Jimbaran Bay, Bali. A Fishing Community Wakes

6 AM. Jimbaran Bay. Small pyres of leaf litter and debris burn, smoke mixing with heat haze, as women languidly rake. A tourist walks briskly along the water’s edge while local men sit alone and quietly gaze at the horizon. Old wooden boat dollies stand along the sand, sentries lying in wait for boats to arrive. Loyal dogs sense their masters’ return. I also sit on the sand and enjoy this window of tranquility and inertia. Sleep still lingers.

The first Jukung arrives after a long night’s fishing

A small jukung, a brightly painted Balinese fishing boat, arrives at the water’s edge after a night fishing out from the bay. Although jukung may seem simple in the eyes of the foreign traveller, there is an underlying symbolism associated with these fishing boats: they are constructed following a strict set of religious guidelines.

“When a fisherman decides to build a new boat he must first carefully choose the tree that will be used for its timber. The Balinese prefer to use the wood from the indigenous Belalu or Camplung tree, which is light, strong and ideal for boat building. Such a tree can only be cut down on an auspicious date in accordance to the ancient Balinese calendar and a special day is also sought for construction to commence. All members of the local fishing community offer their carpentry skills to construct a new jukung and this social interaction is a vital element of the Balinese Hindu culture.”

A few man gather and the trailer is rolled into place.

“The majority of jukung are built using a set of dimensions that are closely related to the owner’s personal body measurements. The Balinese strongly believe in harmonizing with the physical environment and spiritual world, thus human measurements are used in an effort to balance these invisible forces. Just like a human body, a jukung is not symmetrical. In fact, the bamboo floats that are attached to both sides and run from the bow to the stern are not even parallel. Yet this basic, but ingenious design gives the jukung a heightened degree of stability when out on the open seas.”

More men arrive from distant spots along the beach. The energy builds.

“Once the jukung has been fully constructed and brightened up with a bold coat of paint, it then undergoes a complex blessing ceremony. Offerings of rice, flowers and fruit are presented to appease the Gods and the jukung is sprinkled with holy water by a priest before it is considered seaworthy. The jutting bow is decorated with an image of the mythical Gajah Mina (elephant fish) with its fierce bulging eyes to ward off evil. The spirit of Gajah Mina is also thought to bear the power of night vision and guide the jukung through all sorts of weather conditions”¹

jukung arrival, a community affair
When a jukung arrives, it’s a community affair

The men along the beach are roused into action: they move purposefully towards the boat. One man pulls the boat dolly into place while others gather alongside the bamboo side floats. The scene is now swarming with helpers: more men move towards the boat from distant points along the beach; the boat becomes a gravitational magnet. The fishing community have been waiting for this moment.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The boat is hauled onto the wooden sand trailer: more men arrive and the boat is pushed to a higher point along the shore.

Working together is better than working alone. Community is alive and well in Bali.
Working together is better than working alone. Community is alive and well in Bali.

The morning heat haze lifts as the sun rises: the men become more animated through shared activity and camaraderie.  Pagi pagi ( early morning ) turns into pagi (morning). Another boat is about to turn up. There will be many more.

Selimat pagi , good morning to you dear reader from beautiful Bali.

¹ http://www.tanahlot.net/home/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1171:jukung-as

21 thoughts on “Jimbaran Bay, Bali. A Fishing Community Wakes”

  1. What a beautiful post, Francesca. It would be easy to think that the lifestyle of the fishermen is simple, but obviously it is highly complex and steeped in rituals which bind them together and strengthens the structure and meaning of their lives. Each individual would feel valued there. There is much to learn, isn’t there, about other cultures and perhaps it would improve the behaviour of some Aussie’s overseas if they had a better appreciation of the culture they are spending their holiday in.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Yes, Jan so true. I have been coming to Bali now for 37 years and I still have so much to learn from the Balinese. Their culture inspires me. I avoid those spots where Aussies generally gather. Sometimes the behaviour of Europeans, or should I say barbarian dress code, is rather appalling too.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I didn’t see any of these boats the last time we visited and I guess that’s because they are hard work to haul in and out of the water when there are other motorised options that can be anchored further out. I suppose if I was a fisherman, I’d go for the easiest option too. Terima kasih

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Inside I breathed a sigh of longing reading this. So much of our culture is not laden with meaning, but hastily acquired in a materialistic frenzy. Beautiful writing and photos. Wishing you much enjoyment.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. The morning light is beautiful in your photos. The rituals surrounding the boat, construction to function obviously create an enormous sense of pride of ownership, not just for the individual but for the community of fishermen as a whole. The best part of travel is discoveries like this, thanks and enjoy Bali…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jimbaran Bay is all about fishing and selling fish, so my week here will probably focus on that/. Morning light is so lovely here- the day time is too glary and bright to even bother taking the camera( but I do anyway) . I love the Balinese people.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. How beautifully described about the fishermen and the traditions with the building of boats. I have not been to Bali, but your love for the Balinese shines! Maybe some day…

    Liked by 1 person

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