Sunday, May 25, 2008

Fresh weed ahead

Welcome to Nusa Lembongan!

It is a small island off the coast of Bali, where we spent a couple days recently. People mainly come here for surfing (great waves, just off the beach, attract a crowd of cool guys from Australia) and the amazing diving. The water here is very cold because it is located on a deep strait; therefore the strong currents bring to the surface a crowd of cool creatures from the depths: manta rays, the odd whale shark, and, between August and October, the weird mola-mola fish. There are also lots of little colourful creatures to see, a requirement at any great dive site.

But on top of that, we found an exquisitely friendly island. It has to be said that Bali is one of the most charming places on Earth, absolutely amazing (do I use this word too much?); but in its South, where the tourism industry is most thriving, one can get tired of the touts. "Hello Mister! Transport? No? Tomorrow maybe?". Grrrrr. Well, you have to understand them: there are a lot of locals fighting for limited resources, but it does get tiring to be targetted as a walking wallet.

None of that in Nusa Lembongan. Made, a Balinese guy from the dive center where we were staying, put it this way: "In Bali, we depend exclusively on tourism, so you have to fight your friend in order to find a job. But you might lose it after few months because the competition is so tough. We know that tourists also get tired of this fierce battle between us. When I grew up in the village and I saw Bule (white people), I was always waving and saying "hello" to them, because I was curious and just wanted to be friendly. It's only when I moved to the biggest tourist regions that I understood why they rarely replied: they just thought I wanted to sell them stuff. It's very disappointing".

That's the reason why this young guy moved to Lembongan: here, there is still a village-life atmosphere, where people are friendly because that's what they are. One of the reasons is that their entire livelihood does not rely on tourism; the island produces seaweed that provides a decent income for the locals.

This is where the raw product from your beauty cream might come from. People farm it right on the beach that lays in front of the village, where the cheap hotels are. Apparently it is sold mostly to cosmetics companies, but it can also be eaten in deliciously salty salads. Try it, it's delicious.


At certain times of the day, depending on the tide, you see the farmers doning their snorkeling gear and wading in the water to harvest the seaweed. It appears to be a family thing, with kids helping with the task - when they are not just playing around on the big buoys that hold the basket full of seaweed.

Then people sort it, dry it, and zou! it's sent in your Marine Spa bath salt or whatever it is you use to have a clean and smooth skin.

Maybe it was just the fact of being a lazy Bule on a week end, but it was very nice to see that life seemed to be so peaceful there. I swear, when we were walking on the beach at the time where people were working in the sea, we could hear laughter all the time. Granted, maybe they were just making fun of my crazy hair or not-smoothed-by-seaweed skin, whatever. That was a very nice moment.

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