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Up The Rear For Money

October 14, 2010

We all know the simple rules of driving or riding on Bali’s roads. Rule One: Don’t have an accident. If you do, and you survive, you will pay. Not your fault? Like hell it’s not. The other driver or rider might have rocketed into you (without looking) from a tiny side-street, or was overtaking you as you turned right, or crashed into you head-on on your side of the road. But if you are a bule and they are a local, the accident is ipso facto your fault. It’s all their side of the road.

Rule Two: If you are a bule, don’t stand within 20 metres of an accident between two locals, and never, ever spend more than three seconds looking at the carnage. Don’t even consider rushing in to help – you will immediately be blamed for the accident, then asked for money for vehicle damage, hospital fees, cremation costs, hurt pride – you name it, there will be an excuse as to why you, the innocent bule, should pay.

Rule Three: Watch out for scams such as the one I witnessed the other day. There I was, enjoying Bali street culture over the rim of  a pretentious little cappuccino, when a local rides past, looking intently in his mirrors. Behind him, a young surfer type, shirtless, no helmet, dreamy expression, closes up looking for an opportunity to overtake. With impeccable timing, the local slams on his brakes and stops right in front of me. The surfer has good reflexes, and only gives rear tyre of the bike in front a light thump as he skids to a halt. The impact is about a quarter as hard as you get from a typical Bali pothole. There is no panel contact and no-one falls off.

I catch a fleeting look of joy on the face of the local as he leaps off his bike, transforms his grin into a contrived mask of shock and rage and screams “You pay! You pay!” at the stunned lad behind him. “Umm, there’s no damage”, says the surfer. “My bike broken!” cries the Aggrieved One. “You pay me one million!”

I break my own rule about non-interference in Bali street theatre. I’m flexible like that. I get the surfer’s attention and tell him it’s a scam, then pull out my phone and pacify the scammer by saying that I will call the Tourist Police so they can sort it out. Strangely, he is not pacified by my actions, riding off in high dudgeon and yelling out ‘Fak Yu’ over his shoulder. It’s obviously a Chinese curse of some sort, but Google Translate doesn’t seem to recognise it.

I wonder how common this particular stunt is? Obviously this little crook was an amateur. A true professional would have at least have demonstrated a better developed sense of drama by falling off his bike and having a bruise that he had prepared earlier …

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7 comments

  1. I’m surprised the local hasn’t perfected the whiplash injury. Nothing visible, a lot of contrived pain and anguish as well as possible loss of sexual function. Takes a lot of time to disprove.


  2. Amateurs spoil the market for true professionals. This is the real tragedy of this story.

    I did a similar thing with two timeshare scammers hassling a nice Indian couple in Kuta Square last time I was there… normally I don’t intervene but I could see the look on their faces, puzzlement and growing suspicion, and just I couldn’t help myself. Tapped the husband on the shoulder and just shook my head balefully. He got the hint – the poor locals thought about hitting me briefly before one of them in an act of sublime improvisation said “you want transport?” I snorted disdainfully and walked off, discretion usually being the better part of my valour….


    • “Transport’ would have been straight to one of the seedier back lanes of Tuban to meet several preman mates. Your discretion was wise. 😉


  3. Up The Rear For Money…

    I found your entry interesting so I’ve added a Trackback to it on my weblog :)…


  4. another story out from the hot streets of bali: a heavy drunken australian chrashed one night with a big van into my local friend: leg broken, bike broken, my friend couldn’t go to work for a few months. the drunken australien hired a lawyer, who offered my local friend 5mill. 5mill rupiah? yes, 5 lousy mill rupiah. my young local friend accepted this, he said, before i get nothing i’ll take the 5mill…. but what the most pissed him off, was the fact, that the heavy drunken australian never spend any word of excuse to him.


    • Bali is too complex at the moment, cause not all of the locals are Bali people, there rae also too many locals from outer islands who are coming for scams, good jobs, other things to do (ie.as gigolo, tour guides, food vendors, cafe/bar/resto owners etc..) Because for Indonesian people, Bali is really more attractive to them for making easy money. For others perhaps they have been transferred from the office in Jakarta, Surabaya etc…
      When i was in Bali from 1993 to Feb 2002 (before 1st bombing, worked for Hotels) traffic was not crowded as now on, population was between 1-2millions. Now I think is more than 3 millions people excluding the expats and tourists in and out … so now in Bali hot streets, everything can happen – either good things or even the worst. So sometimes blame should not be just for Indonesian or Balinese people, but it also should be pointed out to the instant tourism effects … or bad/drunken tourists, or perhaps even the expats influence … I hope not… so when you are in Bali please be more aware … because Paradise island is not always a Heaven or Paradise itself during your holidays..have a nice vacation anyway..


      • You are right. Bali is a complex mix of locals from all over Indonesia, plus visitors and expats from all over the world. And as in any large, diverse population, you will get good people and bad people. Fortunately, in Indonesia generally, and Bali specifically, the good people and great experiences by far outnumber the bad – which is why I choose to live here, and which is why I enjoy it so much!



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