Hi I’m salty dog. Well I do have a dog and I live on the beach and my dog likes to swim. Enough said. We have been coming to Bali for many years. My husband first came in 1978 and then we came together in 1985. We now bring our kids. I think we counted this was their 4th time, my 12th and husbands lucky 13th. No 1 son is 14 and turned 15 on our last day in Bali. No 2 son is 12.
Got through the airport in record time. This is the first time we haven’t used VIP for years and there really was no need to. As soon as we rounded the corner to the money changes the scent of Bali enveloped me. My heart sighed.
I can’t believe how much the area outside the airport has changed in a year. It is quite a walk now to the parking area but it is easy and allows us time to take in a little of Bali. Very quickly we are in the car and on our way. Our driver Made is a mad surfer as are my two boys and husband. The talk is of tides and swell and wind and Kelly Slater and Mick Fanning. I just look out the window and their talking washes over me. No 1 son who is 14 leans against me and says ‘I love Bali mum”.Now he doesn’t say much normally. He is 14 and usually just talks “surf”. ‘Do you darling – why’? ‘It’s just really interesting and different. Dunno, I just love everything about it’.Now this is why I love holidays. To share something you love with your kids just melts my heart.
Because there is little traffic we arrive at the villa in record time. We are staying in Canggu and it is one of those Bali wow moments when we enter. The villa, Pantai Indah is 18 months old, simple and beautiful.
DAY 1 Repeat after me “Surf Eat Surf Eat Surf Eat”
God, husband ( I shall call him Handsome for this blog) forgot to turn off his alarm. 4am. Great. Only got to sleep about 3 hours ago. Next alarm 4.30.am. It is the reminder alarm for no.2 son’s guitar lesson.Note to self. Erase all alarms etc of previous life before the holiday starts. The boys hit the surf as dawn is breaking. I attempt to go back to sleep. Am starving. No dinner last night so eat some yogurt out of the fridge. Am pleased I ordered food for the villa before we arrived. Hang out and wait for their return. Meet the staff and chat as they prepare breakfast. I walk down the beach but don’t go too far. Apparently the surf was fantastic and we leisurely eat fruit, eggs, yogurt, wholemeal toast. Everyone is starving. Then they are charged up for another surf. My sister arrives tonight so I will have someone to hang out with while the boys feed their surf addiction.
If only it was!
Lunch.We head off to Desa Seni. A divine little village type resort that reminds me of the shire in the hobbit. Story book cute with pretty gardens and meandering paths. At lunch I order the Desa Seni salad which has herbs and salad veges out of their garden with crunchy tempe. Right up my alley. Handsome orders Mahi mahi and the boys pizza. No 2 son hates his . UUUrg This always happens. The tomatoes are too fresh!!! No 2 son loves his. I have a hot Jamu of turmeric, ginger, lemongrass and some leaf I don’t recognize but tastes a little like eucalyptus. I really like it. Handsome has, you guessed it , his first Bintang. He doesn’t drink much beer at home but in Bali in loves a Bintang. The boys have a chocolate milk shake. I can predict and I hope I am wrong but they will invariably order the following all holiday– pizza, spaghetti, ribs, chocolate milk shakes and lemon juice. Maybe you could throw a sate and a salad in there too. Wish they would be more adventurous.At home they have to eat much healthier fare but on holidays I relax the rules and they can pretty much order what they want within reason.We wander around and take photos of the vegetable gardens. I look in the gift shop and then we order a cab and go back to the villa.
How sweet is this vegetable patch at Desa Seni
The boys head out for another surf and I catch a cab to the tailors with some clothes I want copied. I bought the fabric with me. This takes ages because the traffic is so bad.For dinner I have booked “om” at Canggu from TA recommendations. We arrive and it’s quite beautiful , simple and elegant. Bamboo and white curtains. It is fully staffed but not a guest in site! I check my watch. It’s nearly 8. We get the giggles as the staff nearly fall over themselves to serve us. The menu looks great, drinks menu fine. Where is everyone? Oh well the boys are ravenous and suggest they won’t have to wait long for the meals to come. Haha no spaghetti or pizza on the menu! They both decide to have duck with noodles. No 2 son only changes it slightly. No cashews and no spice. I order duck salad Thai style and H orders chicken bamboo and sure enough it arrives in a chunk of bamboo. The boys meals come in little cane baskets that sit upright facing them. This looks gorgeous but proves fatal for spills. All meals are delicious. Mine is quite spicy so I’m pleased I ordered a young coconut. We have a wander around after dinner. It’s quiet with a few local kids scooting around on their push bikes.
