It is unbearably hot and noisy in Ubud. We trudge the uneven pavements, impeded by parked cars. This charming cultural center of Bali, was not built for traffic. I could tell my husband Chris has had enough, as we plop down on shady steps of the Arma Museum Gardens. Finally we are rid of the pesky unsolicited Balinese guide, who insisted we should hire his friend as driver tomorrow, and that his father was responsible for the one painting I was really enthusiastic about. Finally a cool breeze kisses our sweaty brows. No more fumes and noise. Little stream, garden, statues, modern art.
“All I want is a day off” grumbles my husband.
“Hmm” I wonder to myself, “what do you call this then?”
I love all of our experiences in Ubud: rice fields, interesting shops, temples with offerings, tropical fruit and jaffle for breakfast at our guesthouse, the Yoga Barn situated right on a rice field, coffee and FaceBooking from our laptop at Pundi-Pundi, and exploring the gorgeous silks at The Silk Barn. Admittedly walking the crowded streets, getting from placed to place is very uncomfortable.
“What will cheer him up?” I ponder.
He gives me a clue:
“Did you notice those scooters are four-stroke? Much less noise and pollution than the old 2-stroke!”
No, I had not noticed.
“We should get one to get around”, he says.
My stomach contracts. Now I feel some fear. I remember riding a motor bike in Bali 35 years ago. A small slip, exhaust burn on my inner leg, which became infected with a tropical bug which took months to heal. I still have a faint scar!
“Yes, darling, let’s research that. Tomorrow.” I bite my bottom lip and agonize at the thought of hanging on the back of a tiny two-wheeler. Balinese are typically much smaller than the two of us.
We leave the serene museum grounds and almost get killed crossing the road. Traffic comes from everywhere, especially at the most inauspicious place we choose.
Right next door to Buddha’s and Silks, my destination, we see the fateful signs “Money Change and Bike Rental”. I escape into the opulent silk store avoiding the glint in my husband’s eye.
I return without any purchases.
“Would you be comfortable on the back of one of these with me?” my very considerate husband asks. He is sitting astride the tiny bike, his long legs in straddle pose.
Now what, tell the truth or fake it? 30 years of marriage feels at stake. That is why we are in Bali in the first place, to celebrate our longevity as a couple. I look away and watch a foreigner teeter on her bicycle on the other side of the crazily busy road. There is a screaming in my head.
My voice tentative and small: “Sure . That might be fun darling, let’s try it”
His face lights up. Soon we have negotiated an excellent deal $5 a day . A quick lesson on where everything is, simply handing over the passport number, no need for license, no need for helmets, I take a photo of my very tall husband on a very small scooter. Hilarious.
I hang on,on the back. Soon we are in the river of traffic, dodging, yielding and flowing.
Oh, this is fun. We are both happy! He is an excellent driver. I am comfortable enough to pull out the little camera and capture the terrain as it races by. The friendly Balinese are smiling at us.
“Darling, I whisper in his ear “It is not only because we are so big – we are also so old!”
It is a giant leap: from Fear to Fun.