It may be the largest port and town on Sumba, but Waingapu is far from a modern metropolis. Goats wander along the main road, horses are stabled in front porches, and locals still walk around barefoot, with ikat tied around their heads and waists. The older half of the hourglass-shaped town is centred around the port, the newer part around the market. It’s only a fifteen-minute walk between the two, but every passing ojek will assume you need a lift. The bay to the west of town has a harbour at the extreme point of either shore; all ferries dock at the western harbour, requiring an eight-kilometre journey around the bay to town. The eastern harbour in the old town is now just used for fishing boats, and can be picturesque, especially at sunset.

Prailu is the most visited of the local ikat-weaving villages, and is an easy walk from the hotels near the market. After signing in at the large, traditional house, you can inspect weavings that weren’t good enough to be bought by the traders. The ikat blankets of east Sumba are ablaze with symbolic dragons, animals, gods and head-hunting images. The cloth worn by men is called the hinggi, and is made from two identical panels sewn together into a symmetrical blanket. These are the most popular souvenirs, as they make great wall hangings. Small blankets of medium quality usually retail for under $50, but will mainly use only chemical dye. For larger, high-quality pieces, you can pay anything from $100 to $1000. A tight weave, clean precise motifs and sharp edges between different colours are all signs of a good piece. Dealers in the towns will often give you better prices and more choice than those in the villages.

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