Category Archives: bali

A Visit to the Green School and Green Village, Bali

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Partner-in-Crime and I have had the Green School on the brain for some time now. Since seeing John Hardy’s Ted Talk about the unique school – focused on the natural environment, constructed of bamboo, and nestled in the woods of Bali – we’ve harbored a little fantasy about packing up our lives and sending Hushpuppy there for a year or so. It’s mostly fantasy, but as we happened to be in Bali for a holiday, we thought we’d at least have a look. To really make a go of it, we opted to combine our Green School tour with tours of the affiliated Green Village and Bamboo Factory.

I thought I’d find out about a school. What I truly came away with was a new appreciation for the wonder of bamboo construction and beautiful design.

The Green School

The day began at the Green School on a tour with around 25 other curious travelers from all over the world. Students were on term break, so we didn’t see them interacting with the space. The upside of this was that we could take as many photos as we wanted.

The school is located on a sprawling and rustic campus, the buildings and structures made almost entirely of bamboo. Here’s what the Green School has to say about itself:

“Imagine this, a school without walls, a campus which ignites the senses and the natural curiosity of children, a place where innovation, creativity and learning flourish, a community, which has come together from all corners of the globe to share new experiences, a place of joy.”

So, we set off to see.

The youngest “early years” children have an area near the entrance that doesn’t require too much uphill hiking, and looked open to allow for a lot of play. It’s not too far from a duck pond, as well!Green School

Green School

We then saw the mud pit, where students and teachers both get immersed, as a way of getting closer to nature. Our guide told us it would be in use later that day, as part of new teacher training.Green School

We hiked down stone stairs and dirt paths through the campus, including stops at the yoga studio and full cycle garden patch/fish ponds.

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Yoga studio

One of the most iconic structures on the Green School campus is the bamboo bridge over the river. The whole group stood on it, as we learned about its construction (this is the second bridge, as engineering mistakes were made on the first version). To prove the bridge’s worthiness, our guide invited us all to simultaneously jump. It survived us. Green School

Green School

He also pointed out the swimming pool, which features a rock climbing wall that some students designed and constructed as a class project.

We saw a larger vegetable garden, the compost area, and the “microhydro vortex,” which is a project that is still in the works, and aims to provide a large amount of renewable energy to the school.Green School

Green School

Finally, we climbed a fair number of steps to arrive at the main school building, a jaw-dropping structure that must be a marvel to enter everyday. Everything from the structure to the chairs and bookshelves is made of bamboo, and the creativity of the design is beyond anything I’ve seen. Certainly a more inspiring learning environment than the grey cinder blocks I spent most of my education between! Green School

Green School

Green School

The Green School has been open for 8 years, and its curriculum was designed by the school’s founders. My understanding is that it is both academically rigorous, but also involves a lot of student designed project work, which much meet criteria, including considering nature, wellness, sustainability and economics. All school parents are expected to be part of the school community, as well.

One drawback I noticed was that it would not be at all accessible for students with physical disabilities (I asked our guide about it and he agreed that he didn’t know of any students with physical disabilities). Someone else asked about accreditation, and they have not yet achieved accreditation by recognized boards, so students leaving for university have to use more creative means, like portfolios, to gain admission to their chosen schools.

It’s also cost prohibitive for most Indonesian students, and though their mission was to have 20% of the school population be local students on scholarship, they haven’t raised enough money to do that, so currently only have an 8% local population. Our guide said that they do have other outreach programs to work with local students and the community outside of school hours, as well.

After seeing the school, I was awed, but I wasn’t just racing to get an application to send Hushpuppy there. I think it’s more of a lifestyle for the whole family, and one we’d have to fully consider. But, I do think it’s a pretty stunning and visionary place to be. It seems like they still have some kinks to work out, which makes sense as this grand scale project is really quite young. Still, the lessons from this school must last long beyond a school year.

(Oh, and because I know you’re dying to know…) Green School

The Green Village

From the Green School, a smaller group of us took a short drive to the Green Village, a community of houses built using the same architectural principles as the Green School’s bamboo structures.

