Motorbike Mishaps

Updated: Dec 26, 2020

Renting a motorbike in Southeast Asia is pretty much a rite of passage for every backpacker. It's something you just have to do- regardless of how scary it is at first. But you'll soon feel comfortable driving them, and realize it's the best way to explore and find hidden gems! Here are 6 funny stories involving a motorbike during my travels in Asia:

1. Grab Bike in Bali

I arrived in Bali at about 11pm and was completely alone with no phone service. I knew taxis would be too expensive, so I had planned on ordering a Grab (the Uber of SE Asia). Once I was able to connect to the airport wifi, I saw the option for a "Grab Bike" which I had never used before. Basically you just hop on the back of someone's motorbike & hold on!

It was way cheaper than the Grab Car, so I decided to try it out. After about 30 minutes of trying to locate my driver, I finally found him and hopped on the back (with my backpacker backpack on). I didn't realize how difficult it would be to sit upright with a backpacker backpack on your back weighing you down. I had to continually pull myself forward so I wouldn't fall off the back. (My abs were extremely sore the next day).

About 20 minutes into the ride, he just pulls over on a dark street & I was thinking, well this isn't good. He said something was wrong with his bike, so he will go fix it and come back. He emphasized that I should wait right there, & he will come back. So he left and I waited. Obviously I was super skeptical because I didn't have phone service to contact anyone or look at how far away I was from my hostel. PLUS I'm just a girl all alone. I sat down and waited in the dark for about 10 minutes, and then I realized I just need to figure this out on my own and not trust this guy.

I decided to go find a main road to wait on that was well-lit up and maybe just get another ride from someone else. Or maybe I'd even be lucky enough to find wifi. I was walking up this main, well-lit road and to my surprise, I see my motorbike driver actually getting his bike fixed at a shop. (And by shop, I mean some guy with tools & a bright light on a street corner). So I just walked over to him and sat on the sidewalk. We waited and talked for about 45 minutes and then we were on our way. I didn't get to my hostel until about 2am. To this day, I'm very unsure why he didn't just have me wait with him there in the first place. But it was definitely a hell of a night.

I remember when this happened I immediately kicked into "cautious mode" where I thought for sure something bad was happening. The most horrible thoughts immediately came to mind. I was thinking he was leaving me there to get picked up by someone else for human trafficking, or he was just ripping me off. But once I sat down with him and talked with him more, I realized how much of a genuine guy he was and I felt bad for thinking that way. Of course as a solo female traveler we always have to have our guard up, because it's better to be safe than sorry. But it's always comforting to know that the world really is filled with good-hearted people who want to help you, not hurt you!

2. Roads of Yangshuo

When we went to Yangshuo, China we knew right away that we needed to rent motorbikes in order to see all the beautiful nature in the area. There were 3 of us- 2 of us had ridden bikes before, and 1 hadn't. (I'm sorry Pauline!) But we figured we'd be able to handle them just fine.

I had an offline map on my phone with all the locations of great viewpoints or mountain ranges we wanted to see, so I was leading the group. The maps told me to go down this little hill to find this bridge and cross the river. On the maps it looked like an actual road, and we wanted to check out the other side of the river- so we did it. We quickly realized that it wasn't a road, more like an endless mud pit. Our bikes were just sinking left and right, and the amount of times that all of us ate shit off our bikes was astronomical.

After about 40 minutes of going down this road, I look back and neither Nick or Paul were behind me. So I parked my bike and walked back to find Pauline crying and very upset, and Nick with his leg cut up and bleeding. We were all so over it. But we basically had to decide- do we continue on and hope that we come across a paved road & bridge soon? Or do we go back and go through all that mud we just conquered? We decided to push on.

After about another 30 minutes, we were finally back on a perfectly paved road! Yay! We did it. Now all we had to do was cross the bridge over the river, and it would all be worth it! But life is never that easy, is it?

We got to where the "bridge" was on my map, and there was nothing. Just a river. No bridge anywhere in sight. All of us were thinking oh hell no, I am not going back through that hell hole. We saw a small ferry boat, and asked them if we could take our bikes on it to go across. They allowed it, and we basically had to get our heavy motorbikes onto this small ferry by rolling it on a wooden plank about as wide as the tire- it was extremely difficult.

Once the ferry got to the other side, another hurdle stood in our way. Not only did we have to roll the motorbikes off the boat with the wooden plank again, but we literally pulled up to a hill that was extremely steep. So every time we rolled the bike on the plank, it would just roll backwards. And we were scared it was going to fall off the plank entirely and go into the water, and then we'd have to buy a new motorbike.

After many failed attempts, thankfully some older Chinese men felt sorry for us and decided to help us out. They literally started the motorbike and drove it on the plank of wood and up the hill. It was pretty badass.

At this point, we were all so done with the day. We had no interest in exploring this side of the river and finding a nice sunset spot, we just wanted to go back. So we rode back to our hostel for about an hour in the freezing cold- our hands and face were frozen and we were all in the worst moods. But then we had hot showers and ordered food to be delivered to our hostel... and all was well.

At the time this was one the most frustrating travel hurdles I had ever gone through. There was so much tension between all 3 of us because it wasn't even fun- we just wanted to get through it and have it be over. But now, whenever we tell this story to someone it's hard for us to even finish it because we are all laughing so hard. It's one of those terrible times that make the best stories.

