In New Zealand we call it tailgating. In Bali, it’s simply called driving. Bumper to bumper. Dodgem style all the way. It’s a mad mix of slow-moving cars surrounded by thousands of impatient motorcyclists, overtaking and cutting in at every opportunity. Driving around Bali’s popular tourist areas is horrific. The roads are chaotic and dangerous. Small villages have grown into busy tourist resorts. But the roads haven’t grown with them. Once-quiet country lanes are now pretending to be city highways. And they’re failing miserably. There are 3 or 4 fast moving freeways on the island. But in most of our outings, every street and road appears the same: absurdly narrow; a single lane in each direction, and no sidewalks for tourists and pedestrians. Let me repeat that. No footpaths.
Admittedly we’ve only experienced routes in the heavily populated southern regions around Denpassar, Ubud, Tanah Lot and Nusa Dua. But already we feel rather trapped by the chaos outside. Even weekend traffic is at breaking point. The clip below was recorded during our Saturday afternoon drive to Tanah Lot temple. This should be a 45 minute journey. But it took an hour and a half each way. So a total of three hours in slow-moving traffic, just to visit one nearby attractions. Authorities are apparently upgrading infrastructure as we speak. But thanks to poor planning (no room to widen existing roads), its hard to see where they’ll find space to free up the maddening congestion.
If driving is bad, taking a stroll is even more dangerous. Our neighbourhood Seminyak features many popular resorts, spas and restaurants. But walking here is full of risk and anxiety. Pavements are rare. And just to make life even more interesting, many neighbourhoods have missing manhole covers and exposed drains at regular intervals (see image below). You might survive the stroll. But how long will it take to recover from the fall?