A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Grete Howard

Tangkoko Batuangas Reserve

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Having gone to bed with a fever and slept since lunchtime yesterday, I wake up at some stage in the night with a warm feeling in my nether regions and a desperate urge to poo. Too late. I try to clear up the mess as best as I can from the bed, my nightdress, the floor, and the toilet, before going back to sleep. The same thing happens a short while later. I can’t remember the last time I felt so ill, and messing the bed has only ever happened to me once before in the 40+ years I have travelled with severe IBS. I am mortified. I make a further eight visits to the toilet before the alarm goes off at 05:00, by which time I feel like a wet rag.

I leave a tip and an apology for the maid

Tangkoko Batuangas Reserve

At 05:30, David goes off with Landy, the local wildlife guide, for another exploration of the national park. Egi (our guide here in north Sulawesi) stays behind in case I feel well enough to venture out. I don’t. The following photos are screen prints from David’s video.

The park entrance

Nice wide and even paths, at least initially

Cuscus Bear

Orche Bellied Boobook Owl

Black Naped Oriole

Red Backed Mountain Thrush

Knobbed Hornbill

Sulawesi Dwarfed Kingfisher

Spot Railed Sparrowhawk

Crested Macaque



Plantain Squirrel

Green Backed Kingfisher



When the explorers return, I join David for breakfast, eating a small omelette and half a slice of dry bread. Egi offers us the opportunity to visit a local village, but I decline and go back to bed, where I spend the rest of the day


We both miss lunch, but David does go to dinner, and even remembers to take photos of the food (and drink)

Rice, shredded vegetables, fish, squid, vegetable fritters and a Bintang. Plus papaya for dessert.

It’s days like this that I am incredibly grateful that we travel on a private tour, and with a reputable company that can make changes and alterations to the itinerary without affecting anyone else. Thank you Undiscovered Destinations and their local team for looking after me these last couple of days while I have been feeling poorly.


Posted by Grete Howard 12:56 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia squirrel sulawesi macaque owl oriole tarsier diarrhea hornbill undiscovered_destinations upset_tummy thrush tangkoko tangkoko_batuangas_reserve ibs unwell cucscus_bear Comments (0)

Manado - Tangkoko

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After feeling nauseous and having diarrhea before going to bed yesterday, I had a dreadful, dreadful night. I estimate that I was awake some 40-50 times during the restless night, including waking with a start from several horrid nightmares; and up four times with an upset tummy. Everything hurts this morning: my back, my legs, my knees, my tummy, my head… This is the worst I have felt for a long, long time, and I have no inclination to eat breakfast this morning.

Ban Hin Kiong Taoist Temple

Established in 1819 during the Qing Dynasty in China, this is the oldest – and largest – Chinese temple in Manado. Ban means abundant, Hin means blessings or prosperity, and Kiong means palace.



After a fire in 1970, the temple was beautifully renovated into what we see today, a popular place for tourists and locals to visit; as well as a place of worship for the followers of Tridharma. The temple also plays host to various annual festivals.



As I am still feeling like ‘death warmed up’, I stay in the car while David goes with Egi, our guide, to explore the temple.




The Statue of Christ Blessing AKA Yesus Statue

This statue of Jesus stands 50 metres (158.3 feet) tall and consists of 20 metres of pedestal and 30 metres of statue, and not only is it the largest Jesus statue in Asia, but it was also the tallest ‘flying statue’ in the world at the time of its completion, and is among the five largest statues of Jesus Christ in the world as well in the top ten tallest sculptures in Asia.


The ‘flying’ reference is explained by the fact that the statue is mounted on a pedestal at an angle of 20°, which creates the impression of Jesus soaring in the air.


Tongkoko Sanctuary Villa

I sleep 99% of the way to Tongkoko, still feeling very rough. Our room is still being cleaned when we arrive at the lodge.

Going off to check out our room

When Egi spots all the steps leading from our room to the restaurant, he contacts Theo, the manager of the local agent who has arranged this part of the trip. Theo suggests that we move to another lodge without such a climb. While he sorts out the logistics, all our luggage goes back in the car and we travel the mile or so to the next place.

The steps lead further up, about the same distance around the corner, not easy to navigate when you have limited mobility

Tongkoko Lodge

Lunch is served as soon as we arrive at the lodge, but I have no appetite whatsoever.


We are given a ‘holding’ room while Theo sorts out accommodation for us, so that I can go to bed. I have a temperature of 38 °C now (100.4 °F), and fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.

Tangkoko Batuangas Reserve

While I sleep, David goes off for a hike in the national park with Egi and a local guide called Landy, to look for endemic birds and animals. The following photos are from David’s mobile phone.

Crested Macaque

Knobbed Hornbill


After their return, Egi confirms that Theo has arranged for another couple to swap hotels with us (with their agreement), so that we can have their room here at Tangkoko Lodge, and they take over our room in Tangkoko Sanctuary Villa. Nothing seems to be too much trouble for the agent, and I am very grateful to Theo for sorting this out. We move to our 'permanent' room, which is not much different from the ‘holding room’ just bigger, with one double and one single bed. I choose the single, and go back to sleep while David goes for dinner. That is me for the day!

I am intrigued by the light switch being so high up the wall, especially considering Indonesians are so short

This trip was arranged by Undiscovered Destinations, our favourite tour operator.


Posted by Grete Howard 11:01 Archived in Indonesia Tagged temple sleep sulawesi taoist_temple manado chinese_temple macaque tarsier undiscovered_destinations upset_tummy tangkoko ban_hin_kiong jesus_statue feeling_ill the_statue_of_christ_blessing knobbed_hornbill horbill crested_macaque Comments (0)

Makassar - Manado

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Today we are moving on to the northern part of Sulawesi, flying from Makassar to Manado.


A driver picks us up at 09:30 to take us to Makassar Airport, where we make our way on foot to the Lion Air Customer Service area, which is where, after checking in to our flight, we pick up a wheelchair and porter.

Being the local budget airline, the gate is the furthest away from the check-in and security area (reminiscent of Ryanair in Bristol). Seemingly very fit, the porter pushes the wheelchair at such a speed that David struggles to keep up the pace as he follows on foot.

In complete contrast to the check-in area, which is grubby, dirty, and very run-down, the departure gate is bright, clean, and modern.



When it is time to board, the porter returns and explains, in good English, that the plane is parked a long way away from the gate. He pushes me back to security, down in a lift, and out onto the apron, where a full-sized bus is waiting to take just the two of us to where the plane is parked. This is certainly a new experience for me (although we did get transported by a Mercedes from a plane to the terminal once)!


Although perfectly capable of making my way the short distance from the bus to the plane, the porter insists on pushing me in the wheelchair.

My seat is 28A, but the purser takes one look at my leg brace and insists I sit in C and proceeds to rearrange the other passengers so that the middle seat between me and David is free.


Before we leave the runway, an announcement comes over the tannoy: “You are on flight JT778 to Manado, please check your boarding card to ensure you are on the correct flight”. Another first, but a really good idea.

We have a new departure time of 12:35, a half-hour on from the original time of 12:05, and with further delays, we don’t take off until 13:40. I sleep through most of the one hour and 45 minutes flight, very grateful to have the extra space for my legs (as I am 30+ cms – around a foot – taller than the average Indonesian, there is painfully little wiggle-room for my knees on this plane.


As soon as we land, several passengers get up from their seats, long before the plane has come to a stop and the seatbelt sign has been switched off. I never understand what the rush is, you still can’t go anywhere until the doors are opened and the passengers in front of you have left.


There is no wheelchair waiting for me at the exit door, but I find one at the top of the tunnel. Manado airport is bright and modern, with long corridors, so I am grateful for the transport.

Egi, our new guide, is waiting for us outside. He is the driver as well as guide, and after my initial surprise at his hippy look of long hair, camouflage shorts, and flip-flops, he immediately grows on me. Unlike Nadja in the southern part of Indonesia, he is young (early 30s), laid back but bouncy and enthusiastic, dynamic even.

