Turning a thin corner to see the rice fields stretch ahead to the palms in the distance, or cycling down a busy (suburban?) street marked by high walls and lazy dogs are experiences that free you from the tension of hotels and taxi rides and being penned in at the markets.
But it’s even better riding a moped. You will see the real people and the ordinary sights (which is what you should be chasing) without being tricked into going where the taxi-drivers want you to spend money.
In Bali, everybody rides a scooter. The little five-year old taking his little sister to where the Balinese kids hang out. The grandmother taking her children, nieces, mother, the pet chicken, to work. The only exception are sheepish tourists who stare at the legion of scooters on the main roads and say to their partner, “no thanks, I want to live.”
In Ubud I walk on Monkey Forest Road and a man on the pavement asks me to check his scooters out. I’m interested, so he takes me down an alleyway and shows me the collection of Hondas. I didn’t know how to ride one, but at 50,000 Rupiah (5-7ish dollars) a day, I think it’s a great deal.
The paperwork is easy, they didn’t even care I couldn’t provide my passport – as long as I promised to return the next day with the details. They also weren’t bothered that I didn’t have my international license. Just be careful of being pulled over by the traffic police (I’ll post that story in future).
The man gives me a helmet and leads me to a pink scooter (I didn’t yet have the ability of bartering) and pushes me onto the busy road as I’m freaking out …he blocks a truck and I hold down the throttle and I gain momentum…and I’m free!