The houses are various sizes, and are rented out on a per night basis, though at least one house pointed out by our guide had been rented for the year by a family whose four children are attending the Green School.

We learned about the four different types of bamboo used for construction, all based on their size and strength. Foundations are laid with concrete for permanent structures.

The bamboo is grown by farmers in the north part of Bali who had land that wasn’t ideal for other crops. They Hardy family gave them bamboo shoots for free, if they agreed to farm it, and then sell the grown crop back. They use bamboo that has been growing for 3 – 5 years, and that short growing time means that it’s a very sustainable plant to use for construction – a pretty fascinating thing to ponder, especially when you think how long trees take to grow.

We toured two houses. The small house was around the size of a hotel room. I love the teardrop door. It opens from the middle.Green Village

The large house had three bedrooms, a kitchen, and even a massage room, all spread out over several levels. How great would it be to round up a few friends and camp out here for awhile?Green Village

The kitchen was my favorite – wide open and just so lush. Hushpuppy found a “tree house,” too.

Green Village

After the tour, we had an Indonesian lunch  in the community area, and Hushpuppy struck up a quick friendship, piling up stones with a couple of French children at the pool. While we were there, Elora Hardy – the designer and daughter of the Green School founders – came up to one of the other women in our group to apologize for the hard time she had booking the tour – I didn’t realize who she was until afterwards, but she did seem very nice!

The Bamboo Factory 

The final stop on our tour was the bamboo factory where they process the stalks, and make prototypes for projects like furniture (and go-carts, apparently!).Bamboo Factory

Perhaps the most fascinating thing about bamboo production is that up until a few years ago, bamboo construction was not considered feasible, and only very poor people built houses with it because inevitable bug infestation meant that the poles would lose their integrity after just a couple of years. However, they’ve developed a system of treating the bamboo with a borax/boric acid solution, which has solved the insect problem.

We saw how they choose different pieces for projects including flooring, furniture, and fixtures. We heard many times throughout the day about how “the boss” (John Hardy, I assume) hates using glue, but that it’s occasionally a necessary evil (both because it’s not natural and it’s quite costly) – a concern they still have to solve.

We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the bamboo factory, but based on the enthusiasm of our guide, it seems like they take a lot of pride in working with this material and creating beautiful, usable homes and furnishings.

Bamboo. Who knew? The stuff of dreams, and maybe even our homes of the future.

More on the Green School vision on John Hardy’s Ted Talk: 

And, more on the Green Village design on Elora Hardy’s Ted Talk:


If you go:

Tours can be booked separately or as a package for the Green School, Green Village, and Bamboo Factory.
Website: Green School Tours 
LocationLocation Map (approximately 20 minutes north of Denpasar or 15 minutes south of Ubud)
Phone: +62 361 469 875
Transport: You will need a driver to transport you between locations, if you are not self-driving. Or, pre-book a driver from the Green School for around $2.50 USD per person (call first).
Clothing: Wear comfortable walking shoes. There is significant climbing of stairs at both Green School and Green Village, and may not be accessible for guests with mobility issues. 
Children were welcome. Under age 6 are free.
Food is available at the Green Village. Water bottles may be refilled at the Green School and light snacks are provided after the tour.

Are We Morally Obligated to Boycott Bali if We Stand for Mercy?

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most talked about and debated story in Australia in recent weeks is the impending execution of Australians Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, convicted drug smugglers of the so-called “Bali Nine,” who in 2005 were caught smuggling 8kg of heroin from Bali into Australia.

While in an Indonesian prison for the last nine years, Chan and Sukumaran have, by all accounts, been models of rehabilitation and encouraging other prisoners along the same path. In the families’ statement to the court (reprinted in this article), they noted:

Myuran and Andrew started programs to teach computer skills, painting, drawing, film, photography, graphic design, screen printing, music, dance, gamelan, sewing, reflexology, drug rehabilitation, first aid, and so many more.

