Having spent days and days cooped up in Sonrisa, I had watched the sun rise and set on the City of Tanjung Pinang, lighting its colorful facades and beckoning us to explore day after day. each afternoon, eagles would circle and squawk above Sonrisa’s cockpit, their golden feathers glinting against the sunset. It’s already a beautiful place.
With everyone back in one piece, it’s time to get out there! “What must we do to understand Tajung Pinang?” We ask our friend Rudi; and he makes us a list. First stop, the Snail. We are told we must go visit the snail, enjoy the sunset view, then have dinner at a night market nearby televising the Asian Games ongoing in Jakarta.
“But why a snail?” I ask. No one seems to know. We head off in that direction, getting waylaid every now and then by people who hope to get pictures with us. In the midst of photos with some nice ladies visiting from Java, a panda bear sneaks in because she wants a picture too. You haven’t lived until you have a panda sneak into a picture.
The next day, we visit Penyengat Island, the home of the great Sultan who adopted the language that is Bahasa Indonesian and began spreading it as the common language throughout the area. He also built his homes and mosques with a combination of clay and eggs, and they still stand today while many of the palaces built of teak wood are gone. The island is interesting nonetheless, and we had a good time being escorted through town inside a bike cart magically functional despite being built of random spare pieces of bric-a-brac. In a sense, it is a tour of royal graveyards, still protected by stone walls and adorned with gold silk fabrics.
Andrew learns to spin a top, Old School Style.
We stop for lunch and meet the laziest cat I have ever seen in my life. Just as we were heading away to go back to Sonrisa for a nap, we were intercepted by a new friend who insisted we must see the moat, the cannons, and the artillery magazine for the cannon balls. Not sure how we missed this on our initial tour, but we were glad to see it now.
We follow a brick path made of clay bricks that seem to have been rolled into spirals, cut, then dried.
We explore town and make plans to acquire a required Indonesian souvenir: Indo-Bling. Especially as we have sailed further West/North in Indonesia, the men have taken to wearing large, sparkly, stone rings made of precious stones mined in Indonesia. Turquoise, Sapphire, Quartz, Amethyst, and Diamonds are all mined in various parts of Indonesia. Andrew covets these baubles as he has determined they are a necessary addition to his ever developing Pirate-Personae.
Tanjung Pinang being a bit of a foodie haven, we enjoy meal after meal of unfamiliar but delicious fare. We eat snails (and enjoy them!), we try roti (indian flat bread wrapped around sautéed bananas and topped with a shredded parmesan-like cheese. We learn about Otek-Otek, fish meat mixed with delicious spices then packed into a leaf and grilled over wood fire. Andrew develops a close relationship with a lady who runs a noodle cart, so when he asks for “Mie Riebus Soto” (which doesn’t actually exist) as a result of a misreading of the options on the menu Andrew’s friend gladly obliges, making a new dish of pan fried noodles and shredded chicken added to Soup Broth. It’s actually a delicious, a happy mistake for which we return a second time. And nothing can beat the combination of a cup of kopi and one of these fluffy pancakes wrapped around shredded coconut in a sweetened condensed milk/coconut cream sauce!
We try our very first dried squid, pounded flat, then grilled crispy before serving. They are a bit like squid flavored tortilla chips, though they have the texture and mouth feel of eating a paper plate. Andrew didn’t like them much, but for some reason I kind of enjoyed it. Gives my mouth something to do, I guess.
You shouldn’t try to escape Tanjung Pinang without experiencing the Karoke Bar/Buddhist Temple, Expert Level. Enjoy an open air courtyard with drinks and snacks (hello squid chips!), a giant stage with professional sound mixing, great speakers, concert lighting, and a Buddhist Temple wrapping you in it’s waft of incense. 90% of the participants have pop-star level singing abilities, and sometimes even don costumes. If you give your best performance, maybe some new friend in the audience will bestow upon you a “Sash of Glory,” worth beer money upon trade in.
It is here we meet our first crew of Chinese-Indonesian friends. They invite us to their table, encourage us to demonstrate our own Karoke-Greatness, and they try to teach us to drink socially like we should. Specifically, large beers are poured around into small shot glasses before each drinker. When one person in the party desires a gulp, he lifts his glass to indicate all should prepare to drink. Then, we all drink together, and our glasses are re-poured. It is poor form to take a sip from your drink alone, this is something that is just not done. It’s amazing how hard it is to remember not to drink unless everyone is drinking. Yet, as gracious as our hosts are, every time I mess this up and lift my little shot glass to my lips, everyone hustles to grab their own drink and drink with me so as to allow me to save face and not embarrass me with a public correction. This is a new and fascinating social dynamic I am cheerful to witness and be a part of.
They invite us to tour wider Tanjung Pinang on a car tour the next day. So, we gladly accept! We enjoy lunch at a delicious bakery, visit the beach and hotel area, and visit a large Buddhist Temple where we watch various Muslim devotees use the land as a running and exercise track. Everyone is welcome to enjoy here.
That night at Kareoke, we exchange gifts with our new friends. A deck of cards from Las Vegas Casinos and all our red and green poker chips. (Red and Green being colors of good luck in the Chinese Culture.) Andrew is bestowed a gift of a second handsome Indo-Bling Ring. I think they look better on me.
Before we leave, Andrew decides its high time he try out an Indonesian Barbershop. I can say with absolute certainty that Indonesian men on average have the best hair in this half of the globe. There is something about it that allows excellent shape taking. It’s always richly black, and usually they keep a full head of hair. I can’t recall meeting a blading Indonesian friend. So, their barbers must be accomplished, right? Andrew pulls up a chair and attracts an audience for his cut and straight edge razor shave.
In about 10 minutes flat, the barber has whipped Andrew’s hair into shape, has given him a (very) close shave, snapped his neck violently in two directions presumably for pleasure(?), and pressed thumbs deeply into Andrew’s brow line/eye socket to increase blood circulation to the eyes. All this for only $2.00 U.S.! Andrew's looking very dapper, and more than ready for his pirate-debut in the notorious old-time Pirate Territory of the Melacca Strait next week.
P.S. We never figured out what the giant snail is about. Another one of those mysteries we leave behind in our wake.