Stopped at the traffic lights on Jalan Sunset Road you would think that this would be a time of tranquility, a time for everyone to take a deep breath and enjoy the beautiful sunset Bali has to offer. This was not the case. I sat static on my moped, whilst a dozen sweaty Balinese locals surrounded me on their mopeds, yelling their native tongue, impatiently beeping their horns, weaving uncaringly in and out of the few whom were stationary in the traffic. Everyone fought to get to the stop line, even those with five surfboards on their head or a 6-person family aboard their motor (believe it!). The black and white curbs on the side of the road made it unquestionable that this was anything else but a Super Mario Kart race in real life… I was just waiting for the bananas to be dropped on the floor in front of me. The lights turned from red to orange, the revving of engines grew louder and the honking of horns became defeaning. And GREEN! The race was on. Locals whizzed passed tourists, whilst tourists flurried to get their mopeds going at even half the speed of the Balinese bikers. This was the rat race of Bali. And it was behind moped handlebars with adrenaline pulsing through my body and chaotic traffic all around me that I felt immersed into the Bali way of life.
If you hadn't already guessed the most popular way to get around Bali, for locals and tourists alike, is via moped - and this exotic island is nothing short of these crazy little things. Renting mopeds is super easy - there is pretty much a 'hire a scooter' sign or a local Balinese shouting 'motorbike?' on every corner in Kuta. To hire one, all you need is an International Driving License and you're good to go. We rented a moped and helmets from our hostel (Kayun Hostel - review coming soon) for around $10 for the entire day - bargain! Remember to check the moped for any scratches or dents before you head off (take a photo), as you don't want to be charged for any damages you didn't do! Helmets on, mopeds ready, map in hand, we were ready to check out all of the stunning white sandy beaches in the most southern part of Bali. Except, maybe not. The map was more confusing than a rubik's cube. Luckily, a friend of one of the hostel workers just happened to be passing by, we got chatting (the warmth of the locals is seen by their love to talk to new people) and before we knew it we had a tour guide for the day - Leon. Leon guided us along the bewildering Balinese roads and navigated us through the intertwining maze of locals to a number of blissful locations including Dreamland beach, Padang Padang beach, Uluwatu Monkey Temple and Jimbaran Bay (the latter two we will save for later in their own separate blog posts).
Our favourite stop on Leon's private tour was a beach that is tucked nicely away in Pecatu Village called Padang Padang - home to the Rip Curl Surf Cup every year. As you near the beach, small wooden make-shift signs with the words 'beach this way' carved into them will pop up directing you to this little treasure. Parking is located just off of Jalan Labuansait, and was free when we went but this may have changed now. From here, atop of a bridge, you get a breathtaking view of Padang Padang in all its entirety. The 100 metre white sandy beach is encapsulated by beautifully eroded limestone cliffs, wild green forestry and giant crashing waves from the aqua clear Indian Ocean (the waves at Padang Padang are pretty powerful so are most suited to intermediate or pro surfers). To get to this piece of paradise, you must descend a set of narrow stairs that cut right through a crevice in the cliffs. After about 100 stairs, you'll find yourself stepping onto the warm soft sand greeted by an array of different characters on the beach - local vendors trying to sell colourful mandala-printed sarongs, warungs offering fresh juices straight out of coconuts, tourists soaking up the rays of the sun, and surfers riding the humungous swells of the Indian Ocean. We wanted to be a part of it, so we laid down our newly bought sarongs/towels and enjoyed the rest of the afternoon the Padang Padang way.
Exploring Bali via moped is an invigorating, fun, cheap, and even a little hair-raising at times, experience that you should put high on your bucket list when visiting this Indonesian island!