Muryan was recently awarded an Associates Degree in Art. He’s been doing an online course with the hopes of receiving a Bachelor’s degree, and has inspired other prisoners to pursue the same course. None of this is in dispute. No one disagrees that they have become model citizens.

Last year, Indonesia elected a new President, Joko Widodo. Prior to his Presidency, Indonesia “had not executed anyone for more than a year, and not a single inmate from 2009 to 2012.” That’s a quote from a New York Times article, which I’ll further quote from:

Indonesia put six convicts to death in January, five of them foreigners; 64 others (58 from abroad) have exhausted their appeals. Ten of them, including nine foreigners, may be executed as soon as this weekend.

Why so many executions and why are so many of them foreign? No one can answer that, but it’s troubling, particularly considering (from the same article), Critics also accuse the Indonesian government of hypocrisy for actively working to spare the lives of 229 Indonesians on death row in other countries, mostly on drug and murder charges, an effort that Amnesty International said reflected a troubling double standard.“” 

There has been lingering hope that either legal or diplomatic intervention might spare the pair’s execution, but this morning, news broke that they had been transferred to Nusakambangan Island, dubbed by the media as “execution island.” The consensus is that there’s little hope for reprieve, at this point.

In the last few weeks, a couple of movements/hashtags have emerged, sometimes side by side. #boycottbali and #istandformercy. “I Stand For Mercy” is an idea that I can easily support. I don’t believe in the death penalty for rehabilitated men. I don’t believe in the death penalty for men who have helped others turn their lives around. I don’t believe in the death penalty for drug trafficking. Frankly, I don’t believe in the death penalty, full stop. Call me a namby-pamby-soft-on-crime-bleeding-heart, but I believe we as the human race can do better. So, my taxes go to lock up psychopaths and pedophiles for the rest of their lives? OK. I just don’t think we have any business taking lives as a government sanctioned activity. I’ve cried so many tears today, watching the footage of Muryan and Andrew’s transfer under heavily armored guard. I’ve been holding desperate hope for them, and I can’t make any sense in what is about to happen. So, yes, I stand for mercy.

Boycott Bali is tougher for me. The concept is that if the executions take place, Australians should boycott tourism to Bali.

First of all, the hashtag should really read #boycottindonesia, as Bali is just one of hundreds of islands that make up the country who has imposed this sentence.  Bali, in fact, has a culture that’s unique in Indonesia. While most of the country practices Islam, the Balinese are devout followers of their own form of Hinduism. They have their own language and the practice of their religion is the center of Balinese life. When we were in Bali last year, the Presidential election was actually taking place and making international news. We were curious, and asked a lot of Balinese we met what they thought of Joko and the election. No one we talked to had any passionate feelings one way or the other, and everyone responded with a more or less disinterested, “eh, he seems fine.” I’m not an expert, but if I had to infer, I’d say the Balinese we met felt a lot more Balinese than Indonesian.

The Balinese strongly believe in karma. Again, I’m not an expert, so I can’t speak for Balinese, but it seems to me that if you believe in karma that you would probably be against imposing the death penalty.

Bali holds a special place in my family’s heart. After our trip there last year, Partner-in-Crime went back for two weeks while Hushpuppy and I were in the States and had the chance to experience even more of the culture, see more of the island, and meet more people. We’ve talked seriously about moving there, at least for a few months, and it’s a proposition that remains on the table. So, while I stand wholeheartedly for mercy, we will not be boycotting Bali.

Boycotting Bali would mean boycotting Dharma, the waiter who took such good care of us at breakfast each day that Hushpuppy asked to be picked up by him every morning. He worked at Marriott six days a week, pursuing a degree in business in his free time. photo 1 (3)

Boycotting Bali would also mean boycotting Yuni, the “Happy Tailor,” who comes to her clients’ hotels on her motorbike and chats in perfect English. She’s an entrepreneurial woman in a developing nation who keeps a Facebook page and encourages her clients to write her endorsements on Trip Advisor. I can’t see how it helps anyone for me to boycott Yuni, who came to my hotel to do a second fitting on my dress the day after her grandfather died, and apologized for missing our appointment from the previous day.

