Flashback Friday is a new photo series I am starting this week. Last week I posted about my first solo trip to Southeast Asia in 1993, and mentioned that I had a bunch of my actual photos scanned. I posted a few of the photos last week and I want to post more – so Flashback Friday photo series has been born.
This is a bemo
Bemos were the most common local transportation option in Bali and Lombok when I visited in 1993. A bemo was usually a mini-van outfitted with rows of bench seating in the back section of the van. Bemos did not have air-conditioning, so windows were always wide open and music played on the radio or cassette player. Reggae music was popular as well as local pop music. The bemo driver would follow a basic route but pick up people anywhere along the way.
Flagging down the bemo took only the wave of a hand. The fare for tourists was generally double the fare charged for locals. It may seem unfair but locals used to make around $1 per day in 1993. And tourists were generally larger than Indonesians, especially in Bali. I felt like a giant at times!
Sometimes when a bemo stopped to pick me up I thought it was too full, not so, always room for one more. I remember counting over 20 people in one bemo.
Whenever someone wanted to get off the bemo they shouted “stop” or “stoppa” as I recall. There were no designated stops but commonplace to see the bemos stop at markets and other busy places.
In Lombok I was the only passenger in a bemo so I sat up front in the passenger seat, Bob Marley music blaring while we chatted. When the bemo came upon a busy intersection the driver tapped the horn in short bursts and shouted “bemo! bemo!” so I started shouting “bemo!” to help him out. We laughed a lot and enjoyed the trip.
I have read that bemos are not so ubiquitous around Bali and Lombok anymore. I enjoyed traveling by bemo because it was the local transportation. To get a better idea of daily life and understand a culture it helps to travel via the local transportation. Often I would have conversations, sometimes with gestures and hand signals due to language barriers. I enjoyed the interaction with the local people.
Flag me down next Friday for another photo and story about my travels from years gone by.