Lembongan Diary: Thursday 7 September 2023

Food shopping day today.

I try to keep this activity to one or maximum, 2 days a week, as a couple of  months into my island sojurn I have learnt that each item on the shopping list usually means a visit to a different location and increasingly I’m ascertaining that the further one goes down a dusty back road the more likely I am to find a navel orange, a beetroot or the holy grail, a lettuce that doesn’t look like it has just gone 15 rounds with Mike Tyson.

I’ll dedicate a few entries to shopping on the island as i’ve learnt a lot . There is, for example, only one place to get fresh mint and coriander, there is a spot where eggs which are sold on a per unit basis are half the price of anywhere else on the island and so on and so forth.

But, today it is all about the market.

Lembongan doesn’t have a Rick Stein, Jamie, Gordon friendly market. Housed in a recently built utilitarian block just down from the primary school around the back of town in Jungbatu it certainly isn’t the prettiest of places and the fish and chicken stalls can be a little challenging on first visit. Yes, sometimes it is hard to see the freshly caught mackrel because of their temporary carpet of flies but the sellers are kind and honest and unlike others on the island have no desire to take extra cash off the Bule. I’ve bought from them countless times and am yet to even get an inkling of an upset stomach. Pretty it may not be but essentially hygenic and polite.

Inside it’s all the vegetable sellers and what i’d call mini-mini marts taking up 50% of the real estate, the other 50 % is given over to the really important stuff,  the retaling of all sorts of offerings and temple related items all handcrafted on the island and i’m guessing it is far more profitable providing sustenance to the ancestors and spirits than it is the living.

Today it was a somewhat sad and forlorn place to be. Deliveries from Bali usually come in every 3rd or 4th day but there’s no particular pattern to the system so it is just a matter of luck to get that one or two days a week when everything is fresh as a daisy. It would help if I didn’t turn up at the particularly late hour of 8.30 am when the kids are already heading home from school, god knows what time they get them up, but it appears  it’s all over at the latest by 10 and this morning by 8.45 they were already flooding out of the gates and like children all over the world totally obvlivous to traffic. Luckily the traffic here consists only of mopeds bumping along the potholed track at  a speed of no more than 5k’s.

Sda as things were on the deliovery front I did manage to pick up 10K worth of the wonderful small sweet mini-mini ( yes mini mini is a theme today)  red onions each no bigger than a couple of cloves or garlic, the last of the tomatoes, roma in style and always buy the unripe looking ones, too red and they are a sog-fest inside. Asian long aubergines purple and green are the real bargian here, always plentiful, always cheap and they cook particularly well and never need to be salted ahead of cooking. The secret in the market is to ask for 5,000 IDR worth or 10,000 IDR worth of a particular item , they’ll give you more than if you’d chosen yourself and are happy to give the best of what they have.

There’s plenty more to be said and written about this hive of activity exclusively run by women except for the bike parking guy who collects a 1000 each time for bike parking, Today i gave him 2,000 and he gave me 3,000 back, it’s more of a charity job than anything else. The only other male onsite is to be found at the Pisang Goreng ( fried banana) outlet and is your classic father in law with nothing better to do. It is a great joy watching him trying to find the best 5 pieces of pisang goreng i’ve asked for out of the 7 in the bowl. and each seemingly identical piece is chosen with great care verging on love.

I shall return to the market next week as will this diary.

Today i returned home to find a small roll of strimmer cable sitting alone on the dining room table. Wonders shall never cease.