If you like beaches, Bali is amazing. It’s basically Hawaii, but with crazier traffic and much lower prices. Private surf lessons at a reasonable outfit only cost $30. You can get hotel sponsored massages for only $13. Nice! This is our midpoint of our mini-sabbatical, and we decided that the kids might need a break from cities and activities that are more interesting to adults. While we could have done a lot of exploration of the island and a lot of cultural activities, we decided that we would just stay close to our villa and that this would mostly be a place for the kids to have fun.
Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Today we had a surprisingly long flight from Sydney to Bali. 6.5 hours! That’s almost like flying from Boston to London. On a map, Australia and Indonesia look much closer, but I guess Australia is a big country, so crossing it is a bit like crossing the United States. On arrival, we were told that the customs lines would be quite long, but we were pleasantly surprised and breezed through them. The bags took a while to arrive, but otherwise the airport was quite pleasant.
We took a 30 minute cab to our villa at Desamuda Villages. Amazing! For the price of a regular hotel room, we have a gigantic place with two floors, two huge bedrooms, two huge bathrooms, a large sitting room, a reasonable size semi-outdoor kitchen, and our own private plunge pool that the boys love. Note the opening from the covered kitchen to the outdoor plunge pool. I guess it makes sense to keep the kitchen heat away from the rest of the house and not waste AC on it.
Additionally, there are two other pools on the property, one of which is large enough for me to lap swim. The other is next to the breakfast area and has more the feel of a nice pond with a waterfall. The villa is located on one of the main shopping streets in Seminyak and has worked out really well for us.
Thursday, April 26, 2018
I didn’t sleep quite as well as I hoped. I am a turbulent sleeper, open my eyes a lot in my sleep, etc., and the mosquito net confused me and made me jolt awake. Once everyone was up, we went to the semi-outdoor dining area for breakfast where there was a combination of buffet and on-order items. They do not serve any pork products, so we thought it would be interesting to try beef bacon. Who knew that existed? Quite good. James requested their fried rice, also quite good. The buffet had things like orange chicken, crispy fish, and mixed vegetables. Good, but odd breakfast choices.
The fruit selection was quite tasty and I discovered a new favorite fruit, the mangosteen. It is a reddish purple fruit with soft, juicy, white segments in the middle. Only the white stuff is edible, as I discovered when I bit into the nasty, bitter red flesh. The white part is amazingly good. I also tried the salak, or snake fruit as I unhappily discovered, and found it to be okay. If it were less dry, I would enjoy it more. I also tried a “green” orange. It looked like an orange, it tasted like an orange, but its skin was green. Odd.
After breakfast, we decided to learn about our surroundings by walking to the beach. We started on the main shopping street, but the stores were still closed. We got our first lesson in Bali traffic. Cars and motorcycles do not respect crosswalks and that crossing streets is perilous. Motorcycles are everywhere. They cram the streets, they pop out of hidden alleys, they drive on the sidewalks. It was a bit nerve wracking, but we made it to the beach in about 15 minutes. In general, we have found that countries with complicated traffic are much easier without kids. Kids add a whole new level of stress to the situation since they add another level of unpredictability, and since you are typically wider when they walk next to you.
We then walked down the beach to Legian Beach, then to Kuta. It was a beautiful walk, if a bit long. “Daddy, how can we get 32,000 steps by going to the beach?” The kids are usually good sports and can walk very long distances, but they were quite tired.
General observations seemed to be that Seminyak had quieter beaches, but more skull and crossbones signs. Legian Beach had very nice lounge chairs you could rent, a lot of surfing areas, and a very small swimming area. Kuta was crowded, had more plastic upright chairs than lounge chairs, had tons of surfing area, and had much more to the town.
As I put my favorite traveling shoes back on, Rothy’s, I discovered that sand stuck to them like sandpaper and I quickly destroyed my feet. Yikes! I wanted to wander a bit to find lunch, but I hurt so badly that we stopped at the first mall we came to and got food at the food court. The noodles we got were delicious! The system was a bit complicated, but the staff helped us. First, you go to a stand to put money on a card, then you order food from one stand, then you go to another stand to get drinks, then you take the card back to the first stand and you get your change. I guess it keeps the food staff’s hands cleaner, but it was a bit of a hassle.
The kids were still a bit hungry, and there was a McDonalds next door to the mall, so we decided to go try it out. McFlurries and Frozen Fantas were awesome. It is really hot here, so anything cold in an air conditioned building is really welcome. The specials looked very different from things at home. The Nasi Uduk McD looked particularly appealing. It looked like KFC style chicken, rice, and a fried egg. Even though Jeremy has said that he will try to just stick to McDonald’s desserts here, I told him that if he got sick of the food here, I was happy to go there to try out the local specials.