Boycotting Bali is the same as boycotting Kasa, the driver who took us all around the “must see” Bali sites with a toddler in tow, and happily answered all of our many, many questions, some of them probably cringeworthily elementary about his culture and home. Kasa, who took such good care of us that P-i-C specifically requested him as a guide when he went back. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The government of Indonesia is, without a doubt, corrupt and these executions are a sickening waste of life, but I just don’t see how boycotting Dharma, Yuni, Kasa, and all of their hardworking, kind fellow Balinese is going to help anyone.

There’s one final reason I have no business boycotting Bali. My own country, the USA, also practices the death penalty. I continue to firmly oppose execution as a form of punishment, and vote accordingly, but I have my own hardworking and kind family and friends at home, many of whom also oppose the death penalty, and they don’t deserve my boycott. If I don’t boycott every country with the death penalty, what business do I have boycotting only Bali?

I Stand With Mercy, and I also Stand With Bali.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mom in a Mum’s World: Baby on Board in Bali

bali, Little Aussie

This post is a continuation of my monthly series “Mom in a Mum’s World.” For other posts I’ve written on parenting, click here or on the link at the top of the page. 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen I wrote my post about our trip to Bali, I left out all of the travel-with-kid stuff, as it’s a large enough topic to fill its own article. Our trip to Bali marked our first flight, first big trip, and first international travel with our little lady in tow. As such, we researched extensively before we left, reading up on plane travel and Bali with babies. Between numerous websites, advice from my favorite mum’s Facebook group, and firsthand advice from friends, my head was overflowing with information on how to survive – literally and figuratively. Here’s how we stacked up!

The Flights

Later in the year, I’m making the big trip back to the U.S. with Hushpuppy all by myself, so I was very glad to have the chance to get a trial run under my belt with Dad along. We got to the airport insanely early (three hours), and went to the check in desk not long after it opened. I was glad we did because we were offered a bassinet seat. If you’ve never traveled with children, you may not have noticed that many larger planes have bassinets in the bulkhead row that magically fold out from the wall. Everyone told us to get those seats, so I was glad that we were able. We didn’t actually end up using the bassinet on the way over, but the extra room was much appreciated, as Hushpuppy did not sleep for more than 20 minutes of the flight, and found the whole thing so exciting that she couldn’t stop moving. I’d bought her a whole bag full of new cheapie toys and stickers, plus we had Baby Einstein loaded up on the Ipad, but her main entertainment was taking the in flight magazine, safety cards, and vomit bags in and out of the seat pockets. We were pretty frustrated with her by the end of the flight, as she got increasingly tired and cranky, but we made it through.

On the way back, we had the 11p.m. overnight flight, which seemed rather horrible, especially as she was completely cracking it in the immigration line, but it was actually the best possible timing. She was wired and running around the terminal before we boarded, but a few minutes before we got on, she took two steps and then just laid down on the ground. I knew she couldn’t last any longer, so I popped her in the Ergo Baby and she fell right to sleep. She was out the whole flight. We even used the bassinet for part of it, though at her age, she’s really at the edge of height compatibility for it, so she eventually woke herself up, but was right back to sleep in our laps when we picked her up.

The Hotel

We stayed at the Marriott Nusa Dua, and overall, it was an exceptional place for kids. I have a lot of positive things to say, but first, a cautionary tale…

On many of the travel sites, we’d read that Bali balconies are of real concern for people travelling with children, as they are often not kept up to the standards that we Australians or Americans would expect. Knowing that, and being on the 3rd floor, we did a careful inspection of the balcony railings on our first morning. We checked that all the rails were secure, and even made sure that there was no way that our monkey could climb onto the chairs and then the railings. All seemed in order, so we opened the door for some fresh air. That morning, a tailor I’d hired came to meet with me, so we were chatting while Hushpuppy was running around with some toys. She was out on the balcony, and I’d looked away for maybe a minute, and when I looked back, I didn’t see her. I stepped outside, no sign of her. I looked behind the big chairs. Nope. I got a little pit in my stomach, but thought, maybe she’d gone back in the room and I just didn’t see her. As I turned back, out of the corner of my eye, I saw her sitting on a ledge, like it was a park bench. She’d crawled through a tiny opening in the railing and sat herself down on the ledge – a ledge with a three story drop below. I quickly yanked her back (which upset her, as she was quite happy on her little ledge) and quietly had a heart attack which lasted most of the day. This, by the way, was the start to my very ill-fated birthday, which ended at the ER!