My first observation is that Manado looks distinctly different from Makassar, with nowhere near as many motorbikes (70% of all vehicles in Makassar are bikes), the buildings are not as tall, and there are no three-wheel taxi bikes, not as many warungs (streetside stalls) or bicycle shops. Unlike Makassar, which is predominately Muslim, Manado is 80% Christian.

Aryaduta Hotel

Checking in is painfully slow, and before we go to the room Egi says: “If the hotel has run out of beer, get them to ring me and I’ll bring you some”. How very sweet and thoughtful.

Reception area and lobby

The room is big and bright, with great views of a brick wall.


The brick wall outside our window

Going nearer the window, we see can see the swimming pool, and beyond.

The pool on the rooftop some floors down

The view beyond does not offer any great vistas, with wasteland, a building site, derelict and abandoned buildings, fires, and what looks like an illegal campsite.

The image on the left below shows the importance of camera angles when taking a photograph.

Website versus reality

Not long after we arrive, there is a knock on the door and a very courteous lady bringing us a “complimentary from the hotel” tray of sweets.


This hotel seems to employ staff who are trained to be over-attentive, with lots of “excuse me, sir”, “sorry ma’am”, “thank you, sir” and lots of bowing and scraping. While it is always nice to be treated as someone special, I find it way over the top and too pretentious.

This is manifested in a phone call some time later while we are both enjoying a little pre-dinner snooze, just to ask “Is everything OK?” Grrr I wanted to reply; “No, you just woke me up to ask me that!”. I don’t of course, I just confirm that “we are both fine, thank you”.


Like so many places elsewhere on the Sulawesi part of this trip, the huge restaurant is completely empty.


Beyond the large dining room is a small Italian Restaurant, which is much more intimate and our style. There is still only us in here, but so what!


The menu features Cuba Libra, the first one since arriving in Indonesia, so everything else this evening is irrelevant.


There are only so many gorengs (fried rice) a girl can eat, so I get very excited about the thought of a pizza. I order pepperoni on mine, whereas David has chicken on his.

My pizza


Having not eaten since breakfast, I tuck in enthusiastically, but can only manage about two-thirds of the pizza.

As we enter the lift, neither of us can remember our room number, and there is nothing on the room card to indicate which room we are staying in. Thankfully we do remember which floor, and once we get there, we recognise the layout and the position of the door – otherwise it would mean one of us would have to return to the reception.

Soon after arriving in the room, I start sneezing constantly, and blowing my nose, feeling incredibly nauseous, followed by three visits to the toilet with the runs in quick succession. I retire to bed with a bucket by the side, just in case.

This trip of a lifetime was arranged by Undiscovered Destinations.


Posted by Grete Howard 13:43 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia airport pizza sulawesi manado wheelchair italian_restaurant makassar delay nauseous lion_air wheelchair_assistance aryaduta_hotel cuba_libre Comments (0)

Malino - Rammang Rammang - Makassar

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Despite the hard bed, I had a reasonable sleep last night – better than anticipated, but not as good as I have been enjoying on this trip.


Acho, our trusted driver, picks us up from the hotel room to drive us to the restaurant for breakfast, the best part of a mile further up the hill. Perched on a hilltop, the panoramic windows and outdoor terrace offer stunning views of the tea plantation-covered slopes of Mount Malino.



The restaurant offers the same three choices of goreng (fried rice) as it did for dinner last night. I give the ‘smashed chicken’ a miss this morning and opt for the nasi goreng instead. It is marginally more enjoyable.



Located at 1300 metres above sea level, the temperature this morning is a cool 16 °C with a chilly breeze. Initially rather cautious about launching the drone in this wind, I am impressed with how well it copes with the gusts.



The panoramic restaurant

Malino Highlands

Tea plantations

Tea pickers

The Malino Highlands Hotel is part of an estate complete with tea plantations, greenhouses, cafés, a menagerie, and a mini zoo. We take a different route back to the hotel through the sprawling grounds.



Tea plantations

Amazing tree roots

Beautiful hydrangea

After settling the bill at the hotel, we start our drive back to Makassar, passing through pine forests in an area popular as a weekend retreat for workers from the capital. It’s an up and coming area, with lots of new-builds and restaurants.

Malino town is a low-key place, with no high rise buildings, and full of street stalls selling fruit such as strawberries and passion fruits, which this area is known for.

Malino Mosque


We stop for lunch in Maros in another empty restaurant. Empty other than us, staff, and two playful kittens, that is.




No goreng this lunchtime, although there is rice, of course (no Indonesian meal would be complete without rice), as well as a lime and tomato salad and a dish of spinach.

Pumpkin soup to start

Tuna – a lovely meaty and creamy fillet, with no bones (a definite bonus!)

The prawns taste better than they look.

In one of the towns we pass through, we meet a cavalcade of mourners on their way to a Muslim funeral. There must be well over a hundred cars with flashing lights, and motorbikes carrying white flags. Unfortunately, it is impossible to photograph the procession as they are passing quickly in the opposite direction. It is quite a spectacle though.

Rammang Rammang

The best way to explore this UNESCO Global Geopark and World Heritage Site is by a small wooden boat known as a jolloro along the genteel Pute River.



Concerned about my agility, I am delighted when I manage to climb the steep steps on the side of the jetty down into the boat. I will worry about getting out later.



Surrounded by tall palms and sugar-loaf hilltops, and passing through narrow gorges created from the erosion of the local limestone, it’s a relaxing way of spending the next hour or so.


The name Rammang Rammang means ‘a set of clouds or mist’, referring to the fact that the area is often shrouded in mist, especially early in the mornings. Today, however, is a nice clear day.


The boat trip finishes at a different jetty to the one we started out from, and here the steps are even higher. There is no way my knee will allow me to haul myself up from the boat onto that lower step.


After a few minutes of discussion, the boatmen have a solution: they take out one of the seats by removing the rope lashings that secure it to the boat and fetch a small ladder for me to climb up. That is what I call special service!


It works a treat, and I tip them generously before we meet up with Acho and the car again.

Karst Formations

Formed by limestone erosion over the last 30 million years or so, Rammang Rammang is the third largest karst area in the world after Tsingy in Madagascar and Shilin in China.


Back in Makassar, we return to the same hotel and the same procedure: with no restaurant on site, we resort to another burger and apple pie from MacDonalds. We also indulge in an ice cream tonight.

Waiting to check in to Santika Hotel in Makassar - travel light? Never heard of it!


This evening it is David’s turn to feel unwell.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing Gran Tour of South East Asia for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 13:08 Archived in Indonesia Tagged mosque indonesia sulawesi kittens boat_trip ladder tea_plantations makassar hydrangea drone undiscovered_destinations nasi_goreng macdonalds malini malino_highlans_resort tea_pickers playful_kittens rammang_rammang Comments (0)

Sengkang - Malino

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Breakfast at the Sermani Hotel in Sengkang is very much a traditional Indonesian affair, with some interesting local dishes.



I try a few of them.

The round ball is filled with chocolate, the flat oval is like a thick pancake, and the round oval is an unfilled doughnut.


Acho, our driver, takes us to a viewpoint over the city, which happens to be the front drive of some VIP's private mansion, and we have to be quick before the security guard discovers us.




Paddupa Suspension Bridge

In the town itself, we stop at a park, and I am fascinated by this pedestrian suspension bridge that is also used by motorcycles.





Sengkang Market


I constantly stop Nadja, our guide, for him to explain about the various goods on sale. Knowing what I am looking at, makes the visit to the market much more interesting for me.

Duck eggs preserved with salt and rice flour

Palm sugar



Cooked coconut rice in banana leaves




Dried shrimp

Galangal powder

Parcels filled with cooked rice


Tapioca leaves - used as a vegetable

Their aubergines are very different to ones we get at home

Kalu’ak fruit

The fruit from the pangium tree contains hydrogen cyanide when fresh and as such is deadly poisonous. The seeds are first boiled and then buried in ash, banana leaves, and earth for forty days, during which time the poison is released, and the fruit turns from a creamy white colour to dark brown, and edible.




