BALI 2010   

 

UBUD & SEMINYAK



**Click HERE for videos of Bali**


My family is addicted.  To Bali.  After last year’s vacation there, my youngest son, Miles, had a difficult time adjusting to life back in New York, crying anytime Bali was mentioned or photos shown.  The rest of us were more pragmatic as we acclimated to regular life, but all agreed that a return trip would be very much welcomed.  My husband and I spent many weekends in Bali during a 2 year stint we spent living in Guam back in the 90’s, and I recall my own tears shed as those peaceful weekends concluded.


But since we were traveling all that way, why not try someplace else as well?  My elder more stoic son, Reed, happily agreed to a Bali trip, but requested a new country, in pursuit of filling his passport with as many countries as possible. More of a quantity vs. quality type of guy. 


My husband and I have been to Thailand a couple of times without kids, but the more I researched this locale, the more convinced I became of the potential for unusual fun for families.  Fun such as elephant treks through jungles, shopping from a boat in Bangkok’s floating markets, river cruises on renovated rice barges, exploring golden Buddhist temples, crazy tuk-tuk rides through the cities, cuddling with baby tigers.  Things you just can’t do in the New York area, and never will do, I’m guessing, due to the safety hazards they would present to our “purell”ed and baby-proofed world.


So we added the city of Chiang Mai in northern Thailand, as well as Bangkok, to our Bali itinerary.  At one point, we decided to cancel our Thailand trip due to the political conflict afflicting Bangkok last spring, but resumed our plans once things seemed to calm down in June.


You can read about our Thailand trip here


BALI -- AUGUST 23-31, 2010



We flew from Bangkok to Denpasar on Thai Airways on Flight 431, landing around 2 p.m.  These days you have to pay for a visa upon arrival, which can add considerable time to the whole landing, customs, baggage retrieval.  However, you can pay for a VIP service which cuts this down.  The service takes care of your visa and immigration, as well as helping you with your bags.  Worth every penny if time is more valuable to you.  We were out of the airport by 2:20, happily on our way to Ubud.






Our friend Ketut picked us up.  We were so excited to see his face and hear about his family.  Ketut’s family takes care of us when we stay at Villa Rumah Cinta in Ubud.  They are extremely kind, hard-working and a very beautiful family. 







UBUD -- August 23-27


ACCOMMODATION


VILLA RUMAH CINTA:  We rent this big beautiful home from an American woman who spends part of her winter here, eventually planning to retire to Bali.  You can read more about the house on my Bali 2009 page.  If anything, this year the house seemed even more beautiful to me.  The owner had added a couple more lounging chairs in the garden, and that was a real treat.  I definitely spent more time reading out by the pool this year. 


There was also a new cafe, the Yellow Flower Cafe, a couple doors down from our villa with excellent lattes and free wifi. 





The boys were thrilled to be back, especially Miles who has had his heart captured by this island, this home, and Ketut’s family.  Ketut’s son came over to see us, and we had many gifts to give him, his sister and his family.  The boys all speak the international language of Nintendo DS, and happily resumed playing together.



Made putting out the morning offerings at our villa.



ACTIVITIES:



Blue Lagoon:  Ketut drove us to the Blue Lagoon (located about 1 hour NE of Ubud) one day to do some snorkeling.  I have to say it was one of the worst snorkeling experiences of my life. True, it looks beautiful as you arrive, the water is VERY clear and the fish were interesting, but we were descended upon by hawker women as soon as we arrived.  And things continued to deteriorate from here.


In order to snorkel from the beach, you swim through heaps of garbage.  This was our first time snorkeling from shore, and it was tough on Miles not having anything to hold on to when you get tired (unlike having a boat nearby).  Our snorkeling was short-lived.   So, we went back to our beds to soak in some sun... nope, it wasn’t to be. The women hawkers would have none of that. Four of them surrounded us, and insisted that we bargain with them. We finally bought so that they would leave us alone, at which time NEW hawkers surrounded us. So we left.  Sigh.  Not a relaxing day.



I've gotten hawkers on the Seminyak and Kuta beaches but they will go away after one or two polite "no thank you's."  We had a great time snorkeling last year in Nusa Lembongan, though our boat captain didn't have fins small enough for our 6 year old, so consider bringing your own. The fish were plentiful and the water clear (and garbage-free!)  I’ve also had good luck snorkeling from a boat from Candi Dasa.  We haven’t been to Amed, but snorkeling there is supposed to be excellent, including the ability to snorkel around a Japanese ship wreck.



