We’ve just spent the last three weeks in Bali. We have been very excited about this part of our trip, for a few reasons. It is the last two and a half months of our adventure – which is definitely a long time still, but also we can really see the end here, something that makes us happy and sad. We were excited for a change of scene – guaranteed warm weather, a new culture to discover and new food to eat. Also on a financial note we were keen for the cheapness of Indonesia and South-East Asia.
We split our time between Sanur, and Ubud.
Sanur is well known for its beaches, and for being a family friendly location. We found it to be vibrant, busy, chaotic, friendly and interesting. We loved experiencing a new type of food (I think the most authentic Indonesian food we’ve ever had is the Mi Goreng instant noodles). We have been loving Indonesian food and eating out all the time. I thought that we would get sick of eating the same type of food all the time, but to be honest, I don’t think I could ever get sick of having my food cooked and brought to me! Elena and Kilian are not so adventurous with food, but have been enjoying the Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Mie Goreng (fried noodles).
So, how did we fill our time in Sanur? I’m not going to pretend we were out and about doing heaps of sightseeing – part of why we were looking forward to this ‘leg’ of the trip so much was to really take it easy. It has been a pretty busy year for us, so we were keen for a bit of time to relax and just enjoy our time together before it comes to an end all too soon.
Our days tended to follow the same routine – in the mornings, we would play at our villa (an awesome place with a playroom) and swim in the pool, we would head out for lunch, a look round, and maybe a trip to the beach, and in the afternoons we would repeat the mornings activities – play and swim. In the evenings we would often eat at the local night markets, which was a great way to try lots of different foods and rub shoulders with the super friendly locals.
We were very fortunate to have some pretty great neighbours – a lovely Dutch family who gave us lots of local advice and even better, had a little boy who is just a little bit younger than Elena. Elena and Lucas hit it off almost instantly and for the whole 10 days we were there were almost inseparable. Every moment they were home they were playing together, at our house, at their house, in the garden, in the pool. Lucas is a great swimmer for his age (2.5 years and can swim with no floaties) and we think he might have inspired Elena to try swimming. Prior to staying at Sanur, Elena didn’t even like to get her head wet, but now she can swim by herself! We loved that Elena had a little playmate, and it definitely made the days very relaxing for Pete and I.
One of our days at the beach we did something special. There was a little turtle sanctuary there, which protects the turtle eggs and nurtures the baby turtles until they are ready to go the ocean, and you can pay for the opportunity to ‘adopt’ a baby turtle and release it into the ocean. We decided this would be a great thing to do and Elena was so very careful carrying her new little pet down to the water. We named it Nelly Nunca and we hope that somewhere she is swimming happily with her mummy.
We hired pushbikes for about half our time in Sanur. They were such a great way to get around and see so much of Sanur, and we really enjoyed riding along the beach a number of times. They also have the added benefit of being able to sail past the market sellers who ask you to look into their shop (then lay on the pressure thickly to buy something).
Ubud was a very different place to Sanur. It is inland and has a much more natural feel. There are still so many tourists, but there is also jungle, and rice fields, and monkeys. Our week or so in Ubud was an opportunity to experience a bit more of Bali’s culture, and do a bit more sightseeing. We were staying in a lovely guesthouse among the rice fields and it is a truly beautiful place to be.
We spent the first few days just exploring Ubud. It is a huge place filled with so many nice shops and restaurants. We found it to be a really nice place, with so so many friendly people. People here have been absolutely loving Elena and Kilian. They are often given food – one lady gave them a banana each, and when we said they loved bananas she then filled a bag with about twenty! The Balinese people are incredibly friendly, and generous. Elena has forgotten her previous shyness and loves waving to all the people she sees – probably because she gets an instant reward of a big smile and a wave back. Kilian is a little less certain when he gets picked up and carried away by someone (I think separation anxiety might be kicking in), but he soon warms up.
