A Week in Bali


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADo you know that song “Bali Hai” from South Pacific? That’s what I feel like this week.

Most people live on a lonely island,
Lost in the middle of a foggy sea.
Most people long for another island,
One where they know they will like to be.

Bali Ha’i may call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you’ll hear it call you:
“Come away…Come away.”

Six days after coming home from our week in Bali, I’m still readjusting to reality. We left on Sunday late afternoon, and after landing, purchasing visas, and going through customs, we arrived at our hotel, the Courtyard Marriott – Nusa Dua, close to midnight Bali time. There’s much to talk about in terms of Hushpuppy’s first flight and the whole experience of travelling with a young toddler, but I’m going to save that all for a separate post later this month (edited: click here for the post on Bali with our toddler). For now, I’ll just say that we were very glad when we cleared the three security checkpoints to get to our hotel (including two to get onto the hotel property, which we’d go through every time we arrived), checked in, and fell into sleep in comfortable beds.

Day One … Get All the Bad Juju Out of the Way

We woke up toddler-early Monday – which just so happened to be my birthday – in great spirits. First up was the breakfast buffet. As I’m sure I’ve mentioned many times in these pages, breakfast is kind of a big deal to me, so much so that Partner-in-Crime booked the Marriott at least partially because of the rave reviews for the breakfast. We took a seat next to the pool, which became our regular spot. Given my love of breakfast, I could write an entire post about the Marriott’s buffet, but I’ll just concur with above and give a holla to the wonderful staff, the croissants, and the honey dew melon juice.

photo 2 (3)

photo 1 (3)

Seafood kebab and lychee tea.

It was a good start to the day, and next on my agenda was meeting a tailor who I booked to make a dress for me (Yuni from Happy Tailor – a lovely lady who comes to your hotel). During the course of that meeting, we had a very scary moment with Hushpuppy, which I’ll talk about in my future post (nothing at all to do with Yuni, she just happened to be there), but will just say that it was one of those moments that’s very hard for a mother to shake, and was the first thing that put a damper on the day.

Moving on, though, we had some pool time, a pina colada to help calm my nerves, and ventured out for lunch – a seafood kebab, which turned out to be the best thing that happened that day.

After, I went to a little local spa that had about a million rave reviews on Trip Advisor. I decided to go all out for my birthday and went for the 1 hour massage/facial/mani/pedi package, which came out to a whopping $17. The massage was fine, and then came the facial. She put a mask on my face and then left it to dry. After it seemed to me like I’d been there for absolutely ages, and probably because I was still uneasy from our experience with Hushpuppy in the morning, I couldn’t relax. The spa had gotten very quiet, and I think all the girls had actually gone outside. Feeling unsettled, I decided to open my eyes for a moment. There were thin pieces of guaze over my eyes, presumably as protection from the face mask. Closing them again, I had the feeling like when you get an eyelash in your eye. After the facial, my eye felt even worse. I tried to look, but couldn’t see anything in the mirror, so, I carried on to the manicure.

My eye began watering, and my nose running, too. I was one hot mess. I kept wiping my nose, as the poor girl tried to work on my nails. And then, from all the careless wiping, my nose ring fell out. All the girls in the spa sprung to action trying to find it. Furniture was moved. I went all through my clothes, the seat, the water basin, everywhere, but we couldn’t find it. My eye was still throbbing, and I just suddenly felt like I had to get out of there. I hastily paid for the whole package and darted out, leaving my nail polish, my lost nose ring, and most of my dignity behind with concerned and confused looks on the faces of the girls at the spa, who I think only half understood what was going on.

Back at the hotel, Partner-in-Crime cheerily asked me how it was. I burst into tears. Over the next couple of hours, my eye kept getting worse, until all I could do was lie on the bed pressing a pillow on it. I was in extreme pain every time I blinked or had to move my eye even slightly in any direction.

