This trip is a new instalment of my “spend my birthday in another country” routine that is now in its 5th year.
We started out the trip with a late afternoon flight to Denpasar airport on the 28th of November, which is the day before my birthday. The flight from Kuala Lumpur was 3 hours long, and since we were staying in Ubud, about an hour away from the airport (if the taxi driver knows the exact location of your destination, which ours did not), we arrived at our hotel reasonably late in the evening. By the time we got settled into our room, since it took so long for the hotel staff to try and set up a cot for Leo, we didn’t have dinner at the hotel restaurant until about 10pm. After that, it was straight to bed! Our poor tired boys being up way past their bedtime.
Tuesday November 29th, 2011
This morning I woke up as a 28 year old. We didn’t have any plans set yet, so I looked through a bunch of the brochures we picked up at the airport to see if I could find a tour that would include exciting things to do on my birthday. We didn’t really get up early enough to organise a full day tour, though, which included more of the sorts of things I was particularly interested in doing, but I ended up finding a good afternoon tour, and decided to save a full day tour that I liked the look of, by the same tour operator, for another day.
Jeremy called in to organise the collection from the hotel, and we enjoyed our complementary breakfast from the hotel’s restaurant. This was the only day where the breakfast was not a buffet.
After breakfast, and since we were not going to be collected for our tour until 2pm, we decided to go for a wander out of the hotel. The first stop on our walk was an old looking shrine on the side of the road, and over the fence we found a whole bunch of adorable ducklings.
We continued on our way toward more central Ubud, admiring some of the nice Balinese architecture and graffiti murals along the way, until we reached the Antonio Blanco Museum, which we stopped in to see his paintings and former studio. Upon arrival, we were offered some special ice tea, which was very nice. After drinking the tea, and admiring the birds and flowers, we climbed the stairs to enter the gallery. What I found most fascinating by the artwork was how many of the frames were crafted to become part of the art themselves. The gallery itself wasn’t too large, so we didn’t spend a huge amount of time there, and soon set off wandering closer into the town again.
We crossed a bridge and passed some souvenir shops, browsing some of them, and bought a few things. Then we stopped for lunch and enjoyed bebek betutu, which is a special Balinese-style smoked duck dish. After we finished our meal, we headed back to our hotel, and Jeremy decided to take the boys for a swim to cool off before we were due to be collected for our tour.
Our driver, Ketut, arrived at just after 2pm. Both Doyle and Leo must have been tired from our morning expedition, since they both fell asleep on the ride to our first stop at Taman Ayun – a temple that was constructed in 1634 by king Mengwi. We didn’t really want to wake up the boys, though worried about what would happen if we left Leo behind and he woke up, so we left Doyle in the van to sleep, but moved Leo into his carrier so that Jeremy and I could wander around and take in the sight of the temple grounds, photographing different parts of it. It was a remarkable looking structure, and we certainly got some good photos.
When we got back to the van, Doyle was still asleep, and Leo had remained asleep the entire time. Though by the time we arrived at the next stop – Alas Kedaton, to see monkeys and flying foxes – Leo had woken up. I believe we had to wake Doyle up, however, especially since he was the main reason I had decided we should go to this particular part of the tour. It was raining a little, so when we got out, we were given a local guide, who provided us with umbrellas. It didn’t rain too badly for long, though, and we were soon able to give back our umbrellas. The highlight of this stop was seeing several mothers and baby monkeys sitting on a wall together. The not so great part was having to go back to our guide’s shop, and feeling like we couldn’t leave until we bought something from her. At least we bargained her down a lot, since we didn’t really want to pay her original asking price. Both Doyle and I ended up with shirts.
The final stop on our tour was the Tanah Lot area, on the west coast of Bali, overlooking the Indian ocean at sunset. Doyle wasn’t too interested in wandering down to the temple and shrine area, so he stayed with Ketut by the seafood restaurant where we would be having dinner, while Jeremy and I wandered down that way with Leo, to take a number of photos. Since I love photographing sunsets, this was a particular highlight for me.
