Smiling Faces in Makassar

We docked at the port city of Makassar in the Province of Ujung Padang. This city contains about 1.6 million people and the province is made up of four major ethnic groups. Today nine-six percent of the population is Muslim.

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Much of the population is engaged in agriculture, with rice, corn, copra (dried coconut meat), coffee, spices, vegetable oil, sugar cane, soybeans, and sweet potatoes among the major products. The forests yield teak and rattan. Deep-sea fishing is also important. Manufacturing enterprises produce milled rice, cement, beverages, chemicals, rubber goods, processed coffee, palm oil, woven cloth, paper, metalware, carved wood, mats and baskets. Silver, tin, nickel and iron ore are mined.

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As we got off the ship local villagers treated us to a traditional welcome dance with drummers and dancers. What a wonderful and colorful way to begin our visit! The ship’s travel consultant had warned us that the day might be hot and humid and is most definitely was.

“Makassar City Tour” was the shore excursion we chose for this port. We docked near an interesting harbor in the northern part of the province where traditional Buginese sailing boats load and unload their cargo. It was quite an experience to visit the docks as the men were unloading their catch of fish and octopus. The boat workers run precariously up and down narrow planks while balancing large and awkward-looking loads on their heads. Their catch is put into wooden handcarts and pushed off the docks.

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At the local market named Pasar Terong we observed the locals buying and selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. Crops such as rice, corn, sugar cane, and sweet potatoes are raised on this island for domestic use and export. Other exports include spices, gold silver, silk, and gems. I think we photographed more people at the market than we did the produce offered for sale. The streets were crowded with motorbikes, cars, tricycle styled taxis powered by pedaling, and buses of tourists. You took your life in your hands when you tried to cross a street.

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The dominant religion is Muslim and it was suggested by ship personnel that we dress conservatively with long sleeves and long pants and have a scarf with us to put on in case were invited to enter a mosque.

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The Portuguese first discovered this area and began trading here until discouraged by the Dutch India Company, who fiercely defended their trade routes and plied the waters between the Cape of Good Hope and the Straits of Magellan until the demise of the trading company in 1799.

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The main historic site is Fort Rotterdam, which was built in 1545. This was our third stop.. The fortress is shaped like a turtle who wanted to crawl down into the ocean. After warring factions between the two native kingdoms destroyed other forts in the area, Fort Rotterdam was taken over by the Dutch and used to store Indonesian spices before shipment to Europe. In 1937 it lost its military function and was turned over to the Fort Rotterdam Foundation for cultural purposes. Some of the buildings there are excellent examples of Dutch architecture and many have been preserved. The fort grounds were a quiet retreat from the hustle, bustle and crowding in parts of town.

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A shore excursion would not be complete without a shopping experience and the last stop on today’s tour was the Malan Somba Opu Shopping Strip where there were a number of shops selling jewelry, “antiques,” and souvenirs. Crafts on display and for sale come from all over Indonesia.

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Store after store of gold jewelry was displayed for us to purchase. It was nice to see, but we were not tempted to buy anything. Outside each store selling gold jewelry was a set of jewelry scales to weigh items (bracelets, necklaces, and earrings), the jewelry seemed to be sold by weight. It was all shiny and attractive, but was it fine gold or only gold-plated costume jewelry?

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On both of these Indonesian Islands local people asked us where we were from and seemed pleased and positive when we said we were Americans.


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