Sights and smells of a forgotten past

15 06 2010

Isn’t it just wonderful that smells can sometimes evoke a memory that has been stashed away in the corner of your mind? It was the case for me, wondering around the beach at Jimbaran where in the midst of the boats and nets that littered the beach, I was greeted by a smell that I had known from the many night catching crabs at the Mata Jetty or in my wanderings through some of the coastal villages of Singapore. It was a smell that came from rotting fish mixed with the salt from the sea, which, together with the scene before my eyes, brought a sense of déjà vu. Surveying the scene: the splash of colours that the boats brought to the white of the sand of the beach, as well as the grey and brown of newer nets sitting next to those yellowed by through use, it did seem indeed that it was one that I had once been familiar with. It is probably a scene that is typical of the many fishing villages that can be found all over the Malay Archipelago, typical of Singapore once, but out of place in the modern metropolis much of Singapore has become.

The sight and smell of the fishing nets at Jimbaran, brought with it a reminiscence of a forgotten Singapore.

Baskets on the beach.

For a brief moment, I did forget where I was, as I weaved my way through nets and baskets, gratefully drawing in with each breath, a smell which I would otherwise not have found too pleasing. I had imagined that I was back where I might have once been, watching the boats as they came ashore to be greeted by the small crowd which had gathered in anticipation of having the first pick of the slippery silvery harvest that came with each boat. For that brief moment, I felt that I was home again, home amongst the sights and smells I had once taken for granted.

Fishing Boats at East Coast Beach, 1976. For a brief moment I was transported to a scene from the Singapore of old, similar to this.

Around the beach at Jimbaran:

Fisherman tending to their equipment on Jimbaran Beach. Sights similar to this would have been common in the coastal fishing villages of Singapore.

Fisherman at Jimbaran, Bali.

An outrigger stabilised fishing boat.

A close up of the baskets.

The beach at Jimbaran, Bali. The sight of colourful fishing boats on the beach somehow makes me feel at home. A common sight in much of the Malay Archipelago, it was once common on the beaches of Singapore as well.




3 responses

19 06 2010
Evelyn Ng

I remember the barbequed fish prepared by the beach after sunset after the fisherman had brought in their daily haul. The simple life and straight forward hospitality. That was circa 1995. I wonder if its still the same now. The sauces and dips….a full life!

20 06 2010
The wondering wanderer

🙂 A full life!

8 07 2010
The smells of the Toa Payoh that I grew up in « The Long and Winding Road

[…] the subject of the smells I was familiar with in my childhood. Having revisited the smells of the seaside and that of fermented shrimp, I am now revisiting some of the aromas that I grew up smelling in Toa […]

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