East Bali: Of Ferries & People
The long wait is over. The boat had arrived from the other island.
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 harbor and I turned to Putu to ask how he was able to take pictures of people without them noticing. He simply replied, ‘You just take a photo, no need to ask.’
It’s as simple as that.
So I did what he said, pointed my camera, and quickly took a few shots before they noticed me.
I haven’t had a chance to talk to people due to the language barrier, but some of them seemed curious of me too. The first thing they asked was where I was from. That seemed like the template question for engaging 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 grilled fish. A man was waving a fan-shaped paper on the charcoal to keep it burning while a woman wrapped fish in banana leaves.
I ordered two sticks without rice. They were surprised to hear my answer. Like most countries in Asia, rice is a staple here and me skipping it triggered bewildered looks from the locals.
Putu grabbed a handful of sticks and told me they were mackerels. I love mackerels! Back home, we call them Tangigue and usually grill, fry, or serve 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 and said that it was only mildly spicy. My mouth was literally burning!
‘You don’t have spicy food in the Philippines?’
Do we? I thought about it hard. I couldn’t think of a single dish that was spicy. All I know is that my family loved KFC’s spicy chicken while I always ordered the non-spicy/boneless chicken strips.
I shook my head making a mental note to do more research on Filipino food.
Before this trip, 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 couldn’t say no to Putu.
After sweating buckets from that meal, we went back to the harbor. Other vendors started setting up their goods. How the watermelons looked so good. I just wish I had enough money with me.
Finally, the long wait is over. The boat had arrived from the other island.
From a distance, I noticed right away that the boat was packed. It’s a common sight in Southeast Asia, hence why a lot of boats sink, and people die from drowning. On top of that, life vests are usually not provided, and there are no safety measures in place. A boat official even said that life vests weren’t necessary because the cross to the other island only took about an hour and a few minutes. Maybe they assumed that the passengers are excellent swimmers.
Once the boat had settled in the shore, people hurriedly carry the ramp so passengers can board easier.
The waves came in and out, moving the ramp from its position. I was amazed at how the passengers were able to maneuver themselves so they wouldn’t fall in the water. Even more, the women balanced large objects on their heads. In this part of the island, people also wore traditional clothes (the sarong, the turban, etc) which was such a treat to witness.
The onboarding passengers waited patiently, gathering behind a line formed by the water. When it was time for the new passengers to board, hordes approached the ramp and the port officials had to instruct them to go one by one. Nobody listened.
After the ferry had left, we stopped by a nearby market just a few minutes from the harbor. People stared and noticed my camera more often than in Ubud where travelers were common. Thinking I was Indonesian, some vendors tried to talk to me in Bahasa. Shaking my head, I replied in English hoping they understood. The reaction is the same for everyone, they laughed, turned to a neighbor, and murmured unknown words.