According to Lonely Planet, “upwards of eight people die in traffic mishaps each day, a figure about eight times the rate in the US, Europe or Australia”. Well that settles it…I won’t be exploring Bali on a scooter…
Guess I don’t listen very well, as days 2 and 3, were spent exploring various regions of Bali via a moped..more on that to come.
After a long 5hr 45min flight with a screaming kid to end it all…I finally touched down in Ngurah Rai International Airport in Bali, Indonesia. Grabbing the visa on arrival was simple enough..fill out a few forms and pay $25 USD. Easy.
It was after leaving that things became chaotic and where I was inevitably taken advantage of, as a foreigner. The Indonesian currency is measured in rupiah (Rp). Approximately $1 AUD equaled to 12,000 Rp. I was definitely getting bang for my buck. The difficult thing about it all was attempting to change the Rp back to Aussie dollars so I’d know how much I was spending.
Mistake number one…not figuring out the currency and the denomination on the bill prior to landing in Bali. Mistake number two…allowing “taxi taxi” to take me into Kuta. For anyone who has travelled to Bali, you’d know that the men who greet you at the entrance yelling “taxi taxi”, are not the ones to go with. The trip that was supposedly 50,000 Rp-think $5 USD- became 250,000 Rp or $25 USD. Boy are they ever sharks…they can smell a noobie a mile away. Also something that I’ll have to work on…that poker face! Gotta keep your cards close to your chest.
Not a great start but hey…it’s to be expected. Just another experience. On the bright side, I managed to snag a guestroom for 80,000Rp/$8 USD per night and discovered a warung serving meals for 2,500Rp/$2.50 USD. Day one was largely spent learning to think quickly on my feet, exploring Kuta and practicing my bargaining skills. Day one was essentially a crash course on SE Asia 101…learn to swim quickly or sink fast.
It was extremely overwhelming and I had moments where I doubted I was cut out for it all. A little dramatic? Maybe. But considering I had just spent two months, hassle free in Australia…it was definitely a change of pace.
Day 2 was spent exploring a region of Bali known as Canggu- via moped. I had the good fortune of meeting Nikolai..an Italian surfer who had been residing in Bali for six months. He was leaving Bali that same day and needed to pick up a few items from around town, he invited me along, and thus my moped adventure began.
The roads in Bali are seriously dodgy. There doesn’t appear to be any rules and the red lights are merely guidelines. I witnessed a local blowing past a red right in front of the police..with nothing being done about it. Honking is extremely common. Unlike North America, it isn’t to signal that you’re in the wrong. It’s used as a safety mechanism…to allow others to know that you’re fast approaching them or passing by them.
I soon learned that travelling with a scooter was the most common, easy and inexpensive way to get around. You just have to learn to dodge cars-travelling both ways- other mopeds and pedestrians. Easy enough right? I was about to find out the following day.
Nikolai and I wandered Bali in the morning, looking for souvenirs for him to take home. I finally got a taste of the real Bali. The rice paddy fields, the locals, the insane Balinese traffic and of course- the incredible beaches.
All this was followed by a major stint on Kuta Beach, warming up..after being in the Melboune winter for a month, reading and consuming Bintangs-local Indonesian beer. Not such a bad life, eh?
Day 3 was where my Asian moped virginity was taken. I had agreed to travel to Ulu Watu with Marian, a fellow traveller whom I met at Kuta Beach the previous day.
Attempting to find Ulu Watu was a mission in itself. We started off with attempting to find a dealer who would rent out scooters at a reasonable price..we settled for a scooter at 50,000 Rp/$5 USD for the day and off we went.
Unfortunately, our 35 min trip became about an hour as we ended up being directed the wrong way. We eventually found it, but I do have to say that all the traffic stories regarding Asia is true. Traffic here is insane. It was an extremely fun experience, but it was downright scary at times. You had traffic coming from all directions and you were basically able to scoot in any direction you wanted. The only thing you had to worry about was staying alive har har. On a serious note, you do have to be extremely careful.
It was so nice to leave Kuta, and all it’s crazy tourism for something slightly quieter. Ulu Watu was pretty cool, as it had the Pura Luhur Ulu Watu..a temple perched atop a cliff, overlooking the ocean. From there, we made our way to Padang Padang Beach- supposedly one of Bali’s most beautiful beaches. It’s just another rough day in Bali.
It has only been 3 days since I’ve arrived, but I have to say that this was the best decision I could have made with my travels.
In 3 short days, I felt as if I was being challenged and pushed way out of my comfort zone…things I didn’t feel with 2 month’s travel in Australia.
The one thing that I’ve had happen at least once a day are: locals asking me where Im from. Many guess that Im either Japanese or tell me I look Chinese.
It’s funny really, because initially, I figured they were just curious about another foreigner. I soon realized the true reason why they were intrigued. I am Chinese by heritage, but Canadian born and raised. I think many of the locals were intrigued by the fact that I look down right Asian, but sound far from it. I’ve even had a few Malaysians speak to me in Malay. Today, one lady tapped me on the arm and started speaking rapid Malaysian to me. When I told her I didn’t understand, she went back to her friend and..from what it sounded like, she confirmed her suspicion that I was Chinese. Or so I think…I heard them throw in what sounded like the word ‘Chinese’ in the sentence.
I’ve never had anyone so interested in my ethnicity, but there you have it.
Bali, it’s been good so far. Cheers to another 19 amazing days in Indonesia.