“Terima–kasih, thank you, terima–kasih, thank you, terima–kasih…” I practice under my breath as we drive through a labyrinth of what appeared to be the liveliest back alleys I had ever seen. Outside the temporary refuge of our mildly air-conditioned van, a flood of pedestrians, stuttering mopeds, and bikes tunnel through narrow lanes. Uneven brick walls line these meandering streets separating houses and courtyards from the chaotic midday traffic.
I sneak a glance at our driver who is whistling softly, completely unperturbed by the steady chorus of honking around us. In fact, he is at this moment tapping his palm on his own horn. The van conjures two short high-pitched EEEPs. This happens every so often (which in our case means intervals of every 5-8 seconds) but isn’t a display of road rage. Honking in Bali (and many other parts of the world) is a sign of road courtesy. Most of the time, EEEP means “hold on to your socks I’m right behind you” rather than “you nut ball cut me off!”. A tap on the horn is a polite gesture – a nice gesture. Plus, after the first five minutes, you get used to it, you have to.