3. Speed Bump in Nusa Penida

When I arrived in Nusa Penida, I rented a motorbike from some guy right when I hopped off the ferry. So I had my backpacker backpack on and I took off to go to my hostel. About 20 minutes in, I felt my bike doing something weird. It felt like my tire popped or my engine was failing. I was thinking damn, this guy rented me a broken bike. But it continued to work, so I pressed on.

When I arrived at my hostel and hopped off my bike, I was pulled back and literally fell on the ground. I immediately realized what had happened. I had my running shoes tied to the outside of my backpack, and somehow they had gotten caught in my tire and completely destroyed. Awesome. I only was traveling with 1 pair of running shoes & 1 pair of sandals, so now I had no hiking shoes.

The next day, I went to Kelingkling Beach and didn't realize how much of an EXTREME hike down it was to get to the beach. I had to do this in my sandals since I didn't have any other option. But, during this hike my sandals also broke. Sweet. So now I was down to no shoes at all.

I was only on Nusa Penida for 1 more day, and I searched for shoes to buy, but couldn't find any. The next day I went to Nusa Lembongan (a different island), and still couldn't find any shoes. So I went barefoot for almost a whole week until I got to Lombok (again, a different island in Indonesia).

At the time it honestly wasn't too bad, because I was walking on dirt roads or sandy beaches. But it really opened up my eyes to how lucky we are in our society to just have access to any goods we want. I even asked many local people where I could get shoes, and they all said that whenever they have to buy shoes or clothes, they have to go to a bigger island like Bali or Lombok. It really makes you appreciate what you have!

4. Bagan Battery

When I was solo traveling in Myanmar, I rented a motorbike every day when I was in Bagan. I would wake up bright and early and literally explore all day until sunset with the motorbike.

On my last day, I found a nice hill to watch the sunset. So I knew I'd have to hustle back to my hostel, so I wasn't driving around alone in the pitch black. But after the sunset (it was still decently light outside), a huge storm rolled in and it was pouring rain. Sweet.

I hopped on my bike and was trying to get back to my hostel as fast as possible. But then my bike started feeling like it was struggling. It was an E-bike, not a gasoline bike, so I was thinking crap it's going to die. And sure enough, it was blinking low battery.

So for about 20 minutes I was driving probably 5 miles per hour (I could've honestly walked faster) and the rain was pouring down on me so hard. But thankfully I was able to make it back to the hostel without having to push the bike. So for that I am extremely grateful. But I was completely soaked from head to toe & it was pitch black by the time I got back. So I just ate at the hostel's restaurant, took a hot shower, and crawled into bed.

5. Bali Parade

I rented a motorbike almost every day that I was in Bali, to explore all over the island. One day I decided to go to the opposite side of the island to explore, so I knew it would be a long day of driving and exploring. I woke up early to make the 2 hour drive, and I had a great day exploring.

I knew I didn't want to drive back in the dark, so I made sure to leave early enough to give me a 3 hour gap until sunset. But about halfway into my journey back to Ubud, I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic.

Soon, I realized we were stuck in the middle of a parade. They had shut down both 1-way lanes for this parade, and thankfully it was going in the same direction I was- towards Ubud. I was at a standstill for awhile, but then I saw some motorbikes just going through the parade, with precision.

So I decided to try and move forward and go with the parade. But I wasn't confident enough in my driving skills to do that, so I was literally walking my bike in a parade. It was so tiring because the bike was pretty heavy, and there were so many people, bikes, and cars all around me so I was trying not to hit anyone. And I continued on (basically as if I was a part of this parade) for about 30-40 minutes before it cleared up and I was able to drive back safely to Ubud.

At the time I was super overwhelmed and was trying so hard not to hit anyone or tip over on the bike, I was so stressed out. But looking back it was actually a pretty cool cultural experience that I was able to be a part of.

6. Taking an "L" in Laos

I'm going to end with a story I already told in my blog: 10 Times Bad Things Happened to Me When Traveling & How I Overcame Them. So if you haven't read this story, here it is:

When Nick & I were in Laos, we rented a motorbike everyday to go explore. We've rented motorbikes everywhere- Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines- you name it! So we feel very comfortable driving them. However, we went to Laos during the wet/rainy season, so we were NOT prepared for the muddy roads.

We knew it was going to be difficult to get to this Blue Lagoon in Vang Vieng, because everyone online said the road was horrible. But we still thought- we can handle it! And we did. The road there was really challenging, but Nick drove it like a champ.

We enjoyed the Blue Lagoon and all its beauty- it was a great afternoon. But the way back was a completely different story. Because of all the mud and sliding around, our tires were super compacted and didn't have any grip. So we went to cross over this metal bridge that literally had a plank of wood on it (barely as wide as the tire) that you were supposed to drive on. Somehow the tire lost grip and the bike slid from underneath us. Luckily I was thrown off the bike and away from the accident and had no injuries, but Nick was crushed between the metal siding of the bridge and the bike.

His cuts and burns were so deep we had to immediately go find a medical clinic so they wouldn't get infected. And the internal bruising on his foot was so extreme he couldn't walk normally for 2-3 weeks. It was a super scary incident, but we are grateful because it could've been a lot worse.

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