No 2 sons dinner at om ,some of which ended up on his lap.
Day 2 “Teenager saved in Legian. Sharks seen circling”.
My sister arrived late last night with her son( he is also 14). I am really looking forward to seeing them. They haven’t been to Bali before. I live in Sydney and they live in Byron so we see each other but not as often as I would like.The boys surf at dawn again. Breakfast at 8 and then we walk to Echo beach to meet them at 9.30. We have booked massages back at the villa at 12 .30 so we hang around till then and my nephew and the boys surf. I have reflexology and sis and Handsome have a massage. God it hurts but I know it is doing me good..
The boys are desperate for a shop so we arrange with the driver Made to take us to Legain and then to Mataharis . The traffic is horrendous. Nephew is having a conniption in the back of the van as we pass all the shops on Jalan Legian . He has no idea how long this street goes for and how many shops there are along it. He is almost jumping out the window to get at them. By the time we get to Legian he is so pumped we don’t even leave the car park before he has bought a bb gun. Made had to interject and help because if you can picture this, nephew is standing there, wallet opened surrounded by Balinese hawkers offering all sorts of delights appealing to a teenage boy and he is prepared to pay the first price offered. This is despite our coaching on how to bargain all the drive here. The boys are off with Handsome and my sister and I look in a few shops. To be honest I don’t feel well. I wonder if I should have stayed home. I buy a beautiful silk scarf for Rp 185000. I feel a little better. Funny how that works. I laugh at my nephew who seems be in a shopping frenzy but lucky for him Handsome has him in hand. The boys end up buying a few bits and pieces but really I think its best to come back when nephew is a bit more seasoned. In Mataharis the boys find the Nixon watches which are cheaper than at home. Sis buys a beautiful batik dress and t-shirt. Handsome takes the boys to the fish spa. No 1 son has cuts on one foot so Handsome asks for a 1 leg discount. Laughs all round. We go into the DVD shop in Kuta square which we always go to. They tell you which DVDs are good and which aren’t. I might add this isn’t necessarily fool-proof. We buy enough to keep the boys happy and then make the drive back to Deus at Canggu for dinner. The traffic is dreadful but the traffic going in the opposite direction is worse. Far worse. It is the cars, buses and vans returning from watching the sunset at Tanah Lot .In all my trips I have never been to Tanah Lot and thought I would go this time but seeing this traffic I decide against it.
Deus is really cool. Great art, funky bikes and boards. My tummy feels really fizzy so I just order chicken soup. The boys all order ribs and sis has 2 courses veges and chicken. Can’t remember what Handsome orders but he enjoyed whatever it was . All good. The boys order chocolate lava cake with vanilla ice-cream and we call taxis. Handsome tries to pay but the credit cards don’t work. They try and try and eventually he pays on Visa at the shop. So much for only using the MasterCard. This end up being a problem for the rest of the trip. Our master card doesn’t work on the portable devices.Bye the way there is a 3% charge to use a credit card at Deus. I take some herbs and go to bed.
Deus – food, boards, bikes,art, pool table = fun
Day 3 “Boy undergoes emergency surgery while uncle almost burnt alive”.
Its raining this morning. Soft gentle rain. It doesn’t last long but it is a lovely way to start the day. We booked massages at 10 am for sis and I . The boys surf at dawn, breakfast at 8. We have a routine. The massages are wonderful but man my calves hurt. Nephew then returns to the villa with a bit of reef stuck in his big toe. Ketut , our housekeeper or Dr Ketut as she is to be known, excises it but it takes many goes and N is screaming in pain. I mean really screaming. Ketut declares that he will indeed live and it is time for lunch.