P-i-C rang up our travel insurance company (this is why you always get travel insurance!), and they instructed us to go to the Bali International Medical Center hospital, which was so luckily only about a 3 minute taxi ride away. At this point, people I’ve told the story to invariably say with a little bit of horror, “how was it?” I’m happy to report that it was fantastic. The doctor and nurse were both kind and fast, spoke English, and the facilities were entirely modern.

I think I lucked out because a friend who had been traveling in Bali a month before messaged me and said that she’d been in a motorbike accident in a rural area, and her “hospital” had been “a lady in a sarong on a porch who told me it wasn’t broken.”

Thankfully, my doctor, who was even in a white lab coat, took me to a proper examination room and found a piece of thread stuck in my eye. He flushed it out, checked to make sure that I didn’t have a scratch on my cornea, gave me antibiotic gel for just in case, told me not to swim for three days, and send me home to the Marriott. I felt so much better, but there was still a fair amount of residual pain, so I ate a granola bar that I found at the bottom of the diaper bag (birthday dinner!!) and went to sleep.

photo (7)

Birthday glamour.

Birthday… Take Two

The next day, I woke up with my eye feeling about 85% better. I declared the day a birthday do-over, and P-i-C happily complied, even telling people that it was my birthday. We spent time at the Marriott’s lovely “beach club,” a short shuttle ride away, and at the hotel’s beautiful pool.


Marriott Nusa Dua’s beach club.

That night, we did the dinner we’d planned on for my birthday. On the stunning grounds of an event complex (the taxi driver laughed when we told him where we were going and said, “are you getting married?”), is the Paon Doeloe restaurant. It’s an open air restaurant  decorated in Colonial style, overlooking the beach on one side and stunning grounds on the other.  When we arrived, we were the only people there. I was a bit scandalized when P-i-C conferred with the waitresses to ask if anyone could babysit Hushpuppy while we ate, but amazingly, they were happy to do it (for a fee, of course). She had a blast with them, and we got to have a leisurely meal. We had a seafood platter, plus a couple of smaller dishes, all Indonesian fare, and all wonderful.

The highlight was the dessert, crepes stuffed with coconut and palm sugar. No lie. Best thing I’ve ever eaten in my life.



Around Bali

The next day was our big adventure. We’d hired a driver to take us around to some of the tourist sites. I’ll write more about our driver in my next post, as we selected him specifically for travelling with Hushpuppy.

First stop on our day out was the Monkey Forest, the one thing I declared a “must-do.” It’s a small park with a beautiful temple, and a whole lot of monkeys running around. You can purchase bananas, which cause the monkeys to go ape, if you will, and climb all over you, but as I’d already had one trip to the ER, I thought I wouldn’t try my luck. It was still a thrill, and just a tiny bit scary, to see so many monkeys running all around us.


Next, we visited the Ubud Markets. They were pretty full on with aggressive hawkers. I paid far too much for a pair of matching batik pants for Hushpuppy and me, but we did better with our bargaining at a second stall, where I got a better deal on some more pants and a dress for the kid. P-i-C was followed all over the market by a sunglasses salesperson who did finally win a sale. From there, we walked a couple blocks over and visited two temples, the most stunning of which was the Water Palace (made only slightly less stunning by the built-in Starbucks on the corner of the property).


Water palace



From there, we got back in the car for a drive to the rice fields. Our guide said this was the best place to stop for lunch, which turned out to be a great idea. We got to the rice fields and ooh-ed and aah-ed from the car. He turned off the main road, where there was a lot of tourist activity, and drove town a gravel drive which led to a little cafe situated right on the rice fields. Unfortunately, the fields had already been harvested for the season, so they weren’t as green and lush as some of the pictures I’d seen, but they were still pretty stunning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA



This guy was happy to pose for a picture … for a tip. But, I mean, he’s like the beauty queen of the rice fields. How can you resist?

After lunch, we started off towards our last stop. Along the way, our driver said that we were passing a coffee farming region where they make civet coffee. If you aren’t familiar, civet coffee is the most expensive coffee in the world. The beans are eaten by a little rodent-like animal and once they come out the other end, they’re roasted, ground, and turned into coffee. Supposedly, the digestion process causes a distinct taste and lowers the caffeine. I have always wanted to try it – I love coffee and it just seemed weird. So, I took him up on the offer to stop at a farm.

