After seeing a few beaches on the south of Java, I decide to head to Pasir-Putih on East Java’s north coast. I have read and heard that it is one of the nicer beaches on this crowded island. The road to Pasir-putih takes me through rice fields where farmers are working. The work seems to be quite gendered here. Women do the work that requires squatting down like the planting. While men do the heavy work like weeding and cutting grass.
Pasir-putih is a white(ish) sand beach. You have to pay to enter the waterfront area, which is a common thing here in Indonesia. The price here is relatively high at 10,000rp ($1). The beach is lined with brightly coloured sailing boats. They are pretty to look at. The sailors approach me asking to take me out for a sail and seem offended when I smile and shake my head “no”. It gets a bit old after the third sailor but I guess they are just trying to earn a living to feed their families. I guess I am just not used to this way of doing business; it’s not common in the west.
Instead of taking a sail, I go for a swim. The water is as warm as a bath but it’s still refreshing given the midday heat. I relax in the water with one eye on my bag on the beach and the other on the scenery. It’s quite pleasant and I am glad to finally have a swim while visiting a tropical island. After my swim I lay on a bench under a tree to dry out and watch the few other beach goers. At some point I doze off, waking to see thick dark clouds rolling up from the south.
I reach my hotel just before the heavens open. As always I have booked the cheapest available airconditioned room in the town. It’s clean enough and has a bucket for a shower. What I find interesting is the size and style of the hotel complex. It has a colonial air with large tropical gardens and an empty restaurant and bar. This is quite a common design here. The hotel is fairly empty though – I only count three other guests but there must be at least 30 or 40 rooms. I wonder whether this is just the low season or whether this is the norm. There is actually nothing there near the hotel. Paiton is just a big power station, some highway hotels and warungs for food. So that makes the colonial holiday styling even more strange.
My cousin contacts me when she hears I am in Paiton and tells me to ride 2km past the power station in the direction of Semarang to get to Warung Pak Cip where I can buy a good seafood meal. I take her advice but wonder how I will ever find the right place, given that most warungs are not signed. I needn’t have worried. This warung is well signed. Mr Pak Cip himself is here too, watching over the goings on. Some other guys are there and between my few words of bahasa Indonesian and their few words of English we talk a little. They ask for me to take some photos of Mr Pak Cip and the warung. They are very proud of this place, especially all the photos of Mr Pak Cip on the wall with important people. Put pictures on internet they tell me. I think they want the world to see how fantastic the Warung Pak Cip in Paiton is.
I am invited out the back past the kitchen to an esky full of ice and fish. I have no idea what the fish are but the dory looks a nice size so I ask for it bakkar. In the kitchen are some wood fire stoves with big pots on them. The smell is amazing so I know I will be in for a treat. The whole dory comes out as ikan bakkar (baked fish). It is served with white rice, steamed vegetables and a hot chilli sauce (on the side). The men from the power station who asked for the photos have ordered some food too so we all sit at a big table together to eat. They are impressed that my grandmother is Indonesian and my parents from Holland. This much I know how to tell. They are not impressed that I don’t like the sambal (hot chili sauce) but are quite happy when I offer to let them eat mine. When I smile and say the fish is enak (delicious) everyone’s faces light up, especially Mr Pak Cip who seems pleased to have a foreign guest. They ask if I am going to Bali and I tell them that I am touring East Java. They seem surprised; I don’t think many people skip Bali for this corner of the world. But I am glad I have because I got to eat one of the best meals I think I’ll ever enjoy.