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  • Writer's pictureAnne McCormick

6 strange things you'll see in Bali before reaching the hotel

It’s a testament to humanity that we can build such varying cities with different traffic laws (sometimes no traffic laws at all!) and still manage to get through the day. In Bali, the main local choice of transportation is motorbike, and the traffic laws are… let’s say loose at best.

Here are 6 strange things you’ll notice on the way to your hotel, from the safety of your vehicle.

  1. Giant objects careening through traffic. In North America, we feel like we need to own a big vehicle to transport people and large things around town. The Balinese don’t let this stop them! Women who have their own food stalls ride their motorbikes to work, gracefully balancing all their containers of food on their heads. Workmen carry ladders and heavy construction materials propped awkwardly all over their bikes, and mattress salesmen pile their cumbersome wares high and wide, navigating narrow streets and sharp corners.

  2. Creative solutions to traffic jams. When traffic is slow, we North Americans sit obediently in line and grumble, sometimes resorting to honking our horns in frustration. In Bali, you’ll see motorbikes occasionally hop on the sidewalk to get around other vehicles.

  3. Country and city colliding on the streets. In Bali, where rice paddies and city buildings are often next door neighbours, you might spot an old Balinese farmer riding down a main downtown street, his creaky bicycle loaded high with bags of grass he cut for his cow.

  4. No need for traffic lines. In Bali, you’ll never see motorbikes travelling in single file. At stop lights, as many motorbikes as possible squeeze to the front of the line of traffic, between vehicles, waiting for the light to change.

  5. Multi-purpose roads. Yes, multi-purpose, not lane. Roads are for transportation, but they are not left out of the nature-based rituals and offerings of Balinese Hinduism. You’ll often see women laying offerings on the ground in the middle of busy intersections with vehicles whizzing chaotically past them.

  6. The new family Sedan. What do you do when your family is growing, but all you have is a motorbike? Find space for them! Entire families routinely pack onto a single bike to travel across towns and countryside, with all the things they need with them. I don’t know about your city, but if this ever happened in mine, it would be front-page news.

It is not news that the Balinese are not monetarily rich people, and by necessity they make what they have work in a pinch. They are however, rich in generosity, innovation, and gratitude, and this has a deep impact on my own spirit whenever I am there. Watching the traffic alone makes me realize how much I take for granted, and it makes me want to make do with what I have as well, rather than jumping on the latest gadget or item. So often, we already have everything we need.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever seen in traffic?

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