The ride to Tuban is uneventful. I have chosen to come here because it is one of the few places between Jombang and Semarang that has accommodation within my price range. Mr Google Images shows me that it is also probably the most interesting place between Jomban and Semarang. It’s only about 70km from Jombang, leaving me a long 220km final day’s ride so I am a little concerned about whether I have made the right decision to come here. But it turns out I needn’t have worried. Tuban turns out to be a delightful place for my final night of this motorcycle touring leg of my journey through Java.
My cousin messages me to recommend that I ride about 10km east of Turban because there is a nice view there. I don’t know what to expect but know when I am there. The road tracks right along the beach and beautifully coloured fishing boats are lined up right there.
I park the bike on a rock pier that separates two beaches. From my vantage point I can watch what I think is a spear fisherman going about his business diving in the water. He is too far away for me to capture with a photo but close enough to be interesting by the naked eye.
The motorbike casts the only relieving shade from the midday sun so I take shelter next to it. A sea breeze cools the day just enough to enjoy the sound of boats creaking and bobbing quietly on the water. The only reason I leave is because I see lighting cracking in the sky to the south and decide it’s not worth getting wet when I can go to my hotel, shelter from the rain and come out again in a couple of hours time. So that’s what I do.
The rains don’t eventuate but I still enjoy the quiet cool of my hotel room for a couple of hours before I head out on foot to explore Tuban. The first thing I cannot miss is the gorgeous Grand Mosque of Tuban. It’s rather like a fairy princess castle with it’s bright colours and tall spires. It’s almost prayer time and the street near the mosque is packed with kakilima (food carts), scooters, women in beautifully clean and pressed head coverings, and men wearing traditional Islamic robes and hats. What strikes me most is that Indonesian people manage to keep their best clothes so clean and crisp despite the heat, humidity and dust. I feel like a grot by comparison in my grimy travel clothes. Even at home I doubt my clothes ever look this good. I want to know their secret.
There is a park near the sea with a long pier you can walk down. It costs 2,200rp (20c) to enter, which is relatively cheap for a Javanese beachside park. The fee applies to tourists and locals alike and is the same for both. The park is quiet and peaceful. Coloured boats bob in the water, the town’s lights glimmer in the water couples walk hand-in-hand, a few groups of men squat along the water’s edge talking and thin boys wearing jeans and dirty t-shirts walk in threes and fours with at least one carrying a small guitar. I walk the pier before I find a place to sit and listen to the mosques’ calls. I say mosques plural because as well as the Grand Mosque of Tuban I can hear the words and music of other mosques drifting through the air. It adds texture to the sensory experience of being here. I lay on my back on the still hot concrete. Through the magic of technology I have Messenger conversations with my sister, parents and friend. It’s like we’re all sitting there on the waterfront together.
My stomach tells me that it is time to move. I am thirsty and want to eat. You cannot buy drinks in the park so I walk out to discover the small market I walked through earlier is now in full swing. A large warung makkan has been set up and has many customers. Most have just come from the mosque and their white clothes are as still as crisp as they were. I feel underdressed sitting on the benches that line the warung’s benches but the ladies selling the food smile and show me what’s in the big pots. I decide on a chicken dish that looks, smells and tastes exactly like something my mum cooks. I don’t know what it’s called but it’s a yellowish soup with big pieces of chicken meat. The chicken and sauce are served with rice. I also take a boiled egg from the displayed foods to eat with it. Later I also try a piece of fried mackeral. It all tastes so good that I have to stop myself from trying one of everything.
On the walk back to my hotel I pass a terang bulan cart. This is my weakness and before I know it I’ve bought a standard style one with chocolate. Watching it being made is part of the experience. The man from the cart first spoons the batter into his pan. Then he covers it with condensed milk from a can and sprinkles over some sugar. He waits for the batter to start rising before covering it with a lid. A short while later he lifts the whole thing out, places it on the cart’s bench, sprinkles over the chocolate sprinkles (Dutch hagelslag), folds the terang bulan in half and cuts it into pieces. The dish is served in a small cardboard box that he takes from a stash under his cart. It’s the perfect desert.