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On the left of the picture, you can see the little opening that she snuck through. This was, obviously, taken before the incident.

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Top down shot of her ledge. 3 story drop below. I still get sick thinking about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To the Marriott’s credit, when we told them about the incident, they took fast action. Within two hours, while we were having lunch, they had soldered another railing in place, completely securing the gap. Still, we didn’t get much enjoyment out of our balcony after that. We were just too nervous.

So, I guess what I’m saying is – check and double check those Bali balconies!

Otherwise, we mostly had a wonderful experience at the Marriott. There were plenty of other families there, and the staff were all so kind, always smiling and chatting up Hushpuppy. The pool had a little beach area and shallow section that was perfect for her.

They have a Kids Club, and though she was too young to go in unsupervised, we were welcome to take her in and stay with her. She enjoyed it, especially the ball pit, and it was nice to have a place to take her once we were done with the pool or beach for the day.

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Enjoying the Marriott pool.

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Ball pit at the kids club.

One of the best parts of Hushpuppy’s Marriott stay was the breakfast. I mentioned in my post how much I loved the breakfast, but it was a daily treat for her, too. We usually got to breakfast early before it got crowded, and we’d take a seat right by the pool. The staff would bring a high chair out for her, and by the second or third day, they’d bring her an orange juice without even asking. The whole staff was so sweet to her, learning her name and talking to her, but she particularly made friends with our waiter named Dharma, who always came over to talk to her, bring her a special cup and straw, and just generally entertain her. One day, she was getting restless, and he took her out of her high chair and walked around with her. From then on, she decided that was the done thing, so after she’d made a nominal effort at eating her breakfast, she’d wait for Dharma to reappear and throw up her arms for him to pick her up. When he wasn’t too busy, he’d comply and take her for a little walk. I swear, Dharma made Hushpuppy’s whole trip.

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On a walk with her friend, Dharma.

Dining Out

Lucky for us, Hushpuppy is a pretty good eater, so we weren’t too worried about not finding things on the menu that she’d take to. Her only issue is that she can’t have dairy, but Indonesian food really doesn’t use dairy, so we were pretty safe on that front. Worse case scenario, she was happy to have a bunch of fruit or (horror of horrors) on a couple of instances, she downed a fair portion of French Fries, which seem to be the staple of kids menus, even in Bali.

Almost every restaurant we went to had a high chair, which was convenient. On the couple of instances where one was not available, we got great use out of this fantastic cloth high chair I’d bought secondhand from another mother. It goes over the back of most chairs, and has a little buckle that secures the child. When not in use, it folds up into itself and you can just carry it in your diaper bag. It’s a pretty great invention, and brilliant for travel.

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And then there was the cafe we went to near the rice fields. Hushpuppy was asleep when we arrived, but we thought she’d wake up, so we asked if they had a high chair. They didn’t, but offered us some pillows. And then, they proceeded to push chairs together and set up pillows, so that Hushpuppy had a little crib. She slept through the whole meal.

Even better than a high chair - a makeshift crib at the rice fields.

Even better than a high chair – a makeshift crib at the rice fields.

 

Our biggest struggle was that she’d often get bored with sitting in the chair, as toddlers do, and very restless. We had to do a lot of walking around restaurants/malls with her while we waited for the food. And, thankfully, the Balinese people adore children, so many of the waiters and waitresses were more than happy to come to the table and entertain her. On one occasion – my birthday do-over dinner – Partner-in-Crime told me he wanted to ask the waitresses if we could hire one of them to watch Hushpuppy while we ate. I was scandalized by the idea, but he was insistent, saying he’d read of such a thing on travel forums. So, he conferred with the waitresses (the restaurant was pretty dead, not busy at all), and one of them happily agreed. She and they had a blast. They walked her around, let her touch buttons on the credit card terminals (toddler nirvana), and at one point we looked up, and they were all taking pictures with her. When we left, I told her to say “bye” to her new friends, and she told me “bye,” instead. So cheeky.

