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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Bike Tour Kuta Style: A day like no other

Excitement was mounting. I gaze warily to Kuta Bex parking lot, where numbers of bike are parked neatly, ready to be used by AirAsia HSBC bike tour. Cameras were flashing, we grin and smile and took turns to capture our each other in camera and videos, and not a glimpse of anxiousness to be seen though deep down I was rather nervous. After a short warm ups, we were told to get the bicycle we feel comfortable with. Fingers were brushing against the bikes, hands firmly set upon the handles as we’re trying to make ourselves comfortable with the saddle. And what seems to be just a fraction of a second later our guides give orders, and off we go!
When I was contacted by AirAsia HSBC to join their bike tour, I was ecstatic. The promise of seeing to all-too-well-known Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak in different point of view (i.e. bike) leaves me so excited I can barely work straight days before the event. It was when seeing all those bikes that realization suddenly hit me: It’s been years since I took a full blown bicycle ride, and I’m not talking about 4 or 5 years, the last one I took was approximately in my elementary school. Of course, being a motorcycle driver for the last 3 years help with my balance, but even so I’m still having difficulties in navigating through the traffic. Luckily it only lasted a while. A tour companion drove past me gracefully, videoing us while he’s still on bike (a feat that if done on motorcycles and/or cars will earn you some well-deserve shouts and regal middle-finger salutes, not to mention some heavy bruises if you happen to hit other vehicles while doing this stunt; where as on bike, people will just smile and the only thing that might get heavily damaged if accident happen is your ego and self-esteem); the traffic congestion dissolve at certain point of our route (5 minutes later to be exact); and the best of the area began to unravel. I broke a smile. This is gonna be fun.

As promised in their tagline (Experience Bali Like No Other), the tour provides us with satisfying view and ample surprises when we discover the unknown area along the route. The first area was the beach in front of Padma Hotel and even my companions, the seasoned-tourists that claimed they had seen enough of Kuta-Legian-Seminyak, was surprised to see such well-kept pedestrian along the Padma hotel and beyond, stretching all the way till the Double Six Street. It was in fact, close for public and only opened upon request for the tour and during the last 2 Kuta Karnival (but it’s covered with booths and people, so even though I know the road exist I had no idea how gorgeous it is during the day). Cheers and laughter was heavy on the crowd when we pass this area, as it was the first time most of them ever saw the famous night club area during the day (party on fellas;)). But on we continue our journey to the Champlung Tanduk beach (though some of us seriously considered to take a break at Cocoon… Just kidding :D). During our few minutes break there we take group shots, and several journalists that joins us takes loads of shots because the location was just so good. Pillows mounting for a nearby beach bar, also a small stage and neatly rows of chairs and tables for their crowds. Hawker sells beautiful beads and small Balinese kites (and other knick-knack you could think of). And throughout the break time my fellow journalist, a contributor for Jakarta Post, keeps saying: “I don’t know Kuta has this kind of beach!”
Leisurely strolling on the beach with our bikes was definitely a refreshing experience, but to stroll along the cool yet quiet Seminyak was another thing altogether. The route through Drupadi Street that we took on our way to Kayu Aya Street was filled with nice shops and restaurant and quiet villas, but without the vivid display. This is where you go if you want to spend some cool and quiet shopping time. Trees and ivy on the wall poking out and pleases our eyes, and also some patches of rice fields. People might not notice how beautifully quiet the area is, but on bike, we can almost smell the sweet frangipani fragrance en route, and can see the details in the leaves and flowers. The quietness was almost magical, I got into semi-shock when we hit Kayu Aya Street where it was filled with cars and motorcycles. Here the display was more edgy and tantalizing, and I spend some precious second absorbing the details of a certain white lace dress from the window display (which I can never did on motorcycles), and spend some precious minutes reminding myself to not de-tour to the shop and purchase the said dress (hey, I get to park wherever I want or even carried my bicycle in front of the shop’s door instead of trying to park through the jungle of vehicles, a true advantage indeed!). I was already filled with all the beautiful and unique details of the shops and restaurants (which some considered finest in Bali) when we stop at Seminyak Square for refreshment and shopping time. The media team sat together at Aviary Restaurant, sipping our cold drinks while getting to know each other; needless to say I am saved from shopping madness though I have to confess they kinda wrestled me out from Periplus afterwards. No worries, I already got my copy of Bartimaeus by Jonathan Stroud by then.
But cycling does not only give the opportunity to view everything in more details; it also gives opportunity to get to know each other during the trip. Not long after we depart to Petitenget beach I already engrossed with conversation (on our bikes) with a member of AirAsia HSBC team, and find ourselves talking about everything: my writing, his thoughts, the AirAsia HSBC program, should we make that de-tour to Ku De Ta (which I’m sorely tempted, even though it’s just to annoy the security guard). It’s a thing that we probably won’t do when we just sat in a cafĂ© or in a car. And to my heart’s annoyance (and my legs’ euphoria) we arrive at Petitenget beach. Being Sunday and almost sunset, the beach was crowded with Balinese. I am quite used to it, but it was really nice to see my tour companion excited about the local view. Jagung Bakar (Grilled corn on the cob), Balinese kelepon, musculous men in tattoo and Sarong, and even a number of people who practice Falun Dafa. When we were gathered back to the parking lot a few minutes later, the draw for the souvenir and surprise gifts was on. I have never really believe on this kind of drawing, and am never tempted to join events just for the door prize because I think they are all rigged. But when I saw that iPhone 4 being handed to a lucky contestant as the main door prize from AirAsia HSBC tour I vowed to myself: I definitely going to join another event.
I did hear snippets that AirAsia HSBC will do more bike tours like this in another area. If it’s near your area, by all means join it. Cycling is really an excellent way to view things differently, and if you’re already a seasoned biker, getting to know more people is quite fun actually ;). Now all I wish is that iPhone 4… (joking, I already got AirAsia voucher during quiz time at Champlung Tanduk Beach, so I shouldn’t grudge over the iPhone LOL). All I wish is travel organizers starts to think and arrange more bike tours in the future. Us city dwellers really enjoy the trip, and with more bikes and less motored vehicle we can minimize the traffic congestion and the pollution as well. Besides, everyone wave cheery hands during our pass, so it is fun for everyone. In Bali right now? Go bug your travel organizer to arrange a bike tour through Kuta-Legian-Seminyak. Have fun!

- Many thanks to Lukman Simbah from HiFatLoBrain Travel Institute for allowing me embed their fun video!
- Another great story (and more photos) of the event can be found at Triski Nurani's blog
- And yeah, thanks to AirAsia HSBC for the invitation and the doorprize. I'll fly away soon!!!

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