Sis and I have our massages by the pool
There is a restaurant next door. Ombek. A bit of old time Bali where you can watch the surfing on a terrace upstairs. There are some pro surfers out the front with 3 photographers and their tripods. No 1 son and no 2 are still out surfing so we have e few drinks, watch and order lunch. . The food is basic but this place takes me back in time to when Handsome and I were a couple, hanging out in places like this mostly, inhabited by surfers eating nasi goreng and jaffles. We call the boys in and they order ribs but the sauce is too spicy for no 2 so I wipe of f the sauce with napkins. Handsome suddenly turns bright red and spits out what he is eating. He can’t talk. His bulging eyes look like they are going to pop out of his head. He mistook a chilli for a bean and chewed it up. His mouth is on fire! He drinks his beer, he drinks water, he eats some rice and still it burns. He drinks nephew’s banana smoothie and only then does his face start to remotely return to its normal colour. He is still finding it difficult to talk. Poor love. I eat a chicken curry. It’s OK but pretty bony. Sis’s fish cakes are really tasty so we order more and pick at those. The herbs lasted night worked a treat. My tummy is fine. We hang out for a while in awe at the amazing manoeuvres these surfers are doing. Free entertainment from the best seats in the house.
Back at the villa we all decide to read for a bit. My eyes can’t stay open and we all have a lovely nanna nap on the lounges. Even the kids. This is unheard of for my kids. God I love a nanna nap. We all wake about the same time. Sis decides to go back to her hotel. The rest of us watch ‘The Avengers” on DVD and then walk to Echo Beach to watch the sunset. We sit right on the waterfront at Sate Bali. The food is exceptionally good. I have BBQ fish sates in lemongrass and Handsome orders Chicken. No 1 son orders a pizza from Sticky Fingers next door and no 2 son orders crispy duck. Fantastic food all round. I feel so relaxed. I have a “ God I love Bali” moment and Handsome and I have a little cuddle. A local vendor tries to sell me some jewelry but instead we just end up chatting. He is a lovely man with 3 children and I guiltily wonder how many times I just shoo these people away. He is a similar in age to me and I realise how different but the same our lives are.
Time for a bit of a poke around the shops. No 2 son buys some Hurley board shorts at the Hurley shop. They are a bit cheaper that in Oz but still expensive. My kids live in board shorts year round so I don’t mind paying and he loves them and he needs some. There are a few bikini shops with beach clothes that I wander through but I don’t really need anything. We walk back along the beach lit only by the moon and our iPhone flash light. Nature and man. The temperature is perfect and I have had a wonderful evening. We arrive back at the villa and Handsome can’t find the villa keys. The security guard lets us in and we have to ring Made to get into our rooms which are locked. The security guard rings Sate Bali but no keys.Handsome must have dropped them on the beach when he took some photos. He doesn’t hold out much hope that the keys will be found because the tide has come in since then and the surf is quite big. I have this funny calm feeling that it will be all ok. If they aren’t found I guess all the locks will have to be changed as the keys have the name of the villa on them. This would be a bit of a hassle and I don’t think the villa owners would be too impressed. I urge Handsome to retrace his steps along the beach. I know its dark and there is a lot of beach to cover but I just have a feeling he will find them. He isn’t so sure but goes anyway . He says he looked and looked and thought this is crazy. He was about to turn back and then looked one last time and there they were. Talk about a needle in a haystack. Meanwhile the kids and I are watching “Tin Tin” but I can’t stay awake. Bed. A wonderful day.
Sunset at Echo Beach. Our keys are somewhere on the sand!
Day 4 New Bali, Old Bali and return of the Zombies.
Woke about 6.30. No 2 son comes in whimpering. They didn’t wake me for a surf. He is devastated and can’t understand how or why this would happen. I offer to go with him but he decides to watch some DVDs they have bought. Big mistake. I don’t know about other kids but watching TV in the morning turns my kids into zombies. We are leaving for Ubud tomorrow and then Munduk so there will be no TV for over a week so I foolishly relent.
After breakfast Handsome and I decide to walk along the beach to the Tugu Hotel. We went for the risstafel there last year with the kids. We had a private room and watched the dancing.It was a magical night and I really wanted to see the place in the daytime. It is old Bali. Dutch Colonial wooden bales, meandering paths, gorgeous antiques, wonderful faded photos of Bali nobility and important families. I love the genteel nature of this place and its quirky layout. The rooms are dark and mysterious and the low light adds a romantic touch. There are bales which appear to float over lily ponds and bales on stilts like tree houses. There is a shop I would like to see. An Aladdin’s cave of antiques that was closed when we were here last. I had my nose against the shop’s glass front, dying for a look. There is a button to press if you want assistance so we press it and wait. After a while we give up and start walking away when two women appear and one happily opens the shop for us. There are old paintings and artifacts. Beautiful silk and linen. I point out a few things to Handsome but can tell by his manner that we won’t be buying anything. It’s more like visiting a small museum or gallery. We wander around the gardens and the different rooms dotted about. It really is a magical place. I imagine parties here in the 70s with someone like the Rolling Stones and that elegantly wasted vibe. Opium smoking and a quiet decadence. It all feels very lush here but there is a sense of the hidden or undisclosed which adds to its mystery. Of course this is probably only what I imagine and could be nothing like the reality but I am enjoying my daydream.