“You buy, we go away... no more blah, blah, blah”, this woman tells me as I’m about to scream from annoyance.  I have since gotten many compliments from the wooden bracelet I purchased.



Shopping:  The boys and I had a great time shopping in Ubud together one afternoon, sending Jamie back to the villa to take a much needed nap.  No complaints from him, since shopping is not his thing.  We bought a large ship kite, a tiger kite, a bamboo xylophone (angklung), a rain stick and thunder-maker instrument, a bamboo shaker instrument, and for me?  Two adorable strapless cotton sundresses (one fringed with cotton popcorn balls!), and a glass fish-bead bracelet.  Total cost for the day?  Just under $100.  Nice.





Treks:  We didn’t do much trekking, but we were thrilled to find a lovely trek through the rice fields from our villa to the local grocery store, about 1 km away.  It was so fun watching the farmers, and seeing all the ducks who keep the insects at bay.  Ducks work here as a natural insecticide. 












See my Bali 2009 page for more activities in the Ubud area.


Restaurants:





Laka Leke -- we went here our first night back.  I had made a reservation a couple weeks prior in order to get a good table for their Kecak Dance.  Lots of fire in this dance, and I knew the boys would enjoy that.  Food was good and the setting is beautiful -- gorgeous gardens, surrounded by fire-lit torches.  The dance was excellent.  We knew the plot after seeing a similar dance last year at the Ubud Palace.  The boys love seeing the Monkey King.  And the fire dance was spectacular!






Made’s Warung -- Returned here for a couple lunches.  It’s very close to our house, just up the Penestanen Steps and down the path a bit.  The food is fabulous!  And extremely cheap.  They are super friendly and always give the boys extra attention.  They have a bird in a cage who entertains us with multiple backflips.







Indus -- Returned here after pleasurable meals here last year. Food is good.  The views are fantastic, so I would recommend going before sunset OR go here for a leisurely lunch.


Naughty Nuri’s -- Mexican restaurant just up the hill from our villa.  We only had drinks and nachos here.  I didn’t realize it was Mexican, and I haven’t really wanted to eat Mexican since our Mexico trip back in 2008.  I overdid it then, and haven’t craved it since.  Atmosphere seems fun, but there’s no view or setting, so I would only recommend if you are wanting something other than asian or italian.







Nomad’s -- We had a very good lunch here.  It’s near Ubud Market.  Filled with tourists, but the food was tasty and beautifully presented.












Cafe Havana -- We only had drinks here, but I want to go back for dinner sometime.  It’s a new place, with a live band and salsa dancing.  The menu is Spanish/Cuban and the food I saw passing by looked very good.  They had 2 salsa teachers getting people up and dancing -- everyone was having a ball!  This place has become very popular with the ex-pat crowd in Ubud, according to the lovely Australian manager we spoke to.














Ibu Putu’s Warung -- This is where we have breakfast each day, located at the top of the Penestanen Steps.  The food is wonderful!  Lunch and dinner is available as well. 








Cafe Lotus Candidasa -- We went here after our ill-fated snorkeling trip to the Bloo Lagoon.  It’s about 20 minutes further north from there.  I’m not a fan of the Cafe Lotus in Ubud, but we had a wonderful meal here!  It’s right on the beach, so great views.  And the food was very tasty.  We were able to fly our kites while we waited for lunch.                           





                                     
            


Miles reuniting with Rico, Made’s cute little dog.














 

Canggu/Seminyak, August 27-31, 2010


ACCOMODATION:


SABA Villa, Canggu -- “Heaven... I’m in heaven!”



We've stayed at many luxury hotels:  Four Seasons, St. Regis, Mandarin Oriental, Ritz Carlton.   I told my husband the villa at Saba beat both of those as far as the actual accomodation goes.


The Four Seasons and St. Regis in Bali have the benefit of a restaurant, beach, spa, etc. BUT our villa at Saba was so incredibly luxurious, and the service excellent.   And at half the cost.




We stayed in the Yudihistra Villa.  The pool is huge! Bathrooms were stunning -- loved taking a shower in our bathroom garden. And our kids bathroom had a pond with goldfish and a lovely fountain.















