Finally, some local culture!
Yesterday, when I went outside for my early evening 2.5-mile walk, I was overwhelmed by the crowd on the street alongside my apartment building. There were so many parked motorcycles I could barely get to the street.
I had read about the crowds gathering at the end of each day of Ramadan, finding food to end their daily fasting, but having been cloistered at Smiling Hill for my first 2 1/2 years in Batam, I had never experienced Ramadan among the population first-hand. It was a mob scene.
Interestingly, though, the mob scene was not everywhere, only in pockets like the side street next to my apartment. All the regular street and in-building restaurants (warung) were closed. I didn’t realize until the next day that was because their owners had moved their operations to outdoor street scenes like on my street.
So today I decided to venture into the throngs of hungry people with my camera. It was a madhouse, with one lone bule (me) trying to force his way through the crowd, while also trying to take pictures.
The variety of foods being offered was mind-boggling, and I have no idea what most of them were. But there was a selection of fish and chicken curries (kari ikan/ayem), barebeque fish (ikan bakar), fruit juices, breads (roti) of all sorts, filled and fried pancakes (roti prata), fruits, a host of pastries and sweets, and much more. One vendor was even selling tropical fish in plastic bags.
The street is normally for traffic and is lined by businesses on one side and warungs on the other. But for now, it is closed to everything but people and motorbikes.
Mostly, people just came to buy their food and take it away in plastic bags. There was no place to sit to dine. And my Aceh friends from the warung across the street from my apartment, where I have eaten numerous times, were there cooking a variety of barbequed fish. I even ran into a couple of women I know from the bars. But the only bule was me, with my camera, which might have made me stand out a bit.
This scene will be repeated every night through Ramadan, which runs through July 18. True believers gorge themselves every morning before the sun comes up, and then do not eat, drink, smoke or have sex until the sun goes down. Then they stuff themselves again.
I did buy several things: roti prata, some sweets and some fried bread items. Roti prata is a fried flour-based pancake that is cooked over a flat grill. It is usually served with a vegetable- or meat-based curry and is from Malaysia and Singapore. Prata is also commonly cooked upon request with cheese, onion, banana, red bean, chocolate. Mine had chicken in it.
Here are my photos: