Stumble Into Indonesia's Unseen Places
Submitted by viravira on 29 December 2015 • Destination
Arriving in Pangandaran at 2 pm, we were welcomed with bright and sunny weather. The first item on the scheduled activities was biking tour around Pangandaran. Yeay! Then, an hour of settling in each room and slipping into something more comfortable, we gathered at the lobby…and down poured the rain. Shoot!
But the show must go on. The rain was nothing that raincoats, prepared by the tour guides, couldn’t handle. So, off we went around Pangandaran with the local guides, checking out some home industries in the villages. Following are the highlights, with putting on and off the raincoat in between.
Photo by CCFoodTravel
As I had posted on Instagram, this is my favorite kind of sugar. I never knew much about it except that it’s sweet, redish brown, and usually came in this round shape. If I’m not mistaken, brown sugar, or gula merah in Indonesian, which literally means red sugar, could be made of several basic ingredients, varying from coconut, sugar palm, nypa or sugar cane. The kind that I saw in Tegal Jambe Village, Pangandaran, was coconut sugar because it was made of the sap of coconut tree’s flower.
The sap is cisterned all day or all night in a bucket that’s tied up on the tree. Getting the bucket up there – and taking it down – is done manually by someone who’s really good at climbing. I mean, really good, perhaps only monkeys can outclimb them, as coconut trees are tall erectus trees (please don’t get any other ideas) with no branches to support your feet. The sap was then boiled and the sugar residue was heated in a huge wok until it turned brown and smelled oh so good, sweet like caramel. This thick fluid was then poured in metal circles until it cools off only in a few minutes. Aaaand it was ready to nibble on, or use in your cooking or beverages. If you’d like to see the cooking process, it’s normally done in the morning.
The taste of brown sugar here was a bit salty, whereas usually it’s just sweet. They said that it’s because the coconut trees grow very close to the sea. As a lover of just about any coconut product, I didn’t mind a little salty taste in my coconut sugar. After the sweet treat, we went on with the biking tour around Pangandaran.
Did you know that leaves are still used as roof in this modern era? I personally never thought of it until I saw the lady who was stitching roof shingles out of nypa leaves, right beside the shed where brown sugar was produced.
“Wouldn’t the rain drops fall through the leaves?” I asked.
“You put layers upon layers of these leaves, and renew or fix them about every three years,” the lady explained.
Each segment of stitched leaves, which is about 1 meter long, is sold for IDR1,200-1,500. SERIOUSLY! I gasped at the price, thinking it should worth a lot more for it is handmade and requires a certain skill and time. I tried stitching the leaves as instructed by the lady (ah sorry I forgot her name), and it took me 5 minutes just to stitched 2-3 leaves.
“Bu (Ma’am), you should sell it for a higher price,” I said. She just laughed at my remarks. Of course, what do I know about roof shingles pricing in Pangandaran?
On the beginning of our biking tour around Pangandaran, we were taken to a fishermen village, Babakan Village. Rows of humble houses were built facing the beach of Indian Ocean. A few women were seen gutting fish in front of their own houses. They were making salted fish. It’s a kind of side dish that most Indonesian love eating and has a very long expiry date, great for those who don’t have much time cooking everyday.
They bought the fish fresh from the fishermen. After being gutted, the fish were soaked in salted water in a basin. They were then supposed to be dried under the sun, but since it was raining, the fish were covered with plastic cover. These salted fish were to be sold to the neighboring villages, not big enough production for export or something like that.
The lady I was talking to seemed to be busy with the fish, she only answered in brief sentences nicely. I was afraid that I was distracting her from work, so I decided to stop asking questions and watched her work instead. Her hands worked very quickly, I guess as a result of years of training. Meanwhile, the rest of the gang moved to the house in the corner and visited the other women, before we took off and went on with the biking tour around Pangandaran.
On the more or less 7 kilometer route of bike tour, we weren’t only taken through villages and main asphalted streets, but also crossing a river on a raft WITH our bikes. The raft was built on top of two parallel small boats. It was an exciting experience for us city kids. And the tour guides really knew it because actually it was not a necessary route, they just wanted us to have the experience.
Overall, I enjoyed the biking tour around Pangandaran, despite the hassle with raincoat. It made me exercise and provide various sights, from village life to the vast beach.
If you’re thinking of biking around Pangandaran, I would suggest you do it in dry season, May to September. You could end the tour with bright sunset view instead of gloomy sky like how our tour ended. Nonetheless, if you’re doing the tour with awesome and travel mates, the timing wouldn’t matter much, really.
Photo by CCFoodTravel
Bike tours can be arranged by Pangandaran’s local guides. They normally take tourists to the home industries as mentioned above for IDR200,000/pax, minimum of 5 pax, and last about 2 hours. They are open for special requests, with adjusted price.
Contact: Pak Aaw to firstname.lastname@example.org or +628122370032, recently the head of Pangandaran tour guides, under the HPI (Society of Tour Guides Indonesia).
Address of Pangandaran TIC (Tourism Information Center):
Jalan Pamugaran, across Malabar Hotel – Pantai Barat (West Beach) of Pangandaran
If you’re not the guided tour type of traveler, you can rent a bike for IDR25,000 – 75,000/day, depending on the type of bike. The cheaper ones are usually available near the beaches, the more pricey and better quality ones can be arranged by TIC or your hotel staff.