Fellow globetrotter and world wanderer, Lash, recently wrote Cycling Bali: Guidebook to Circumnavigating Bali by Bicycle. If you’re considering taking your bike to the island, this is the book you need.
Lash covers all bases in the book. She’ll get you prepared, help you get started once you’re there, and guide you around the island day by day. The route is divided into segments of 25 – 75 kilometers; you decide how many segments you want to do each day.
I had a chance to hook up with Lash and ask her a few questions about her life and the book. Enjoy learning a bit about her!
Me: You’ve traveled the world quite a bit over the years. Give us a quick recap of your adventures.
Lash: I moved to Kyoto, Japan in 1991, specifically to save money to travel the world. I lived in Kyoto for six years diligently saving money and immersing myself in the traditional cultural arts. Japan is also where I took up cycle traveling, pedaling around the country on trips varying in length from long weekends to two months.
In Oct. 1997, having accomplished my mission, I somewhat sadly left Japan to see the world. In early 1998, after visiting family Stateside, I started my long-anticipated world travels in Thailand by cycling from Bangkok to Singapore, down the east coasts of Thailand and Malaysia. I’ve been traveling solo ever since, often by bike, and mostly in Asia. In the midst of that I became a PADI Dive Instructor in 2004, and in recent years usually earn my living teaching diving.
Me: What are two highlights of your travels – and yes, I’m limiting you to two!
1. Cycling from Bangkok to Singapore
My initial cycling trip from Bangkok down to Singapore was particularly noteworthy for several reasons. As I mentioned, it was the beginning of my life as a solo world traveler. I had a plan, a tight budget, and an itinerary, but up until actually starting, whether my schemes would work or not was all theory.
Also, I actually had never planned to travel the world solo! I had moved to Japan and made all my travel plans with my best friend, Rick. I had just found out a couple months before departing Japan that he wasn’t going after all! He’d found a Japanese girlfriend and had never actually saved any money, completely unbeknownst to me. So suddenly setting off solo was a pretty new and unexpected development to deal with.
I wasn’t sure if I’d be safe cycling alone through rural Thailand and Malaysia. I didn’t know what the road conditions would be like. I didn’t know if my skimpy budget was actually feasible. The whole trip was a big leap of faith.
It was incredibly satisfying and relieving to discover that my theory all worked perfectly well. I was safe. I had enough money. The roads and traffic conditions were fine. That’s the trip on which I ‘cut my traveling wings’ as a world nomad.
Besides that, I visited many amazing places along the east coasts of Thailand and Malaysia: cute atmospheric towns, remote national parks, drop-dead-gorgeous islands, traditional villages, and stunning beaches. Since I’m crazy about the tropics, I was in seventh heaven. I also met many friendly people everywhere and feasted on all sorts of delicious food. I discovered I could make it!
In Dec 2001 I visited Myanmar for one month. I’d expected the people, culture and temples to be very similar to Thailand. I was completely wrong! Burmese people have much more influence from India, China and indigenous hill tribes. Burmese gilded temples and stupas are distinctly different from those in Thailand. The culture, food, lifestyle, and development are also entirely different.
The highlight of that trip was Bagan, where over 2000 temples are strewn about a vast area of plains. Although a few paved roads pass through Bagan, there were very few motorized vehicles. Instead, on the roads people were walking, riding bicycling and using horse drawn carts. Distinctly missing were the sounds of engines and traffic. Instead, Bagan was filled with silence, sounds of nature, clip-clopping horse hooves, and people’s footfalls.
Electricity was also distinctly lacking at night in most places. Restaurants and shops used candles or lanterns. I felt as though I’d stepped into a movie set at the turn of the century. A simply amazing experience. I stayed 10 days, cycling around visiting different temples every day and investigating the amazing traditional artists in the area: amazing painters and makers of delicate, colorful lacquerware.
Me: You’ve fallen in love with Bali. Why? What is it about Bali that keeps drawing you back?
Lash: What I’m most interested in during my travels are the great outdoors and the cultural arts of countries I visit. Bali has both in great abundance. The island has an incredible diversity of simply stunning natural places, including volcanoes, long sweeping beaches, beautiful coastlines, rocky cliffs, tropical forests, terraced rice fields, gorgeous coral reefs, calm seas, and even scrubby arid regions.
In addition, the Balinese are superb artists in many mediums: paintings, stone sculptures, wood carvings, architecture, gardens, fabrics, dance, drama, music. On top of all that, their unique style of Hinduism permeates all aspects of life, so Bali is continually full of fragrant incense, flower offerings, ceremonies, festivals, and people dressed in ceremonial clothing attending temples and various personal celebrations.
Simply put, in Bali I’m continually surrounded by beauty- natural beauty and cultural beauty. That makes me feel superbly happy and peaceful. As if that weren’t enough, the food is delicious and varied. The Balinese people are very warm, friendly, polite, and welcoming.
Me: What was the genesis of your guidebook for cycling Bali? How did that come about?
Lash: I first visited Bali in 2000. I cycled around the island, immersed myself in the abundant arts, then settled into the beach and clubbing scene of Seminyak in South Bali. I loved Bali so much that I immediately started trying to come up with ways to earn a living so I could stay. The first few times I visited, I worked in a performance company, cut hair, did some random modeling/commercial extra work and tried export/imports. In more recent years I returned to teach scuba diving for 3 seasons. Each time I returned I stayed 2-6 months and cycled extensively.
Last year when I arrived, it suddenly hit me that I should write a book on cycling in Bali. I already knew dozens of cycling routes and had cycled the entire island once. I knew the culture, people, places and spoke the language. As a western visitor and cycle traveler I knew what information other cyclists needed when visiting. So, after completing another diving season, I cycled around the island again, that time keeping extensive notes about distances, road conditions, food and bike repair availability. Notes in hand, I returned to the States and wrote the book, along with a book on Hiking in Amed, Bali’s Remote Northeast Coast (where I taught diving for three years).