We left the heat of Pontianak behind us and trundled along the road, our imaginations ignited by curiosity over our next destination of the mystical city of Singkawang. An hour or two into our trip, following parallel to us, an expanse of rough, choppy grey emerged from our left – the sea. Our legs now restless after being cramped in the car for the past few hours, it was the perfect occasion to jump out and stretch our tired muscles.
A wooden roadside café sat blue and dusty on the side of the road, a scattering of people inside sipping on tea and coconuts. It being a strange sight, three bules (foreigners) along with Jack piling out of a car, their eyes followed us inquisitively as we strolled around to the side of the café.
A long barrier of grey cube blocks were jumbled on top of each other, and on the other side of them was the sea. Jack, Lily and Pucuk scrambled on top of them to get a better look at the moody looking waters below.
I hung back and looked to the right of us; heavily weathered, peacock coloured wooden bungalows lined a long sandy path that led along the sea. It seemed deserted and quiet, which only intensified my curiosity. Pucuk seemed to read my mind,
‘Want to go on an adventure?’ he said, pointing down the path.
It was quiet. Eerie but not lacking charm, the little street of cafes and houses seemed to be abandoned, or perhaps, it only became lively once night fell. With only the swishing and swashing of the sea to accompany us, we (myself with a slight feeling of apprehension) slowly meandered down the path.
At one point there was a break in the rock barrier; a high raised, wooden slatted bridge stood precariously above the grey sea – at the end of it, a dark and seemingly empty café. Tip toeing with my best fairy-feet, we walked along the wavering bridge to check out the place. Now getting closer, we noticed two older men standing at the entrance. Pucuk, speaking his perfect Indonesian asked the two men if it would be ok for us to enter and have a look around to which they smiled and obliged.
The café was bare, with but a small bar near the entrance. The wooden slats beneath our feet were strong, but cracks and gaps led my eyes to flashes of the angry sea many many metres below us. Lily and Jack soon followed, intensifying the creakiness of the floorboards, but thank our lucky stars, the seaside shack remained intact long enough for us to attempt some artistic photos and then scarper off, thanking the two old men on the way out.
Out of the shadows of the café, the sun I had previously taken for granted was now a relief. Jack found a long bamboo branch laying across a shallow grassy ditch outside the café and a contest ensued of who was the most agile enough to walk along the branch without falling. Like trainee trapeze artists, both Jack and Pucuk traversed the branch with only the slightest wobble, whereas I, with the daintiness of vertigo suffering elephant, tumbled off after only the third step. Great success.
After unleashing our hidden bamboo walking talents, we walked back up the dusty path back to the car. It was still quiet, and no movements were seen inside the houses until ahead we saw a small boy riding in circles on a small bicycle. Accompanied by another boy and a trio of mischievous looking girls, they played in the road and with looks of kitten like curiosity, watched us pass by on to the car which was waiting patiently to take us on to the mysterious city of Singkawang.
*Tune in next time for our arrival in Singkawang City and our first encounter with the Cap Go Meh spirits…
Go Go Go!
Where: In the middle of Ponitanak and Singkawang, in West Kalimantan (Borneo), Indonesia.
Why: Pontianak for the Equator line and Singkawang for the famous Cap Go Meh festival.
When: February, 15 days after Chinese New Year.
How: From Jakarta, a 1-2 hour flight to Pontianak and then a 4 hour drive on to Singkawang. Flights can be booked with most airlines, such as Air Asia, Lion Air and Garuda. We flew with Citilink, a return flight costing us around 2000,000 Rp – approx £100. (Flights around this time can increase drastically due to the Cap Go Meh festival that occurs in February.)