We continued on and I wanted to cry, so we stopped at the first beachwear store we saw and I bought some flip-flops. Oh, what pleasant relief! We did a little more walking, then decided to get a cab back to the villa. The boys were happy that I wanted to take some of the stress off my back and do some lap swimming. They found the pool closet with pool noodles, a donut, and a floating lounge chair and were quite happy. Jeremy even joined us for a bit, even though pools aren’t really his thing.
When I was sick of swimming and being in the hot air, we transferred the boys to our private plunge pool, where they could play while we watched them from the air conditioned sitting room or bedroom. Lovely!
We rested a bit, the kids finished up most of their school work, then we went to get dinner. We wandered around the neighborhood a bit and settled on Made’s Warung. The ambiance was particularly nice and there was live music. I got the Beef Rendang, which was quite good. James beef curry was also particularly tasty, definitely a different flavor than I have ever had, which surprised me since I love trying curries.
We went back to the hotel and settled in for the evening.
Friday, April 27, 2018
I slept a lot better. At this point, we still hadn’t seen a mosquito, but figured the mosquito nets were there for a reason. For whatever reason, it only took me one night to adjust to their presence. Breakfast was tasty. Fried noodles instead of fried rice, slightly poorer buffet selections, so we mostly stuck to ordering food and fruit.
Today we tried out the hotel shuttle service and went to Double Six Beach in Seminyak. From there, we walked about 15 minutes until we arrived at Legion beach and Up2U Surf School, where we had signed John up for lessons. We didn’t realize how fortunate were were to pick that one. The life guard controlled swimming areas on the beaches are few and far between, most spots are designated for surfing and we are uncertain about riptides. Luckily the surf school was right next to a swimming area. We got him checked in, then went down to the beach and rented some lounge chairs under an umbrella and drank way too many sodas. Strawberry Fanta’s are delicious!
James was happy to just play in the water, he likes being on his own two feet and doesn’t want anything to do with surfing, or even boogie boarding. Even better, he discovered that the Denpasar airport is right next to the beach and easily viewable from the beach we were on. He was delighted that he could spend his time splashing in the water, playing with tiny crabs, and watching tons of exotic airplanes coming and going.
After about 30 minutes of dry-land exercises, John was in the water. The first wave, he only got to his knees on the surf board. The second time, he was standing! We couldn’t believe how quickly he picked it up! I had told him not to be disappointed if he didn’t stand up the entire day, but that obviously wasn’t a problem.
After his lesson was completed, he was one happy camper. We asked him if he wanted to do it again tomorrow and he was ecstatic! $30 for a 2.5 hour private lesson is quite nice. If someone really wants to learn to surf, it could make a lot of sense to buy a plane ticket here and take lessons every day for a couple of weeks. Lodging and food can be quite inexpensive and even with a plane ticket, the numbers could work out. The only thing here that seems quite pricey is the sunscreen. We were starting to run out and ended up paying about double what we would at home, but we felt grateful since we thought we were going to need to pay triple or quadruple.
The lessons corresponded to the safest surf schedule, so he didn’t get out of class until 1:00. We were quite famished, so went to see what was nearby and found LemonGrass Thai. Jeremy and I shared a seafood platter. The seafood was fine, but the dipping sauces were much better. The boys’ eyes lit up when they saw hamburgers on the menu.
We wandered the shopping areas a bit more, then went back to the hotel for a swim and rest time. I saw my first 2 mosquitos and squished them. I am very thankful for mosquito nets and sat in my “tent” most of the evening.
For dinner, we wandered around a bit and found a warung that looked nice. We popped in and I decided to try the Indonesian style Peking Duck. It is basically just duck that has been roasted until it has a nice crisp crust. Tasty, but not sure I would order it again. One thing I have noticed is that the vegetables here are particularly good. Almost every meal has come with a side of delicious veggies. They always seem to have a lot of flavor and they have the right blend of soft and crunchy. There has been some crunchy fuzzy stuff mixed in that I really like.
Saturday, April 28, 2018
This morning we had another nice breakfast. The BBQ chicken wings were amazing. Yes, this is breakfast I am talking about. I tried another fruit that I really liked. The flesh looks a bit like the inside of a kiwi, but it was bright red/purple, rather than green. Some internet research indicates that it could be an unusually colored dragon fruit.
John’s surf lesson didn’t start until 11, and since everyone is getting a bit tired of the heat and sun, it was a perfect morning to get a bunch of schoolwork done. “But it’s Saturday!” “Too bad.” Only 9 more assignments before they have finished their English curriculum for the year. With the exception of math and a few little things, most of their other classes are already done since I made them do a bunch of extra work before we started traveling.
We caught a taxi to Double Six beach again. We were intending to go to Kuta, but didn’t have time. From there, we took a nice walk along the beach. Jeremy’s flip flops broke. So much for quality. Even though the sandals appeared to be reasonable, they only lasted 2 days. In general, things here are inexpensive, but the quality is also not so good. The really nice shops are have decent quality stuff, but they also have American price tags. Since everything is negotiable here, and few things have a price tag, sometimes it is hard to figure out what is real and what is an inferior copy. The shops are fun to look at, but we haven’t actually purchased much.