We visited the Ubud Monkey Forest, a huge forest with over 600 macaques, and is also home to a number of Hindu temples. It was a pretty crazy and interesting place, with monkeys running around everywhere. I have to admit that my heart rate increased significantly whenever a monkey came near me, and even more so when a couple of times one jumped up to the top of our pram (with Kili sitting in it). One stole our little camera holder looking for food, although we did manage to retrieve it after it lost interest. Elena and Kilian were fascinated with the monkeys, and we were all charmed by the tiny little babies clinging onto their mothers tummies. We did not go so far as to feed the monkeys and allow them on our bodies which I’m sure must be a fun experience. For the record, I am not afraid of monkeys, I am afraid of rabies.
We did a couple of lovely hikes – one was the Campuhan Ridge walk which was a pleasant, mostly uphill walk along a ridge, with jungle on one side and rice fields and terrace on another. The other walk was the lesser known Kajeng Rice Fields walk, which we thought was so much nicer than the ridge walk, among beautiful green rice fields with a really peaceful atmosphere.
One day we hired a driver, Eka, who took us to a few sights a bit further afield – we did the tourist trail and visited 3 temples – Goa Gajah, Pura Tirta Empul with its springs flowing with holy water and Gunung Kawi. All were very beautiful and natural. We stopped for lunch at an amazing restaurant – Green Kubu, which is set among rice terraces and ponds filled with lotuses and it was a beautiful and amazing place to eat, with delicious and super cheap food. We ended our day by stopping at the famous Tegallalang rice terraces, which are stunning, but also very touristy.
On the Sunday night that we were there, we made it to church. We haven’t been to church for three months, because we haven’t been in countries where the main language is English, and mostly we have been in rural areas. But as we were walking in Ubud one day, we noticed a church very near our accommodation with an English speaking service. We were really refreshed by that church. It was so encouraging to meet with a small group of people to worship God, in a country that is mostly Hindu. I really admire these people for putting Jesus before the expectations of their family and friends, and swimming against the tide. It was a great service filled with people who are passionate about Jesus. We’ve really missed church and this was a great part of our week.
We were given a very special opportunity while staying in Ubud. We were invited to a traditional Balinese wedding, by the very same Eka, whose family owns the hotel we are staying in. It was a really random invitation, fairly soon after meeting the guy, but we soon realised it was genuine. We were warmed by the generosity of the Balinese. Eka gave us sarongs to wear so that we wouldn’t feel out of place, and arranged for someone to pick us up and drive us home. When we arrived at the wedding we were given food and drink and made to feel very welcomed and at home. The ceremony was very casual, as this was only the first day of the wedding (the big ceremony and party happens a few days after – we were invited to this but unfortunately it was happening after we were to leave Bali). It was a really interesting thing to be part of – watching the bride and groom arrive in their decorated Jeep, and then sharing in snacks and Nasi Campur (an assortment of different Balinese dishes) while the newlyweds prayed in the family temple. We felt very privileged to be able to join in the wedding, and it was a really lovely way to see a bit of the Balinese culture, lifestyle and religion, away from the commercial, ‘touristiness’ that we normally see.
On our last day in Ubud we went on a downhill bike tour. The first half of the tour was driving up Mount Batur, visiting rice terraces and a Luwak coffee plantation on the way. We learned about Luwak coffee – coffee beans which are digested by the luwak animal, cleaned and roasted, turning it into the most expensive coffee in the world. i thought it was very nice. We headed up to Mount Batur, and then proceeded to cruise downhill, stopping at a temple and a house for a little bit of learning along the way. For the last leg of the ride it started bucketing down with rain, so Pete and I had a bit of a faceoff over who would get to continue riding, and who would go in the car with the kids (Pete won – he got to ride). The tour ended with a buffet lunch at the family home with a traditional dance performed by a group of young Balinese girls. Elena loved the dance, and learnt a few moves afterwards.
That was the end of our time in Bali. Now onto Chiang Mai, Thailand – we are meeting up with my mum, uncle and aunt there.
P.S. there are so many photos that I can’t fit into this post, so if you want to see more, please check out our gallery here.