The meal at the restaurant was included in the tour price, and provided a range of BBQ seafood items, from fish, to scallops, prawns, and oysters. Despite the fact I generally dislike having to pick at my food to take out the bits I can’t eat, like shells and bones – which I had to do for just about everything we were served – I really enjoyed the meal. Surprisingly, Doyle and Leo managed pretty well themselves, though they mostly stuck with rice and soup. The only thing we had to pay for extra was drinks, and we tipped the musicians who played a song for us, as we left.
On our journey back to our hotel, we told Ketut about the other tour we wanted to do with the company he worked for, and asked him if he would be our driver again, for the tour on Thursday. He accepted, and provided his number for us in case we needed it.
Since it was pretty much time for both boys to go to bed by the time we got back, Jeremy treated me by looking after them and making sure they went to sleep, while I took his computer out into one of the gazebos in the courtyard so I could skype with a friend who wanted to wish me a happy birthday that way.
Overall, I can definitely say I enjoyed my birthday.
Wednesday November 30th, 2011
Our breakfast this morning varied from the day before, in that we had a buffet spread to choose from, and were offered cooked meat and eggs, at our preferred style. I wondered if the reason the buffet had not been available the day before might have been to there being fewer guests staying at the hotel.
We had a much more relaxing day today, so rather than getting out and about too far, we opted to use the hotel’s free shuttle to the Ubud market area. As soon as we arrived, however, Doyle was busting to use the toilet, so we had to quickly find a place that had one that we could take him to. Starbucks didn’t, but Café Lotus next door did, so we stopped in there for drinks, and took in the beautiful sight of an old looking temple behind it while we drank.
After our drinks were finished, we wandered along the main street in the town to have a look at some of the shops, until we reached the markets. Doyle was a little troublesome here, wanting to do more of his own thing, or buy things that actually didn’t really serve any purpose for him, but we eventually managed to get him to calm down a little, long enough to look around most of the markets.
Across the street, we found a nice place to stop for lunch, where I got to try some mie goreng and enjoy something called hummingbird cake. Doyle made friends with a little girl who was about one of two years younger than him. After we finished our lunch, we wandered some more about the local area, until we got tired and decided to wait for the shuttle to take us back to our hotel.
Jeremy had an appointment for a work related skype call in the afternoon, so I took the boys for a swim while that was on. They had lots of fun splashing the water at each other, but when Leo decided to start biting me, I decided it was time for him to get out. I had to look after him while Doyle played on the steps of the pool, and I had to make sure he didn’t fall in and drown too. Luckily by then, Jeremy wasn’t gone too much longer, so he joined us at the pool.
We then went back to our room and put on a DVD of Elmo’s Christmas for the boys to watch, before we headed out to the hotel restaurant for dinner. If it hadn’t been raining, we may have travelled farther than that for our meal.
Thursday December 1st, 2011
We had to have an early start to the day today, due to the time Ketut said he would pick us up for our tour to make sure we got to our first stop on time. This meant having to wake Doyle up so we could have our included buffet breakfast to start.
Ketut collected us at 8:30am, and drove us to Batubulan to see a Barong and Kris dance. Though the singing and speaking parts were in Indonesian, it was still fun to watch and see the amazing costumes of the Barong and Rangda. We were also given a programme that explained the play to a certain extent – unfortunately it didn’t explain why it seemed like all the men stabbed themselves to death at the end. At one point they also had a funny joke that involved the monkey’s tail between its legs. Doyle and Leo both seemed pretty enthralled by the show, so I’d certainly recommend it for children.
