Some interesting facts about Bali that you won’t know by reading a guide book

So the longer we stay here, the more we learn about Bali. Here are a few things we’ve found interesting during our stay.

No high rise apartments or hotels, why?

Bali has one high rise building. Its the Inna Grand Bali Beach Hotel  and has about 9 floors. This was built prior to the current height restriction laws. These laws state that no building can be higher than a coconut tree. What a simple rule for keeping views around the island. Although, I did wonder if there is a specific tree all buildings must be measured against, or whether it’s just the one coconut tree closest to where you plan to build?

It’s no coincidence he’s called Putu as well!

Boys and men in Bali are typically called the same name, dependent on which order they are born; 1st, 2nd, 3rd child… There are only about 6 names in total. Because of this, you will discover quite a few people called Putu, Wayan, Kadek or Nyoman on your travels. Its good to use as a bit of an icebreaker when somebody asks us where we’re from and our names etc. They then say, “I am Kadek”. And we now know to reply, “Ahh, you’re third born! Do you have older brothers or sisters?”

This naming thing can however be a bit of a problem too. For example, a chap dropped by the other morning looking for our host Yok (this is his nickname, he is actually called Nyoman!). Yok had gone out for a bit, so we asked, “What’s your name? We can then tell Yok you called in and we’ll get him to contact you when he gets home.” He replied, “I am Wayan.” Later, when Yok returned, we explained his friend, Wayan, had dropped by. “Which Wayan? I know hundreds of people called Wayan!” Er, “Well, he was on a moped scooter… he had a black helmet… he wore glasses!” None of which were very helpful! We now know that we need to ask for a person’s nick name, as this will be how they are known amongst friends and associates. Problem solved!

Should I bother locking the door?

There are only a handful of front door keys for all the traditional old houses in Bali. Chances are your front door key will open your neighbours house too! Perhaps not the house immediately next door, but certainly the one 3 doors away. This may be useful if your neighbours are away at the next village for a ceremony and you are called upon to water their plants or feed their dog.

Pavements aren’t just for walking on

Nope, they are simply an extension of the road. When cars are in the way during heavy rush hour (or any hour around Kuta) and you are travelling by motorbike, simply follow the crowd and enjoy the extra space on a pavement to make progress along the route. People walking along the pavement? They will have to stand back and wait for you to pass!

The legal minimum age limit to ride a motorbike is 17

But don’t let that stop you. Simply pay the police if you get pulled over and then carry on your journey. We now know that the most important thing, before driving skills and safety, is that if we send Ruben out to the shops on the bike, he needs to carry 20,000 IR in his back pocket….

21st March is lights out day

Balinese New Year, Nyepe, is approaching and there will be a huge celebration the day before with lots of noise to scare off the bad spirits (banging pans and even gunfire…gulp). On the day of Nyepe everything is silent and no electricity, travel or light is permitted. Everybody stays at home and doesn’t cook, cold food is fine, but most Balinese don’t eat on this day. No TV or radio is transmitted during Nyepe and it is thought that soon, internet will also be briefly disconnected during this 24 hour period. After dark, no lights are permitted, not even candles are allowed. And Bali is the only place in the world where even the airport shuts for a 24 hour period during the bank holiday. These rules are taken very seriously and security guards from the village Banjar will patrol the streets and stop cars, motorbikes, cycles and even people just walking around. You are not allowed to leave your home environment, apart from in an extreme emergency.

But you crashed into me!!

Everybody on the roads has the equal right of way. If you are driving along and somebody pulls out of a side road and crashes into you, then you could be the individual to blame. After all, if you hadn’t been driving along the straight road, the crash probably wouldn’t have happened! At the end of the day, this kind of situation will be decided by a roadside standoff. Neither party will likely have insurance, so the usual thing to do is grab the opposing drivers car/bike keys, and not give them back until its sorted who is to blame, and who will be paying for any damage that may have occurred.

Horns are for pushing

In the UK, if you beep your horn at another driver, there is a good chance that they would get extremely angry, wave their hands about and swear at you. It’s regarded as an insult; a criticism that their driving isn’t up to society standards, and the beep is there to shame them. UK drivers will take a beep of the horn very personally.  In Bali, and Thailand too, the horn is your friend. It should rest comfortably under your thumb at all times, waiting to help you out, at all times, like a smile. A few beeps of the horn is your signal to other drivers to announce: “I say there fellow road user! Beware my friend, but I am coming past on your nearside. I have the wife and kids on the back of the bike and I’d appreciate a little space so we can both undertake the lorry and make haste through the red light! Fare well, good sir”.

The horn is there, use it! When waiting at the traffic lights with 30 other motorbikes, try and see if you can be the first to beep, just at the moment the light changes to green. This is Balinese for “Let’s gooooooooo!” Waiting at traffic lights is a very noisy affair!

Helmets must be worn

The law states that helmets must be worn when riding on a The kids new helmetsmotorcycle. However, kids don’t need them! We decided that our kids DO need them when riding on our bike and went straight to the local department store in Sanur to purchase them. Good for us, they were on offer and had 20% off. Being on a tight budget I think our investment was right to get the kids helmets. The £5 I spent on those two helmets was money well spent.

Dangerous snakes in the Paddy fields….

So I asked our host Yok (Nyoman!), if there are dangerous snakes in the paddy fields of Bali, as he has some land and is planning on taking us out there. Here’s his reply:
“Ahhhh, don’t worry! There are snakes, yeah, but they’re not the poisonous, biting kind. They’re the sort that chase you- you know, you run and they run after you, really fast! They’re not poisonous or anything like that. They don’t bite. These ones, when they catch you, they squeeze you ’til you die, something like that? You know the kind… big constrictors, I think they’re called? Aaron, why you look so worried?”

Rigggght. About that trip to your land Yok….

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