Ujing Padang, Indonesia

Note: All Photos Taken From Ship With Telephoto Lens

With a population of 1.4 million, we were told that Ujung Pandang (Makassar/Sulawesi) is home to several prominent landmarks including the 16th century Dutch fort Fort Rotterdam, Trans Studio Makassar—the third largest indoor theme park in the world and the Karebosi Link—the first underground shopping center in Indonesia and the floating mosque located right on the Losari Beach. The city is southern Sulawesi's primary port, with regular domestic and international shipping connections. It is nationally famous as an important port of call for the pinisi boats…sailing ships which are among the last in use for regular long-distance trade. Today, as the largest city in Sulawesi Island and Eastern Indonesia, the city's economy depends highly on service sectors with approximately 70% from total share. Restaurant and hotel service are the largest contributor, followed by transportation and communication, trading, & finance. Industry follows behind service with about 22%.


We were looking forward to exploring this new destination, and we planned to do so on our own instead of taking one of the two ship-sponsored bus tours. First, they were both expensive. A 4-hour tour was listed at $198, the other was a 7-hour tour for $458. Second, we try to avoid bus tours as much as possible based on our experiences last year – there are a number of drawbacks to these tours, the most significant being crammed in a large vehicle with the associated pushing & shoving at every stop - I’ve mentioned this before. On the upside, you’re generally safe, and if there’s a delay, the ship won’t leave the port without you. When visiting a strange, large city with marginal infrastructure & questionable culture, it’s definitely the way to go. We have bus tours scheduled in our next two ports, Princessa & Manila (Philippine’s).


For today, we made a huge mistake – a very bad call. We should have spent the money.


Since we planned to tour independently, we had a leisurely breakfast after the ship docked at 8:00am. The tours started leaving at 8:15, and there were at least two dozen busses waiting on the pier to accommodate the hundreds of passengers. We decided to let the crowds clear and then disembark. We left the ship at 9:00 – we were back within 10 minutes.


As we walked outside the terminal building, we were greeted by other guests returning to the ship. They all warned us – “it’s not worth the hassle, stay away.” Having dealt with many ‘challenging’ cultures in the past, particularly India & Egypt, I felt confident we could deal with any persistent residents. Cheryl was good to go, so we proceeded. Before we even left the pier, we were besieged with determined, obstinate taxi drivers & beggars. Saying “no thank you” didn’t work, no matter how polite, no matter how many times – they followed us, grabbed at us, & eventually snapped some gestures in English I dare not repeat here. I thought that once we cleared the port gates and hit one of the main roads, the congestion of hawkers & vagrants would ease and we could enjoy a walk to a small shopping center about a mile away. I was wrong again – it only got worse. There were no other passengers in sight at that point and as I looked around, I was legitimately concerned with Cheryl’s safety and that of my own. We turned back, which only seemed to energize the nasty dispositions of these local thugs & drivers. We walked quickly & direct, warning other outbound passengers to consider making other plans.


Once back on the ship, I decided to Google the city, and the following is, in part, what I found.


Sulawesi has been plagued by Muslim-Christian violence in recent years. The most serious violence occurred between 1999 and 2001 on the once peaceful island, with heavy involvement of Islamist militias such as Laskar Jihad. Over 1,000 people were killed in violence, riots, and ethnic cleansing that ripped through Central Sulawesi. The Malino II Accord was made in 2001. However, this didn’t eradicate the violence. In the following years, tension and systematic attacks persisted. In 2003, 13 Christian villagers were killed in the Poso District by unknown masked gunmen. And in 2005 three Christian schoolgirls were beheaded in Poso by Islamic militants. A message next to one of the heads allegedly read: "A life for a life. A head for a head".

Riots erupted again in September 2006 in Christian dominated areas of Central Sulawesi, as well as other part of Indonesia, after the execution by firing squad of Fabianus Tibo, Dominggus da Silva and Marinus Riwu, three Roman Catholics convicted of leading Christian militants during the violence of the early first decade of the 21st century. Their supporters claimed that Muslims who participated in the violence received very light sentences and that none were sentenced to death, and that the government used a double standard. The riots appeared to be aimed at government authorities, not Muslims.


As we’ve been told before by Holland America and have witnessed ourselves – this is a voyage that visits nearly every corner of globe. Some corners are better than other corners – that’s just part of the experience. We accept that, and always look for the good within every culture & society. I’m sure had we been more prudent with our decision-making and taken a bus tour, we would have met many wonderful people & discovered many charming places.


We’re anxious to talk with some of our friends who made the right decision today – I’m hopeful they have good experiences to share.


We made good use of our time today catching up on some ironing, visiting with other guests who stayed on board, and playing cards. Cheryl’s STILL ahead of me…19 games to 18! I caught a brief afternoon nap – I was up at 2:30 this morning. Oh…and we finally went to the scales. Cheryl has asked that I not publish anything (typical woman) but I assure you she looks fantastic & her gain is mere ounces! I’m trending the same as last year…I’m up 11 pounds to date – last year I gained 22, and we’re almost halfway home. I need to nip it NOW or I’m headed for trouble, but as always, it’s very difficult to do on a trip like this with excellent food at every turn…calling my name!


UPDATE: After I finished writing the above, tour busses began arriving back at the pier following their ‘day on the town’. With the high heat & humidity, most passengers looked like soggy laundry. We learned in some cases, busses had little to no air conditioning. We ran into several friends throughout the late afternoon who struggled to find anything good to say about their experiences. At dinner, our four tablemates got into specifics and I can now say we made the right decision staying on the ship. They all talked about the repressive heat, the rude, snarling residents, bizarre traffic, garbage & offensive foul odors – EVERYWHERE. We ran into the Captain’s wife (Karen) after the show last night, and all she could do was shake her head. She and her hubby took a taxi. As far as we know, everyone is safe & returned to the ship without incident. Most passengers are much more travel-savvy than us and have been on several world cruises – they all say that Ujung Pandang goes down as one of the worst cities. Enough said.  


Off now to the Philippine’s – first stop, Princessa, 1,200 miles north.  

Gangs & Beggars Waiting For Passengers