Friday 27 June 2008 – Lovina, Bali, Indonesia
Singaraja was once the main entry port into Bali and a town of some consequence. It probably had a fine and busy harbour and had been the centre of Dutch colonial administration for the island.
Today is is a provincial backwater with little to recommend it to the passing visitor. Apart from an ugly concrete pier covered in warungs, the only activity in the port was an open sailing vessel being loaded with bags of cement (‘semen’ in Indonesian) by half a dozen labourers. There was no sign that waterfront gentrification is in any imminent danger of impacting in any way on the charms of this town.
The main services on offer on the major streets appeared to be motorbike repair and cheap furniture. It took my nearly two hours to find somewhere to sit with a cold drink. Even the local Hindu temple, the largest on this side of the island, is closed to non-Hindus. There were a good number of mosque scattered throughout the town. The 5am wakeup calls must do wonders for the general demeanour of the populace.
When I did find refuge from the heat and a cooling drink, it was in a wee Muslim – run establishment (Lima Lima). The head-covered lady running it was apparently too shy or modest to serve a tall foreigner personally; she sent her two very young sons (both well under 10 years old) out with an order pad, pen andmenu. So I filled in my own order for Mie groren ayam and a coke (Bintang being definitely off the menu). Still, they kept me amused and a gave them a couple of the brightly coloured pens that had come my way at ATE.
After a few hours, finished by wandering around the produce market, I had exhausted Singaraja’s modest amusements so returned to Puri Bagus and sat by the pool watching a very fine sunset.
For dinner I followed the lights just outside Puri Bagus’ driveway to 1000 Dream restaurant and bungalows just next door, quite a charming little place right on the water. I was the only customer, so the lady of the establishment chatted politely and at length. The food was not overly exciting (actually it was dull) – tom yum soup as made by someone who has never had the real thing and a beef dish served on thin rice noodles with pineapple and veggies – a sort of sweet and sour.
I was finishing my drink and getting ready to leave when the owner, a Balinese man around my age, came over and started chatting. He was soon in full flight on the ills of Indonesia’s politics, the environment and the damage done by religion in interfering where it had no right. And it wasn’t just the Muslims getting it in the neck; the Balinese ‘religious’ practice of cockfighting came in for a serve too. Highly diverting, and all I could do was to agree with his perfectly reasonable assertions. In fact he reminded me of Dad – all bottled up thoughts and ideas just waiting for a willing, or captive, pair of ears.