It is Not Polite to Stop at a Red Light

Feb 10, 2019     Indonesia     My Adventures
If you stop at a red light or if you don't go BEFORE the green light, the other drivers will let you know about it.
If you stop at a red light or if you don't go BEFORE the green light, the other drivers will let you know about it.
With an average of over 200 motorbike deaths in Bali every month, I found myself quite wary of hitting the road, even in a smaller village. But I put on my big girl pants and did it.
I have been here for over 3 weeks and have not taken the motorbike out once. Not once! I've had Pak. Nyoman drive me the few places I have absolutely had to go, and utilized the weekly invitations from the neighbors to join them on their shopping trips.

I feel so lame that I haven't gone out, then I get out there on the back of Nyoman's bike or even in the neighbors' (K & D's) car and the fear is freshly instilled in my psyche. First of all, they drive on the left side of the road so there's that to get used to. But then the way they drive on these small crowded streets! We'll be passing a car with a car and a few motorbikes coming at us in the other lane. No problem, we all just share the on-coming lane as our bike goes in between the two cars going opposite directions.
Even in the car it's scary out there. You can't take your eyes off the road for a second. Look at this blue truck about to come right into our lane.
Even in the car it's scary out there. You can't take your eyes off the road for a second. Look at this blue truck about to come right into our lane.
When K & D first arrived in Bali, they were driving with a local friend of theirs. They stopped at a red light and the man helpfully let them know that it's impolite to stop at a red light. LOL! It's appropriate for at least 2 cars to go through a red light. And sure enough, when we do stop at a red light, the car behind us zooms around us to go through the intersection The nerve of us!

Similar to the states, a yellow light means "go". But here that pertains to the yellow light that comes right BEFORE the green light (yes it goes red, yellow, green). So that, paired with the opposite traffic not stopping at their red is a combination that will keep you on your toes!

There are motorbikes coming and going from every direction, in and out of the road. And honestly the intersection in my neighborhood to get out to the main road scares me almost as much as the road itself. They do obey the light, but once it turns green, the vehicles going straight? The turning bikes seem to ignore them completely and will turn right in front of them.
This is the intersection to go to my house. It's really not necessary to stay in your own lane.
This is the intersection to go to my house. It's really not necessary to stay in your own lane.
So anyway, I had my second visit to immigration this morning to extend my visa. Pak. Nyoman was so nice and took me last week and I just couldn't do it do him again. I decided to drive myself. Not giving myself a choice. It's time to get on that damn bike.

Monday morning, okay I've got all my stuff, nice outfit, close-toed shoes for the motorbike, ready to go. Here I go. I can tell I'm a bit wobbly, especially around corners but I think I'll get this. Hell, Cynthia and I took motorbikes all over Bagan in Myanmar without any problem at all! Why should I have any issue here?

I hit the intersection, focus, focus. Green light - woohoo - no other bikes coming into my lane? Right on. Wobble wobble wobble. OMG I must look ridiculous.

I did pretty good during the 30 minute drive. I went slowly but did manage to pass a few people and even a car or two! That was a bit nerve wracking. You simply cannot take your eyes off the road, even for a second. Someone will be coming into your lane from the right and pull directly over into the slow side (until they pick up speed) but they'll cut right in front of you to do it! And you might think you have a respite if your lane is rather empty but no, a truck and a few motorbikes might decide to pass in oncoming traffic meaning your lane fills up with barely room for you and your bike over to the far side with all these vehicles coming straight at you.

All of the landmarks that I had taken note of when Pak. Nyoman took me did absolutely no good. The bridge I noted? There were at least 3 bridges. The unique buildings and rice paddies? Everything looked the same.

I don't even know how I found it, but I did catch a glimpse of the orange immigration sign just as I was passing it. I pulled over and (barely) managed to cross traffic to get over there. Now I can breathe. OMG I made it.

On the way home it seemed quite a bit easier. I even managed to make a stop at the ATM, did a little shopping, got some juice at the big grocery store, and was feeling pretty good. I was even enjoying myself.
I love seeing the local culture when driving around. I even like passing the smell of durian fruit being sold on the side of the road.
I love seeing the local culture when driving around. I even like passing the smell of durian fruit being sold on the side of the road.
Did a little shopping at the Krishna shopping tourist mecca.
Did a little shopping at the Krishna shopping tourist mecca.
Then a bit of harsh reality set me in my place. My driving was fine thankfully (even keeping up with traffic a bit better than on the way out). But in the other lane was a dog flailing about, yelping, looking at his side that was completely skinned from being hit by a car. :( Oh no. Poor thing. What do I do? Same as everyone else. I just kept going. There is so much traffic, surely they know what to do in a situation like this. Someone has to put that dog down and quickly.

Sudden flashbacks to the puppy we ran right over the first night I went on the neighbor's weekly dinner outing with them. I couldn't sleep that night because all I could see what that little puppy just sitting there staring at us waiting to get nailed with a direct hit by the little blue Toyota. I know, it's all part of life and I appreciate that all parts of life are on direct display here. But man, that shit is hard to see.

Being brought back down to earth from my "fun" scooter ride, I made my way home to realize I had locked myself out.
Finally made it to the safety of home and I'm locked out. :(
Finally made it to the safety of home and I'm locked out. :(
UPDATE: I can now drive the Singaraja - Seririt road like it's nobody's business. That or maybe it's more like a white-knuckled grandma but whatever. I'm out there.
Keep your bag or backpack at your feet. Bag grabbers are out there that will grab your bag off your back as your are riding which of course causes you to crash but they don't care as since they just want your bag!
If you get pulled over, the police will likely ask you to pay a fine. Politely say no that you do not want to pay now and to please just give you the ticket. Most of the time you will be on your way without a ticket.

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