The seeds are used in powdered form to make a thick black gravy, such as the one we had with pork in Toraja.



Nadja points out how they make the oval doughnut-type dish we enjoyed at breakfast.




We make our way further south, stopping several times at rice fields along the way, for me to take photos of the people working.

Threshing machine on the road


Black kite

Lunch in Sinjai

Love the sign on the tissue container on the table

Rempeyek Kacang – a traditional crispy peanut snack made from rice flour, coconut milk, fennel, cumin, and peanuts.


Coto Ayam – shredded chicken, compacted lumps of rice, boiled egg, crispy fried onion, and vermicelli noodles.


Rice terraces appear, with mountains in the background.





Cloves are also grown in this area, and we see the flower buds from the Syzygium aromaticum tree (that turn into the spice as we know it) drying on the road.




Malino Highland Resort

Built on a fairly steep incline, the hotel’s reception is up a number of steps, so while David goes with Nadja to check in, Acho drives me and our luggage up the slope to our room.



The Japanese-inspired room offers little in the way of comfort, with a hard bed and a minimalistic approach to furnishings and decorations.

Japanese-style screen by the front door, with the main part of the room located on a 'platform'.

The rock hard bed

While their website advertises that there is a restaurant on site, we are asked to order room service this evening from a menu featuring 16 different items.


As with the simplistic design of the room, there is no telephone, so David pops down to reception to order his choice of Nasi Goreng Marina Highlands and Pisang Goreng which is what I fancy.

A few minutes after he returns to the room, a young lady arrives at the door, to let us know that the Pisang Goreng is unavailable. I suggest a Tapai Roll instead. She phones the restaurant with our new order, but it seems the Tapai Roll is off too. “How about Ubi Goreng?” I suggest. Another phone call to the restaurant confirms that they cannot make that either. The spring roll is my next choice. Not available. “What about Ramen?” She asks the restaurant, but it is not possible. At this stage, I suggest it might be easier if they let us know the dishes they can make, rather than the ones that are off the menu. Apparently, they have Ayam Goreng, Nasi Goreng, and Mie Goreng. I choose the Ayam Goreng to go with David’s Nasi Goreng.

All this could have been made so much simpler if the right hand had been talking to the left hand and letting us know at the outset that they only have three different dishes available.

The food arrives reasonably quickly and comes with a plate of chips

My Ayam Goreng is very plain, and I am not at all sure about the ‘smashed fried chicken’.

This amazing Grand Tour of South East Asia was organised by Undiscovered Destinations.


Posted by Grete Howard 11:36 Archived in Indonesia Tagged rice_fields indonesia market palm_sugar rice_terraces sulawesi egrets poisonous tamarind cloves undiscovered_destinations suspension_bridge sangkang black_kite room_service sermani_hotel sermani_market paddupa duck_eggs coconut_rice tapioca galangal kaluak_fruit hydrogen_cyanide pangium_tree buroncong sinjai rempeyek_kacang malino maliono_highlands maslino_highlands_resort japanese_inspired Comments (0)

Toraja - Sengkang

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Today we leave Tana Toraja with all its intriguing death rituals behind and head back down the same way we came.


Rumah Makan & Art Shop Jemz Gunung Nona

We stop at the same ridge-side café as we did on our way up, where the girls recognise us and we chat with them for ages about their desire to visit the UK.




We enjoy a couple of iced cappuccinos while making the most of the great views over the valley and Nona Mountain beyond.



Some cute little Pacific Swallows flit about on the wires just beyond the balcony.



We continue on our journey down the mountain.

Cahaya Mario Restaurant

With tables and benches each made from a single piece of wood, our lunch restaurant in Rappang is pretty impressive. It is also completely empty when we arrive.




We both get caught out when washing our hands before lunch, adding plenty of soap to the palms, and then finding there is no water. Doh! Thankfully we have some bottled water at the table, which we use to rinse our now sticky fingers.


Choosing our own dishes from the menu, we share once the food arrives.

Mie Goreng Korea - tasty with a slight kick to it

Mie Kering - crunchy fried noodles. I didn't realise just how much I'd missed a bit of crunch!

Interesting toilet at a service station later on in the journey

Losari Silks

Once we reach the city of Sengkang, we stop at a silk weaving workshop, where the weaving is carried out manually with old-fashioned looms.




The embroidery, on the other hand, is completely automated!





Exit through the shop, of course.




Sermani Hotel

While modern in appearance, the hotel is run on strict traditional Muslim doctrines, as the sign in the reception indicates.




During my research prior to this trip, I discovered that the Sermani Hotel does not offer evening meals, so we made a point of buying some snacks at the coffee stop this morning. We are therefore very surprised when the receptionist asks us what time we would like dinner. We explain that we will be just having snacks in the room.


Room picnic

Half an hour later, a young boy arrives with a basket of snacks, and with a beaming smile, stating that it is “free”.


The obligatory Koran in the room

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this incredible Grand South East Asia Tour for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 16:38 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia toilet sulawesi silk noodles toraja embroidery squat_toilet swallows silk_weaving undiscovered_destinations room_picnic iced_cappuccino rantepao grand_south_east_asia_tour tana_toraja rumah_makan_&_art_shop jemz_gunung_nona gunung_nona none_mountain mount_nona mie_goreng_korea mie_kering pacific_swallows cayaha_mario_restaurant losari_silks looms machine_embroidery sermani_hotel Comments (0)

Tanah Torajah - Buffalo Market - Bori - Ma'Nene - Lo'Ko Mata

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We have one more day here in Rantepao, at the Toraja Heritage Hotel, to explore more of the surroundings.

But first, breakfast.

Chicken noodles and omelette

Catholic Mass

One of the great things about having a car, driver, and guide when we travel, is that if we see something interesting, not only will the guide know what it is (or be able to find out), but it also means we can stop and investigate.


This particular mass is held by the Bishop, and is attracting thousands of people, creating all sorts of chaos including road closures. We can get nowhere near the church, but it doesn’t matter, because it all spills over into the pavement, waste ground, and road, with temporary structures erected to accommodate all the attendees.

Youngsters, some in their traditional outfits, others in matching shirts.

A lady in her Sunday finery (on a Saturday)

We don’t stay long, as we have a lot to see today.

Bolu Buffalo Market

The market officially operates every Tuesday and Saturday, and the starting date of our whole trip was planned to ensure our visit to Toraja coincided with a market day.



The buffalo in the market come from various parts of Indonesia and not just Toraja. They are bought as calves and are reared and later resold at the market at a much higher price. Nadja (our guide) explains that the price varies from 60 to 100 million Rupiah (between £3,000 and £5,000) – no wonder families have to save up for years to be able to afford a funeral, when you think that they sacrificed eight buffalo yesterday.



When a buffalo is sold, the profit is shared between the broker, owner, and workers in the buffalo trade, with the broker receiving 50% of the sale, and the others sharing the rest.


Customers come from far and wide to purchase the much-prized buffalo here in Toraja, not just Sulawesi, but also from other islands, and sometimes even from abroad.


Pig Market

Not far away from the buffalo market is the pig stables.


Pigs, which are also used for death rituals (as we saw yesterday), are valued according to the diameter of their bodies, and are nowhere near as expensive as the buffalo.

A purchase has just been made, and cash has changed hands

The pigs are held in raised pens with floors made from bamboo, which helps to drain their waste materials, keeping the pens reasonably clean. It also means that the pigs struggle to stand on their trotters, preferring to lie down and await their fate.


The pigs are fed ground husks of rice.



Bori Kalimbuang Menhirs (Standing Stones)

The sacred site of Bori is a combination of ceremonial grounds and a burial place, and is of enormous cultural significance for the people in Toraja.