Lovely covered outdoor living room next to the pool, with comfortable seating and ceiling fans.

 




In the morning, the staff brings breakfast to each villa.  Great pancakes, eggs, bacon and fruit.  You can also have them cook other meals for an additional small cost.  You really feel like a rock star in that you have this huge team of people at your whim.  Need laundry done?  Done in a few hours for about $15.  Want to rent a Scooter?  Done in 15 minutes, $5 for the day.  Need a restaurant reservation?  Done.  “Whatever, Whenever”, just as the W promotes, only at a fraction of the cost.


In the evening, the staff brings out the mosquito burning coils, which smell like incense, to keep bugs at bay.  I’ve never seen these in the U.S. so we bought some to bring back with us. 


        


Rather than go to a spa, we had a massage team come to the villa. It was so wonderful getting treatments in the serenity of the garden there. We would do this every other day, scheduling our complimentary afternoon tea right afterwards.  Massage costs:  $14/hour.  That’s right.


I would much rather stay at Saba again, or another upscale villa complex, than the two previously mentioned luxury resorts.  Oh, and we didn’t get here, but guests at Saba have complimentary access to a country club in Canggu, within walking distance of the villas. 


My only complaint, well there are two. One -- Saba is surrounded by these gorgeous rice fields, but you only see them when you come and go since the complex is surrounded by a high wall. It would be nice if there was a view, but then you probably worry more about security and privacy. So not much they can do about that.


Two -- I didn't really like Berewa Beach, near Saba. There was garbage and it is too quiet for my taste. Others I'm sure appreciate the quietness of it. We would just take transportation down to the beach in Seminyak instead. It was very easy to get transportation, and only a 10-15 minute drive.


One other issue. While it is only 10-15 minute pleasant drive to go into Seminyak, lots of rice fields and animals to see, the area close to Saba is unpleasant. It's pretty, BUT there are lots of bumps. This didn't bother my husband or boys, but I wished it wasn't so bumpy and twisty the last kilometer.





ACTIVITIES:






Ku De Ta beach:  We like the beach in front of Ku De Ta restaurant.  There are lifeguards, chairs for rent and boogie boards for rent.  Plus, we like the pizzas at Ku De Ta!  Oh, and the beach is kept very clean.



Waterbom:  Water park in Kuta.  I’m not a fan of water parks, but even I liked this place.  It’s very clean.  The rides were very fun (except for my VERY scary ride on Racetrack!)  Good food, fresh fruit smoothies, cocktails all available very reasonably.  Also, you can rent a gazebo for the day.  Kids had a ball.  We will be back.





Shopping:  Great shopping in Seminyak -- trendy boutiques, handicrafts, and the wonderful Bintang supermarket.  I found an interesting Indonesian antique store and bought an antique batik in fantastic condition.  I love it’s new home on our bed in Windham.


There are lots of other great activities in the Seminyak area.  However this was our last stop in a 3 week tour, so we opted to mostly chill out by the pool or on the beach.  Or sipping a final Bintang at sunset...



RESTAURANTS:




Ku De Ta:  We like this restaurant.  It’s right on the beach in Seminyak.  Great food.  Great people watching.  Kind of pricey for Bali, but not for NY.  And if you have young kids, there is a wading pool to entertain them.  They have a DJ here in the evenings.  We’ve only been here for lunch, but I imagine it’s even more fun at night!  And the above pizzas, along with a pitcher of Sangria, truly hit the spot.
















Khaima:  A Moroccan restaurant with belly dancing on Jalan Laksmana, aka “Eat Street”, in Seminyak.  Good food, busy restaurant, fun vibe.


The Beach House RestaurantOn Echo Beach in Canggu.  SO much fun!!  Go on Sunday for the live music and seafood BBQ.  Get there before sunset... it’s a gorgeous spot to soak it in.  The band we heard was great fun.  We will definitely be back here!

See if you can find my family in the above photo!


Below, surfers at sunset at Echo Beach.




Below are a few more shots of beautiful Bali


       




To get home, we flew on Cathay Pacific, with a layover in Hong Kong and a fuel stop in Vancouver.  Total door-to-door travel time?  31 1/2 hours.  This is not a trip for the light-hearted.



Selemat Tinggai, Bali!  We hope to see you next year.