The next few stops on the tour took us to various places where they make things for tourists to buy – batik paintings, cloths, and clothes, where we got to see some people hand weaving and painting the cloth, at Tohpati; a gold and silver shop at Celuk; and paintings in Ubud. We perhaps spent a little too long in these places considering we didn’t actually buy anything, but then we were taken to a garden at Temen village that grows fruit, spices, cocoa, and coffee. They gave us free tastings of five different drinks – coffees, teas, and hot chocolate. I’m someone who generally hates coffee with a passion, and I did dislike the regular coffee, but I actually really liked the ginseng coffee. I’m usually a fan of hot chocolate, but I needed a lot of sugar in this one to like it a little bit. Then with the tea, I thought the lemon tea was nice, but not being a fan of ginger, did not appreciate the ginger tea. Since both Jeremy and I enjoyed the ginseng coffee and lemon tea, we decided to buy a small pack with both from the gift shop, as well as some of the vanilla chocolate they let us taste, and vanilla essence. We figured these purchases made up for the fact we didn’t buy anything at the other stops.
We were well and truly hungry by now, so fortunately for us, our next stop was a restaurant in Kintamani, where we had a buffet lunch overlooking the Mt Batur volcano and lake. It was a really beautiful view, and the food wasn’t too bad at all. One of the things I love most about buffets when travelling with children is that there’s pretty much always going to be something on offer that they will eat, no matter how fussy they are. Of course, that doesn’t necessarily stop a baby from being messy…
It was already getting to be quite a long day, and we were sort of running out of time to fit everything in. By the time we arrived at the next stop, Doyle was complaining and said he didn’t want to get down, so we left him with Ketut again, since they’d sort of become friends. I carried Leo in his carrier on my back, and had to wrap my scarf around my waist (despite wearing long pants), as was the custom to go to the grounds of the Besakih temple area (also known as Bali’s Mother Temple). Jeremy also had to wear a sarong around his waist, but that was included in the “donation” that we had to pay in order to have a tour guide, which we essentially had to get in order to see more of the temple area. Despite the fact it was kind of like a bit of a con, and they didn’t like how little we wanted to donate for this feature (eventually they accepted when it was obvious we wouldn’t pay more), the temples were pretty cool to look at, and our guide was pretty knowledgable and told us a lot about them. On the other hand, it took me a long time to work out what Hindu God he kept referring to, since he pronounced it in a rather bizarre way. It was quite a hike to get up to the main temple area, especially with a baby strapped to my back, but we didn’t want to accept the motorbikes in case they wanted to charge us extra for those as well.
When we got back to the van, Doyle whined about wanting to see the temples too, but it was too late now! And given that we were already running short on time, and Doyle walks a lot slower than us, it probably worked out for the best this way. We quickly headed off to Kerta Gosa to have a look at the court hall of justice, though most of the gates were closed and locked, and it looked like we wouldn’t be able to get in. There were still a few interesting things around to take photos of. Then Ketut found an unlocked gate, so we quickly jumped inside to snap a few extra photos, before heading back to the van.
Both boys were terribly restless by this point, but we still had not been to the one thing I wanted to see most on the selected tour – Goa Gajah, the elephant cave temple. It was originally meant to be in the middle of the tour, but I guess we took too long at our earlier stops to fit it in then. Well, despite the kids’ whining, I insisted we still go there, and did my best to make Leo stop crying by feeding him all the food I still had in my handbag for him.
When we arrived at Goa Gajah, all the shopping stalls were shut because it was so late, but that suited us fine since we didn’t fancy having people trying to sell us more things anyway. There were very few other tourists there, which made taking photos easy. The design of the cave entrance was both cool and a little creepy looking. We had a little wander down toward the sort of water areas, then headed back to the van so we could head back to the hotel, stopping at an ATM on the way so we could pay our driver.
That’s when Jeremy discovered he’d accidentally left his ATM card in an ATM the day before. And he didn’t have a spare one on him; nor did I know the PINs for the cards I’d had on me! So we had to go back to the hotel first for Jeremy to collect another ATM card, while I looked after the unsettled, tired boys. We were too full from the buffet lunch to worry about dinner, so we pretty much just went to sleep once Jeremy had sorted out the payment.
One of the things I sincerely enjoyed about having Ketut as our driver was getting to use some of my Indonesian vocabulary, with words and phrases I’d learned in school and since forgotten coming back to me. I also enjoyed making him laugh when I told Doyle to say “Ibu cantik.”
