The Motorbike in Bali
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KUTA BEACH – Its 6:30am in the morning. I wake suddenly. I peer over at the adjacent bed to find Desirae sleeping soundly propped up on a mountain of pillows with a mouth open so wide you could fit an entire danish in it. Perhaps it is what she was dreaming about. I on the other hand had been sleep just under three hours. I was restless thinking about the prospects of parting ways to finally reach the destination that I had longed for. Ubud.
I didn’t want to hang around the room to wait for my ride that was supposed to arrive at some point in the early afternoon. I got up, brushed my teeth and headed straight out the door with my backpack in tow. I figured I’d get some of that delicious breakfast the hotel was offering and spend the morning exploring a bit on the motorbike I had rented. The mornings in Bali seem to always be sunny. This one was no different.
Kuta Beach’s streets seem to always be full with cars and motorbikes. I was lucky this morning as the traffic was light. I was able to pick up the speed a bit cruising down the streets. My aim was to get lost… and that I did. I hadn’t strayed too far outside of Kuta before and kind of expected most of the streets to be similar to the narrower crumbled streets I had grown accustomed to. I made one turn too many and that’s when I saw the first traffic light I had ever seen in Bali. I thought there were none up until this point. The street became wide filled with cars, but mostly motorbikes and it suddenly dawned on me, “I am in morning rush hour traffic.”
I hadn’t yet become fully adept to driving alongside the Balinese. In Bali, the lanes painted on the road seem to be there only as a suggestion of where to drive. People drive on the left here mostly but it is very customary for vehicles to cross over into oncoming traffic regularly to pass slower driving vehicles. Imagine a racetrack with cars going in both directions. I started to understand why so many tourists were getting into accidents. It takes some getting used to. My lone respite is that I am a good driver (on 4 wheels) and that I don’t hesitate. Hesitation will kill you.
The only problem I was having was being carried too far down stream in this raging river of motorist. I figured I would just keep going and hope that the path would lead me back around to the beach. A couple of twists and turns later and I was back in familiar territory… Kuta Square. I walked into my favorite spot, Gloria Jean’s Coffee, ordered a latte and took out my laptop and began to work on some projects. I am lucky that my profession affords me to travel the world as I see fit. All I need is an internet connection.
Its 11:30am now and I am about to head back to the hotel. My aim is to time it right so that all I have to do is shower and leave. As soon as I pull into the hotel Gusti is pulling in right behind me. Impeccable timing. I lend him my bike so that he may run a quick few errands. I rush up to the room, take a quick shower, gather my things and meet back with Gusti who is waiting happily in the lobby.
Gusti is your typical Balinese sized man standing about 5 feet 5 inches with long wavy black hair fashioned in a single braid pony tail speckled with chestnut brown highlights. The first thing you notice about Gusti is his bright endearing smile that almost always is followed by a clever joke that would lighten anyone’s mood. I was incredibly happy to see him. He wondered at first why I was coming alone, but that didn’t last long once I told him about my ordeal. He explained that the first night he was driving me and Desirae around looking for a hotel the way that she was treating the Balinese people had them all calling her “Gila!” That’s the Indonesian word for “crazy.”
We both had a good laugh about it. I told him about my situation with my lost debit card and that I had on my person roughly 700,000 rupiah ($67). The humble and gracious nature of the Balinese began to shine through as Gusti asked me if I wanted to stay with him at his village. I quickly rescinded his kind offer for I needed to take responsibility for myself. He told me of a hotel where I could stay for roughly 300,000 rupiah a night. I figured I could hold out until one of my clients wired me a payment.
Before you know it we were where I had hoped to be the entire time… Ubud. The first thing Gusti asked me once we had crossed over into Ubud was, “Are you Hungry?” I didn’t even answer with a word. I just looked at him with a look of, “Hell yeah!” Then he said a few words in his clear but thick Balinese accent, “Come, now I show you… the Real Bali.”
Not soon after it began to pour down raining. I guess the gods of Bali wanted to emphasize that today was the first day of rainy season. We pulled up to this restaurant that was on the side of desolate street. It was raining so hard that Gusti decided to get out on my side which was the shortest path to dash into the restaurant.
In Bali, many of the restaurants are open to the elements. This one was no different. It was no bigger than a two-car garage; and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was actually a converted garage. There were no front walls, only steps. We quickly sat down as it was a nice shelter from the rain. Gusti grabbed some rice chips. Rice chips are about half the size of tortilla chips with a Styrofoam type texture to them. They are quite tasty depending on your preference of chip. Immediately after popping one in my mouth I got my first taste of what is unavoidable in most of these open-air eateries… the flies. If you’re not used to flies buzzing here and about trying to grab a mouthful of your food it may at first be off putting. After awhile you get used to it and just accept that you are eating outside with nature.
The dish was mixed rice with chicken and Balinese style mixed vegetables. The food was spicy but really tasty. I was actually taken by the flavor of the food. It explodes in your mouth! Satisfied with a good lunch I reached for the money in my pocket to cover the bill, but Gusti had already paid for it. Gusti was quickly showing me what type of person he was. He knew I was in a bit of a jam and offered his hospitality as if it were he in the same situation.