Indonesia 2005 Day 1

Filed in Indonesia (2005), TravelTags: , , , ,

(day 1 of my short trip to Indonesia in September, 2005)

(continued from "Home")

I woke after only a few hours sleep to the sounds of activity outside the wall of my room. I remember walking through the bamboo matrix that is this town's markets just before sleeping. Covered by a roof of galvanised iron with patches of canvas, the markets were quite large. Before coming here, Ipah had warned me about the noise of the markets, worrying that the noise would prevent me from sleeping. She had nothing to worry about. I wasn't affected by the markets at all. Nor was I affected by the sound of motorbikes driving past the front door of her small flat on their way to the markets.

I got up from my bed and inquisitively looked outside my room into the family room of the flat. Ipah's mum was already up, sitting on a wooden stool outside the door watching people come and go. Ipah was up too; probably hadn't slept at all; preparing breakfast for her son and attending to the things she needed to do every day. It was five thirty in the morning and the world was up and active.

Five thirty! Not the kind of hour that I would imagine getting up back home in Hong Kong. In fact, you'd be more likely to find me going to bed at that time after filming at TVB rather than getting up. But here in the country town of Pesanggaran, people were wide awake by five thirty and getting ready for the day ahead of them.

The Corn Forest

On the way to Lompon Beach, Neni and I drove past this forest of corn and trees. It's something I'll never see in Hong Kong and probably not in Australia either. It was definitely very singular.

I walked outside the front door. Ipah's fiancé was there and greeted me in his shy way. I noticed the markets to the right of me again and walked over to take a better look now that the sky was bright and the markets were beginning to fill with activity.

The markets were made up of rows and rows of stalls. Most of the stalls were structured from bamboo. Some were made from wood. Some had wooden cupboards which the stall owners would lock their wares in each night when they closed up shop. There were no doors and no windows. If not for the clothes hanging from bamboo stresses, you would have been able to see from one side of the markets to the other.

This was the busy centre of town. Yet to me, it didn't seem so busy. After living there for a few days, I came to realise that the cost of living here was very low and you didn't need a lot of business to make a reasonable living. A few customers each day was sufficient. This was definitely not Hong Kong and I welcomed the adventure of exploring this new world.

The half of the markets neighbouring on Ipah's flat sold clothing and household goods. The half on the other side sold food, both raw and cooked. Meat was displayed and sold without refrigeration and any visitors from outside of Indonesia would probably have been put off by the flies constantly swarming around and on the meat. The store owners did nothing to keep the flies away. As far as they were concerned, it was pointless to try. As far as the customers were concerned, the flies didn't matter. The meat was going to get cooked anyway. There wasn't a lot of meat at each store, and it was not sliced and separated the way people in other countries are used to. There are no steaks and no sausages; just chunks of meat, much of which gets cooked with curry.

After walking through the markets for a while, I suddenly realised that I had an escort, or rather a body guard. Ipah's fiancé was trailing me. I later discovered that Ipah had instructed her family to accompany me whenever I left home. If no-one was available to go out with me, I wasn't allowed out. She was concerned that with my total lack of Indonesian, I wouldn't be able to communicate with the locals and bad people in town would quickly take advantage of this with threats and blackmail. I was pretty sure that it wasn't going to be that bad, but Ipah insisted so I never left without an escort.

As luck would have it, many of Ipah's relatives were in town for her impending wedding. One of those was a niece by the name of Neni, a young girl studying university in a relatively large city called Malang. Neni was a great girl with a keen interest in all things foreign including English. She was excited at the opportunity to speak with an English-speaking foreigner and tried to be with me as much as possible. Even today, she occasionally sends me phone messages to ask how I'm going.

Like almost everybody else over the age of ten in this area, Neni had a motorbike; not one of those mopeds typically used in Taiwan but a real motorbike; and she offered to take me around on it.

I loved it, sitting on the back of the motorbike, driving through the crisp clean morning air with the smells of trees, grass and dirt. It was wonderful. The first day, Neni took me out of the town to one of the local beaches. The beach named Lampon was next to a small naval base. It was also home to many fishing families who went out to sea daily in their unique fishing boats. After walking around, enjoying the sun and the water, I watched two young boys from the local fishing village go in for a swim and decided to go in myself. Neni became rather concerned but I assured her that I was a good swimmer and went in. After swimming for a few minutes, I noted Neni becoming increasingly agitated and decided to get out of the water.

A Rocky Alcove at Lompon Beach

Where a stream enters the sea at Lompon Beach. You can see the fishing boats on the ridge in the distance. Lompon Beach is just over the other side.

I was bewildered. Why the concern? When asked, Neni explained that many people had drowned or disappeared here, approximately 190 people. I later discovered that in June of 1994, this area had experienced a tsunami, one which had travelled over the protective ridge of ground between the ocean and the village and completely demolished the village. Many people were killed. This is why Neni and other people in the town of Pesanggaran were afraid of the ocean.

In this area of Indonesia, there are coconut trees and chickens everywhere. People here don't use ladders or ropes to climb coconut trees. They chop small steps into the trunks of the coconut trees and simply climb up with no aids of any kind. I found it intriguing to watch the people climb the trees so easily and quickly without any fear. It's something they do frequently, going up the trees every couple of days to see if any of the coconuts are ready for picking. One man I watched was up and down a coconut tree in less than two minutes; very quick.

Chickens are everywhere to be seen, as are baby chicks. Everywhere we went, I saw a family of chickens walking around. The chickens were generally very fit with tight firm bodies and long legs suitable for running. These were definitely not the factory-raised fat chickens you see in today's supermarkets.

By the end of my first day in Pesanggaran, I was very tired. Like everyone else in the family, I was in bed and asleep by nine-thirty. Again, there is no way you'd find me in bed by nine-thirty back in Hong Kong but this was Pesanggaran. Somehow, it felt as if I was on the other side of the world and I was loving it, bathroom and all.

This article took me a long time to write and publish. My biggest obstacle was deciding how to publish some of the photographs that I took on that first day. My perfectionism got the best of me and this article wilted while I worked out what to do. I'm an amateur photographer but when I show my photographs, I want people to see the photographs without distraction. The problem with many of the online albums today is that they're too complex and they have too many bells and whistles distracting the viewer from the photos. In the end, I had to design and write my own photo album code: xhtml, css and javascript. I think the result is pretty good for a beginner.

The photo album was designed to fit into 800x600 screens. The photos are 630x420. If you'd like to see a larger version; eg where the photos are 900x600; please let me know.

My recommendation. After opening the photo album, resize the window so that it fills the whole screen. The photos will look even better that way.

Photo Album: Photographs from my first day in Indonesia

(continued in "Indonesia 2005 Day 2")