More than 100 menhirs stand on the ceremonial ground, each a different height and diameter. Despite the difference in size, they are all considered to be of the same value, and during elaborate ceremonies to honour their ancestors, 24 buffalo have to be sacrificed for any one of the standing stones. The animals are slaughtered and cut up amongst the stones, with the meat then taken up into the tower where names of the family are called out for the meat to be distributed.


Each menhir represents a feast of merit performed in the past by a person of nobility whose body is buried in a nearby rock grave. The stones are said to be around 500 years old, and are inscribed as a UNESCO Heritage Site. The practice of erecting menhirs is still very much alive today.


The standing stones at Bori are often referred to as megaliths, which can be confusing, as it makes you think they are very much older than they are. Megaliths do not necessarily originate from the Megalithic period, it simply means ‘tall stones’.


We see a couple of youngsters taking pictures, running around between the stones, creating provocative poses, something I find quite offensive and disrespectful.


Nearby is the burial site (there are no human remains at the ceremonial area where the standing stones are), with rock-hewn tombs and miniature tongkonan (traditional Torajan houses). The construction of these smaller buildings is believed to accompany the soul of the deceased to the afterlife and to provide them with a comfortable dwelling place in the spiritual realm.


We leave the Bori ceremonial site behind and travel further up into the mountains, on tracks that consist of a series of potholes with small areas of road between them. Many huge boulders are scattered here and there on the hillside, with several featuring graves cut out of the rock.


In one place we see a huge rock with an unfinished carving of a buffalo.


We also spot a buffalo enjoying a mud bath.



Ma’Nene Ritual

This ritual involves exhuming the dead from their graves, washing and grooming the corpse, and even putting on fresh clothes. While this may seem odd to most Westerners, to the Torajan people it is a great sign of respect, making sure the deceased is still relevant to society. In addition, according to local belief, performing the rite will result in a better harvest in the following year. The grave itself is also cleaned, and the tau tau (life-sized effigies) are repainted and redressed too. This ritual takes place annually or biannually, and offers great comfort to grieving relatives.


Sometimes the corpse is paraded around their old village, with family members taking photographs with the deceased relative. Treating the body as a living, breathing person helps family members recall memories of their loved one. It is also considered a way of introducing younger family members to their dead ancestors. While this practice may seem strange or disturbing to many of us, the Torajans have no fear of the dead, and their love for the person outweighs any concerns or feelings of discomfort about seeing death and decomposition.

Family members preparing for the ceremony under a blue tarpaulin.

Lunch at Batutumonga

The restaurant, which is built on stilts on a hillside, offers great views over the beautiful countryside.



Today we are given a menu to choose from. David orders a simple nasi goreng (fried rice), whereas I opt for the nasi goreng special.


The ‘special’ part of the dish consists of an inedible-looking emaciated chicken head, with no apparent sustenance attached to it.


The fried rice is extremely bland (I have to confess that I cannot stomach the idea of even attempting to tackle eating the chicken head), but becomes a little less dull with the addition of chilli sauce and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce).

We also each order banana pancakes for dessert – which turns out to be a savoury starter, complete with sweet and salty flavours.


Lo’Ko Mata

While in essence this rock burial site is no different from the one we saw in Lemo yesterday, its situation right next to the main road, and the sheer size of it, makes it a popular place to visit for tourists.


Each burial chamber belongs to a single family and generations of deceased family members are placed in these vaults. As with other cliff graves, it is believed that the higher the burial chamber, the higher the social status of the deceased and their family. On the balcony of some of the graves, you can find a tau tau – a life-sized and life-like effigy of the person buried inside.


The ladder indicates that the ritual of cleaning the tomb is taking place within the very top grave.


As part of that process, family members will often destroy the duba-duba (small replicas of the Torajan traditional houses known as tongkonan) that were used to carry the dead person’s coffin to the burial site.

Duba duba

The duba duba are discarded into the ditch

Buffalo have great symbolic importance in life, and more importantly, death, for the Torajans, as they are considered to be the vehicle the deceased will use to transport them to Puya, the afterlife.


We leave the cliff tombs behind and start making our way back

Alongside the road buffalo skin hangs up to dry. It will later be cut up into small pieces and sold as snacks. Having eaten crispy buffalo skin in Laos many years ago, I can confirm that it can be quite enjoyable.



By the time we return to the hotel, the scrawny chicken extorts its revenge by way of explosive diarrhea (if that is what happens when I don’t eat the chicken, I would dread to think what it would be like if I had). Feeling very unwell, I crawl into bed for a couple of hours, and by the time I get up and have a shower, I feel almost normal again.

The delightful outdoor shower at Toraja Heritage Hotel

Dinner in the hotel restaurant


We both opt for the chicken satay this evening, which is absolutely delicious, with just the right amount of kick, and it’s a delight not to have to try and fight with bones to get to the meat (as well as not having my meal looking back at me)


Thank you for another great day, and to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this fascinating visit to Toraja, part of our Grand South East Asia Tour.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:45 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia market standing_stones unesco burial buffalo bishop sulawesi ice_cream funeral pigs corpse pig_market toraja bolu menhir undiscovered_destinations megaliths mud_bath stone_carving nasi_goreng tongkonan rantepao tau_tau catholic_mass bolu_buffalo_market buffalo_market bori_standing_stones bori ceremonial_ground buffalo_mud_bath manene_ritual ma'nene buffalo_skin land_of_death batutumonga chciken_head lokomata loko_mata lo'ko_mata burial_site duba_duba Comments (0)

Toraja Funeral Animal Sacrifice - WARNING: DISTURBING IMAGES

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Below are some images from the buffalo sacrifice at the Toraja funeral we attended in Rantepao. You can read the story and explanations in the full blog entry here.

The animals, which are tied to a tree by one leg, are given a short slice to the neck, causing copious amounts of blood to spurt out.



The squirting blood is considered sacred, and it is important for the blood to be seeping into the earth.

A 'butcher' covered in blood, much to the amusement of the onlookers. Several people take it in turn to perform the killings.

It isn’t so much the actual killings that I find so hard to accept (after all, I eat meat, and most of my father’s family were farmers), it’s the fact that the buffalo do not die instantly, they thrash about for several minutes afterwards in obvious pain and distress. The guttural sound of the buffalo cries, which doesn't come out through the now-severed larynx, but instead escapes through the cut in the throat, will haunt me forever.


Cleaning the knife between each sacrifice

You can return to the original blog entry here.

Posted by Grete Howard 12:06 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia buffalo sulawesi funeral sacrifice toraja rituals buffalo_sacrifice funeral_ritual tanah_toraja ranteapo Comments (0)

Tanah Toraja - Funeral, Tombs and Traditional Houses

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Having arrived after dark last night, we take a quick walk around the grounds of the hotel this morning to take some photos and familiarise ourselves with the facilities.

Toraja Heritage Hotel

The architecture of the rooms is based on the traditional boat-shaped Tongokan ancestral houses with their dramatically upswept roofs, which are unique to this area.





It's a large hotel, although it doesn't appear to be anywhere near full, judging by the number of people out and about this morning.

The large, open reception / lobby area


Toraja Funeral

This area is home to an ethnic group of people known as Toraja (meaning the ‘people of the mountains’). They live according to rules defined by their ancestors and traditional religion, known as ‘Aluk to Dolo. The most important ceremony of the Torajan people is the funeral (more important than weddings or births), which includes pig and buffalo sacrifices, and can last for many days. We have been invited to such a funeral, but first, we must buy a gift to bring to the party.

200 cigarettes to give as a gift / offering at the funeral

Animal Sacrifice

We arrive at the site just after the first buffalo has been sacrificed, with the animal lying in a pool of blood on the ground. The next victim soon follows.



I struggle to watch the process, although seeing it entirely through the viewfinder of my camera makes it less ‘real’. I have deliberately not included any more photos from the killings here, but have made a separate entry for those who are interested. You can see that here.

Eight buffalo are slaughtered in total, which I understand is average for a funeral. The exact number of animals to be offered depends on the status of the deceased. The sacrifices are believed to aid the spirit's journey to the afterlife (Puya) and showcase the family's prestige.