Our Big Day Out

Hushpuppy and Kasa

Hushpuppy and Kasa

We mostly stayed in or near Nusa Dua, but took one day to explore more of Bali (more on our adventures in my original Bali post). Now, normally, travelling around Bali with children, you have to let go of the need for car seats. It’s hard to find a taxi with them, and even if you brought your own, many cars aren’t equipped with backseat buckles. Everyone just carries their kids (which seems far less scary when you see whole families – mom, dad, and a couple of kids – all happily riding around together on one motorbike). We were fine with that for most of our trips, but when we were looking at a whole 10-hour day of travel, we really wanted a car seat. There aren’t many drivers with car seats in Bali, but P-i-C found one. We hired a driver named Kasa from Driver With Distinction. He came in a very comfortable, air conditioned van, and the car seat was all set up, no problems. Kasa was the sweetest man, answering all of our many, many questions, putting up with an occasionally crying baby, and just generally being a lovely person.

Hushpuppy was a champ on this big day of adventuring, though she mostly subsisted on a diet of raisins (her choice), and sometimes didn’t love the idea of getting back into the car after being pushed around in her stroller for ages.

Our first stop was the Monkey Forest, and I was a little nervous about it. I’d asked on my Facebook mum’s group whether the Monkey Forest was a good bet for toddlers, and I got a fairly resounding, “I wouldn’t!”. There were concerns that the monkeys can sometimes get aggressive or it might be scary for a young child. I was conflicted, as the Monkey Forest was the one and only item on my “must do” list. Thankfully, a good friend sent me a private message suggesting that we try it, and she gave me some good tips (make sure we don’t have anything the might look like food, don’t let Hushpuppy have any toys with her, and don’t put our hands in our pockets). We didn’t bring anything extra along, kept Hushpuppy in her stroller the whole time (thankfully, it had a good path), and definitely didn’t buy the bananas to feed the monkeys. It was really fun, and felt entirely safe. Hushpuppy was very intrigued watching the monkeys from her stroller, but I don’t think she would have wanted to get out, even if we’d offered her the chance. I’m very glad I let my “laid back mom” side guide me on this one. I would have been sorry if we’d missed the monkeys.

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Watching the monkeys from the safety of her stroller.

We spend most of the afternoon in Ubud, which was pretty easy with Hushpuppy. We let her run around the grounds of the temple, which was a good break for her. The only tricky part came when we needed to deal with some diaper business, and I ended up changing her on the floor of a fairly dirty public restroom where she tried to swipe the toilet bowl brush. But, hey, she hasn’t come down with any mysterious diseases since we’ve been home, so I’m sure it was all just a boost to the ol’ immune system, eh?

Odds and Ends

Reading all the travel with kids sites and Bali advice pages really gave us a great overview of what to pack and how to prepare. Just a few things I’d mention:

  • For the flight over, I only brought one bottle, as I wasn’t sure about the 100mls of liquid rule. In reality, you can bring as much liquid/food for a baby as you need. Even though Hushpuppy doesn’t usually drink more than 100mls of milk at a time, I think she found it comforting, and would have definitely had more if I’d packed it, which might have helped lull her to sleep. Next time, I’ll prepare more bottles than I think I need (others have advised that you just get milk from the flight crew, which is probably a good idea, except for our dairy intolerant kid, who can’t take it).
  • The Great Stroller Debate: Several friends told us to definitely not bring our stroller along, as the sidewalks in Bali can be shockingly bad. I think that’s probably true in a lot of Bali, but in Nusa Dua, which is the resort area, the sidewalks were generally really good, and even in the tourist area of Ubud where we went, we had no problems. We bought a cheapie used umbrella stroller from Gumtree to bring along, which I think is a better idea than bringing the big, “good” pram. I also brought the Ergo Baby, and I was glad to have both, as there were times when it was a more appropriate choice.
  • Pack all the snacks you want. We ran out of raisins and most of Hushpuppy’s other go-to snacks by the last day, but we had a hard time finding things that we could really count on her eating. Though she’s pretty rock and roll about food, she’s still a toddler, and particularly in unsettled times like going on the airplane, you want to have the food that you can rely on.
  • A few of our must-pack items for toddler: Bug spray, sunscreen, hats and sun covers, distraction toys/crafts for sitting in restaurants, beach toys, lovey stuffed animal or blankie, swim diapers. We also brought along a good stock of medicines, though thankfully, we didn’t need to use any for her. Oh, and did I mention raisins?