Friday December 2nd, 2011
After the exhausting, full day the day before, we decided to have a pretty easy day today. After the usual buffet breakfast, we had a relaxing morning while I read one of the books I brought for research for my novel, and Jeremy took the boys for a swim. Then we went for another wander outside the hotel, in the opposite direction than Tuesday, but didn’t find anything too interesting. Rather, we ended up hot and bothered, with a sleeping baby, until we decided to stop at a restaurant across the street from our hotel for lunch.
The afternoon saw us relaxing more, with Doyle watching Elmo again, and playing a bit with Leo, until Leo got hungry, so we took the boys to the restaurant for an early dinner. As soon as their meal was finished, we left them with one of the hotel workers, who babysat them for us after her shift, so that Jeremy and I could go out and spend some time together just the two of us.
We caught the free shuttle into Ubud and arrived at Bodyworks for a couples massage therapy session, which was really nice and relaxing. We both had a different therapist working on us at the same time, in the same room, and it ended with a nice relaxing bath together. As an added bonus, they gave us the leftover oil they used to take home with us!
We’d booked the very next shuttle back to the hotel, so after the massage, we had to head back to the meeting point for that. We still had more time before the babysitter was due to finish, however, and hadn’t eaten dinner yet ourselves, so we went to the Round Bar, which was next door to our hotel.
After a while of looking around the bar, it occurred to me that the entire interior was made out of recycled materials, which I thought was really cool. The seat coverings were denim, the lights, and other decorative items, they all used things like plastic bottles and tin cans. Jeremy and I shared a couple bar snacks, and had a drink each, before heading back to our room and relieving the babysitter of her duties. She hadn’t managed to get the boys to sleep, so we had to do that ourselves.
Saturday December 3rd, 2011
Today was our last day in Bali, and we managed to get a nice sleep in before our usual buffet breakfast; probably thanks to everyone having a late night the night before. We took the shuttle back into Ubud because I wanted to check out the Museum Puri Lukisan, even though I didn’t know what was housed there. I just tend to be a fan of museums. It turned out to be another art museum, but this time it showcased local art by Balinese artists, and in some cases, had cloth calendars and sculptures dating back a few centuries. Included in the ticket price was a free drink from the attached restaurant, so we got some drinks before heading off.
On our way back toward the shuttle pick up location, we stopped at a convenience store to buy some things we could make ourselves in our hotel room for lunch, which we did as soon as we got back to the hotel.
Jeremy still had more work to catch up on in the afternoon, so the boys and I did a combination of playing, relaxing and napping, until we found a spider in the bathtub! We had to call the reception to send someone to fetch it out for us, because it looked like a rather large huntsman so typical in Australia, and we didn’t fancy having to deal with it ourselves.
In the evening, we went for another walk outside of the hotel, crossing the street to book ourselves a 3am taxi to the airport for our 6am flight. Then we continued along the direction we took our first day, until we found a restaurant attached to someone’s house, which we decided to have dinner at. Both Doyle and Leo were unfortunately fussy with the food we ordered for them. On the other hand, I enjoyed my chicken & pineapple ala Martini with Balinese sauce.
We headed back to the hotel again to pay our bill, and had an early night due to the 3am pick up. We were actually ready right on 3am, but our driver wasn’t… Jeremy ended up having to wake him up by knocking several times on his door! I suppose that’s one advantage to your driver living across the street from your hotel… Fortunately, the taxi was also pre-paid, and at that time of night, we still managed to get to the airport before 4am, which is about the time the airport actually opened. There were a bunch of other passengers already waiting outside until security let us in.
I had previously researched that there was a departure tax to be paid at the airport, and how much it would be, but the research I found also told me we wouldn’t have to pay for the kids. The research was wrong. We didn’t have enough money for Doyle’s departure fee (Leo was still free), so Jeremy had to get more cash from the ATM in order for us to leave. Oh well!
On a final note, I was most impressed with Doyle when we were waiting to board the plane, and he read all the Chinese characters on a bottle of orange juice bottle Jeremy had bought to use up our leftover Rupiah.
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