The slaughtered buffalo are later expertly chopped up and distributed to the attending families. This ritual is considered an act of ‘returning the meat to the community’. The rationale behind this is that when the deceased was alive, she will have attended death ceremonies and thus taken meat from those death ceremonies. Hence, the meat of the buffaloes at her funeral ceremony is to ‘be returned back to the community'.


A group of youngsters watch the procedure with total indifference.




The funeral is held in an enclosure with several buildings, each of which is numbered: Number one is the main building where the family is sitting and the coffin is stored on the floor above.





We are directed to building number five where we are offered tea and cake.


The green cake is called bolu and is flavoured with pandan.

This is the point where we hand over our offering.


Next door to us is the MC Building, number six, where the Master of Ceremonies announces visitors, reads out poems, and lets people know what is happening. We even receive a personal welcome in English. Being a Master of Ceremonies at a Toraja funeral is more than just being able to chat into a microphone, in order to gain a recognised qualification they have to be fluent in the Torajan high-language because the announcement and pronunciation of the guest names should be flawless and accurate.


There are two official photographers (one with a 360° camera), a videographer, and a dronographer.


The buildings reserved for the locals do not have chairs, however, with guests sitting around on low platforms.


Buffalo and pigs are paraded down through the enclosure for the family to inspect them before they are taken off to be killed.




After slaughtering the pigs, the hair is burned off, and the carcass is taken back for inspection.




Clearing up the mess left behind by the terrified animals.


Family and friends arrive in long processions, one after the other, with some of the people closest to the deceased dressing up in traditional outfits associated with funerals.






We are surprised to see the Western girl who was in front of us in the queue for immigration at Makassar a few days ago.

The Aluk – the Way of the Ancestors – dictates that only noble members of the society can have the most elaborate and lavish funeral, which over one thousand people will attend. These ceremonies are so expensive that families may need months or years to save up enough money. Meanwhile, the body is kept in the house (injected with formaldehyde), and family members will place food next to the deceased, and talk to them. The Torajans believe that a person doesn’t die, they are just sleeping while waiting to enter the next life. For the Torajans, it’s of utmost importance to send off their deceased loved ones with full respect and celebration. Death is a social event for the whole community.

It is time for us to leave the funeral and move on to see what else is around in the Toraja Highlands. We follow a couple of pigs on bikes.



It’s school pick-up time, and mums come along on small mopeds to collect their little darlings – and their friends.





Having been lucky enough to attend a funeral, we will now find out what the next step is in the traditional ritual. Here at Lemo, a number of tombs are hand-carved into the rock face, with the remains carefully placed inside the tombs.


What makes these hanging graves so unusual, are the balconies created in front of the tombs, on which Tau Tau – life-sized and life-like effigies of the dead, complete with realistic facial features – stand and stare at visitors.



These are the oldest burial cliffs in the area and date back to the 16th century. Prior to that time, the final resting place of the deceased was elaborate, boat-shaped wooden coffins placed at the base of cliffs. After these tombs were extensively plundered, locals began burying their dead in high cliff-face vaults. It is also thought that the higher up on the cliff face your body is placed, the shorter the journey to the afterlife. These days family vaults may contain several generations of family members - each balcony represents one family


Standing amongst the dead and their life-like guardians is a beautiful, albeit slightly eerie, experience: the way the Torajans revere their deceased ancestors with the lovingly carved tau tau, the respect, the celebration of life, the integration of the deceased into the family even after death.


There are a total of 75 graves here at Lemo, each one carefully carved out by hand.


Tau Tau

The carving of the tau tau requires great skill, as each is created to closely resemble the deceased, with special attention given to facial features, body shape, and height. Usually jackfruit wood is used for this carving as it tends to yellow with age, to a colour very much like human skin. There is a great deal of prestige attached to these statues, and the greater the status the more intricate the carving, as you can see from the image below, taken outside a nearby woodworking shop.


Inside, the shop is full of completed effigies waiting to be collected. I can only assume that they are carved ready for when the family accumulates enough wealth to be able to pay for an elaborate funeral. Fewer people choose to use tau tau at their relatives’ tombs these days, as a result of thieves consistently stealing the effigies from the stone graves. Instead, families now often choose to keep the effigies at home.


While the woodworking is extremely creative and talented, I can’t help but be a little freaked out by these life-like icons of dead people.


Today the woodworker is not making tau tau, but a small carving that he will later put up for sale to tourists.




Panorama Restaurant


Funerals seem to have been turned into a brand in this area, even the napkin is folded to resemble a tau tau.


Pumpkin soup to start


The main course is pork in ‘black sauce’ with white and black rice and a plate of vegetables.




When all this has been served and we are just about to dig in, the waiter brings out a traditional local dish of chicken cooked inside a bamboo stick.



There is certainly plenty of food, especially for lunch.


Dessert is a sweet soup with banana, papaya, and tamarind.


The restaurant overlooks a pond and beyond, hence the name Panorama Restaurant.


Panga Fruit

On the road we see seed kernels drying in the sun. Nadja calls them Panga fruit and explains that while these fruits and seeds are still pale like this, they are poisonous, whereas once they are dried they turn black and they are then safe to eat.



Tampang Allo

Unlike Lemo, where coffins were placed in graves carved into the sheer rock face, here at Tampang Allo, they were left in a naturally formed semi-open cave. The ancestral graves are said to belong to the Sangalla royal family.




Customs state that should one of the coffins fall down, it must be left where it is – hence there are skulls and bones scattered around inside the cave.



All the pictures were taken by David, using his mobile phone and/or screenshots from his camcorder.




This is the saddest of all the Toraja burial sites, with little niches carved into a tree where babies are buried. Infants who have not yet teethed were traditionally believed to be more pure than adults, and that their bodies and spirits would be absorbed into the tree and continue to grow with it, holding the belief that the tree would act as the child’s new ‘mother’. The sap of the tree acts as the breast milk, to assist in the rebirth – or continuing growth.

Jackfruit trees are usually the preferred grave site of infants, as the softer wood makes it easier to carve. The holes are covered with bark from the palm tree in order to protect the grave from would-be animal raiders, as well as protect it from evil spirits. The position of the grave in the tree is important, and should be on the opposite side of the trunk to where the house is so that it does not face its ‘old mother’. The mother does not attend the funeral, nor is she supposed to visit the grave afterwards. She needs to let go of her baby to the new ‘mother’.


Unlike adult funerals, where the deceased is kept in the house for weeks, months or even years, babies are usually buried the day after they die. The position of the grave in the tree depends on the family’s social class, with babies from higher classes buried higher in the tree, and lower classes nearer the bottom.


While the death of any child is incredibly sad, I think this tradition is also very beautiful, with the belief that the birth mother hands over the baby to nature for another ‘mother’ to look after the baby as it continues to grow. The practice of burying infants in trees no longer takes place – the last tree funeral was around fifty years ago.

Tongkonan Houses

Seeing images of this style of architecture online in the past, is what initially attracted me to visit Sulawesi.


As we make our way through the countryside, we stop at regular intervals to admire the many tongokans found at the side of the road. When literally translated, ‘tongk’ means sit, and ‘onan’ means ‘together’. Tongkonan therefore means “sit together”. These unusual buildings are the traditional ancestral houses of the Torajan people who have lived in this area for centuries. Originally it was only the nobility who were permitted to construct such elaborate buildings, but these days the rules are not so strictly enforced. Before the 20th century, most Torajans lived in autonomous villages and the vast majority practised animism, effectively untouched by the outside world.


The tongokan structures are traditionally built on stilts, facing north-south (north is considered the symbol of life), and have distinctive boat-shaped saddleback roofs with huge upswept gables. The original Torajans who inhabited this area came from China and were boat sellers.


In some places, such as here in Karuaya, the houses are arranged in a row, side by side, with the families’ rice barns opposite, a customary symbol of wealth. Usually built next to rice fields, the barns are considered the ‘wife’ of the rice fields and the field is her husband, according to the traditional division of labour, where the wife would be at home preparing food while the husband’s duty would be to search for that food outside the home.

Tongkonan Karuaya

Rice barns

Next to the rice fields

The rice barns are constructed on stilts from a hard wood that is capable of withstanding rats and other small creatures attempting to claw or bite their way into the structures. Rice is stored in complete darkness inside.


The buildings are richly decorated, with the walls of some of the buildings entirely covered in colourful designs. Buffalo heads denote whether this is a traditional ancestral structure or just merely a family house (no buffalo head). The rooster head protruding from the top of the buffalo symbolises justice and law.

Intricate wall paintings

Buffalo head and rooster

The buffalo horns are said to ward against evil spirits, especially when there is a dead body in the house awaiting burial (which would be indicated by a white flag flying). The horns also denote the wealth and status of the family, as they would indicate the number of buffalo that have been sacrificed during a family member’s funeral.



Interiors are typically cramped and dark with few windows, however, most of daily life is lived outside the homes, with interiors simply intended for sleeping, storage, meetings, and occasionally protection. There are usually three rooms inside: in the north is a sleeping room for guests and also a place where offerings to god are made, the middle room contains the living area with kitchen, and on the south side is the sleeping area for the elders. Dead bodies are usually kept in separate tongokans without a living area.


Tongakan Karuaya also includes a petrol station.


Young boys hanging around

Sweet potato leaves – while these are perfectly edible, and often used as a vegetable, picking them means the potatoes do not grow as large as they otherwise would have done.

A young girl playing in the sand

A tail-less cat

Kete Kesu

This is said to be the oldest tongkonan in Tanah Toraja, at some 500 years old. Now a UNESCO Heritage Site, the area is firmly on the tourist circuit, and often perform traditional ceremonies such as funerals, and today we see several of the tongokans being prepared for the death rituals. Kete Kesu means ‘centre of activity’.


While it may be the most famous of the tongokans in this area, I am sad to say that find it a little bit of an anticlimax after visiting the other, much less touristy villages earlier, especially as these houses have scaffolding attached for the funeral preparations.



I spot a group of girls who are taking lots of photos of themselves in various combinations of ‘models’ and ‘photographers’ as youngsters do everywhere in the world.


On the spur of the moment, I decide to have a little fun ‘photobombing’ their pictures, running to stand at the back of the group. While I expected them to (hopefully) enjoy my little game, I am not prepared for the reaction I get: a massive repeated shriek of “Oh my gawd, that’s not fair!” Fearing that I have misjudged the situation, it soon becomes evident that the young girl taking the photos is most upset because she too wants to be in the picture with the foreigner.


Several combinations of photographs are taken over the next half an hour, and we chat to the girls at length. They are part of an English study group at a college in Makassar, and are absolutely delighted to be able to practice their English, and even more so when they find out that we are actually from England! Their command of the language is excellent, and we share jokes and stories. When we part, they claim that it has been the highlight of their visit to this area.


What a fabulously enjoyable way to finish a thrilling day of explorations.

Back at the hotel, we order drinks from room service, and sit on the balcony re-living some of the many incredible experiences from this, the most intense days on the trip so far, while sipping ice cold beers. Life is good, and we count our lucky stars that we are so fortunate to be able to travel and enjoy such adventures.


Neither of us are feeling hungry after the huge lunch, so we swap dinner for another beer (or two).


Thank you so much to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this wondrous trip.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:05 Archived in Indonesia Tagged beer rice_fields indonesia cat cake tombs death party balcony unesco photographer parade buffalo traditions carving sulawesi graves coffin status bones procession ancestors funeral sacrifice slaughter woodcarving pigs visitors poison adventure_travel toraja cigarettes formalin videographer lemo prestige undiscovered_destinations deceased room_servce panga petrol_station toraja_heritage_hotel sweet_soup fruit_soup panga_frui tampang_allo semi_open_cave cave_burial skulss human_bones skull_and_bones kembira baby_graves tree_burial tongkonan traditional_architecture rice_barns buffalo_horms protection_from_evil kete_kesu photo_bombing burial_cliffs jackfruit_wood pumpkin_soup pork_in_black_sauce chciken_cooked_in_bamboo torajah tanah_torajah rantepao aluk_to_dolo buffalo_sacrifice animal_sacrifice death_ceremony death_ritual funeral_ceremony funeral_ritual afterlife dead_person tea_and_cake dronographer masters_of_ceremonies torajan_language pig_sacrifice friends_and_family animists school_pick_up_time pig_on_a_bike tau_tau Comments (0)

Makassar - Tanah Toraja (Rantepao)

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We are leaving the capital of Sulawesi behind this morning and heading north. As we drive out of Makassar, it seems one town blends into the next, with plenty of streetlife, shops, and restaurants to entertain our senses.


One of the many delights of travelling with a guide, is that we get the opportunity to try different foods along the way. We make a stop at a stand selling pomelo, a fruit that is new to me.



Resembling a large grapefruit, its taste is not as bitter as a grapefruit, nor is it as sweet as an orange.


Dange Pulu Bolong

These traditional cookies are made from sticky rice, coconut, and sugar, and are baked on the fire in special irons.





Soft when hot, the cookies turn crispy as they cool.




Travelling along the coast, we pass several fisheries, where nets are strung between wooden sticks and lowered into the water. The fishermen sitting atop the towers monitor the amount of fish in the nets, and when suitably full, the nets are hauled back up again.


Seaweed is also farmed in this area, for export to China and Japan where it is used as food or in the production of cosmetics.


Tile Workshop

Intrigued by the brightly coloured domes at the side of the road, I ask Nadja (our guide) if we can stop and take a look. By the time the message has got through to Acho, our driver, we have passed the point by around 100 metres. Acho, however, stops, and thinks nothing of reversing back along the dual carriageway. Thankfully the traffic is light, so it is not a problem.


The lads working in a small shed around the back are more than happy to explain to us how tiles, imported from Java, are sprayed in different colours, and then assembled into the domes we see.


The enclosure used for spraying

Getting the tiles ready

I'm surprised they don't wear long gloves - that paint can't be good for their skin

Freshly sprayed tiles

Tiles hanging to dry

These tiles are all ready to be assembled

Shaping the support structure


The domes are used to top mosques and other important buildings.



Mate’ne Village

Operating the fishing boats after dark, and using floodlights to attract the fish, the workers bring the catch back to the village to dry.


Sumpang Minangey

Further along the coast, these fishing boats, on the other hand, go out for several days at a time.


Kupa Beach Restaurant

Set in beautiful gardens on the coast, we are shown to a covered seating area and offered a welcome drink and a very much appreciated refreshingly cool face cloth.


The gentle breeze on a wet face helps to cool us down too, and helps to wake me up from the deep sleep I was in when the car stopped.


The grounds are extensive and the interesting layout of the property compliments the little knick-knacks around the place, making it all very quaint.


The asparagus soup is very salty, which, along with a sweet Sprite, will probably do me good as I am suffering from an angry and upset tummy.


Fearing the repercussions, I avoid the fish, but try three of the delicious-looking tiger prawns with plenty of rice and kecap manis (sweet soy sauce).


Fresh fruit for dessert

After my somewhat unpleasant encounter with a very basic Indonesian style hole-in-the-floor toilet at a service station earlier, I am grateful that the facilities here are Western style, albeit made for local people whose height is very much less than mine. With my arthritis, getting up from a low seat is not the easiest of manoeuvres.


Back in the car, I snooze again for a while, until we start climbing up into the hills. The road is winding, narrow, and suffering from severe erosion in places, as well as deep, huge potholes.


The driving culture is.... not for the faint-hearted. Cars, including ours, overtake huge, slow, heavy trucks uphill on hairpin bends, while dodging kamikaze motorcyclists, pedestrians, dogs, and chickens. Narrow misses that would make us scream back home and talk about for days, are commonplace every few hundred yards here, and no-one bats an eyelid.

Gunung Bamapuang

We make a brief stop to take some photos of one of the mountain peaks we see along the way.


