Bali (February 22 - March 5, 2002)

New Zealand




We stayed two nights at the Jayakarta Hotel and Apartments in the Legian area of Bali. The brochures promised beach and surf - but we found the beach so covered in garbage that I would not go swimming. Plastic wrappers, bottles, and other miscellaneous trash was scattered along the shore break. We didn't realize how spoilt we were with the pristine beaches in Australia and New Zealand. However, the hotel grounds (which are actually across the street from the beach) were spotless, and the kids spent a happy time playing in the three pools.

Sarah and I went for a walk along the beach. After being 'hawker free' since leaving Malaysia in November, we're back in the midst of throngs of penny salesmen. On our 1 hour walk, we were offered massages, a manicure, kites, hats, wooden statues, sarongs, bemo's (sort of a taxi), marijuana, surf board rental, umbrella and deck chair rental, sea shells, and fake watches. We also won a T-shirt, free lunch, and $1000 or a video camera or a luxury 7 day vacation in a foreign location - all we had to do was sit through a 90 minute presentation on some time share or other. Actually, after Australia and New Zealand, its kind of fun to be back to this... and yes, we managed to weasel politely out of buying anything or attending anything.

The currency takes a bit of getting used to as it is a high exchange rate. Sarah was a bit shocked to pay 9000Rp for a large bottle of water from our hotel ... until we realized it was only $1.40.  Strangely enough, we flipped on the TV and saw a Bahasa Indonesian version of  "Who wants to be a millionaire". With the exchange rate, it should be called who wants to be a gazillionaire!

Sania's house

Shrine in Sania's house

I guess we'd all had enough, because the kids didn't complain when we left the Jayakarta Hotel after two nights. We took a private minivan to Ubud on the 24th, and quite by chance checked into Sania's House Bungalows on Jalan Karna. What a wonderful spot. Typical of Balinese houses, its grounds are walled in and each bedroom is a separate small building that is just big enough for a bed and a bathroom - in their case, they have had to expand upwards because they are out of land, but each floor still only has one bedroom. The room rate for our two rooms was about 20% of what we had paid at the Jayakarta. 

The gardens, shrine (pictured) and buildings at Sania's were very picturesque, and they certainly contributed to our feeling of relaxation when we were there. However, it was the other guests that really made us at home. Since the rooms were small, we did not spend much time in them - as a result, we very quickly met the other guests in the hotel. There were three other families there - Swedish/ American, Danish and French. We went out for dinner together after the eight kids finished swimming in the pool. The French family were returning home the next day, but the other two were heading to Padangbai on the east coast of Bali. 

One thing we've discovered on holidays is that when you meet compatible families, it is usually best to change plans and stick together for a while. The kids get some play time and the parents get to relax. So, we decided to join the families in Padangbai, and return to Ubud later.

Padangbai is an hour drive away, and we checked into the Padangbai Beach Inn. The Inn would have been much nicer if the ceiling fan didn't squeak (loudly), if the rooms had included top bed sheets and toilet paper, and if Sarah wasn't sick on the first night from something she ate. We're also getting used to flushing the toilet with a bucket, and getting by without a sink. However, the two rooms combined cost only $25Cdn/night including breakfast, so I won't complain too loudly. The restaurants in the area are also inexpensive - we're averaging about $12 for a full meal with drinks for all of us. Not surprisingly, there seem to be some foreigners who stay for months at a time in this area - it is picturesque, inexpensive, relatively clean (especially the beach), and has a substantially slower pace than Kuta or Legian.

Our kids are snorkeling fanatics. We basically spent two entire days snorkeling in the Blue Lagoon, a few minutes walk from the Inn. Mark announced he could see a Black tipped reef shark, and instead of running up the beach into the trees, Chloe, Heather and the rest of the kids ran into the water to see it too. They had the same reaction for a Blue spotted lagoon ray and a honeycomb moray eel.  These were in fact the smallest versions of each fish that I could ever imagine - each were only about 25cm long. It is still amazing to think how much the kids have changed from Hong Kong, where we had a hard time getting them into the water for their fear of sharks. 

