Many of you might remember when Paul was unable to join us in Bali last April because of his passport woes (he had less then 6 months on his passport). This time they let him on the plane and we were able to introduce him to an island we fell in love with the first time we visited. Some of you might have noted that we really weren’t in need of a vacation, since we had been to Thailand twice in the past two months. But we wanted to make use of the Chinese New Year public holidays and you can always use an extra holiday.
We arrived in Bali and discovered that we had unintentionally picked a great time to visit, as the Balinese were celebrating Galungan. Galungan occurs once every 210 days and is the most important religious ceremony on the mostly Hindu island. It lasts for 10 days and culminates in Kuningan, which meant we were there for both holidays. Immediately on our drive from the airport we noticed that tall beautifully decorated bamboo poles along the road, called penjors. These are put up for Galungan at the entrance of each family compound. We were often treated to roaming parades of children dressed up with drums walking through the streets. It only added to the rich cultural experience of visiting Bali.
We spent our first 3 nights in Ubud, which we visited last year and is the cultural capital of Bali. During any of our holidays, there is always a point where we question why we are traveling with 3 young children. The very first day was a long day of traveling and as we sat in the taxi on our way to the hotel, the kids poking and prodding and fighting with each other…we had one of those moments. But those moments always pass and we enjoyed our days in Ubud. We visited the market, Monkey Forest, attended a dance show and hired a driver to visit the volcano Mt Batur and enjoyed lots of pool time.
From Ubud, we headed to the north of the island where we had rented a villa for a week. The south of Bali is densely populated and is where most tourists visit. We wanted to see a different part of the island and therefore endured a 3 hour drive on a tiny road going 30 km/h to the north. We got to see the first of three funeral processions on the drive. The Balinese have very public funeral processions where the mourners walk through the village in parade-like fashion carrying the deceased in a rudimentary coffin, before they are cremated. It was quite unsettling to see the first processional with two tiny coffins being marched past us in the taxi. We arrived at our fab villa in Lovina (Villa Saffraan) and began our week of doing absolutely nothing. Renting a villa is the perfect option for us because we have lots of space and don’t have to worry about how loud the kids are. We knew from the website the villa was beautiful, but it was truly breathtaking, as you can see from the pictures. The villa was fully staffed with our very own housekeeper/cook, gardener/pool-boy and night security and all for the price of a mid-range hotel. This will probably be the only time in our lives, where we will stay at a staffed villa. Katek, the housekeeper/cook made us delicious Indonesian food every day. The days just melted away with the kids spending most of the time in the swimming pool. Ella particularly discovered the joys of skinny dipping. The villa was located right on a black sand beach, although the beach was littered with garbage, so we stuck mostly to our villa. The north of Bali is much poorer then the south and although we loved our luxurious villa, it was unsettling to see the basic standard of living of the Balinese in this region. As we lounged at our villa, villagers would collect firewood on the beach and fish in simple boats. Our kids attracted local kids on the beach who loved to shout out and wave to Ella and Gavin. We did manage to leave the villa a few times to visit the Git Git waterfall, ricefields, some Lovina restaurants and the grocery store.
We experienced our first bit of corruption on our departure at the pitiful Bali airport. You have to pay a departure tax leaving the country and we paid for 5, only to learn at our gate that you do not need to pay for infants. It was less than $20, but it really upset us to be ripped off. Since our plane was delayed we went back to the departure tax area to complain. They rudely accused us of lying and shooed us away. Which only made us madder. We complained to the airport administration, but got nowhere. But not one to let it drop, we have sent off scalding emails to everyone at the airport whose email address we can find. Bali is a beautiful country to visit, but unfortunately the airport (for many reasons) is truly appalling.
It was a great trip away with lots of good family time.