The New Mobile Office

By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times

If you want to get around Bali on your own, I recommend renting a motorbike.
I learned how to ride a motorbike, figuring it would as safer than driving a car, because at least on a motorbike I could hear the pedestrians scream before I almost ran them down. Besides, learning to ride a motorbike would be easy – it’s just a horse on wheels. I imagined riding my metal horse on the road among other moving hunks of metal, like a metal horse race. It must be similar to what rush hour was like before they invented the automobile: workers stampeding home on horses.
Bali is a chaotic place to learn to ride a motorbike, but more convenient because you don’t need a license. Of course, you’re supposed to have one, but a cursory look at the drivers on the road tells you that licenses are not a high priority. When I saw 10-year-old Indonesian kids driving motorbikes, I knew even I could do it.
The first thing I learned is that the less developed the country, the more likely livestock will cross the road in front of you. Indonesia is a country where you experience your food before you eat it. You can be riding along on your motorbike when suddenly a whole herd of steak will cross the street. You will see chicken cordon bleu playing in the small gang lanes as tomorrow’s eggs benedict cackles on the side of the road.
The reason for this is simple: free advertising. With cattle constantly crossing the road in front of you, restaurants don’t need to spend money advertising their steaks – they’ve got live advertising instead. When cows cross the street, it’s really just a commercial break in your driving. Think about it. You’ve never seen a commercial for rice, have you? That’s because the rice paddies along the road are one big rice commercial working on your subconscious. You’re sure to go home craving rice. Now wonder Indonesians eat so much rice – they’re practically brainwashed through ricefield advertising.
This is also why there are so many pizza commercials on TV. Pizza doesn’t grow in fields, nor do you ever have to put on the brakes to let a pizza cross the road in front of you. Therefore people don’t order pizza until they see a commercial on TV. Pizza commercials are most often aired at night, so as not to have to compete with the free advertising for steak and rice anymore.
Once I learned to navigate around livestock, the next thing to learn was how to follow directions. I’m from the US, where we have landmarks. Even in the middle of the countryside anyone can understand the simple directions: turn right at the McDonald’s, then left at the Burger King. Any child in any part of the world who watches TV could follow the directions around the US without ever having been there.
But in Bali, there are no Burger Kings and few McDonald’s. Sometimes there are no buildings at all. Directions tend to be, “Go that way.” I was soon trying to make my own landmarks. “Remember to turn right at that food vendor’s cart,” I told myself. But I soon realized there was a food cart on every corner. Was that a right at the fried banana cart, fried tofu cart, or the fried noodle cart? Finally, I changed my strategy to potholes and puddles: turn right at the double-wide pot hole, then left at the kidney-shaped puddle.
Everyone in Bali uses the horn when riding a motorbike. Although I have found it to be very useful, when it comes to deaf Indonesian chickens and dogs wandering across the road, I believe a stun gun would be better. With a laser stun gun mounted in the headlight, you could stun the animals, and anything else, before they even put a foot into your lane.
If it’s the other drivers that are causing you worry, then you are at an advantage with a motorbike. You can simply maneuver around the clutter and squeeze into micro-gaps in the traffic. If you are trying to turn onto a road that is really gridlocked, I recommend you employ a technique I call the Big Squeeze. Slowly make your way out into the moving traffic, centimeter by centimeter, without ever coming to a complete stop, effectively squeezing the traffic to a halt.
If you are a woman, you will find it extremely effective if you do the Big Squeeze extra politely, like the Balinese women do. Remember, posture is all important. Sit on the bike with your back perfectly straight or slightly arched. Consciously press the knees together to look dainty, and carefully, being sure not to bank into any of your turns, steer the motorbike straight into the traffic as if you are precariously perched on top of the bike and could fall off at any moment. Absolutely everyone will make way.
Within no time you will be stopping amidst traffic to check your SMS messages or to take a call on your mobile. You may even find that you spend so much time on your motorbike that it has become your new mobile office. With chicken cordon bleu always close by.

Amy Chavez is a lover of all things Bali – and bovine – and divides her time between Bali and Japan. She can be contacted at

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