Touching down in Denpasar, Bali’s capital, you know you are somewhere special and very far away (from L.A. anyway). I had been anticipating this trip for many months and had been so nervous about the 24+ hours flight with small children but the hours passed without incident. Thanks to the abundant entertainment for kids on Singapore Air, Shepard and Pippa were amazing. I didn’t even need to use the Benedryl I brought!
Exiting the airport your senses are assaulted by the hot, humid air, the smell of petrol mixed with ripened fruit and fried onions and the omnipresent chimes of the gamelan, the traditional Balinese percussion instruments. You can’t throw a cat without hitting a gamelan ensemble in Bali. The music will forever be embedded in my mind.
I had arranged for a driver with car seats to pick us up. For 250,000 Indonesian Rupiah (Rp) the equivalent of about 20 dollars we were driven to our hotel. If you’re planning a trip to Bali, I highly recommend securing a driver beforehand. Rio De Bali was so great. Someone from his team drove us the whole month all over Bali. I got in touch with him via Facebook before the trip and Wayan was there, smiling brightly, right on time holding a sign with our name on it. I loved the Balinese people already.
Our first stop was Vila Shanti in Sanur, the perfect place for us to recuperate from the long journey. Right on the beach, gentle waves for kids, very shallow water and a contained kid pool. We could sit in the restaurant or in a chaise lounge and read while the kids played in the pool or beach. It took several days to stop waking up at 4am.
Sanur, sometimes referred to as Snore for its sleepy vibe was perfect for a family with young kids. Not the debaucherous party scene to the west in Kuta or the sleepier, Nusa Dua. We found many bustling restaurants and cafes but after a few days we found the food…uninspired. If I don’t have another plate of Nasi Goreng for the rest of my life I’d be fine. We mixed it up at Minami, a Japanese restaurant, a welcome change from the bland fried rice dishes. We celebrated Pippa’s 3rd birthday there and the staff was so nice to sing Happy Birthday to her.
Another tip if you’re a coffee addict like me – BRING YOUR OWN COFFEE!
The Balinese coffee leaves a lot to be desired. It’s mostly instant coffee or as Alan called it, Cowboy coffee, hot water poured over coffee grounds, thick and grainy yet oddly weak. I jumped for joy when I saw Starbucks right outside our hotel (the only one we’d find the whole month). Little help to me though since I only drink coffee when I first wake up and it didn’t open til 8am – way too late. Stupidly I decided at the last minute not to pack my travel coffee filter and ground coffee. It would’ve been a game changer to be able to have a nice cup of my own coffee when I woke up at 4 or 5am.
I loved Sanur. In the evenings we’d walk along the boardwalk and check out all the restaurants, street vendors and shops. We liked that there seemed to be mostly Indonesian tourists and of course, Australians but not an American to be found. One day we took the kids to this crazy play place called Peek-a-Boo. There was a store called Hardy’s, a Balinese Walmart that was fascinating.
After almost a week of acclimating to Balinese time, weather and culture we were ready to move on to Ubud, in the mountains.
* I’m selling these beautiful sarongs from Bali and donating ALL of the money to two great charities. Take a look here!