East Bali: Of Ferries & People

March 22, 2014

The long wait is over. We see the boat arriving from the distance.

After our early morning encounter with the salt farmers of East Bali, we walked back to the port to see if the boat had arrived. The sun had risen high up and I could feel my skin start to burn.

We came across a couple sitting in the harbour that caught my eye and I turned to Putu to ask "How do you take pictures of people without them noticing?" and he simply replied "You just take a photo, no need to ask."

It's as simple as that, apparently. Easy as pie.

So I did what he said and pointed my camera and quickly took a few shots before they started noticing that random little girl with her camera.

I haven't had a chance to talk to other people due to the language barrier but a number of them seemed to be curious of me too. The first thing they would ask is where I am from. That seems like the template question for meeting a stranger here. Followed by a "How are you?"

We found shelter from the scorching sun in a small, humble stall that sold tasty-looking fish on sticks. A man is waving a fan-shaped paper on the charcoal to keep it burning while a lady wrapped some fish in banana leaves.

I ordered two sticks and skipped the rice. This triggered a cycle of questions about whether I was sure I didn't want rice. Like most countries in Asia, rice is a staple. And me skipping it, might have looked weird to them seeing that I am Asian as well.

Putu grabbed a handful of sticks while telling me they were actually mackerels. I love mackerels! Back home, we call them Tangigue and we usually grilled them, fried them, or served them raw with coconut milk and spices (Kinilaw).

Unfortunately, nobody mentioned that my food was spicy. Incredibly spicy! I kept drinking my water until it ran out and I had to buy another bottle. Putu laughed at me saying that it was only mild. Mild? My mouth was literally burning!

"You don't have any spicy food in the Philippines?"

I thought about it hard. Did we? Probably so, but I couldn't think of a single dish that was spicy. Or maybe my parents knew I wouldn't eat it anyway so they never cooked me any spicy food.

I shook my head. I'm still taking baby steps with eating spicy food.

Weeks ago, you would've needed to bribe me a million dollars for me to gobble up anything spicy but here alone in this new place, I just couldn't say no to my new friend. Travel does let you experience new things.

After sweating from two sticks of fish, we headed back to the harbour. There were other vendors setting up their goods around the area. And oh how those watermelons look so good. I just wish I brought enough money with me.

Finally, the long wait is over. We see the boat arriving from the distance.

You could even see that it is over loaded. But then that's a common thing in Southeast Asia. The reason why a lot of boats sink and people die from drowning is because there are no life vests provided. I even heard a boat official say that life vests were not necessary because the cross to the other island just takes about an hour and a few minutes. Still, if you are going to overload or not, life vests are important. It was invented for a purpose. Or maybe they assume these people are excellent swimmers.

Once the boat has settled in the shore, the people hurriedly carry the manual ramp so passengers can ride the boat "easier".

As I looked on, it wasn't really that easy to do as the waves came in and out. The waves kept pushing and pulling the boat along with the ramp so the passengers needed to have perfect timing so they won't fall off.

I found it to be a very amusing sight. In this part of Bali, there are a lot of people still wearing the traditional clothes (the sarong, the turban, etc). The women also carry the items on their heads. Balancing heavy objects seemed like much of a challenge but they managed it smoothly as if they were wearing hats!

The onboarding passengers are waiting patiently, gathered behind an unintended line formed by the water. It looked like they were ready to charge towards the boat.

When it was time for the new passengers to board, as usual, hordes approached the ramp and the port officials(?) had to instruct them to go in one by one. Nobody listened though.

After observing the people boarding the ferry, we dropped by a nearby market just a few minutes drive from the harbour. The scene here was quite different from Ubud Market. People stared at me and noticed my camera more often than when I was in Ubud where they are very used to outsiders taking photos of them. It was more challenging here as they always tried to talk to me in Bahasa and when I replied in English, they laughed it off, turned to their side, and murmured something to their friends.

So I just smile and point at my camera to ask permission to take their photo.

The shy granny kept smiling at me. I wanted to talk to her but she couldn't understand what I was saying so I just stood and smiled back.

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