We adored travelling to Bali with our toddler. It was exciting for us to get her the first stamp in her passport. Though she won’t remember the trip, everything about it was a good experience for her, and manageable for us. In particular, Bali was easy with a kid because the Balinese seem to love children so much. Everywhere we went, Hushpuppy was treated like a star, and our needs were easily accommodated. So, parents of toddlers, if you’re thinking of going, I’d say check those balconies, pack plenty of raisins, and enjoy a marvelous time in Bali.

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Four Around The World

A Week in Bali

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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Water palace

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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

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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.

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Poor little dude.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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And the view was complimentary…

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

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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.

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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.”

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Come away, come away…

The World Comes Ever More Into Focus

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Oceania

Oceania

This week, we booked a trip to Bali for a few days in July. I’m very excited to get a break from the winter, and it just so happens to fall over my birthday, so I have no choice but to treat myself to a few extra spa treatments to celebrate.

Booking this trip, I was reminded of the first time Partner-in-Crime suggested we travel to Bali. I’d just arrived in Australia, and we were in the mood to get out and explore. At that point, all I could bring to mind about Bali was the nightclub bombings. Eek. I checked the travel advisories from the American consulate, and their suggestion was, basically, if you must travel to Bali, lay low, don’t draw attention to yourself, stay away from crowds. I was freaked, and declined the trip. I can’t remember where we went, instead, but I’m sure it wasn’t nearly as interesting.

Four years on, that perception of Bali is such a distant memory. I only recalled it after reading that our hotel has high security. Bali and Fiji are the go-to travel destinations from Australia, along the lines of the Caribbean or Cancun for Americans. They’re considered almost overrun with Australian tourists, especially at peak times. I’m now much more concerned about coming down with “Bali belly” than I am with terrorism.

Realizing how narrow my world view was towards Bali, I started thinking how much my perspective has grown on a lot of places in this part of the world. Before moving here, all I knew about Tasmania was that it was somewhere far away and had a Looney Tunes character in it. I don’t know if I’d heard of Vanuatu, but I quickly learned from Mike Daisey that it was extremely remote and perilous to travel to (we’ve since learned that Mike Daisey may be prone to exaggeration, and his description of how hard it is it get to Tanna, Vanuatu is just one lesser example of his “truthiness”). Fiji seemed beautiful, exotic, and extremely remote. Oh, and New Zealand? Four words – Lord of the Rings. I had no idea that Australia is roughly the same size as the U.S., and hence has represented on her fair shores just as vast a number of ecosystems and terrains.

I’m a fairly educated person; however, all of this doesn’t make me sound terribly bright. But, I’d guess if most of you reading this – aside from a handful of my extremely well travelled friends – would also admit that there are parts of the world that seem rather vague to you, as well. Perhaps there are places about which you also carry preconceived notions or opinions formed from some hazy information collected haphazardly. There are still regions that I’m less than clear about, geographically, politically, culturally and historically, so having a reminder of how drastically my perspective has shifted in regard to this part of the world is a good reminder to check my assumptions at the door. If you’d told me four years ago that I’d be eagerly awaiting a trip to Bali, with a one-year old in tow, no less, I may not have believed it. What a vast world we share. It holds endless surprises.