On a recent trip to Bali, Indonesia, to visit my cousin, I had quite the adventure on a 50cc scooter that I had borrowed for the day.
Exploring small alleyways, I soon found myself heading out of town. I came across a work site were old women were carrying bundles of bamboo on their heads. Made up of three or four five-inch diameter pieces, 12-15 feet in length, the bundles must have easily weighed 90 pounds each.
I ventured on to see how far these women were carrying the bamboo. I motored up a steep road, which then turned into a single skinny path. The path was surrounded by rice paddy fields on both sides. I rode for awhile on this path, then eventually stopped and turned around. I never saw how far the women walked, but I know it was very far.
On the way back into town I started down a one-way street in the opposite direction, like I’ve done before, having seen the locals do it all the time. However, this street happened to be adjacent to a small police station and I was quickly flagged down.
They blew their whistles and waved me over. When I pulled over next to them, one of the officers quickly reached over, turning off my scooter and taking the key. He then told me to come inside his booth with him and present my license.
Sitting next to me on a tiny bench as he smoked a cigarette, he told me the usual story: I could pay my fine now or at the court. He pulled out a list of fines and pointed to the one saying 250,000 rupee.
I shook my head and told him I couldn’t pay that much. I told him I would give him 50,000 and that I was sorry. He said I had to at least pay 200,000. One hundred thousand for him and the same for his partner.
After telling him several times that I could not afford his fee, I pulled out a 50,000 rupee note and put it on the table, then slowly started to stand up. Angered by my shrewd bribe he quickly handed me my license and my key and told me to leave. I hopped on the scooter and took off in the opposite direction, vowing not to go down any more one-way streets. (My vow was quickly broken when I realized the way I knew to get back home was down a one-way street.)
At the end of the day I was left with the same impressions I started the day with – that the Balinese people are a contented type, with ever-present smiles and a positive energy. Even after being shook down by a cop I still felt this way. This is a testament to how strong the Balinese spirit truly is.