Going shopping on a motorbike

June 29, 2009

I need to deal with a cultural shift here. I have always had a car. The only thing I ever had to worry about was whether the newly purchased flat-pack furniture was actually going to fit in the car, or whether it was going to hang out of the boot or window until I got it home. Now my transport is a motorbike – a small motorbike, and suddenly life is very different.

Shopping on a motorbike needs several adjustments, not in the least of which is remembering that you don’t have a car while actually buying things. 

Take today’s excursion as an example. I’m not dumb – I did actually remember I was on a bike on the way to the shops and even took a knapsack. Mr. Foresight at his best. It’s just that while in the department store, with no helmet to remind me, all memory of how I got there evaporated.

So once I acquired the large rice cooker, several large bags of groceries (green, re-useable bags of course) and a 10kg bag of rice, I found myself staring at my tiny bike, jammed in tight with others in Kuta square and thinking “Oh yeah, there’s no boot …”  The Parkir guy was unsuccessfully trying to hide his amusement while several tourists tried to hide their disbelief at my optimism – which actually was at a low ebb at that moment.

My knapsack was stuffed to bursting – and was heavy. The rice cooker was bigger than I thought, and wouldn’t fit in the floorwell as I had hoped. The remaining two bags, one with a dozen eggs (what was I thinking?) wouldn’t fit either. So the solution was to hang everything from the flimsy little plastic hook so that it hung out to each side of the bike. The thing looked like a pre-op Dolly Parton and was suddenly a lot wider than it was before …

When I finally managed to get the bike out of the parking space (after moving four others) it was into peak traffic in Kuta for the short, but convoluted trip back to Legian. Realisation One dawns: there’s no room for my feet! I have to stick them out to the sides, making me even wider, or put them on the pillion pegs and look like Mick Doohan in full racing stance, but on a moped. 

Realisation Two follows closely behind: you can’t split lanes or filter through traffic easily when riding something the width of a small rhinoceros. The patience of other riders here is legendary, but I think I pushed the envelope a little today.

Realisation Three happens one minute later: you must not hit bumps! That’s a restriction that is grossly unfair in Bali. The poor bag hook was ready to shear off every time I hit a pothole and visions of massive grocery spillage right across Bemo Corner were making me sweat more than usual.

I made it safely, but thank heavens I didn’t like the colour of the 20 litre rice bucket I was about to buy.



  1. I’m starting to realise that this may be actually the norm here. Saw a guy today on a motorbike with his wife and 2 kids aboard, 4 bags of shopping AND a 4.5 metre bundle of curtain tracks. Sir Made Lancelot was filtering through heavy traffic in Jl. Legian, seemingly without a care in the world …

  2. This is pretty funny. Wish you’d taken a photo of Mr Silly. 🙂 I always wondered why, in India, entire extended families would all travel on one motorbike. Now I know: they keep forgetting they don’t have a car! 🙂 Enjoy your rice!

  3. Update: Today in Seminyak I saw two on a bike – not carrying, but *dragging* four 7 metre umbul-umbul poles behind them. The curved bits were facing up in front of the bike like a Viking ship and a good 5 metres were just slithering around on the road behind them …

  4. well, congratulation you can do it in jl legian where the crowded so bad. Can’t imagine it…..

  5. God, I haven’t laughed so much since.. since I did the same/similar last week. 2-up on the bike, 2 full suitcases, 2 knapsacks and a large framed painting from Sesetan to Seminyak – quite proud of that achievement actually!
    Closely followed by a trip from Seminyak to Singaraja last Saturday, 2-up on a scooter to our friend Made’s place. Not far he said, which is true enough, but it was bloody cold and wet on the way back past the lakes and we’re now the proud owners of very stylish PVC ponchos.
    Crazy Bule 🙂

    • Ahh, it’s amazing what you get used to. I’ve come a long way since the days I was scared to take my left hand off the bars to scratch my nose. Now it seems perfectly normal to have 6 bags on the hook and a chest of drawers on the pillion …

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