An old family photo at the Tugu Hotel
The surf break out the front is more for beginners and there is a buzz of excitement as small children stand up for the first time on a wave. The positivity is infectious and we strike up a conversation with a young girl from Denpasar selling bracelets. I find that at this end of the beaches there is very little pressure to buy and the vendors are often just happy to chat. Maybe they are curious or just want to practise their English. We spend a bit of time and walk back along the beach. The new Sea Sentosa is still under construction and it is massive. I think it looks like a Westfield shopping center with a shingled sloping roof. Honestly I am not anti-progress but I am disgusted. I think it is foreign-owned and don’t think this is really going to add much to Bali. Handsome is more positive. “ once its landscaped it will look better and it will provide jobs for locals”. I don’t agree. More planning guidelines are needed in my opinion. This just looks like a westerners greedy maximization of space to get the most money without regard for the natural landscape. I think this area is going to change rapidly over the next few years. We call in to Echo beach and buy no 1 son some thongs and walk back along the beach to our villa. We chat to a Aussie guy who Handsome met a few years ago. He lived in Seminyak before but found it too busy so has bought here in the local village of Penerenan. It is such a pretty village. I wouldn’t mind living here. Back at the villa, my zombies, I mean my children, have been watching movies nonstop. We decide to lunch next door again. The afternoon is spent reading and chilling out around the villa.
About 2.30 we catch a cab to Deus and have some afternoon tea. We wander around the shop and work rooms. It is a pretty interesting place and it is easy to while away an hour or two.The boys play a game of pool and then we catch a cab back to the villa. Dinner at Mama San tonight. I booked it in Sydney before we left. Am meeting sis here at 7.30. Mama San is really cool. We order a bottle of Pinot from USA. It’s pretty good and the food is outstanding. Even the boys love it. We order up big – Peking Duck, Pork buns, duck buns, crispy salmon, prawns stir fry, water spinach with garlic,naan. The food just keeps coming. The naan tastes like the most beautiful croissant. Buttery, light and fluffy. Upstairs there is a bar and the bathrooms. They are worth checking out if you are seated downstairs. The service is great despite the constant arrival of diners. Definitely book first. I think quite a few people were turned away. No 1 son has fallen fast asleep on the banquette. He is taller than me but still a boy. He looks so funny and as no 2 son points out has drooled on the cushions. We chat to the table next to ours from Perth. Eventually we have finished. The bill is about $200 which is pretty good for what we just devoured. They call a cab and we waddle off home.
Day 5 Surf discovered in Ubud
No 1 son decides not to surf this morning but to take photos of his brother. He bursts into my bedroom at 7am. “Something terrible has happened”. Instantly I imagine the worst. Shark attacks, drownings, lacerations from hitting the reef, eyes gouged out. Actually the last is no joke as a friend lost an eye surfing years ago at Uluwatu. He was stabbed by his own board. Pictures of horrific injuries and worse are swirling around in my head. He sees the terror on my face and continues in a gush “I was walking on the sand and my new haviana thongs got sucked down into a hole and I can only find one.”. Instant relief.! Apparently it is a real sink hole and even Handsome after much digging can’t find the thong. Well those thongs lasted less than a day. Should have bought the cheapies! This incident has inspired my daily headlines for this blog. Really my kids are capable of scaring me witless.
A friend from Byron arrives with my nephew on his bike. He is going to hang out with us for the rest of the trip. Another surfer to add to the lineup. He has just spent a few months in Thailand. I decide to leave the surf talk to the boys ,walk to Sesah beach and say hi to the staff at the villa we stayed in last year. The beach is deserted and I only see one other person walking their dogs. It is a gorgeous day with very little wind and again I have a ‘magic Bali moment’. The staff aren’t there but the owner who I haven’t met in person is and she shows me the renovations she is having done to the villa. Workers cover the house like ants, sanding and painting, and hammering. The grounds as always are beautiful. There is a new sign where the road meets the beach ‘Warning Tsnami area”. What does this mean?
