My recent trip to Indonesia was hectic as. Five cities in eight days resulted in less than 24 hours to visit Palu, the capital of Central Sulawesi.
To add to the hecticness, our flight was delayed shortening our time checking out the Palu attractions further. (see the bottom of the post for a fun airport video!)
When we finally made it to Palu however, the place won me over quickly and throughout the next 20 hours or so went on to win plenty of brownie points with me.
Talise Beach, The Brownie Point Collection Begins
Once we landed it was straight to the Talise Beach promenade to watch the sunset. Palu is located at the river mouth of a bay. On a map it reminds me of a fjord. The sunset was across the bay from us, setting behind the distant hills soon after we arrived.
Sulawesi doesn’t get a whole lot of tourists, with most overlooking Palu (central Sulawesi) so to say we were a interesting feature is putting it nicely.
I joined the group as we jostled for the million dollar Instagram/Snapchat spot. Before long I noticed a tree an isolated tree a couple hundred metres away. Of course I had to take a tiki tour.
There were plenty of locals doing as we were right along the promenade. Chilling on their motorbikes watching dusk turn to night. The tide was out as I wandered over to three lads fishing enroute to the tree. They were mighty proud (so smiley) when they pulled in a small puffer fish.
Continuing towards the tree, aware that nearly everyone was looking at me as I walked by them. A simple hello and a smile broke any awkwardness. The fact that they reacted in a friendly charming way gave Palu brownie points right away.
The tree (above) is now one of my favourite in the world. I’m later told it’s a form of mangrove, whatever it’s still my fav. The leaves are epic but the coolest thing was the roots which jag up from the ground. I don’t hang out with my new tree friend for long. Holding everyone else up would annoy me so I wander back. Anyway, more brownie points for Palu.
Now back hanging at the bus we saw pink motorbikes, a motorbike with a side car and a massive Indonesian Flag hanging from the back, plenty of cars with tinted windows and the odd local coming in to be nosy and take photos. It was all very cherry and random. The brownie points keep flowing for Palu.
Time to check in to our hotel, Hotel Santika and we even got an our break to ourselves before dinner. A rare moment on this trip. One hour though, meh, I’d just watch silly YouTube videos. Myself and Aga had spotted a exciting looking cafe from the bus so quickly made plans to grab a beer there before meeting the rest for dinner.
Warung Rame Rame (Warung = restaurant in Indonesian) was epic! The restaurant was so colourful with lots of random pieces of art on the walls. Despite many pieces featuring beer and wine, they didn’t sell beer here. Luckily the manager was a legend and went and went to fetch a couple beers for us to enjoy. We had to finish our beers on the way back to the hotel as to not miss dinner, but this brief experience gave Palu more brownie points and real momentum. Customer service win.
Dinner? Pretty standard for the trip (read: rice, morning glory, tempeh, tofu).
Post Dinner Adventures
We had the option to go on a city tour by bus or head back to the hotel for the night. Stunningly all but four of us wanted to go back to the hotel. Driving around by bus didn’t make much sense so the four of us went on a mission with two of our guides joining us.
Despite a few hundred thousand people living in the city, it isn’t lively at night. Dodging the sporadic holes in the footpath we found the night market where I picked up some sunglasses for 37,000 IDR (~3USD). The initial offer was 65,000 IDR but 37,000 IDR was all I had. Plonking it down on the table, it was quickly accepted. You guessed it, more brownie points.
Sam brought some sandals and the others tried some street food. The street food vendors were stoked to see some foreigners, giving them some additional free treats to eat. A nice brownie point earning gesture. Sadly, they all contained meat or dairy, so I left them all to the others. Apparently it was all tasty.
Time to head back to the hotel for a final beer. For a small can of Bintang it cost 62,500 IDR….I’m going to take some brownie points off you for that Palu.
Just as everyone was getting ready to call it a night, Pete came down after finishing his studies and was keen for beer. Can’t say no to that.
