, a city of very direct ways, straight swords carried upfront for all to see and recognize... but a welcoming city nonetheless, lazily stretched out on a beach yet leaning towards the lush hills to the east. Perhaps the bustle of modern living hasn't left everything unspoilt; previously virgin beaches, still fringed with coconut palms if not as abundantly, are now a home to sailors and hawkers alike. But if tasting local delicacies and freshly caught fish down the main stretch of this curious port town isn't quite your thing, don't despair. The area can still surprise you with some attractive beaches and seascapes. Just south of the city lies a black sand beach called Tanjung Bunga. More relaxing in the past when it didn't boast a modern foodcourt, playground and pier (and super clean bathrooms!) it's still a nice place for a leisurely stroll in the morning or on weekdays - it can get a little crowded on the weekend when Makassar youth eagerly sets up nets for beach volleyball, football or badminton and everyone else just enjoys the views (whether of young bodies in play or sailing ships in the distance, one never knows). Though I prefer to watch, everyone is welcome to join in the fun and games. There is a very casual atmosphere here, and a very good feeling in the air (which is still unharmed by fumes from Makassar traffic).
Likewise, any westerners who have attempted a peaceful walk on the beaches of Java for example, you'll be most pleasantly surprised at the lack of attention you'll attract here. No endless posing for cameras here - not unless you yourself ask for it. In fact, people are just too busy having fun, playing sports or swooning their sweethearts to really pay too much attention to what you might be doing. And if even that doesn't satisfy your need to get away from it all, walk past the colorful ices and people splashing around, doing their best seal impersonations with innertubes and beach balls; past the young couples shyly holding hands and further still to where you may sit on some drift wood and, looking out to the sinking crimson sun, dream what it was like to be here, fishing in peace or sailing away, centuries ago.
Posted by The Travel Bloggers at 12:07 PM
Left: Sunset at Bira beach. Photo by I. Amerl
Traveling to Bira.
(By. Jessica Tarr/United Kingdom)
In my first few days in Sulawesi I had the opportunity to visit Bira. All I knew about the area was it had a beatiful white beach on the east coast of South Sulawesi, in an area renowned for its boat building trade. We arrived at night by car (which can be hired at the Malengkeri bus terminal -on the way to Goa- for approximately Rp. 150,000). Going at night it took around four hours. Generally the local drivers prefer travelling by day when they claim it's safer, though we experienced no trouble on the way. It has to be said that arriving at night always keeps the suspense of where you are until morning.
As we arrived around 1:30 AM, most of the town was asleep so it may be a good idea to call ahead and let them know you're coming. The people we woke up in our quest for accomodation were all very friendly and we soon found ourselves in a large wooden, stilten bungalow: most places in Bira offer traditional Buginese-Makassar style cottages.. Breakfast of tea or coffee and a banana pancake is usually included and most places also rent snorkles.
Woken by singing birds, we took a stroll to the beach some 50 meters away, geared up with masks and snorkels to see some of the coral and fish that I'd heard about. This tranquil, cove shaped beach surrounded by cliffs boasts the whitest powdery sand and is surprisingly clean. I was told that they have started up a project here where the youth in the area collect all the litter on the beach: definitely a refreshing idea!
Visibility for snorkeling is excellent here. The tourqoise tinted water is crystal clear and you can see a huge variety of fish and coral. Its worth swimming out to the coral wall where the coral wall drops abruptly: between Bira and the neighboring island of Selayar they say the water depth reaches over 1000 m! Before swimming out too far, it's advisable also to check how strong the current is, because it can be incredibly powerful. Snorkling with fins is definitely the easier option here - but make sure not to damage the coral in the process!
If you fancy checking out the collection of small islands visible from the beach, you can negotiate with a fisherman who'll give you a tour for around Rp. 60,000 for 2-3 hours on his fishing boat. If you arrange it with the captain of the boat beforehand, he'll more than likely stop off at some of the islands so that you can take a look around, or allow you to dive off the boat and do some snorkeling near the islands.
If snorkeling and swimming are not your thing, the there's a small forest nearby where I'm told you can see monkeys. I wasn't lucky enough to see any, just as well since I'm petrified of them. It makes a good walk anyhow! Food is available in the local cafes and restaurants, all no more than 50 m from the beach. I'd recommend the seafood here as it's fresh and good value for the money.
I think by far the most impressive aspect of the area however is its hospitality. If you are keen to learn a few words in their language, the locals will be happy to help you.
Posted by The Travel Bloggers at 12:02 PM
Left: Pete-pete, is a name of public trans. Photo: By Pieter. C. (Glassnet Collection.)
About the People
If you hear people screaming something that sounds like"Hello Chick-a-lee!", don't be alarmed. This is just a very friendly local greeting used between relatives.
One of the first questions people ask here is "Where are you staying". Though this doesn't necessarily mean they will go looking for you, if you are uncomfortable giving out your hotel and room number, it's better to make something upthan to give an indefinite answer. Since it's normal for Indonesians to immediately give their address and telephone number to people they meet, this question will be repeated until the full answer is given.
About the Transportations
Tipping is not customary in taxis, but the fares are usually rounded up to the nearest Rp. 1000. If you ask your taxi driver to make a few stops and wait for you, it's normal to add another Rp. 5000 to the fare.
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Posted by The Travel Bloggers at 11:47 AM