A warung is an Indonesian term for a small roadside stall that sells snacks, drinks and convenient household items. However, in Tanah Lot a warung is also the local coffee house, corner store and community meeting spot for customer specially guide to sit and exchange the latest news or gossip while they waiting their guest.
Every block has at least a dozen warung’s that serve the daily needs of locals and anyone else who happens to pass by. Some warung’s are crude makeshift structures of bamboo and oddments of timber, while others may be a more permanent construction built as an afterthought on the outer perimeter of the family compound. The general setup of a warung is fairly basic, consisting of aged wooden benches for customers to sit upon.
Goods are displayed in glass canisters on shelves or spread across large plastic covered tabled that can be wiped down with a damp cloth. Most Balinese warung’s are a chaotic jumble of goods and sometimes even the vendor can’t remember where things are kept. Owning a warung does not really generate a great income as most goods are sold for just a few hundred rupiah above the recommended retail price.
But the main benefit for a warung proprietor is that the work is flexible and if it is attached to their home they can go about their other daily household chores in between sales. Opening a small warung is a popular means of employment for married women as they can literally ‘take care of the shop’ whilst suckling a newborn infant or prepare the numerous offerings required for Balinese Hindu ceremonies and rituals.
As the Balinese habitually snack throughout the course of the day, the warung is the ideal spot to satiate one’s appetite with a sweet sticky rice cake and a tall glass of aromatic coffee. Children come to buy cheap candies and imitation soda drinks cooled with chunks of ice.
Many warung’s at Tanah Lot provide customers with a small platform-like seat constructed from strips of bamboo and plastic. In an era where shopping malls and trendy cafes have sprung up all over the island, there still remains a place in Balinese society for the humble warung. For many there is a sense of comfort in sitting at the warung with friends in familiar surroundings that are void of pretentious consumerism. (BTN/015)