Getting Around in a Becak

Last night I was at a get-together of University colleagues and during a conversation about Java one man said “I’m going there next month. It will be my first time. I want to try a bisak” I mulled this over in my thought and eventually had to ask what he meant by ‘bisak’. Of course I laughed when I realised he in fact meant ‘becak’, the very popular and cheap form of transport on a lot of the islands in the archipelago. Becaks are a three-wheeled bicycle, two wheels in the front and one at the rear, and you sit quite uncomfortably on the padded wooden seats in the front. This form of transport is literally king-of-the-road and all other manner of transport is obliged to give way to them on the roads. Becak drivers are usually lean in stature with strong-muscled legs and area mine of information should you decide to use them to get around the city you are visiting, but, ensure you bargain the price for the journey well beforehand.

Being ridden around a city in a becak is an experience in itself and especially in heavy traffic. Many times my becak driver has crossed the road into the oncoming lane just to get past a truck or a car. I have even had the becak I was in hit by another becak and thrown to the ground. Scary as they may seem, it doesn’t happen often. There are thousands of becaks in the cities on the main islands of Java and Sumatra and if you cannot get the correct price for your journey with one, then go onto the next and continue until you get the agreeable price you want. Besides walking, becaks are one of my favourite forms of transport. Always remember though, never dangle your feet from the outside of a becak and keep your feet firmly planted on the stepboard in front of you.