It was just another day in Bali, if not quintessentially so. Enough, I felt, to dispel any lingering suspicions that I spend my days lolling by the pool, being waited on hand and foot, taking aimlessly long walks through expanses through rice fields as far as the eye can see. No, there was none of that – rarely is it so in this Ubudian’s quotidian life.
Instead, it was a day filled with bills to pay, southbound travel and a list of mundane errands.
We are a group of 4 in the car on the ride south, deep into the heart of uber-urbanized Seminyak. The techno/electro/punk/funk thumping that emits from boombox-like speakers in front seems to mirror the chaos on the roads.
Moments after I arrive and drop off my bag, I tell Dewi I need to get to Denpasar. I ask her for a helmet and moments later she returns with a black hoodlum-lookin’ contraption that immediately brings to mind Darth Vader. She wants me to wear this?!
Without much choice, I leave the compound with helm in hand, in search of a Go-Jek. A way-overdue addition to Bali’s dearth of public transport options, Go-Jek was developed as an app for getting an ojek (motorbike driver for hire). The inestimable value of this app – which sets a fixed rate for a given requested ride, based on distance – is that I am blessedly spared the frustration of negotiating each and every fare. Bless thee, Go-Jek.
Perched precariously on the back of the bike, I’m whisked off and onto one of Bali’s many highways. The driver is obviously in fine racing form, though perhaps a tad oblivious of the presence of a newbie passenger (and slow-moving Ubudian, moreover) at his back. We reach the Sony repair shop and I can’t leap off the bike quickly enough.
Against all odds, my camera is repaired. The shock (mine, that is) is palpable. Even though Ari, the young repair guy, sports one of those flimsy masks, I can still see a smile sneaking up his face. I check, double check, ask about a muted clicking sound. The guys humour me, then assure me of a 1-month warranty, and I’m on my way. Or at least I intend it to be so…
My next stop happens to be on the same road, a 5-minute drive away. Go-Jek doesn’t seem to understand how and why I’d want to go anywhere on the same miles-long stretch of road. I duck back into the shop and plead with Ari: won’t you please drive me there? Naturally, he obliges – and he refuses payment.
I get to the linen shop. They don’t have what I’m looking for. I attempt another Go-Jek request. Bingo. The driver arrives. I size him up as he isn’t in uniform. I just came down from Ubud, it’s been raining, so my jacket got wet. He shows me his phone, I spot my name and give him a thumbs up. Off we go. Another racer wannabe. At this point, I’m pretty grateful to be in a helmet of any size – even if I do look like Darth.
With a friendly send-off, I’m dropped a few steps away from a major intersection. I’m barely off the bike, the helmet still on my head, when a driver seated nearby pops the question: Driver? Taxi?
Ahhh.. bless the Gods of Go-Jek.