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  • Writer's pictureBeccy Fox

Past Thoughts from Bali Part 1: Mad as an Old Wet Hen.

It was raining this morning. This always makes for an interesting drive to work. The usual, mildly amusing sights were there: man on motorbike holding an umbrella as he drove along; family of four on motorbike hidden under black bin liners, but this morning surpassed all other rainy mornings. I was waiting at the traffic lights. A chicken was having a drink from a puddle. All of a sudden a motorbike clipped the edge of the puddle and drenched the chicken. Soaked. And astonished. I have never seen such an annoyed cockerel!

I nearly missed the green light for laughing and missing the green light is no laughing matter in this country. There is, what seems to be, an innate reaction to green lights. One must toot furiously as soon as the light turns green. God forbid you should put your foot on the gas a second too late! I find this ironic in a country that generally has a more relaxed attitude to time than the Western world. Actually there is nothing at all relaxed about driving here. Except maybe the rules of the road. It would at first appear that there are none. But as you take to the road you realise that there are a few, specifically designed to confuse the English driver. In England, flashing your lights at an on-coming vehicle means "you go ahead, I will wait for you." Here it means "Stay where you are: coming ready or not!" Another quirk of the Balinese car driver is indicator use. The usual indicator procedure is employed for turning left or right (also sometimes for a slight bend in the road) but hazard lights are employed for going straight on at a junction. Extremely confusing and disconcerting at first. For motorbike riders the rules are: there are no rules. Or maybe there is one rule. Use any tiny space of the carriageway you can just about squeeze yourself into. Motorbikes are a hazard for the naïve English driver. There are millions of them coming at you from all directions. No regard is given to anything going on behind them. They will, as a matter of principle, pull out in front of you in a death-defying exhibition of riding that would have made Evil Knievel proud. As someone said, driving here is like being in a Play Station game. You are moving forwards trying to avoid the many and varied obstacles that are coming towards you.

The other danger for me is the extraordinary sights you see. Up to five people on a bike at any one time. Live-stock on a bike (including goats). Dogs on a bike. A friend witnessed a dog hopping off a bike at the traffic lights, cocking his leg for a quick pee and jumping back on again just as the lights turned green. The aforementioned bike rider carrying an umbrella is always funny. There is a new and bizarre motorbike spectacle every week, if not every day. These can reduce me to giggles, but always make me take my eyes of the road to have a good look, thus loosing the necessary 110% concentration required to drive here.

So far I have survived this insanity. One of the Gods celebrated here is Brahma, the God of moving metal objects. He has a special day devoted to him when ceremonies are held, so that vehicles are protected. On this day you see motorbikes and cars festooned with beautiful offerings made of palm leaves and flowers. Maybe this helps in the land of the Gods? My car went for a service last week. The usual: oil change, tyres and water checked. When it was delivered back to me there was an offering on the dashboard. All part of the service! (First posted February 2008) #Bali


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