Going Around the Bend

By Amy Chavez

For The Bali Times

As a tourist in Bali, you are probably wondering what the best way to get around the island is. Here are some options.

Walking (jalan kaki)

Most people walk short distances because, well, it’s free. And if you’re just going down the street a bit, why hail a taxi? I’ll tell you why. Walking is definitely out of vogue these days in Bali. Those gaping holes in the sidewalks are there for a reason – to encourage you to take transportation instead. I suspect the government will soon ban walking as it has been designed to be just too dangerous. Every road in Bali, no matter how small, is a superhighway and standing at the side of the road, even in your best suit of armor, is no protection from the cars shooting across in front of you like cannonballs. Not only are you likely to get grazed just standing there; you’ll also infuriate the taxi drivers, who don’t understand why you are standing there in a stupor. After all, if you’re not going to cross into the line of fire, you may as well join it. These taxi drivers have no idea what goes through the tourist’s mind as we stand there watching the chaos pass. I know what I’m thinking: If I do get run over, it would probably go unnoticed, and the cars would continue to run over me until I’m as flat as a pizza. Besides, is walking really any cheaper than taking transportation? It depends on how you look at it. For short distances, a minibus ride is Rp2,000 (21 US cents) and a taxi is Rp10,000. Yet walking could cost you your life, a cost determined by life insurance companies to be around $1 million. Get my drift? The Balinese, however, are always walking alongside the street. This is because they are born with the instinct to meander through heavy traffic – probably due to their belief in, anticipation of and utter confidence in reincarnation. So why do Indonesians drive so fast anyway? My guess is because the only time life moves at a rapid pace for them is while it’s on the pavement. Since normal life is so slow and relaxing in Bali, once people get into cars and can control the speed of their lives, they naturally try to catch up with the rest of the world. It’s the only time they can get anything done. If you really want to experience something freaky, try this experiment, backed by Albert Einstein. Walk alongside any Indonesian road, such as the Ngurah Rai bypass, walking against the traffic. The motorbikes, taxis and busses whiz past you at 80-100kph. But, since you are also in motion and traveling in the opposite direction, the vehicles are actually passing you even faster. This should also give you the sensation that you are moving very fast. Remember this simple remedy the next time you are feeling old and slow.

Minibus (bemo)

Locals travel short distances by bemo. Most tourists are quick to observe that every bemo has dents in it, many suspiciously in the form of the arms and legs of pedestrians. Accidents are certainly a common occurrence. But there are still many good reasons to take a bemo. First and foremost, you will never miss your bus. This is because there is no timetable. The bus may never come, but in that case, you didn’t miss the bus; rather, it missed you. You never have to run for the bus, either. If you are walking along the road and see the bus passing, just hail the driver and he will wait for you. No need to run even if the driver honks, because he won’t. Furthermore, you can get off whenever and wherever you want, rather than having to wait for the next designated bus stop. The only thing to be afraid of with bemos is what they are going to run into next.

Bus (bis)

For longer distances, such as 100km or so, you can take the regular bus, which is available in 22, 35 and 45-seaters. But I don’t recommend this as the ride is rather rough and bouncy, so you may need skeletal work after you arrive at your destination. Locals can endure long trips by bus but for foreigners who insist on the punishment, there is a different system. Foreigners should remove their spine first, put it in a bag and hand it to the driver upon boarding. He will hang the bag on the rear-view mirror, with all his other baubles, and give it back to you for reinsertion when you get to your destination. Just be sure that you get your own spine back, or you may notice a significant difference in your height.

Express Bus (patas)

This is the long-distance express bus with air conditioning, a toilet, a smoking room and more comfortable seats. However, as it is a high-speed bus, I would think this would be a cause for worry. Unless, of course, the driver has racecar-driver qualifications. You may find that you’d rather do the race-car driving yourself – by renting a car.

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