As soon as we left the jetty, we were welcome with curious eyes and friendly rickshaw drivers offering their services, “Becak?” Unlike some other parts of Asia, the locals here don’t hassle you. A smile and a polite ‘no’ would suffice. How lovely!
I was eager to see the island. I wanted to know what’s beyond the muddy shore, low-tide, and debris. I wanted to smell the air, flowers, and food from street stalls. I wanted to try their food, drinks and dessert. I wanted to touch plants and flowers. I wanted to hear conversations. I wanted to be in conversations with locals. I wanted to meet and mingle with them. I wanted to soak it all in. My mind was flooded with these thoughts, ready to erupt into a burst of colourful fireworks!
Being a Gemini, I find it quite a challenge to deal with myself at times, for I hold the thoughts of two people who aren’t in sync. Now what’s not in sync were my eyes and legs. My eyes wanted to observe the ambience on my own pace, taking it all in slowly. As opposed to that, my excited legs wanted to rush, rush, rush, eager to explore the island. Unwilling to take sides, my mind just sat on the fence, forcing me to give birth to a solution. You know what they say about unplanned pregnancy… It was hard. All I could do was nothing; I ignored the constant nagging in my mind, from the eyes and legs. I didn’t pick a side. Like a floating dead fish, I went with the flow.
Men in their 20s and 30s eyed us as we walked pass the motorbike rental stall on the side of the road. Their faces were worn from being overexposed to the sun, their natural colour now hiding behind layers of caramelised tan.
I looked around and all I could see were motorbikes. There were no cars, lorries or vans; I later learnt that four-wheelers don’t exist on the island. How do you transport huge or long items such as refrigerators or lamp posts? Becak. Or motorbikes. Those are the only two forms of vehicles around.
Roads are wide, with no physical or illustrated dividers; but locals keep to their side of the road most of the time. Traffic lights don’t exist, as well as pedestrian crossing and signage. Despite all that, people ride safely; the annoying sound of honking is uncommon. My eardrums surrendered to the peaceful ambience, not minding being lulled to tranquillity.
Getting off the main road, we walked through a smaller one. Locals kept their gaze on us, every time they ride pass with roaring engines and rugged types. One, they don’t know us (everyone knows everyone since it’s a small island). Two, we were walking. Locals only walk to their neighbour’s house if it is really opposite or next to theirs. Other than that, they ride motorbikes. It’s safe to say that the wheels are their surrogate legs.
Moving deeper into land, we began to see houses on both sides of the road. Trees thickened and soar high above ground, the green from them gradually intensifies with bright flowers of yellow, red, and pink dotting the lower parts, better than any of Seurat and Signac’s pointillism paintings combined! I loved what I saw. So much greenery! I was already in love.
We walked up steep roads to get to my friend’s aunt’s place, perched atop a hill. It wasn’t too bad a climb, unlike the times when I backpacked India, running around with my 12kg backpack chasing for trains, climbing up forts thirsty and breathless, with a goat almost dying next to me, witnessing myself almost dying… Oh! I have not written about all that!
We arrived at Mak Su’s humble home. She thought we will be arriving the next day, thus was surprised to see her in-laws, nephew and his friend – me.