Rumah Makan & Art Shop ‘Jemz Gunung Nona’

At one of the many restaurants that have been created where the landscape offers some ground between the road and the deep, steep valley beyond, we break for a comfort stop.


The sweet girls who serve us are keen to practice their English and after ordering iced cappuccinos, we are presented with complimentary roast potatoes.



An ice cream is always welcome, as we enjoy the spectacular view of Gunung Nona mountains from their balcony.



It’s a long eleven-hour drive today, and darkness sets in before we reach our destination. If we thought the roads were perilous, with crazy driving, before, add trucks and motorcycles without lights to that mix and you have a terrifying cocktail.

Toraja Heritage Hotel

The grand entrance, with its many steps, is impressive, and the cold fruit drink offered on arrival is equally as welcome as the hot towel.


Our room is in one of the many traditional Tongokan buildings with their pointy roofs, and is large and airy with a sizeable indoor bathroom and a further outdoor shower.


Having struggled to keep awake on the journey up here, I feel way too tired to go for dinner, so we just have a little picnic in the room with some of the snacks we bought earlier.

Thank you to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this trip of a lifetime.


Posted by Grete Howard 10:43 Archived in Indonesia Tagged boats fishing road_trip indonesia seaweed sulawesi ice_cream dried_fish makassar undiscovered_destinations outdoor_shower room_picnic fisheries toraj tanahtorajah pomelo dange_pulu_bolong seaweed_farming tile_workshop metal_workshop tile_spraying matene_village fishing_after_dark fishing_by_floodlight kupa_beach_restaurant gunung_bamapuang rumah_makan guning_nona iced_cappuccino toraja_heritage_hotel Comments (4)


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The choices for breakfast in the Santika Hotel here in Makassar are overwhelmingly Indonesian, which is hardly surprising considering we are the only Westerners here this morning.

Kway Teoh Goreng

Tahu Goreng Renyah

Tumis Sayuran

Ayam Goreng Wijem

Lamuru Woku

Nasi Goreng Merah

I have never understood the notion that certain foods should only be enjoyed at certain times of day – or more to the point, that certain foods are not suitable for breakfast. The number of times I have heard comments such as “I like curry, but not for breakfast”. Does it taste different at different times of the day?

With just the local name for the dish, I have no idea what any of them contain, so I just choose a few that look appetising.


In addition to the buffet, there is a chef who is making omelettes and fried eggs.

Love the luminous chilli sauce

We meet our guide Nadja and driver Acho in the lobby and head out to the fish market to purchase some ingredients for our cooking lesson later on.

The spacious vehicle we were provided with for the duration of the tour

Makassar Fish Market

We can smell it before we see it, with the muddy approach from the road giving us a preview of the condition of the market itself.


With frequent calls of “Mister!” “Photo”, the vendors are mostly very keen to be photographed, unlike some markets elsewhere in the world.


While the fish and seafood look fresh (it will have come out of the sea earlier this morning), the sanitary conditions are a long way from our Western standards.

Ice being brought in to keep the seafood cool



Being used to a small selection of fish in the local British supermarkets, most of which are of a very dull colour, I am amazed at the many colourful species found here.


We are surprised and a little horrified to see that a number of the vendors are smoking while handling the food.


Nadja closely inspects the produce before selecting some suitable fish for us.


Some of the fishing boats that brought today's catch

Fruit and Vegetable Market

The next stop is to buy some vegetables to go with the seafood, as well as some fruit for dessert.


The traders here are as friendly as those in the fish market; we see a number of women stall holders here too, whereas in the fish market it was exclusively men.



Dragon Fruit



Snake Fruit

Nadja shopping

Vegetables to go with our fish

Tallo River Ferry

Making our way down rough dirt tracks to the ferry point, we get ‘geographically misplaced’ a couple of times. As this is a new addition to the local programme, Acho has never been here before, so Nadja consults his phone, stops and asks directions from some kids on motorbikes, turns around, gets lost again on a university campus, and holds up his phone and asks a student if he “recognises this”.

Finally, we arrive at the edge of the river where the ferry departs from. ‘Ferry’ is perhaps too a grandiose word for the craft that connects the villages along the riverbank – two canoes joined together with some wooden planks for flooring, and a structure providing protection against inclement weather, plus some rudimentary seating (not to mention the 'gangplank' providing access to the boat. Health and safety anyone?)


The ferry is powered by a small, but incredibly noisy, outboard engine, helped by an assistant with a long stake.


The ferries do not have set departure times, they leave when they have enough passengers to make it worth their while. As we are on a private tour, we get the ferry to ourselves.

Another ferry on the river

Nadja and Acho with our food

Javan Pond Heron on the river bank

Lakkang Island

Located in a delta slightly away from Makassar City, Lakkang Island is surrounded by Tallo and Pampang rivers. The majority of the 300 or so inhabitants here belong to the Bugis ethnic group, and are mostly farmers or fishermen, with their own traditions and language.


The arrival jetty on Lakkang Island

Walking on paths along rice fields, we soon reach a small settlement, where we continue along brick paved shaded paths, between traditional Bugis houses and fruit trees, before reaching the home of our lunchtime host.



Custard apple


The home of our host

Upon arrival, we are immediately given cups of strong, sweet. black tea, and some traditional sweet snacks.


Roko Roko Unti - sticky banana cake

Putu Cangkir - rice cookies filled with coconut

Cookery Lesson

The kitchen is fairly basic but with a few nice mod cons, such as a large American-style fridge.


The cook adds some chillies to the mix for making corn patties. They are delicious, but David manages to catch a piece of chilli at the back of the throat, making him cough, which Nadja seems to find extremely funny and it results in no more chillies being added to the food.

The patty mix

The finished patties

Fried shallots, garlic and sugar are added to a pot with chepa fish.


Prawns being cooked

Kangkung - water spinach

All the finished dishes.


Traditionally, food would be eaten while sitting on the floor, but as old and decrepit Western tourists, we are offered seats at the table.

Nadja and Acho eat the traditional way

For dessert, we are offered a selection of fruits.

Red Dragon Fruit - my first experience with the red variety, the ones I have had before, and that are (occasionally) on sale in the UK, have a white centre with black seeds


Small finger bananas - they are sweeter than the traditionally bigger variety

After saying goodbye to our gracious host, we make our way back to the river, where our ferryman is waiting to take us across to Makassar.

Fisherman on the river

Another ferry

Paotere Harbour

Dating from the 14th century, Paotere Harbour is said to be the oldest in the country and used to be a thriving hub in its heyday.


Old fishing boats never die, they come to Makassar to live out their lives in Paotere Harbour

Fishermen's huts


Traditionally, the term Phinisi (or pinisi) referred to a type of rig, masts, sails, and configuration of ropes in Indonesian sailing vessels, with seven or eight sails over two masts - such as the ship we sailed on in Nusa Tenggara in 2006 when we visited Komodo Island.


As is the case with many Indonesian sailing craft, the word 'pinisi' only refers to a type of rig, and does not describe the shape of the hull of a vessel that uses such sails. Phinisi-rigged ships were built by the Konjo, a sub-ethnic tribe of the Bugis, and are very typical of this region.

These days the word is often used to describe any type of small to mid-sized wooden sailing ship.


Trucks on the quayside waiting to receive goods from the boats

Three young girls playing to my camera

Asmaul Husna 99 Dome Mosque

Our last stop of the day is the spectacular 99 Dome Mosque on the edge of Losari Beach. Completed in 2022, it is constructed on reclaimed land in an area full of stunning new-build houses, the like of which you might find in the Middle East rather than in Sulawesi.


Why 99 domes? It refers to the 99 Names of Allah – Asmaul Husna in Arabic. It’s a unique and beautiful building, for sure.


By the time we get back to the hotel, I am in a lot of pain with my back, and do not feel up to walking the two blocks down to Losari Boulevard to find a restaurant. As the hotel only serves food at breakfast, we resort to getting another MacDonald's this evening, which David goes to fetch while I relax in a comfortable chair.

