Situated on the northeastern peninsula of Sulawesi, this province stretches further north to smaller islands which almost look like stepping stones to the Philippines. Covering an area of about 27,487 sq km, it is divided into four district: Minahasa, Bolaang Mongondow, Gorontalo, and Sangihe Talaud Islands, all of which having their different cultures. The capital, Manado, is reacheable by air from Ujung Pandang, Jakarta, Surabaya, Balikpapan, Ternate, Ambon, and Jayapura. Other airports, in this province handle mainly domestic traffic, which are Gorontalo, Tahuna and Talaud.
It is also accessible by sea. The port of Bitung is undoubtedly the most important port, serving shipping lines of the peninsula and the eastern part of Indonesia.
The area is highly mountainous, culminating in 54 peaks, some of which are volcanic and still active. The coast is made up of long stretches of virgin white sandy beaches with magnificent corals and colorful tropical marine life. Despite their proximity to the mainland, the coral-fringed islets are among the most virgin in Indonesia.
One of the most western-oriented people, the hospitable and open minded Minahasan people are Christians. Their first contact with the European came in the 16th century with the arrival of Spaniards and Portuguese spice traders. However, it wasn't until the Dutch landed on their shores that they became totally Christianized.
Dutch influence grew, subduing indigenous traditions. Minahasa refers to the confederacy of tribes. Monuments bear evidence of ancient systems of tribes and clans. The western part of the province, Bolaang Mongondo and Gorantolo were formerly small Moslem principalities till the turn of the century. The southern coast is inhabited by sea nomads, a separate ethnic group which originated in the west coast of Malay peninsula, now slowly disappearing. Remains of the Mokodompis kingdom are found in Sangir Talaud where the people are Christians as well. But there are distinct differences among these four large ethnic groups which are each composed of several tribes using their own dialects, as well as having differents staple foods.
Sago is to the people of Sangir Talaud, what corn is to the people of Gorontalo, and rice to Bolaang Mongondow and Minahasa. this already proves wide diffenrences. It is one of Indonesia's richest coconut, cloves and nutmeg producers.
The province of South Sulawesi comprises the narrow south-western peninsula of this orchid shape island which is mainly mountainous. The seafaring Bugis dominate the southern tip, whereas the northern part of South Sulawesi is inhabited by the Torajas whose unique culture rivals that of the Balinese. Famed for their seafaring heritage and Pinisi schooners for centuries, the Bugis posses to the present day one of the last sailing fleets in the world.
The Bugis vessels have sailed to as far as the Australian coast, leaving behind drawings of their ships on stone with words that have been integrated into the Aboriginal language of north Australia. Situated on the crossroads of well travelled sea lanes, its capital and chief trading port of Ujung Pandang, is till today the gateway to eastern Indonesia. Spanish and Portuguese galleons, followed by British and Dutch traders sailed these seas in search of the spice trade, escorted by their men of war to protect them against the daring raids of the Bugis and Makassarase who attacked the intruders.
Ujung Pandang, was formerly Makassar, well known for its Macassar oil from which the English word "antimacassar" evolved for small covers to protect upholstery. The fortifications which overlook the harbor were originally built in 1545. Gowa's most famous king is considered a national hero named Sultan Hassanuddin, the 16th king of Gowa who waged a long and fierce war against the colonial forces.
The Tomanurung stone with inscriptions can still be seen in a plot neighboring the royal graves, near Sungguminahasa, formerly the seat of the kings of Gowa. The Bugis kingdom of Bone, Wajo and Soppeng and the Makassarase kingdom of Gowa emerged in the 13th century. Though interrelated thought marriage, Bone and Gowa have for centuries battled against each other. The southern coast is protected by small archipelagoes and has excellent facilities for water sports. These islands have been developed for holiday resorts. Further north, through rugged country is Tana Toraja, often referred to as the "Land of the Heavenly Kings". An ethnic group who believes that their forefathers descended from heaven onto a mountain some twenty generations ago, the Torajas have a unique culture based on animistic beliefs. Known for their grand burial ceremonies on cliff or hanging graves, they practice an ancestor cult even today where death and afterlife ceremonies are great feasts when buffaloes are sacrificed in the final death ceremony, after which the deceased's remains are placed in a coffin and interred in caves hollowed out in high cliff. The mouth of the cave is guarded by lifelike statues, looking out from a "balcony". As death has such an "important meaning" when the souls are released, burials are elaborate and follow days of feasting. Rock graves are also a form of burial. A strict hierarchy is followed in the villages. "Tongkonan" family houses are built on stilts with with roofs on each end rising like the prows of a ship, representing the cosmos. The mountains offer a fantastic panorama of natural beauty including the long drive from Ujung Pandang to Tana Toraja (about hours). South Sulawesi is also known for its silk industry and silver work whereas its economy is based on agriculture. Ujung Pandang is easily accessible by air. There are four daily flights from Jakarta and also daily services from Bali, Surabaya and Manado.
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