When we were in Bali it was wonderful to be in a land where everyone thought like us- 2 wheels good, 4 wheels bad. Whether we were riding scooters or our lovely bicyclesthe breeze and mobility in the traffic was always a relief.In Canggu (my favourite place we visited) we met the wonderful Ali at the luscious Voyager Creative Retreat. Our twosome quickly became a threesome as we bonded over vodkas and Bintangs. Ali was a trooper, and decided that she would get a bicycle also so we could get around together. Scott dinked her up to the bike shop and she got the last Pheonix in the “store.” What an absolute star she was, riding her old wobbly bike on Balinese roads, always with a grin on her face. She was the best bike gang member.
Then our little gang got motorised and we headed to Ubud for a day trip, where we ate amazing suckling pig and I ate the best ever icecream. I didn’t have the metal to ride my own scooter, so Scott kindly let me pillion, but Ali was amazing, weaving in and out of traffic, performing death defying stunts, what can I say, she is just amazing. What can’t she do?!
Ali, you made our trip to Bali so memorable and fun. Can’t wait to see you in America! We’ll never forget scootering in Bali
Although we probably did not do enough cycling to justify the amount of Indonesian food we were eating in Bali, man oh man, what delicious food! I justified how gluttonous I was in terms of how difficult it was to ride our vintage Phoenix bikes.
Our favourite Indonesian Food
Our favourites thing seemed to be Bakar, or grill, where you get to pick the fish or piece of meat you want grilled over coals and you eat it on little plastic stools in the market. 2 whole fish with rice and greens usually cost, and of course a Bintang, only about $7. We ate the yellow tail, mmmmm.
This was the best ice-cream I have ever had in my entire life- Honeydew Melon, I only found it once, and searched for it every day.Suckling pig in Ubud. Well worth the ride Holy Shed Bricks- Balinese pancakes on steroids. It only cost $1. Ridiculous.
The happy burger debacle
This is called a happy Burger. It is made in a street cart and looks much cuter than it tasted.
The warung food where you pick what you want from several dishes of food was also a favourite. I fell in love with the tempeh they do, but then again put enough sambal on anything and I’d eat it.
The best jelly, red bean and coconut milk drink at Denpasar market. Sooooo delicious. Indonesian food is varied and delicious.
Bullshit good dogs are everywhere. Global. Regional. Local. Dogs. As humans little is as a comforting as the unconditional love of a dog. Bali, is a beautiful mess and thus is a dog’s paradise. All dogs here are inside dogs, they run the place. Bali’s dogs are happy dogs.
Dogs in Bali
We had the pleasure of meeting some seriously good pooches in Bali.We won’t lie, some street dogs were mean, I had to keep reminding myself after a few too many Bintangs not to pat them. Woops. Here’s a selection of my favourites. Sorry for the creepy eyes.
On Gili Trawangan there are no motorised vehicles of any sort: no cars, no scooters and no motorbikes. It is a paradise for many reasons but the lack of fuming, noisy engines is noticeable as soon as you alight from the boat from Bali.
For transport the thriving building industry is reliant on horse and carriage, how perfectly quaint instructs the tourist board, and locals move about the island on a myriad of modified bicycles: of this the Bike Gang approves.
Crazy bikes on Gili T
The personalisation of bicycle ranges from creative to down-right dangerous, I saw one young chap steering his bicycle with bars no more than two inches wide and bent back toward him in a U-shape with barely enough room for his fingers to hold the grips, his bike also featured no brakes. The fixie movement has a lot to answer for even here in Bali, or perhaps adolescence is to blame, and quite possibly boredom. There sure are a lot of crazy bikes on Gili T.
It seems you are never further than three meters from someone who wants to offer you a bicycle to rent, more of a curse than a blessing. The island is flat and outside of the main tourist area the road is unsurfaced. Cycling all the way around the island can be accomplished in under half an hour.
The alternative: horse and buggy
The horse and buggy transport seems redundant as walking the main street takes little more than 15 minutes, but with nothing else to do but drink and swim the distraction is welcome. Regardless of having very few customers the Janur Indah, as the carts are known, race up and down the main strip with little care for the safety of pedestrians, this adds an exciting survival aspect to the short stroll from one bar to the next.
I’m unsure how it can to be that scooters and cars have been banned from the island, perhaps it is the cost of importing them here, or the lack of infrastructure and roads. There are also no dogs on the island, but are instead overrun with cats with genetically twisted and deformed tails. Gili Tarawonga is a peculiar place but it would seem that someone had a vision for what sort of place it should be: a place where no cars go and the crazy bikes on Gili T rule the road.
Milestones are a funny thing. I’m turning thirty. I’m not going to say that I don’t care, or that it doesn’t mean anything to me, because it does. I’m sad to say goodbye to frivolous adolescence, to the time in my life when almost any behaviour can be blamed on youth. I’m going to have to come up with some new excuses.
Becoming old comes with plentiful new responsibilities: further establish myself in a career, start thinking about having children, buy a dog and feel guilty if I don’t feed it premium brand food, have a car that is purchased with servicing included, buy house and content insurance, buy a house and contents, have the dog microchiped, read Sunday papers in a cafe without a hangover. These are all expectations one can have of a recently turned thirty-year-old man.
An undeserved vacation
Instead of doing any of those things I am on a two week holiday in Bali. Hang on, you might say, aren’t you about to take four months out to ride across the United States of America? I admit it, indulgence is a terrible character trait. But I have been in Bali for a week and I can say that this holiday has been one of the better decisions of my life.
Cycling in Bali
I’m not getting into the tropical paradise and surfing heaven aspects of Bali, or our great accommodation at Voyager Creative Retreats, I’m going to leave them alone in favour of talking about the bikes we have rented for our time in Canggu, an hour north along the coast from the tourist Mecca of Kuta. At first I wasn’t so sure cycling in Bali is a good idea, but it’s worked so far.
These bikes are beast, probably around 15kg+ in weight and made from old-fashioned steel. They are both Phoenix branded and made in China. They certainly have their problems, a lack of speed and stability being the two greatest concerns, but who needs a bike that works when travel looks this charming.
I’ve managed to attach a canvas bag to my rack, a makeshift pannier easily big enough for my rashvest and sunscreen on my daily trip to Batu Bolong beach where I make short work of the mushy beginner waves on my longboard.
At night the road ahead is lit brightly courtesy of Jo-Roxy’s dynamo headlamp. I remain powered by Bintang alone and can see in the darkness and glow fluorescently, such are my thoughts. Though, I’m not advocating drinking while cycling in Bali, leave that to the scooter drivers.
What’s it like cycling in Bali
Scary. Beautiful. Possible. This close to the coastline hills are a rarity, which is lucky because we’d have an awful time pushing the bikes up even the slightest incline. We also could have rented better bikes, but hey, we look cool.
Cost of renting a bike in Bali
I struck a deal with our friends at the bike shop, I’m not sure that they usually rent these bikes out but I persuaded them with 200,000 IDR for 6 days, near enough to $3.30AUS a day. Cycling in Bali is cheap. The time to hand the bikes back to their owners draws near and I already know that I will remember them as fondly as I will remember my adolescence.
Not on the trip of a lifetime, on a lifetime trip. Writer, traveler, gentleman surfer.