The farm was clearly a bit of a tourist trap, but we had a sweet as pie guide, and I really wanted the coffee. We were served a whole tray of complimentary coffees and teas, but had to pay the equivalent of $5 for a small cup of the civet coffee, which seemed reasonable.Truly, I didn’t think it was anything special. And when I got home, I started reading up and found out that these Indonesian farms actually keep the animals in deplorable conditions, so I felt pretty terrible about stopping there and patronizing them. I hate being a part of unethical animal tourism. I’ll know better next time.


Poor little dude.


Civet coffee beans.

The last stop of the day was the Penglipuran Traditional Village. The village is made up of all original buildings and inhabited by descendents of first villagers. Our guide told us that they get some government funding to keep it in pristine condition, as a tourist site. We were brought into a family’s yard and shown all of the buildings and structures (temple and dwelling, as well as their newer and more modern home). The owner had a little stall of handicrafts, which she pressured us to buy from, and was none too pleased when we declined. Up a hill was the temple, which is still in use, a gorgeous, sprawling structure just outside a bamboo forest. I was a little uneasy about the encounter with the woman at her house and so was turned off a bit by the whole village experience, but P-i-C didn’t mind and found this stop a real highlight.



Nusa Dua

For the rest of our week, we stuck close to Nusa Dua, which is a resort area, mostly taking advantage of the pool, beach, and the local restaurants. We sought out a laundry place and had two batches of laundry washed and perfectly folded overnight for a total of $6. That was a highlight of the trip for me!

photo (5)On Thursday night, we hired a babysitter from the hotel and P-i-C and I went up the road to the Grand Hyatt where they have a “village market” style buffet dinner. That sounds cheesy. It wasn’t. It was actually delicious, especially the Balinese meats and salads.

Dinner is followed by a Balinese dance performance. It was quite beautiful and the music rather hypnotic and enchanting.


Jimbaran Seafood Dinner

On our last night in Bali, we took a recommendation from one of our taxi drivers and decided to have dinner at sunset at a restaurant on Jimbaran Beach. There is a whole row of restaurants on the beach, so P-i-C painstakingly researched on Trip Advisor, and decided that the most “non-touristy” of all of them was Lia Cafe. Indeed, when you arrived from the street, it did not look like anything any tourist would want anything to do with –  but then you stepped out onto the beach, and it another world. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


We got a table towards the “back,” which was actually the front (closest to the water) – prime sunset viewing. We ordered a share platter for 2. The waiter laughed when we asked if it was going to be enough food. It certainly was, and it was the freshest, most delicious seafood meal we could have asked for.



And the view was complimentary…


Enjoying the beach in our overpriced matchy matchy pants from the Ubud market.


Island of Peace

Of course, we loved the beaches, the pool time, and the island lifestyle, but I think the thing we both loved most about Bali was the culture and friendliness of the Balinese people. Bali is a Hindu island, unique in Indonesia, and the religion is part of every aspect of their lives. I’m certainly no expert on Balinese Hinduism after one week there, but what struck me about it was, on an aesthetic level, the color and beauty of it. Daily offerings – flower petals and often a small sweet in a small bamboo basket with incense could be seen in every doorway, in front of every shop and restaurant, even in front of the housekeeping closet in our hotel.


On a philosophical level, I was taken with the emphasis on balance in all things and on karma. One of our taxi drivers told us that Balinese don’t commit crimes (I don’t know if that’s really true or not, but you come away believing that could be true) because of their strong belief in karma – so, if they steal something, it may come back to them in the form of their child getting sick or spouse getting in an accident, or something of the sort. That’s pretty strong motivation to live a good life. All things remain in balance. What a beautiful view. It’s no wonder one of Bali’s nicknames is “Island of Peace.”

photo (6)


Come away, come away…