Sunday, May 11, 2008
Five hours drive west of Jakarta to the coast lies the vibrant Indonesian fishing village Panimbangan. Spending two nights and three days there was the cultural highlight of our Indonesian trip. It is physically sandwiched by tourist destinations, Carita to the North and Tanjun Lesung to the South, but attracts very few tourists due to its lack of a nice beach or accommodation infrastructure.
We arrived late at night by accident (another story altogether). Our motorbike taxi driver took us to the one lodging outside of town, an Islamic joint that requested to see our marriage license before staying. Of course, we are only dating, but were finally allowed to stay after special permission was given by the father of the household whom we waited fifteen minutes for to return from praying at the Mosque.
In the morning, we found an exciting downtown market typical of any Asian village you might visit. After coffee we made our way sea side. The town is a harbor situated on a shallow river the cuts inland. Concrete houses mixed with shanties and bamboo piers loom over the surprisingly clean water where fleets of brilliantly painted wooden boats rest during the day.
A walk along the harbor led to enthusiastic conversations with friendly fishermen calling from their boats or houses. The wifes seem to take care of the land matters such as cutting and drying fish or handling baskets of catch at market. Once out of the harbor and on the edge of the sea, there was a very curious sight. Massive stockpiles of bamboo onshore supplied craftsmen working in the shallows building floating fishing platforms at least 15 meters on the square and equally tall. Utilizing cross bracing and pyramid structure, the work seems stoutly ocean worthy.
Once the platforms are completed, they are dragged out to sea and anchored. At night, lights shine directly down into the water simulating bio-florescence thus attracting the entire food chain into hanging nets. The entire horizon line is punctuated by their bamboo points.
Before sunset, the fishermen leave harbor to go out to their platform and drag it to the new fishing hot spot and re-anchor. I have little understanding of what happens out there, except that I am quite confident there is no drinking involved as the community is devoutly Islamic, and then an hour after sunrise at seven the boats return with their catch.
We managed to wake ourselves one morning to witness the returning boats. Some boats were filled to the brim while others only sported a few reed baskets full of assorted fish. Their wives obediently awaited their arrival to sort out their men's fish from the rest of the chaos.
Panimbangan, full of authentic life and devout character, is worth a weekend at least. When hot and tired, seeking only to walk home, difficulty is found in shooing off all of the well-wishers and interested men and women who freely approach the strange foreigners.