Thursday, March 19, 2009

Interlude in Makassar

Because of domestic flight schedules, we got to spend about a day in Makassar. We had flown through Makassar on the way to Raja Ampat, but this time we got to go into town and stay overnight.

Several interesting points. I noted on the way through the first time that the city and/or the airport seem to have two apparently interchangeable names, Makassar and Ujung Pandang. Some quick Googling now tells me that Ujung Pandang was a somewhat short-lived official name of the city at the end of the 20th century, but it is now Makassar again. I should note that a lot of the place names in Indonesia seem to change now and then. The province of Papua, which includes Raja Ampat, was at some point Iryan Jaya. But not anymore.

Second, Makassar is a commercial and shipping center, but not a tourist destination. It is practically at the geographical center of the Indonesian archipelago. We had a nice hotel, the Imperial Aryaduta. Nice facilities, but it's odd to be in a place where even the hotel staff speaks fairly limited English. Makassar definitely is not set up to cater to American tourists.

Third, this is our first stop in Indonesia where you really get the feeling of how deeply Muslim this country is. There are mosques seemingly everywhere, including one right across the street from our hotel. This means we can hear the call to prayer five times a day (and the hotel room has an indicator to show us where Mecca lies). The hotel information book includes a prayer-time schedule for the entire year.

Going out to lunch was a bit of an adventure. Aside from the fact that we had a bit of difficulty understanding the verbal directions from the hotel staff, we also didn't have any clue where we were going. So we found a restaurant and decided to go in. The menu was only in Indonesian, and the wait staff spoke only a tiny bit of English. Luckily I had learned enough of the names of food items on the boat that I could identify chicken, fish, rice, noodles, and a few other items. And beer. We perhaps didn't expect eight big bottles, but it was a hot day, and they went down great. The food was really tasty, and cheap. No complaints.

Dinner was pretty amusing, too. In the basement of the hotel there is a Brazilian-Mexican Pub and Restaurant called Salsa. The homesick Californians decided to see what Indonesian Mexican food is. We're still wondering, because the menu had no Mexican items. At all. Go figure. So we mostly ordered pizza!

I guess most important, the hotel had Internet service for me, and massages for Jan. Something for all of us, and a nice little experience that served as a transition on the way home.

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