When having conversions with new people you meet on the road, I like to diverge from the standard “where have you been” and “where are you going” conversations, for example by asking “what is the coolest place you’ve been so far?”. Most people struggle to find a satisfying answer, as many places have something special, unique or pleasant, but all in a incomparable, unique way, making it hard to define a single event as being the “best”. The problem with asking these kind of questions is that people reflect them back to you. After having been asked it a couple of times, I came up with a pretty solid answer.
The first part is the unexpected connections you can make with random people. You invite someone for a quick lunch and end up on a beach fire party with a group of instant friends. Another time, my ferry was delayed for 2,5 hours, all of which I ended up talking to a 19 year old Indonesian guy from the booking office. Really friendly, smart, hardworking, though the poor fellow worked 90h a week, which earned him about 35 euro’s. A month.
Anyway, that’s the first best thing I like about travel, and a lot of people seem to agree on it. It’s not really a single place, but a collection of events that really stick out somehow. The second thing (or “collection of events”) that typically sticks out above all else is driving scooter. Which brings me (through a bit of an elaborate introduction) to the main topic.
You thought a footpath was for people on foot? Jakarta laughs at you! (sorry for the shakiness)
There are plenty of scooters throughout all of Asia, as it often is the cheapest, and sometimes the only possible, type of transport. You can find them on the most remote mountain roads, and in cities like Jakarta, bandung, bangkok etc. literally millions of scooters drive around. Scooters are smelly, noisy and they make crossing the road a straight-up death sentence (yes, I’m talking to you Vietnam). There are some advantages however: taking them as a taxi is dirt cheap, and, even better: you can rent them!
For about 5 euro’s a day, and 1 to 2 euro’s of gasoline, you can drive a motorbike all day. The quality ranges from shiny new(ish) to the-engine-stops-if-you-stop-giving-gas or the-key-falls-out-on-every-street-bump. But, driving around is one of the most wonderful things I’ve been doing so far. They give you perfect freedom, which is what backpacking is all about. Be a bit careful (lot’s of backpackers walk around with bandages here), but you’ll be rewarded with some of the best moments; not just the remote places you can visit, but just the driving itself is (usually) very nice.
As describing an experience is as hard as trying to explain the concept of blue to a blind man, I’ll stop the words and start the pictures:
View of Lake Toba, Sumatra, with travel buddy Thomas. Who drove a scooter for the first time here and killed nobody!
A view from a deserted temple in Bagan (Myanmar), only reachable by scooters. Added as bonus: the index finger of a bad photographer.
Random scenery during the trip to a made-famous-by-top-gear pass in Vietnam.
Scooters do breakdown some times.
Job pretending to be an important buisiness man, a scooter drive away from Dalat, Vietnam.