As the others retired upstairs we set out in search of a beer outside the hotel. It wasn’t easy. In Sulawesi pretty much no corner stores sell alcohol. Supermarkets were closed and finding a bar is not easy. So we went back to the restaurant Aga and I had been at earlier. There was still a couple people around and the manager organised a couple of beers to be delivered to us.
As we opened the first beer, things took an interesting turn of events as there was a random surprise birthday being held at midnight. A bunch of friends had a blindfolded the birthday girl and made her wait an awkwardly long time before they revealed the little set up they had going with some version of a Happy Birthday song playing in the background. It was fun viewing nonetheless.
To The Pool…Or The Roof
The final brownie points of the day goes to the last adventure of the evening. Initially we were going to hang out at the hotel pool. This was closed so we attempted to reach the roof. Mission complete. Turns out on the roof of our nine story hotel made us the kings of Palu at the moment. No other building in site was taller than us. Palu had definitely earned some more brownie points for the night before security found us on the roof. Sleep time.
A couple hours later it was time to wake up all over again. We had a plane to catch mid-afternoon but not before adventuring out to spend some time at Prince John Resort. The Prince John Dive Resort has a private beach for its guests only, but luckily we were also allowed to spend a couple hours there (that’s some brownie points to you Prince John).
Sorry Palu, You Do Lose A Few Brownie Points
After some shenanigans, we headed out on a couple boats to a snorkeling spot a few hundred metres away. As usual I stayed above water when snorkeling is offer. Once back on dry land I discovered from a few of those who jumped in there was a lot of rubbish down there.
While the beach we were on was spotless (Prince John Resort organizes beach cleanups multiple times a week), rubbish from nearby areas finds its way into the sea and starts to hurt the coral and sea life. This inevitably is going to prevent raving reviews from tourists 20 years down the track. Ouch.
Rubbish is a perennial problem throughout Indonesia (brownie points be gone). I don’t have the answer myself as it’s a deep local behavioural issue I don’t know enough about but hopefully with organisations like Bye Bye Plastic Bags putting in some work plastic consumption and rubbish can be reduced sooner rather than later.
And Back To The Good Stuff
The Resort itself was excellent. There wasn’t many people there which is great and one of the reasons you should visit Palu sooner rather than later. The private beach is perfect for swimming before heading back to your beach chair to chill out. They had a slack line set up, something I won’t be a pro at anytime soon and of course they had a bar. It was great they accepted credit card too as we didn’t have any cash left on us at 11am, when the Bintang Goddess is required.
A couple of us had a quick look at the rooms provided. They’ve three different standards and I’d be happy to sleep in them all. The views from a few of the balconies is superb!
To finish up our Palu visit, we collected our stuff from the Hotel Santika and had another fairly standard lunch (though small brownie points are awarded for the view) before heading back to the airport.
As I travel more, my preferred style of travel has been evolving. While spending less than 24 hours in a city is not ideal, it is enough time for me to more or less know whether I like a city or not. Interestingly, it’s not the tourist attractions that often dictate this. It’s the small moments that once summed up become something meaningful. Customer service is a massive one.
Palu, you are awesome.
Where Is Palu?
Palu is the capital of Central Sulawesi. It’s easier if I just show you the location on a map, in addition to other places that have been mentioned here.
How To Get To Palu
We came to Palu from Manado (we saw monkeys there) with Wings Air which had a quick stop over at Luwuk. Garuda and Lion Air has direct flights from Jakarta and Makassar, the two destinations you are likely to come from.
What Are Some Other Things To Do In Palu?
So in reality, we didn’t exactly hit up many tourist activities in the area given our time constraints. If/when I return to visit Palu and the surrounding area these are the things I’ll do:
- Go hiking in the area, definitely to Lore Lindu National Park
- Check out the granite megaliths in Lore Lindu
- Continue my Indonesia waterfall appreciation and see Saluopa and Salodik Waterfalls
- Use Palu as a base to explore the Una Una Volcano
- Take a trip to Kadadnri, home to a indigenous population, know as sea-gypsies
That all sounds quite ideal to me!
Thanks to the Indonesian Tourism Board for making this Fam Trip happen.