If you think last week’s story was weird, I guess you’ll have to endure another one – as you can see from the title. And my reason for this one is a little sentimental.
At the end of my first period of living in Bali, the Bali Mandara toll road was just opened, and it became a sensation – for so many reasons. It was not the first toll bridge in Indonesia, with Suramadu connecting East Java and the island of Madura having the honor four years earlier. Nor is it the longest in our regions, since the longest in the world and Asia is in Danyang, China, and the longest in South East Asia is Penang II in Malaysia.
But it was a monumental construction for the island. As you know, Bali has its strict traditional regulations for buildings, that states it cannot be higher than 15 metres. So having this gigantic concrete highway connecting Denpasar to the airport in Kuta and the Nusa Dua neighborhood was something worth celebrating. And they did, as they should. People having picnics, taking pictures, stopping midway. Great times.
Built as a way to disperse the chronic traffic problem in South Kuta and its acute dependency for the 23 km artery ByPass Ngurah Rai, the toll road was not only an architectural marvel. It was an effective supplement for tourism. Visitors can travel between the hotels in Nusa Dua to the airport in a shorter time, as well as being able to commute north to Sanur or Ubud faster as it cuts the distance and amount of traffic lights almost in half.
Now back to my memories. In its early days of opening, I used to use the toll road to go to Nusa Dua very early in the morning to jog. Sounds like a hassle for a Denpasar resident? Well, it wasn’t so much with the view I had. The sun rises perfectly in front of me, as if welcoming me to a new day. Usually I’d just roll my window down, turn off the AC, drive slowly, and enjoy the wind and warm light.
Another memory was during my second period of living in Bali, I commuted on the highway regularly, and this time on motorcycles. This may sound too melancholic, but it got to do with my very last day at HB. After cleaning my desk, saying goodbye to everyone, and locking the office, I went home. Just as I passed the airport, it was raining. Since it was late at night, I think I might as well just hit it – hoping it’ll stop on the way. It didn’t. So…me, being devastated for leaving the best job ever, driving alone on a dark and wet road, with the somber lights for extra effects. I did say it was melancholic – sappy even.
I don’t know about how the pandemic affected the experience of driving past this glorious landmark. But if it was me, I’d be holding many emotions anyway. See you next week.