Planet Hiker
2008-10-22 Motorbike, Motorbike, Bali, Indonesia


Yesterday someone tipped me off it only costs 40,000RP to rent a scooter - about $4US. That's when it hit me why every time I took a walk around the block, there was a bombardment of outcries, sounding off “Motorbike? Motorbike?” Since rental vehicles in general are ideal for learning, I decided to give it a shot, ignoring the very real danger of a serious accident. indonesia java sail ships docked at sea

So this morning I stepped out of the hotel into a narrow alley full of shops that sell cheap souvenirs, and immediately there was someone with an offer. It was a boy in his early 20s, sitting on a small scooter, which he was about to entrust in my hands. There was a spark in his eyes and his eager smile hinted of the commission that he’d be getting.

“How much do you charge?” I asked.
“40,000 per day” he replied.
He asked me if I have a license, to which I firmly replied with “No”.
“No problem. If the police stops you, just pay a small 'fee' of 20,000RP”.
Ahh, bribery, the best feature of 3rd world countries.
“OK, so how do I turn this thing on?” I asked.
A little baffled by my ignorance he showed me where to insert the ignition key.“And this is the start button” he pointed and pressed. The engine gently woke up from its sleep, purring quietly and obediently.
“OK, and where is the break?”

I could tell that the eager smile was beginning to fade off of his face.
“This is the front break and this is the rear break. Just use the rear one – it’s easier that way”.
“OK, and the gas?”
“It’s this handle, but please be slow and careful” he pleaded.
“Sure, sure, why don’t I practice a little?” I asked.
He nodded as I took hold of the handlebars.

The next few moments were fun for me, fun for the spectators, but not so much fun for the boy or the shop owners in the alley, who’s racks full of slippers, t-shirts and cheap bracelets were sticking out from every direction. Having barely touched the gas, the scooter farted loudly and leaped forward. My feet scrambled through the air while I rigorously utilized the handlebars, dodging the people and the souvenir racks. Somehow, I managed to avoid the immediate obstacles, nearly missing all of them, and came to an area wide enough for a u-turn. With a bit of wobbling but still in one piece, I rode the scooter back to where I started.

The boy’s eager smile was definitely no longer there… I tried to cheer him up a bit but inevitably he uttered “May be it’s better if you rent a motorbike from someone else… I have a friend just 50 meters down the street, on the left side – try there”. Since it was easier to walk the 50 meters than to try to convince him that his motorbike is safe (which would be an obvious lie), I thanked him, found out his name, and continued down the alley.

“Motorbike? Motorbike?” I heard shortly after.
“Well, yes” I replied.
There was a man, wearing a dirty baseball cap and presumably fake Ray Ban sunglasses.
“Do you know how much it is?” he asked.
“It’s 40,000” I replied.
He though about it for a second and said “I will give youa nice one for 50,000”. I figured not to argue over the extra 10,000, which by the way, amounted to about $1 US dollar, letting him think that he is the one getting the better of the deal (proper risk assessment analysis would have shown otherwise). With that he showed me to a scooter of exactly the same model as the one I just saw.

Having learned my previous lesson, I was quick to point out where the gas and the break handles were and even where the ignition key goes. Apparently that was enough to satisfy his sense of caution so I proceeded to fill out a small paper slip with my name a made up passport number. I then handed him the money, started the engine and as carefully as possible, rolled the scooter out, proceeding to ride it through the alley back to the hotel. Apparently, some of the original spectators were still there because I was welcomed by a cheer from several complete strangers, as I proudly rode the scooter passed the souvenir racks.