28 Jul

Of all the places I’ve travelled to, Bali is very near the top of my list of favourites. There’s still a strong sense of ancient culture hidden in temples throughout the cities. The people are friendly and welcoming. The food is delicious – Bali was the first place I discovered kecap manis: a delicious sweet sticky soy sauce. And the beaches are as beautiful as google images (It doesn’t sound as nice as saying ‘as beautiful as a postcard’ but who uses postcards these days anyway?)

Living in Kuala Lumpur gives us the distinct advantage of cheap flights on Air Asia and we landed safely in Denpasar after a rough flight. Our 10 month old baby was a noisy passenger: it turns out he does not like sitting still for 4 hours. It was noticeably cooler than Malaysia when we landed and we were picked up by our hotel owner, and taken to a very sweet, neat and clean homestay. I haven’t slept in such a comfortable bed in almost 2 years and that night we discovered Cap Cay, a delicious Indonesian healthy soup. During dinner, Jack was energetically walking around the bed and the poor guy tripped and cut open his lip: there was blood on the floor and took ages to calm my screaming and hurting boy. Unfortunately for the neighbours, it was about 1 in the morning so they might not have enjoyed their comfortable bed as much as me.

The following day we took a walk to explore Kuta beach. It was pretty but there were hundreds of hawkers desparately trying to make a first sale (the problem with their business plan is that they all sell exactly the same thing!) I also won a competition in a lucky draw and was very nearly persuaded to jump into a car with a stranger who would take us to the hotel to receive my prize. This was actually the first time I have ever travelled without a Lonely Planet so we were not too well informed about scams. Something didn’t feel right so we told him we’d think about it and come back later. We did ask at a tourist centre later and were advised that the prize is usually a few free nights at the hotel for your NEXT visit to Bali, you have to pay upfront now but often when you phone to book, the hotel is suddenly “booked out.”

So, without claiming our prize, we headed straight to Balangan Beach, where we heard the surfing was good and it was relatively secluded. I would not say it was secluded. During the day, the beach was full of sun tanners and the sea was so full of surfers, it was impossible to spot the one you know. Our hotel was lovely and a step up from where we usually stay: A huge bed, a swimming pool, and a pretty manicured garden. There was a rocky walk down a steep hill to get to the beach and lots of Shacks on the beach front, a good place to pick up a cheap meal. They also had rooms to rent which I probably would have stayed in when I was 19. But now I was happy to be in the comfy quiet bed up the hill. (When did I become this type of traveler???)

The beach was good for surfing, with a rocky reef (which sliced Baden’s back open one day and his surfboard the next day) but it wasn’t a great swimming beach. Jack didn’t like swimming in the ocean: he was especially nervous of the white waves but he did love swimming in the pool or rock pools at low tide. He splashed and kicked and dunked his head under. It was very cute. Although the waves are really good, there are almost too many surfers in the water and everyone is competing for the same waves. Baden said there is a lot of aggressive in the water as people complained about other surfers ‘cutting in’ on their wave. I think surfing in Bali was a dream come true for Baden – but as he says, there are many other beautiful places in South Africa with waves that are just as nice (maybe better as he can’t remember ever surfing with so many people in the water.)

One of the days we hired a motorbike and went to the other beaches: Padang Padang, Dreamland, Impossibles and Uluwatu. Jack didn’t really like sitting still in the carrier as he kept wanting to stand. He did eventually fall asleep on my chest which was so precious. Most of the beaches have treacherous paths down hundreds of stairs to reach the beach and crowded with people, although it’s still ridiculously beautiful and laid back.

I had booked us in to a cute homestay in Ubud for 3 nights in the middle of our holiday. Long car rides, however, have become quite tricky with a moving baby. We stopped off at the coffee-making factory and had a tour of the coffee plantations, the Luwak (like a mongoose) cat and had the chance to drink coffee made from Luwak poop. Even I drank the coffee – just for the experience. It cost R50 a cup but we also got to taste a number of delicious teas. When we finally arrived in Ubud, I was in awe of the place we were staying. 100 metres off the busy shopping street, was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen: a gorgeous traditional Balinese homestay with a beautiful Asian garden over looking the rice paddy. Even the parrot could speak 7 languages! Turtles in the pond, large goldfish, shaped trees, rocks, statues: it was everything I had studied in my gardening course a few years back. Our room was upstairs which added to the beauty of it!

During our stay, we visited the Elephant Cave, where we got scammed into paying someone to give us a history lesson. (It was only 2USD though which might have been worth it). We also visited the terraced rice paddies where we had a coffee looking over the fields. We were the first customers that day and the man took our money and tapped it on all the tables, blessing his business for that I day I assume. I had some money set aside for a massage (R80/hour), a facial (R50) and a pedicure. It was all wonderful except the pedicure was a R50 toe nail cut. She didn’t even use cream!

By this time, Jack was getting used to the motorbike. With the dummy in he usually fell asleep quickly. I kept feeling bad that Baden and I got to wear helmets (because they don’t make helmets for small children) but I really take my hat off to Baden for doing the irresponsible, responsibly – by driving very slowly on the far left of the road. Later in the holiday an obviously opinionated Australian heavily criticized me for riding with a child. “Oh the things that people do! People die on motorbikes. Poor boy doesn’t have a choice!” etc. It is not often that I am speechless that I genuinely had nothing to do back to him. “Well, I use cloth nappies,” probably wouldn’t have been enough.

While still in Ubud, we attempted to watch an Evening show. But the ceremony started two hours after we expected and poor Jack was exhausted. I tried to breastfeed him to sleep but there was too much noise. Eventually I took Jack home in the pouring rain and Baden stayed on. He came home 2 hours later and the show still wasn’t finished.

After 3 days in Ubud, we were ready to return to the beach and went back to the same hotel in Balangan. It was by far the most comfortable one we could find. We timed it a bit better to make sure Jack slept in the car (thank goodness I’m still breastfeeding as it’s an easy way to sooth). We spent the following 8 days on the beach, in the sea, in the swimming pool or eating food. Jack is eating solids well now and we just fed him whatever we ate. I loved not cooking or washing dishes.

We successfully managed to cloth diaper successfully for all 17 days – day and night. We didn’t add one single cloth nappy to the Balinese landfills. We both tried handwashing but eventually found a laundry that would wash for R18/load (less than 2usd). I loved having cute fluffy nappies on Jack the whole time.

Our trip was a magical family time. At home, we get so caught up in our jobs, chores and budget, that we seldom have time to love being together. We came home feeling refreshed and remembering why we loved being together. On the last day Baden, during his last surf, he lost his wedding ring. Although it’s sad because we have to buy a new one, in some strange way it is also kind of special. We went to Bali to celebrate our 4th wedding anniversary and we left something very dear to us. I think we will always remember our trip.


ubud homestay


Balangan Beach

Balangan Beach


searching for the ring

searching for the ring


One Response to “Bali”

  1. Calvin July 31, 2014 at 12:59 am #

    Love reading of your travels; vivid enough to be there with you. Jack seems quiet the traveller.

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