Gotta Scoot

A foray into the world of the 2-wheeled amateur

Bali Bonanza

Bali Sandat Inn II, Kuta, Indonesia. It’s 10am and you’ve been up for an hour or so, taking a leisurely dip in the swimming pool, having a delicious breakfast at the local cafe while perusing The Weekend Australian, delivered to you personally along with your preferred morning repast of pancakes, Balinese coffee and fruit salad. Pardon the cliché, but what could possibly make the day any more perfect? How about seeing the world wizz past your eyes in a colorful flurry of sights, sounds and smells? How about coasting through the open-air, past pristine white-sand beaches, cool mountainscapes and endless picturesque rice paddies? How stopping by a roadside, sitting on a plastic stool, and smugly sipping iced tea as you realise that it doesn’t get much better than this? Yes indeed, it’s time to hand over 70,000 Rupea (about eight bucks) and live the dream – your very own Bali bike for the day.


Before you put the rose-coloured glasses on though, there are a few things you should know. In fact, here are a few things that will send more than a tingle or two down your spine. Riding any sort of a two-wheeled contraption with an engine in a developing country can be a tad risky for the following reasons:

  • Is this a mirror I see before me? Oh, yes it is – and, why yes, I do look good! If Balinese motorcyclists have rear-vision mirrors, then you might as well rename them ‘vanity’ mirrors, because that is literally what they are – witness the number of one-mirror modifications, with the remaining mirror turned diagonally to form a portrait frame into which most riders look to fix hair, adjust earings and tighten helmet straps.
  • You call that a helmet? In all seriousness, most helmets wouldn’t pass Australian safety standards for push-bikes, let alone something with an engine.
  • More ducking and weaving takes place on Indonesian roads than in a large-scale millitary training camp.
  • Footpaths are regularly used as ‘wheel’ paths when narrow roads don’t permit two-lane passing. This is especially the case during peak hour, where obliging pedestrians on footpaths skip, shuffle and strafe their way around long lines of bikes.
  • All roads should lead to Rome, except in Indonesia, where it’s anyone’s guess. Even my guide got lost on a number of occasions.
  • One has the impression that the bikes are as old as many of the Hindu deities worshiped here. At 43,000km on the clock and definitely in its twilight years, my bike sported a wheezing engine that sounded like an asthmatic geriatric complaining bitterly about life’s woes. Defiance was also evident when the ol’ codger decided to stall on me on the right hand lane of a busy 6-lane highway. Needless to say I wasn’t going anywhere fast.


Ok – so now I’ve scared you, here are a few things that might cheer you up a little:

  • Amidst all the horn-tooting, sudden lane-changing and footpath sharing there is a pervading sense of harmony and a strange order to the surrounding chaos. All of this rests on the fact that unlike western countries – vehicles have to conform to one driver’s/rider’s ‘right of way’ and the horn is used as an emergency measure. In Bali, the onus rests on each rider to warn others of their presence on the road. This means plenty more horn sounding. But the flipside is that you don’t use the rear vision mirror, because every time someone is in your blindspot you can expect a poilte toot. It’s not saying ‘get out of my way you bastard!’ it’s more like ‘Hellow there friend. In case you weren’t quite sure, I’m over here!’
  • Motorists of all kinds rarely go very fast. The norm is 40km/hr. Sure, an accident is still an accident, but dropping your bike at 40 is far less potentially fatal than having a stack at 80.
  • Balinese roads are (generally) very-well paved with (generally) good signage, traffic lights and (generally) usually plenty of room to (generally) move.

So are you tempted? I was! These are just some of the photos from my trip through the rice paddies to the fabled Hindu temple of Thanah Lot on the picturesque coastal cliffs of the southern-Bali peninsular. You can find more about my time overseas by checking out my RealTravel blog here.


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March 25, 2008 - Posted by | Bali, Indonesia, overseas, travel

1 Comment »

  1. It’s good to see Gotta Scoot back in action.

    Comment by Clare Tok | March 26, 2008


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