In Makassar, I followed Google’s cyborg-voiced directions into the scrum of morning traffic.

Indonesians tell me that Makassar drivers are the most aggressive in Indonesia, and Makassar people the most likely to end up in a fight. When I was a small child, I remember my father introducing me as, ‘Grace, my youngest daughter, the one who starts bar fights’, so you’ll be surprised to learn that I never tested the fisticuffs hypothesis. However, I can confirm that Makassar drivers take no prisoners. Whereas on other islands, drivers and riders yield politely and make way for others, in Makassar every day is just a glorious new opportunity to play chicken. I adjusted my riding style accordingly.


I was heading for the home of a friend – a new friend, who had heard that I was travelling through Indonesia and had invited me into his family home in true Indonesian biker style. When he’d first messaged me on Facebook I’d thought, oh no another random, but sometimes randoms turn out to be your new best friend. After some backwards and forwards, I’d decided that the invitation was exactly what it seemed – given in a spirit of generosity by good people with a shared interest in what I was doing.

After some shady directions from Google that resulted in some shady u-turns across six lanes of morning traffic, I eventually found the right side street, the right house. I was greeted with open arms by the Aditya and his wife, Isti. Their baby son Mika was slightly more circumspect about the sweaty, dirty stranger on the badly packed motorbike.


Mika: ‘Yeah nah, I dunno…’

It was still early and I worried that I’d gotten these lovely people out of bed. Isti was wearing fresh cotton trousers and jacket with a satin rolled edge that I would have called sleepwear if they weren’t so pristinely pressed. As time went by, I would gradually come to understand the rhythms and sense of sanctuary of this large Muslim household. Inside the home is cool, comfortable, relaxed; everyone pads around barefoot, bareheaded, in loose comfortable clothing. There’s Aditya’s mother, father, uncle, sister, wife, baby son,  three domestic helpers who live upstairs, and a grandfatherly old man who keeps an eye on everything in the front of the house. Most of the family rise before dawn, for prayers, but then often sleep again until seven or eight. The maids are up early, cooking food – rice, tofu, tempeh, fish, vegetables – that sits under a cover on the dining table for whenever the family wish to eat throughout the day. The baby is doted upon, naps are taken. Platters of cool guava appear on the coffee table in the afternoons. On going out – to work, to school, to shop – the women cover their hair, but inside the front gate, it’s a different world: cotton pyjamas, family, relaxation. The distinction between public and private, home and outside, is bright.

Stumbling into this cool welcoming world, it took me a little while to note these patterns, and fall in with them. I parked my bike inside the front gate, behind Aditya’s Versys. The family welcomed me and made a space for me, ushering me into one of the largest rooms in the house. Air conditioned, quiet; comfortable bed, ensuite. Just for me. It was heaven.

Later, I became fairly sure that my arrival had displaced Aditya’s uncle from his usual bedroom, but in typical Indonesian style – that of consummate hospitality – I was assured that my presence was no trouble at all, that this space was for me, that I should make myself absolutely at home.

It was heaven. I have always been a person who values solitude, who craves personal space in which to unwind and regenerate. When flitting in and out of other people’s lives, homes and countries, this can be hard to find. Moreover, within the easy sociability of southeast Asian life, I find that my friends worry most that I am lonely, and often can’t relate to my need to be alone. So Aditya’s gift to me of privacy and personal space within the welcome of his family home meant the world.

The next few days were characterised by vignettes of Makassar family life interspersed by late sleep-ins and cool midday naps.


Grand tour of the local cuisines: eating palubasa in Sulawesi.

Aditya and I went out for lunch and ngopi – late night coffee hangouts – with his biking friends, and I got to admire everyone’s sweet rides while getting overcaffeinated at a ridiculously late hour.

I had some work to do on the bike – valve clearances, brake fluid, and my clutch slave was leaking like a mofo – so Aditya asked his friend and mechanical guru Ilham to come over one night and have a look.

Usually, I’m ready to body-block most people who try to approach my bike with a screwdriver (no, it’s not the same as a Honda Dream, please don’t hit it with a hammer) but Irham is awesome. He used to work for Ducati in Jakarta, until he decided to come home from the big city; now he is calmly applying an uncommon standard of care and expertise to the motorcycles of Makassar. He is also an absolute top bloke, so I was incredibly happy to have him come and apply his superior mechanical mojo to my hardworking bike. I did the valve clearances, then settled back to watch and learn.


Irham, top bloke and top mechanic. If you need an excellent mechanic in southern Sulawesi, you can message him on Instagram at @hanafi_irham . He’s awesome.

So the days slipped by. Aditya, previously a random internet person, became a much loved real world friend. I brought the insights about motorcycles and overlanding, and he answered all of my incessant questions about how Indonesian society seems to work.


After a while, I was still feeling too lazy to travel in earnest. I said that I’d go for a jaunt westward, to the pretty whitesand beaches where Makassar people go to weekend. I’d just go for a little while, leaving most of my gear, and then I’d return to this nexus of good times, good friends and home comforts in Makassar.


0 thoughts on “At home in Makassar

  1. John Terzis says:

    Stay safe Grace … loopy drivers are loopy drivers.

    1. I’m at least as loopy as the worst of them, don’t worry John 😉

  2. geoffkeys says:

    A very interesting post Grace. I always get the impression that being female, you gain a different understanding of family dynamics than I ever managed to under similar circumstances. That’s one of the things that make your posts so meaningful to me. Thanks.

    1. Yes, it’s a real privilege.

  3. Dan Irby says:

    Can you even ‘effin imagine that the president of the US wanted to ban Muslims? Every time I read a grace-blog my first impulse is to scorn Trump. Please check your pay pal account. I sent a little contribution.

    1. Dan, you’re a gentleman and a scholar. I don’t know how to get in touch with you anymore so I will thank you here. 🙂 I am glad to know you are still reading along.

      I am not at all a fan of organised religion but in Indonesia, my experience of Islam has been that one of utmost kindness and generosity: the language of religion as a vocabulary for kindness, a way of talking about why we should be good and humble ourselves, and kind to others, including those who are not like ourselves.

  4. Paul says:

    A great opportunity to recharge your batteries Grace. What a fabulous family you met. A beautiful post, you write so well. Nice to see all is good ????

    1. Indeed I have been so fortunate with the people I’ve met. Thank you for reading along, it’s a real privilege to share these experiences.

  5. What a beautifull write grace, just finish read it. Cant wait to read the whole chapter of bikehedonia journey in book form. Best wishes for you and beasties. Till we meet again. Big hug from mika. Cheers.

    1. Miss you, my friend. Stay awesome ????

  6. Rafi says:

    you are taking photo in Pantai Losari. Near to my house.

    1. Yes, that’s it! It was lovely at sunset, indah sekali. 🙂

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