Thank you so much to Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this amazing bespoke private tour for us.


Posted by Grete Howard 11:50 Archived in Indonesia Tagged fish indonesia kitchen cooking fishermen ferry crabs sulawesi bugis chillies smoking papaya prawns dragon_fruit fish_market muddy mangoes south_east_asia custard_apple pinisi makassar private_tour unhygienic undiscovered_destinations unsanitary cucumber bespoke_tour santika_hotel macdonalds chayote snake_fruit tallo_river lakkang_island cooking_lesson roko_roko_unti puti_cangkir corn_patties chepa_fish chepa red_dragon_fruit finger_bananas paotere_harbour phinisi seal_boats konjo ethnic_tribes asmaul_husna 99_names_of_allah losari Comments (6)

Singapore - Makassar

View South East Asia Grand Tour 2023 on Grete Howard's travel map.

After yesterday’s excitement, we oversleep this morning, completely missing the alarm, meaning we have to rush down for breakfast before they stop serving.


Yet again I enjoy some smoked salmon, whereas David sticks to fried eggs. I love the sign on the table – I didn’t notice that yesterday – indicating whether you are just getting more food, or have completely finished your breakfast and departed, so that the staff know when they can clear your table. What a great idea!


Changi Airport

We arrive at the airport with plenty of time to allow us to reclaim tax for the drone we bought yesterday. After an uneventful check-in for Scoot Airlines, followed by finding a wheelchair, a porter grabs our boarding cards and instructs us to sit down and wait. Apparently, they are only allowed to push us through immigration one hour before departure. So much for us arriving three hours early to arrange for the tax refund.


With the flight originally scheduled to leave at 15:15, we are dismayed to see a new departure time of 16:00. Chatting to a disgruntled Australian man also travelling in a wheelchair, we learn that this is the norm with Scoot Airlines. The designated waiting area for mobility-impaired passengers leaves much to be desired, with nothing around: no shops or cafés to get a drink, no comfortable seats, nothing.


With a bit of pleading, and explaining about the tax refund, a porter eventually agrees to take us through before the ‘allocated’ time. David sits in the front of the mobility buggy, while I am at the end, facing backwards. The porter appears to have Formula One ambitions, and not only do I feel dizzy as he races across the swirly-patterned carpet, but I also fear I am going to fall out of the cart as he swerves at full speed to avoid wayward pedestrians.


Claiming the tax back proves to be easier than anticipated, via a self-service booth.

Singapore to Makassar

FlyScoot is new to us, one of the many budget airlines in South East Asia. While budget airlines in the West are bad enough, here they seem to be made for people who are a fraction of our size, and to say the aircraft is cramped would be an understatement. Every time the chap in the seat in front of me moves, he throws himself back into the seat, crushing my knees in the process.

Boarding is painfully slow, with seemingly everyone carrying hard roller cases that they struggle to fit in the overhead compartments, holding up everyone behind them in the process.

The plane doesn’t fill up until 16:15, a quarter of an hour after the revised departure time, and to add to the delay, an announcement is made that a black bag has been left in the gate hall. No-one owns up. Passengers are just milling about, unsure of what is happening – the whole thing reeks of chaos and lack of control. Fearing a security issue, the announcement is repeated. It takes 20 minutes, three more announcements later, and just as the bag is about to be taken away and destroyed, someone finally realises that they do not have their hand luggage in the plane with them. We finally depart at 17:30, 2 hours 15 minutes late.

Makassar Airport

As with boarding, passengers are painfully slow disembarking, and when we arrive in the immigration hall, my heart sinks. Thank goodness I am in a wheelchair, as the lines snake around the room, and I would have struggled to stand for the duration of the wait. There are only two other westerners, a young lady, and her son – they are in front of us in the queue.

After some 45 minutes or so, we finally reach the immigration desk and hand our passports over with the e-visa. The official asks where we are staying. I hand her my list of hotels for the entire trip. She calls a colleague across and they study the list, then ask what my itinerary is and the dates. I dig out the dossier sent to us by Undiscovered Destinations. As she continues to ask for further information, I am eternally grateful that I am so incredibly organised, printing off all the paperwork prior to departure from home, and placing it in a folder in chronological order: onward tickets to Timor Leste, tickets from Timor Leste back to Bali, onward tickets from Bali, hotel confirmations, details of local agents…. The list goes on. Soon she has most of the pieces of paper for the next 3 weeks, and eventually, we are let through to collect our bags.

The next hurdle makes immigration seem like a walk in the park. Most of the passengers on the flight are part of a large group returning from Umrah (pilgrimage to Mecca), and I would hazard a guess that the vast majority of them have never been on a flight, or abroad before. Confused, upset, tired, and angsty, they mill around, leaving trolleys and baggage blocking the route for anyone else. As with everything else these days, the Customs Declaration is totally online. Convinced that we completed this a few days ago, I am dismayed, and slightly panicking, when I can’t find it on my phone. When David is unable to locate it on his phone either, we assume that we most likely DID NOT do it - having filled in so many online forms over the last week, we must have missed it (Post Note: two weeks later we come across it – no idea where it has been hiding meanwhile). After much to and fro with an official whose English is barely better than my Indonesian, we are pointed to a QR code on a pillar in the hall which takes us to the form, using the free wifi in the airport.

David volunteers to complete the form, but with so many people trying to access the website at the same time, it keeps crashing. After three unsuccessful attempts, I have a go and get a little further than David, but then suddenly the system wipes all the information I have put in, three times in a row. When I eventually manage to complete the details for both of us, it adds a second husband. Groan. One is more than enough. Finally, some 25 minutes after we started this debacle, I have that all-important QR code on my phone. I quickly take a screenshot, just in case…


Now all we have to do is to try and get out of this bedlam, which is easier said than done, with a couple of trolleys blocking our exit, and no space to move those trolleys into with all the people still standing around, dazed and zombie-like. Eventually, the aforementioned official uses his authority to get people moving, by loud shouting and some pushing and shoving, and we can see light at the end of the tunnel.

We’re out. Or rather in. In Indonesia, that is. Theo, the young and delightful representative from Undiscovered Destinations' local agent, is waiting in the arrivals hall for us, a little concerned and baffled about the amount of time it has taken us to get through. He leads us to a generously proportioned people-carrier with comfortable seats and a friendly driver, Acho.

Aston Hotel

With an impressive lobby, the hotel looks very welcoming. The friendly and cheerful receptionist, however, is thoroughly bewildered, as he has no record of our stay. As anguish creeps across Theo’s face, I point out that the itinerary we received before leaving home, mentions Santika Hotel, Not Aston. Relief and embarrassment replace the apprehension on Theo’s face, and he is full of apologies. “Guests from Undiscovered Destinations always stay at the Aston” he explains, as he orders Acho to help the porters return our luggage to the car.

Santika Hotel

By the time we arrive at the much-less-impressive Santika Hotel, it is 22:30 and I am feeling tired and hungry. “I’m afraid the restaurant only opens for breakfast” Theo explains, “and the room service is closed now.” Great. Not at all feeling like wandering around an unknown town at this time of night looking for a place to eat (most restaurants stop serving around 21:30 we are told), David offers to pop along to the MacDonalds we spotted on the way here, just a couple of doors down. It is not something I would normally choose to eat at home, but needs must, and I have to reluctantly admit that the sorry-looking sandwich is very welcome and actually quite tasty.



Despite the initial disappointment of this hotel over the Aston, we are very happy with the spacious bedroom, with its two large beds and a couple of chairs on which to enjoy our late-night culinary delight.



Thank you Undiscovered Destinations for arranging this once-in-a-lifetime grand tour.


Posted by Grete Howard 12:00 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia singapore airport breakfast visa sulawesi airline passport changi immigration porter wheelchair umrah makassar marina_bay_sands_hotel qr_code flyscoot scoot_airlines budget_airline red-tape customs_declaration aston_hotel santika_hotel macdonalds Comments (5)

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