We have met another Swedish family here - one of their girls turned ten and all the kids were invited to a birthday party & games on the beach followed by supper and a kid's movie at a local bar.  Apparently, Swedes are masters of 'party games' to break the ice between new and old acquaintances. We learned a new game at this party that we call the Swedish Hand Game for no other reason than you play it with your hands and we learned it from the Swedish family. Click here to learn how to play.

Heather goes diving

Heather, Mark and Oscar diving
On our last day in Padangbai, we went scuba diving. Mark and I had one dive near the blue lagoon, where we saw 7 black tipped reef sharks and a bunch of blue spotted lagoon rays. They were all quite small (thankfully) - maybe 60 cm for the sharks - but we could get quite close to them. At the tail end of the dive, the tide changed and we got caught in a tremendous current that started quite suddenly. We hung on to the coral by our fingertips and slowly ran out of air while hoping the 5 knot current would diminish. It never did. Even the fish were getting swept away. We ended up letting go and holding on to each other while slowly going up - while ascending, we drifted about 150 metres out to sea. It was no big deal as the boat just came out to get us. Both Mark and I were a bit nervous as we did not understand what was happening, but it was good to see him stay calm under pressure.

Heather has been asking to go diving since Australia, so we signed her up for an introductory dive. Unlike Australia, her age wasn't a problem in Bali. While Mark and I did our first dive, Heather was in the pool with an instructor and Oscar (aged 11) from the Swedish/ American family. Jon, Oscar's dad, went to the pool to watch. In the afternoon we went by boat to Jepun, one bay down from the Blue Lagoon. The boat was big enough that all the families could come out to snorkel while we dived. 

After some minor equipment trouble, both Heather and Oscar had a wonderful time. I'm not sure if I have ever seen Heather so excited. 

The whole gang at Padangbai

Here is the whole Padangbai gang (with some happy Locals who didn't want to leave their shady spot). From left to right - me, Jon, Mark, Local & baby, Local, Melissa (foreground), Oscar, Local, Chloe (foreground), Martin, Christina, Moa, Lovisa, Matilda, Elisabet, Heather, Oliver, & Lone. Jon Cathcart is father of Oscar (11) and Lovisa (9). Martin and Lone Nielsen are parents of Oliver(9) and Christina (5). Elisabet is mother of Melissa(4?), Moa(8), and Matilda (10).

Rice fields in Bali

We returned to Ubud along with the Nielsen's, and changed our flight reservations to give us a few extra days in Bali.  On our first day, we took a car sightseeing trip with Made (pronounced Madé). It was a little disappointing because it seemed to be a typical tourist route - we saw the terraced rice fields, a volcano (Gunung Batur) which erupted in 1982 and 1963. We also saw Pura Besakih, Bali's largest temple. Over the next few days, we did homework, shopped, swam, lost a bank card in the ATM, got the card back from the bank, sent a huge parcel of purchases back home, and went for a long walk to ricefields just outside Ubud. Sarah also went for a relaxing 2 hr massage, complete with facial and flower petal bath for $23Cdn.

We spent our last night in Kuta with the Nielsen's at the reasonably priced (for Kuta anyway) Sari Yasa Samudra Bungalows. We met up with Jon, Oscar and Lovisa again and had drinks at the Hard Rock Cafe before heading to a Mexican restaurant for supper. Our last day we spent with all three families at the hotel pool and on the local beach before leaving for Bangkok. 

We have really enjoyed Bali, although I am not sure if it was being in the company of other traveling families, or the island itself.  

Like Malaysian Borneo, Bali is a beach vacation with quite a bit extra. Bali has culture, excellent craft/ art shopping, and fascinating architecture, while Borneo had incredible wildlife and rain forest. 

And yet all the Bali attractiveness is so easy to miss. I wonder how many 'package deal' tourists never venture past their 4 star hotels, with nearby restaurants, shops and air conditioned buses to discover more of Bali.  I think we spent more money on our first two nights in Legian than we did on food and accommodation for the next seven.  And the thing is, we enjoyed our seven nights in the rest of Bali so much more.

To Thailand!