Thursday, May 17, 2012

Exotic Sulawesi and the traps within!

In our recent trip to Southern Sulawesi, we managed to cover several hot spots which are favourite tourists haunts. If you look at the map of Sulawesi, you would agree that it has the shape of a two legged being with a long slender nozle like structure. Makassar, the capital city is situated in the right leg on the west coast. A port city, it is big and densely populated, with bustling business all over. All its old streets are lined with shops and in newer sections, modern malls pave the city that was once colonized by Holland. Many colonial structures are preserved and made into tourist attractions like Fort Rotterdam.

Tanjung Bira was one of our destination and as it was situated far out in the east coast, we decided to go there the very next day after arrival. A journey that was postulated to take 4 hours ended a total of 9 hours , as we had to endure an hour of rough bad road under repair along a disrict called Jeneponto. To be fair, we had made several stops for lunch, prayer and a visit to a village, famous for their fine wooden sail boats industry. Furthermore, there are no highways there and the roads are narrow, which make it difficult to overtake and thus they could only drive at 70 km per hour the most!

Starting in the morning, we arrived at Tanjung Bira in the evening, just as the sun was setting in. As we checked in at the initial resort, we managed to savour the beautiful hue of the sun setting sky across the sea horizon. Truly breath taking. Unfortunately, the first resort we got in was dimly lighted and dark plus eirie in certain areas of its ground, with no other guests occupying it, sending chills down my spine. Uneasy, I half prayed that we could change to a better place. I was secretly overjoyed when the air cons didnt work well which forced us to change hotels, despite having to pay 25% of the charges for the hardly an hour stay.

Tanjung Bira boasts of picturesque white beach with crystal clear water which appears turquoise from afar. The sand is fine almost like flour in texture. You can swim, ride on bananas, walk on the soft sand or simply absorb the whole exhilirating landscape by standing on higher grounds of the cape. Or you can ride a speed boat to a nearby island , stopping midway to snorkel and ogle at the colorful corals and fish. Or swim by holding onto to turtle backs which live in an enclosed area near a kelong.

As Kajang is near to Tanjung Bira and is the home of an old tribe there called Ammatoa, we decided to pay a visit. Again, due to bad narrow roads, the 60 km ride took 2 hours. Exhausted, the phrase " are we there yet?" kept on playing in my head. Ammatoa tribe is famous for their strict way of life of wanting to be in constant sync with the earth. Thus they advocate their members to wear black and live a laid back life with pure basic emnities, no electrical appliances whatsoever. As we reached the outer skirt of the village, a guy approached our driver and impressed upon us that we needed him as a guide to go in which has to be on foot. After sizing us up, he demanded we pay him 300,000 rp, with additional 100,000 rp , rental for black garments which he said was compulsory. He even asked our intention of going in and made it sound as though the Ammatoans are actually aliens who might do us harm. Needless to say, I was very apprehensive of the whole visit!

Next we stopped at rumah Pak Desa, whom We assumed to be the tribal head. Only one of us was allowed to go in the house with the guide. And please hide your cameras, for whatever reasons but now we know it was just a scare tactic. We waited anxiously as my husband went up the traditional house. After what seemed a long 5 or 10 minutes, they appeared with black garments and handed them to us girls. Apparently, there were no size for my husband and son. What? You mean its ok not to wear them after all? Poor Sarah and I had to don the black satin gowns in the scorching heat! Even though I was already sceptical of the self elect guide, I was still apprehensive and wore the black gowns, just in case. Strangely but fortunately, the garments smelled fresh from the tailor with no residual body odor. And oh by the way, Pak Desa was not in. By then I was suspicious of who this Pak Desa really was.

As we ambled through the calm grounds of the old village, we were expecting tribal members wearing black from head to toe to come and greet us. Alas, every one was busy with their daily chore of drying paddy in the sun or leading horses with loads on their backs. And guess what?? Hardly anyone was wearing black attires! They were wearing t shirts with sarongs! Only one or two were wearing black and even that didnt qualify as my mental version of the Ammatoa!! After realising that this was all a masquerade, I removed the black gown and held it on my arms. The guide swiftly offered to hold it for me! After all, the gown will ensure another 25,000 rp from the next poor guest. By the way, despite not having any black gowns to fit my husband and son, we still had to pay for them! Sheesh!

By this time, my daughter and I was laughing silly at ourselves. We joked that the only true Ammatoans were only the both of us! We actually came all the way to see ourselves all dressed in black!

After showing us how they made their own clothings by dyeing weaving material black, using leaves of a plant and soaking them for days, we became weary and bored and dissapointed. Realizing this, he quickly suggested we go see a waterfall nearby. When asked how far? He said just 300 meters away. Which was actually downhill along a fairly difficult trek. And the waterfall was ok but we would have passed it if we knew that we had to climb up back a more treacherous path!! By this time, I was so pissed off with him, as I gasped for air as I climbed. I was telling myself that I would write a review on this place to prevent people from being duped by this whole thing!

 Next: makassar or Ujung Pandang and its glorious food
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