Our Fine Four-Fendered Friend

By Amy Chavez
For The Bali Times

While you’re holidaying in Bali, you’ll probably want to extend your tentacles a bit and see some different places on the island. Fortunately, hiring a car in Bali is very easy. No matter what you happen to be doing right now, such as reading this newspaper, the next person who makes eye contact with you will likely be someone offering transport.

These people have small PA systems installed in their lungs which enables them to yell out “Transport!” to many tourists at the same time, which is apparently the secret to renting out vehicles. Personally, I think “Transport!” sounds more like a drinking cheer.

“Transport!” is most often called out to passing tourists who really shouldn’t be walking anyway. I mean, have you seen the state of Bali’s sidewalks? They are clearly overused as it is.

Hiring a car yourself is not any safer or faster than walking, but it’s more fun because it requires multitasking. When was the last time you had to open a window by turning the crank with one hand, and pushing the window down with the other, while maneuvering the steering wheel with your knee?

My favorite vehicle to rent is the Jimney, or “Jimmy” as many of the locals call it, possibly to make it sound more like it is related to you. Uncle Jimmy is a true family vehicle. And it is certainly old enough to be your uncle; these cars predate catalytic converters.


And like a kind old uncle, Jimney lets you play out your childhood dream: to actually ride inside that Tonka Toy vehicle. The main advantage of this small, compact 4-wheel drive made by Suzuki is that it can be driven up on to the sidewalks to get around stopped traffic. How cool is that?

The walls of the Jimney are very thin, so if you have an accident, you and the entire car will become roadkill. So I recommend you wear a motorcycle helmet while driving. Or maybe an American football helmet would be better. And while you’re at it, you may as well put on the entire uniform, padding and all.

When you get into your newly rented vehicle, you may find some Hindu offerings on the dashboard. This is to purify the car and make it safe. The god of blood and guts has been pacified. Maybe.

In many Western countries, wearing a seatbelt is compulsory. So when you get inside the Jimney and reach back to grab the seatbelt, you may be surprised to find that it is, well, not really there. Instead there is a length of seatbelt material with a knot in one side to attach it to the car. These seatbelts couldn’t save your life even with an extended warranty. But why would you want a seatbelt anyway? I mean, what makes you think you’re so special? This is a country where kids go without helmets on motorbikes and people die of dengue fever and malaria every year. And you want a seatbelt?!

The seatbelt is more a fashion statement among Jimney enthusiasts, who drive around Bali with it hanging out the bottom of the car door.

To call this car a lemon would be politically incorrect. Let’s just call it a ventally challenged vehicle. Meaning, of course, that there are no vents and thus little ventilation.

Should you try to rectify this by opening the windows, then do so with two hands as previously mentioned, forcing the window down with one while turning the crank with the other. To close the window, do the opposite, pushing up hard enough on the side of the window to leave large smear marks from your hands.

Speaking of doors, you may be surprised by their Batman-like quality that makes them pop open with just a touch of the handle. They may even slam into the car parked next to you. This car is definitely missing a few springs.

You may also notice that the sun visors don’t work (if there are any at all) and that when it rains, the rain somehow comes into the car even though the windows are closed. Other times the floor will heat up so much that you could swear it’s going to burst into flames.

Some Jimneys have had several coats of paint to keep them looking new, while others are dressed up with stickers sporting catchy slogans such as “Jerkaholic” or “Stickit in her Ass.”

But drive it proudly as these are the things that add to the mystique of the avuncular Suzuki Jimney. Hooray! Cheers! Transport!

Tips on Renting — Learn to hem and haw
Jimneys rent for around Rp100,000 (US$10.90) per day (cheaper if you rent for longer than a week). They’ll try to get you to pay Rp20,000 per day extra for insurance, but if you hem and haw, they’ll throw it in for free. You’ll also have to sign a waiver agreeing to pay up to $750 should something happen to the car, but you can hem and haw it down to $200 or maybe even less. After all, $750 is probably more than the vehicle is worth.

Amy Chavez, who is frequently driven around the bend, can be contacted at amychavez2000@yahoo.com.

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