Growing up I have always wanted to know what it felt like to sit on a motorcycle, let alone actually ride it myself, and I eventually got the opportunity to learn how to ride one in Bali, in 2017 when I went on holidays with my family. Bali is an island located in Indonesia, South East Asia. It is famous for its tropical weather, great beaches and waves (famous amongst surfers), volcanic mountains and natural scenery. We stayed for 3 weeks at a hotel called The Haven in Seminyak, a beach resort area, packed with tourists from around the world. We were joined by 2 of my cousins from Australia who were not new to Bali since they visit every year due to it being so close to Australia, but this was later on at the hotel.
Since you get your holiday visa on arrival, we had to line up in a long queue which took us a whole 30 minutes before making it to the baggage claim area. After getting our bags we made our way outside which was packed with taxi drivers and private drivers that surrounded us like paparazzies offering to take us to our hotel, each offering a cheaper price than the previous one. It almost felt as if we were harassed.
Tip – Make sure to contact your hotel to book a driver in advance, saves a lot of time and hassle! If you’re feeling spontaneous then travel in a blue bird taxi (They’re an actual taxi company and you can always negotiate prices with them since they don’t always stick to the meter.)
Despite Bali being relatively safe, we made sure we had our guards up since it was our first time visiting. Luckily our driver sent by the hotel was there waiting for us. We asked if he could wait while we exchanged currency, but he told us not to bother since the exchanging fees at airports were very high.
Tip – You can always find a currency exchange shop with low rates and no commission fees in the streets of central Kuta (Close to the airport).
Despite the traffic being insane compared to what I’m used to here in Europe, the traffic laws didn’t seem to make up for it. After exchanging our pounds to the local currency Rupiah in Kuta, we made our way to the hotel which was supposed to take us around 10 minutes, although it took us longer due to the traffic. Completely different from anywhere I’ve been to in the western world, Bali felt like paradise with the scorching heat hitting my face and the first thing I noticed was the amount of motorbikes on the road. It seemed like the roads were covered in the them, with all sorts of shapes and sizes but one thing that caught my eye the most was the amount of people not wearing a helmet in central Kuta and Seminyak and the police just didn’t seem to care.
Tip – Despite seeing people not wearing helmets, it is advised that you wear it due to the crazy traffic and some corrupt police officers look for an easy target to bribe (YES CORRUPT POLICE OFFICERS). This brings me to the time where they stopped me and asked for 200,00IDR but I’ll get to that later.
After settling in at our hotel, one of my cousins from Australia, Jacinta planted the idea in my head that we should rent motorbikes to get around quicker. She told me about how you were able to rent a motorbike for less than 10,000IDR a day which is equivalent to less than 10$. This didn’t happen because the rest of my cousins and I were too scared to ride a motorbike on my first day there (I certainly didn’t want to die abroad) and since we arrived around midday, we had plenty of time to explore and get around on our first day. After getting ready to go out, we decided to look for a nice restaurant to have lunch since we were starving, and we came across a Cantonese restaurant in Kuta called seafood house. It had live fish, crabs, lobsters and other marine animals swimming in tanks and the chefs would fish it out before cooking it according to how we’d like it (Definitely not your ideal restaurant if you find that cruel). This was a new experience for me and although I was first sceptical about it all, the waiters were very nice and friendly, they explained how everything was done and how we were able to choose how we’d like our ‘fresh, live fish’ cooked.
After lunch we walked towards Kuta beach which wasn’t far and since it was right across Beachwalk shopping centre, we got a little shopping done. Despite the beach not being very clean with people offering to sell (harassing us to buy) souvenirs and fake sticker tattoos and forcing to show their clothing stores at the back of dodgy alley ways, it was very refreshing with a long coast line. Since the waves were quite high, it was a popular spot for surfers and not so much for regular bathers. Padang beach and Nusa Penida were much suitable for bathers with breath-taking natural scenery.
After spending most of our day exploring, we decided to head back to our hotel to get ready for our first night. We decided to head to a live music/salsa restaurant in Seminyak, down the road from our hotel where I ordered the best Nasi goreng I have ever tried (Nasi goreng’s literal translation to English is fried rice). I was served with fried eggs, shrimp and chicken and I hope I come across it again someday. After having dinner and a few drinks, we met a Brazilian tourist who stayed at the same hotel as us and so we all got blue bird taxis to a beach party in Canggu called sandbar where we partied till 4am. The vibes were insane and if you think your dance moves are great, try dancing on sand!
Despite not sleeping till 5 am, I woke up in the morning determined to learn how to ride a motorbike. I decided to ask my cousin to teach me and so we were off. Now if you’re an adventurer and somewhat of an adrenaline junkie, there is no chance that you would let this opportunity slip through your fingers. We found the nearest motorbike rental (despite looking nothing like a rental place), and we decided to start off with an easy one. At the time I only had my provisional licence, but they didn’t even seem to care if I had one, all I had to do was leave an I.D as insurance so I just gave them my student card (Never leave your passport). We rented 2 motorbikes for 1 week with the option of extending.
So off we went, my very first time on a motorbike and despite only being a passenger, I was over the moon, taking pictures and making videos of everything as embarrassing as that may sound. We stopped at a quiet ally way that was wide and long enough to ride in the first thing my cousin told me to do was hop on. She didn’t even bother sitting behind me knowing what the consequences might be. All I had to do was gas it a bit and off I went, very slowly. My other cousins and I practiced a few times before finding a quiet road to try ride on. Although it wasn’t a big motorbike, it was a big deal for me as I learned it in a completely different country with different rules or almost without any rules. I kept practicing for the next 2 days before being confident to ride on busier roads during off-peak hours. It might sound insane, but I stuck to the side of the road, doing 25mph and annoying drivers behind me. It wasn’t till near the end of my trip where I finally found the courage to speed up a little and swerve in between cars and motorbikes.
Probably one of my proudest moments. I got faced my fears, gained new experiences and came back home with stories that I’ll be proud to tell. My main highlights of the whole trip were holding a python around my neck (It was heavy), learning how to ride a motorbike which I also took turns riding from Semimyak to Uluwatu, going to the WaterBom, going to open air bars like single fin bar (amazing views), and last but not least, going to a monkey forest full of monkeys in Ubud.
Joel Silva is a final year BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations student at Ulster University. He can be found on Twitter – @joelsilva2112 and Instagram – @_joelsilva21.