Bali – Back Roads, Rice Fields, and Volcanoes

If you’re ever pulled over on a motorbike or in a car on the island of Bali, either make sure you have an international license, or tell them you left all your documents in your room. There are roadblocks all around the island, often looking more for foreigners to site for violations, though content to catch any infraction of the law. There are two ways to pay – either go to court, or pay the officer on the spot at a fraction of the cost. The money from your fine, invariably, finds two possible ends.

But don’t let these fines prevent you from exploring the islands. Just be careful, more so of the traffic and potholes than the police. But it is the best way to explore the island and see the beautiful countryside.

Quick note – the fines for not having a license are upward of 1,500,000 (that’s right, 1.5 million) rupiah. That’s about $115 USD. For a fraction of the price – about 20,000 rupiah ($1.50 USD) – you can get away with an on-the-spot fine (bribe). If you’re not confident about the transaction, they’ll try to get much more substantial sum from you. If you’re disrespectful, expect multiple fines and a court date, where you may also have to pay court fees (read as judge).

If you’re staying in Ubud, you are a little more than an hour away from Mount Batur. It rises from a crater lake to its east, and having erupted in 1994, it serves as a tremendous resource of stone, which is used for bricks as well as stonework.

Mount Batur, volcano and lake, last erupted in 1994.
Mount Batur, volcano and lake, last erupted in 1994.

 

Men are posted on the road with “security” labels on their shirts, and will charge foreigners to enter the area. It seems legitimate, but there is no sign the money is being used to advance the area, and it’s questionable as to what the money could serve as in the first place. We payed the first time, but the second, third, and fourth time we simply waved them off as we rode past yelling “we’re not tourists.” This we did under the instruction of a local.

 

rice fields behind the volcano, Mount Batur
rice fields behind the volcano, Mount Batur

Riding a bike in the back country of Bali is much different than the “cities.” Ubud, for example, is extremely congested, and getting in and out on the main roads can be dangerous, mainly because a lot of the drivers are somewhat reckless, while a lot of the other drivers are tourists riding a motorbike for the first time. Once you get away from the cities, you get to enjoy the tranquility of the countryside. Just watch out for potholes, especially if it rained recently. What might seem like a small puddle could be a thick patch of mud, or worse, a large hole that was once asphalt.

 

Jess and Sarah riding the backroads of Bali
Jess and Sarah riding the backroads of Bali

There are many fruit stands along the way, making the ride a great opportunity to stop and picnic, or to get in a couple yoga poses. The island is high spiritual, sometimes commercially so, but mainly because you’re surrounded by expressions of it. The many spirit houses and offerings on the island, and the large number of wellness tourists from the west make the island magical.

Sarah in yoga pose on the volcanic rock around Mount Batur
Sarah in yoga pose on the volcanic rock around Mount Batur

There are three volcanoes on Bali. Mount Bratan, someone what in the middle of the island, is surrounded by small waterfalls and hot water springs.

Mount Bratan - Volcano, Bali
Mount Bratan – Volcano, Bali

 

Rice fields in the valley on our ride south toward Balian Beach
Rice fields in the valley on our ride south toward Balian Beach

What you see on the road is the larger experience of life on Bali.

Boys riding bike from school on Bali
Boys riding bike from school on Bali

 

Wheat fields on Bali
Wheat fields on Bali

 

Farmer going to market
Farmer going to market

 

Mobile toy store on Bali
Mobile toy store on Bali

Biking and renting a car are not the only way to experience these sites, though we do think they are the best way. If you book a sunrise tour of Mount Batur, a van will pick you up at 2 am to take you to the base of the volcano. You then spend the next three hours hiking to the top where you can sit and watch the sun come up over the island.

Mount Batur - Bali, Indonesia
Mount Batur – Bali, Indonesia

 

Countryside of Bali
Countryside of Bali

When visiting Bali, make sure to get a motorbike, ride safe, and enjoy the country. It’s what Bali is really all about.

 

 

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