Back to our villa and it’s time to leave so after packing quickly we drive to Ubud. The boys are desperate to eat and plead to go to Café Wayan for lunch. Handsome and I have Nasi Campur, No 1 son has spaghetti followed by pancakes and No 2 has duck. For some reason it doesn’t seem as good as in the past.We walk down Monkey Forest road and of course the boys find a surf shop and buy jeans, thongs and t-shirts. Even when we were in Rome they manged to find a surf shop. How do they do it.? I think they have a microchip embedded somewhere.Further toward the Monkey Forest I find a beautiful shop down a little passageway and buy a beautiful hand-made batik hanging.I searched for one last year and came home empty-handed. Funny that sometimes you only find what you love when you are not really looking. I have booked dinner at Melting Wok and it is delicious but really I can’t do it justice after the Nasi Campur at Cafe Wayan. I must go back when I am hungry. I would again recommend booking ahead as this place is small and very popular. The food is fresh and has a lightness to it. We attempt to catch a taxi but of course Ubud doesn’t really have taxis like the coast. Eventually we just go with “transport” for about $4. We stop on the way. There is a new supermarket in Ubud not far from our hotel and the boys are desperate to buy some snacks. Feels weird walking the isles of this biggish supermarket in Ubud. Progress? It is convenient though.
Day 6 Musical Chairs
We are staying at Greenfields Hotel where we have stayed many times before. We catch up with the news of our Balinese friends. Babies and much wanted pregnancies. Actually since last year 3 Balinese friends have had babies. Greenfields is expanding again. The staff is wonderful but I feel the specialness of this place is being diluted. This may be our last visit. The rice paddy at the far end that our room overlooks is now idle and the farmer and his animals have moved on. The resort will soon be building more rooms and another pool. I miss watching the his daily rituals so closely. The view out the front is still mesmerizing but not as green as the rice hasn’t grown yet.Instead the reflections of the clouds and trees in the water filled paddies are quite poetic.
Today I am on a mission to visit Nadis Herbal. I am a naturopath and the local medicines used in Bali are something I am really interested in. I have actually incorporated a few things I have learnt on previous visits in my practice. I meet a lovely man,Weca, whose family owns and runs Nadis herbal. His “other job” ia as a dancer and he is incredibly lithe. I end up spending hours with this interesting healer. I buy a number of products and walk to their other larger shop and buy some more from his brother. In Nadis I meet two friendly Spanish guys who own vegan restaurants. One in Ubud , one in Barcelona and another opening soon in Madrid. They have a house on Majorca in the same area if not neighbouring one we will be staying in next year. They invite us to lunch next year. Another bit of Bali magic. I love the cosmopolitan nature of Bali. Truly you meet people from all over the world on this little Island. No 2 son finds a wonderful Italian gelato shop opposite the markets. We walk down Jalan Hanoman and then along Jalan Dewi Sita. We stop in Soma for a jamu and iced chocolate. Yum. This is a great raw food place. I love it but No 2 son doesn’t like his iced chocolate. Too healthy! We go back to Nadis late in the afternoon and no 1 son has a treatment – a massage sort of like acupressure and then herbs are ground into a paste and smeared over no 1 sons back and chest. This is left on for a considerable time.We discuss no 2 sons diet and his constitution. He describes my son pretty accurately including what he was like as a baby. I have so enjoyed my time with this lovely generous man. Herbal medicine is my passion so this has been a bit of a highlight for me.
The lovely Weca
We meet up with sis, our friend and nephew at Naughty Nuris that night but arrive right on peak time. Jesus people are so ruthless when it comes to scoring a table.We are the first ones to arrive that have to wait but other groups are incredibly pushy. We are far too polite and I feel like I am playing musical chairs at a 5 year olds birthday party and losing badly! Finally we score seats and eat. The food is Ok but I like the atmosphere here despite the table fiasco. The boys love the ribs but not being a rib devotee I have the chicken which is a bit dry. Sis is a vego and has the vege curry. The boys love the ribs but I think they really enjoy the chaos of this place and always want to return.
Loved this sign at Naughty Nuris.
Says it all really!