John checked into his lessons, and we went and got another lounge chair. The guy from Friday was happy to see us back. We didn’t realize that the empty, front row chairs were reserved, and ended up in second row seats since we had already forked over our money. We still had a good view of both the surfing beach and the playing beach, so it wasn’t a big deal. Since the class was going to go through lunch time, we had already fed John some snacks, and the rest of us snacked in our lounge chairs, and once again ordered way too much soda. Tomorrow it is probably just going to be soda water for me.
James and I built a sand castle, then did some body surfing. Quite fun! Then Jeremy took a turn with James. John was starting to learn how to turn his surf board, and his instructor was having him do a lot more starts on his own, so he wasn’t having as many perfect runs to the shore, but it looked like he was learning a lot.
After surf lessons were over, all of us were quite sunburned, even though everyone except John had been re-applying quite frequently. I think we were sweating the sunscreen off as soon as we were putting it on. We decided to head back to the villa. John was red and tired, and just wanted to watch T.V. James and I went swimming in the pool for a bit. After swimming, I decided to try the upstairs bathroom, where the shower does not have a roof over it. There are a bunch of nice plants in the bathroom, and you feel like you are outdoors. I felt a bit like Bathsheba, bathing on the rooftop, but at least there were no hilltops nearby for anyone to peer down at me.
With the heat, our clothes were getting a bit nasty. There is a laundry across the street from our hotel and for about 50 cents per pound, you can have someone wash, dry, fold, and iron your clothes. $4 and 24 hours later, we had a stack of nicely folded clothes ready to go back into our suitcases. Later in the day we saw another place that would do it for half that price.
Just before dinner, I got a massage. The hotel offers in-villa massage services. So for only $13, I got a 60-minute massage in the privacy of our villa. I think I could have gotten half that price if I would have gone to one of the shops on the street, but the services through Desamuda Villages felt more legit.
Once the sun started to set, we ventured out for dinner. Finding true Indonesian restaurants near our villa has been much harder than we would have expected. We did find a nice looking Thai place that had a few Indonesian things. I decided to try the Indonesian pepper beef and Jeremy got a Thai curry. We ended up trading, and both of us were happy. John got a hamburger, but it came with a fried egg on top and the meat looked like it had been steamed. John was less than pleased, but it is part of travel.
I think all of us are sun-ed out. John and I have some pretty bad sun burns. Jeremy can only handle so much beach time, and while James enjoys the water and sand, he gets tired of the heat. We are trying to figure out what to do tomorrow, but are all feeling lazy. The rice fields could be really interesting, but we don’t feel like driving anywhere far away. After our trip to India in January, we are also templed out. Once you cross out beaches, temples, and sun, there isn’t a lot left.
Sunday, April 29, 2018
We had a leisurely breakfast. I enjoyed my fried noodles and plate of fruit. The boys haven’t been drinking milk here, but this morning I mixed 3/4 of a cup of milk with 1/4 cup of coffee, added a packet of sugar, and James drank it. John wouldn’t touch it, so hopefully his ice cream cones will be good enough. I am crossing my fingers that Singapore will have milk that the boys will drink.
We lounged a bit in the AC of our villa, then headed out to the Kuta International Christian Church. The music was excellent, the preaching grounded in scripture, the people very friendly and welcoming. The building had a nice altar that made us feel like we were in Asia. There was a roof over the chairs and altar, but the sides of the building were mostly open to the air. There were lots of fans installed, which really helped with the heat.
After church we stopped at a nice coffee shop that advertised Balinese street food. We ordered various Nasi Campurs, which contain rice surrounded by small portions of various side dishes. They were quite good, although instead of getting the $5 one, I think I accidentally pointed to the $1.50 one. Oh well, it was still good.
It was hot, so we took a cab back to the villa and went swimming. I got another massage while the boys enjoyed some TV time.
We were going to go back to Kuta, but John wasn’t feeling well, so James and Jeremy decided to walk to Seminyak Beach instead. The sunset was beautiful!
By the time they returned, John was feeling mostly better. We decided to try out the villa restaurant and had some fabulous food. I was debating between the seafood and the beef rendang, but since James got the beef, I decided on the seafood. My food was good, but when I took a taste of James food, I was quite jealous. Jeremy and I both got the “ice lemon tea,” which came with a very impressive garnish.
After dinner, we came back to our room and started to pack up for our afternoon flight to Singapore. Hopefully none of the local bugs make it into our suitcase. As beautiful as it is here, it is the tropics. Even with twice daily cleanings of our room, it is hard to keep them out. I think I might go crazy if I had to try to keep them out of the kitchen.