Alas Market by Rob
At 8am friend/coordinator Suji and our boat arrived to take us to Alas and the market. Alas is a small town about 30 minutes drive from Poto Tano Harbor which is also just a 10-15 minute boat ride from where we live in Kenawa Island. I had asked Suji to help us get a car for the trip as the communication was a bit hard to work through about motorbikes. I wasn’t sure if we would have our own or if we would both be clinging to the back of a scooter with a 13 year old kid at the controls. It’s a common sight to see a family of three or four, 2 live chickens and groceries zipping along well over every intended limit of the motorbike. The car was great and truly needed as we also bought some larger items we needed to work on the Earthship house. I later found out that we would get our own motorbike next time, thus relieving some of my stress. This got us thinking about renting or buying a small motorcycle to continue our trek after our time on Kenawa.
The locals roads are filled with horse carriages, motorbikes and small buses.
Ok. Back to the market itself. Being the tallest, whitest person anywhere I go, I hear “Hello Mister” often. I always reward the polite and just “Hello” calls with a genuine smile and happy wave that have always been returned, so far, with smiles twice as big as mine. Our first stop in the sprawling market area were the fresh produce stalls. They are clustered together in a warren of buildings and open areas mostly covered by low tarps or thatched roofs. Each purveyor has their own area and selection.
Lots of locally farmed vegetables, next to an almost identical group of veggies except you can also get eggs, next to one with only spices and next to another with just chilis, but 12 different kinds. Rows of stalls with clothes and housewares were separated from the meat and fish area. Some fish were beautifully fresh and some were definitely yesterday’s catch. “City” chickens with white breast meat are a small farmed version of what you would see in the States and “Village” chickens are an even smaller wilder breed that can live roaming free eating anything and everything.
We passed on the fresh meat this time but know that we will carefully select some goat on our next visit. I don’t know if the Goat Butcher understood me when I told her that I’ll be back next week but I hope her shop is still in the same place. We did stock up on more veggies, eggs, soy sauce and instant coffee. More coconut biscuits, which are our afternoon or bedtime treat. A different type of egg noodle to try and some curry paste rounded out the vegetable market spree.
I also have a new favorite fruit that I could eat everyday. We were making our way around the market and back out on the road when we came across a fruit vendor selling a rainbow of unfamiliar shapes and colors from the back of her little mini truck. Snake Fruit or locally, Salak, is fantastic. It has a hard brown snake like skin over a medium firm white fruit that tastes just like strawberries. Crunchy, slightly juicy, strawberries. Awesome. We need to find her again so I can try several others I looked up on my phone afterwards.
Lacy skipped breakfast knowing we would be eating at the market. We had noticed several roadside vendors on our fast pass through Alas on our way to the Island last week. Last week… amazing that we’ve already been here a week. Brunch was already planned around something hot, grilled and decidedly non vegetarian! Across from the vegetable market our sights became fixated on a particular cart creating a wafting of animal fat smoke from a little wood fired grill that also had a small shady place behind it.
Full and interior views of the Warung (cart) from the other side of street. We happily ate tucked away in the shade.
Warung Kambing carts are a type of cart that sells grilled goat satays. There can be 3 of the exact same type lined up side by side waiting for the lunch crowd. We ordered the one and only house special and it came hot and grilled with a spicy peanut sauce and side of rice. We missed getting the brothy soup made from the bones that Suji also ordered to go with everything, but I won’t skip it next time. Very, very satisfying. And… at 20,000 Rupiah or about $1.50 US, it was a delicious bargain.
One very important reason that we chose to go to this market was to search for a “salad bowl”. Specifically a stainless steel bowl that was 60cm wide. We knew it would be hard to find, not having the luxury of wandering around in a cavernous restaurant supply warehouse in some major US city. In Earthship building, these have become a go-to to cover the top of the water cisterns. As the roof slope and shape gather every drop of rainwater possible, it is channeled through broken coral stone to slow it down and let sediment fall out. It then needs a sunlight blocking method to run into the cisterns. Stainless steel bowls with strategically drilled holes and layers of loose stone or coral are the perfect way to catch water without silt or sediment while protecting the precious water stored from sunlight and algae. We were lucky to find giant cloches that would normally be used to cover food from flies here during outdoor meals. They already had the tiny holes drilled and are exactly the same size as the 60cm opening of the cisterns. I guess I know what home improvements we will be working on for the next few days. 🙂
After enjoying one of the best snorkeling afternoons yet we enjoyed yet another great view of the fishing boats from our front porch as we relaxed after the market.