Plered, Cirebon / by Bernice Beltran

Somewhere in the west of Java lies a small port city that is not so popular to travellers called Cirebon. Google it and you will find a few articles and travel guides in the search results. If it weren’t for my father who has been working here for over a decade, I probably would never found out about it. In the few times that I went there, I stayed home and waited for my father to take me to a pub where he and his colleagues from Europe would hangout after work. Seeing Europeans (mostly old men) in this part of Indonesia was quite a shock for me knowing that there are other cities in Indonesia that are more appealing to foreigners who wish to retire. But I suppose they're not in Cirebon for retirement, they're here for business. 

Last week, dad took my mother, my sister Bea and I to a place called Plered to buy some batik clothes. Known for its thriving batik industry, Plered reminded me a little bit of Quiapo, particularly its chaotic narrow streets that were mostly clogged with vegetable stalls and motorcycles and becak (the Indonesian pedicab) parked on the side. We got there before 8 AM - at the time when most vendors are just opening their shops and students making their way to school. While waiting for the batik shops to open, I took advantage of the morning light and snapped a few shots.

I found the street rather photogenic. I could tell from the chipped-off paint, stained walls and a few broken signages that the buildings in Plered were pretty old. Adding to the quaintness were the horse carriages that roamed about and the people who wore traditional batik. Besides the railings that divided the two-way street, there was hardly any order. People walked in whatever space left on the road and step aside when there's a becak, a motorcycle or a car passing. There were food stalls in every corner, saturating the air with the smell of coffee and the strong scent of spices. It's no tourist spot (and I doubt that it intended to) but it gave me a glimpse of how the people from this town live.

The main attraction in Plered is the batik workshop located just behind Trusmi Batik Cirebon, one of the biggest batik shops in area. When the shop opened, we saw about four women sat around the pot of ink, tracing a faint line art on the pink fabrics. In one corner, a man stamped a white fabric with batik patterns. He said that the batik stamps and ink can be purchased somewhere in Plered though he did not specify where we could get it. After what seemed like an hour of photographing and making my two companions wait, I put my camera back in my bag and went into the shop purchase some batik for work. 

Indonesia is a huge country to explore - a year and a half wouldn't be enough, especially for someone who's gets interested in pretty much anything like me. But I will make a way, find some time to go back to see as many places as I can, and take pictures like it's the only thing that's keeping me sane.