It’s been several months since I issued a trip report post.  This one coming from a family of 4, but traveling with Tim’s parents so we maintained a 2:1 adult on child ratio.  Indonesia was a new country for everyone: Hazel’s 2nd, Miles’ 5th, my 20th and Tim lost count (but thinks its in the 30s).

Our first stop was Ubud, “love” destination of the recent Eat, Pray Julia Roberts box office hit, and cultural hub of Bali.  Given recent (and not so recent) hype about the area, our expectations were hesitant, but ended up being vastly exceeded.  First of all, Bali is a land full of genuine, loving and smily people.  They are literally around every corner to help and coo at our kids.  We marveled how they have retained this attitude while it seems the peoples of many other Asian countries have turned cynical and Nike’d in the face of capitalistic tourism.  Second, the setting was more beautiful that I could have imagined.  Vast rice paddies in all stages of harvest (we learned there are 3 harvests a year), temples around every corner with ornate stone work, and the people (again) with their smiling faces and traditional dress.  Third, the food.  Why are there not wildly popular indonesian restaurants all over the world?  The food was amazing.  From the ubiquitous Gado Gado to the melt off the babi back ribs for traditional food to the organic cafe’s smoothies and beetroot patty burger, everything we ate in Ubud was delicious.

Our Ubud stay commenced after a long journey with a couple Bintang beers and some of the aforementioned pork ribs and other items off the tiny grill at the warung across from our hotel.  The hotel villa had 4 rooms overlooking the adjacent rice paddy and a warm plunge pool about 4km from Ubud center.  We were the only guests for the first 2 nights and Miles became one of the guys with the 2 bahasa-only speaking houseboys.  We spent the next day exploring Ubud, but the heat and humidity were brutal, even for Penang standards so we retreated to the breezy balcony of our villa for siesta.  The next day, Tim and I woke up early and took Hazel (leaving Miles to the grandparents for a morning) to visit a temple at the bottom of a ravine that held massive bas-relief structures in the cliff walls.  We were all the way down the 300 steps when the skies darkened and drizzle started.  Our guide recommended we hustle back to the car with the baby, so he and I started off at a decent clip up the steps while Tim caught a few more snaps.  I know I just had a baby, and was carrying said baby, but this little driver was leading the way barely panting while I was heaving when we made it to the top, beating the ensuing downpour.  I found out later he was used to doing such exertions with a 75lb bag of rice on his head and didn’t feel so bad about my physical condition.  That night, our last in Ubud, we went to a dance performance.  This was a “must do” in all the travel guides.  There are dozens of styles of dance, but most shows started at 730 or 8pm.  Our decision was made with the only 6pm early show that night.  It turned out to be in the most magical location – the grounds of the ARMA museum & hotel.  There were hills and a lotus pond, rice paddies and tucked away villas.  Gorgeous.  We all enjoyed the show – Miles loving the lion dance & female dancing but scared of the masked king with the weird voice, and I was entranced by the musicians, especially the lead drummer who had addictive passion and soul for his performance.

Then we were off to Lombok via fast boat.  While we had my mother in law to thank for the Ubud planning and our amazing accommodations, I was in charge of this leg and was a bit on edge.  Nothing to worry about, we were transported to a volcanic sand beach a few km north of Senggigi and quickly shown to our private two-level villa with plunge pool. Everything about the Jeeva Klui resort oozed relaxation, and that’s what we did.  We even enjoyed a full quiet afternoon (both kids passed out!) during a downpour, watching the rain from our covered balcony.  And there’s no question I enjoyed my hour at the hillside open air spa – foot reflexology and coffee scrub later, I was totally relaxed.  We spent the last evening at a little local beach with raised tatami-mat seating for a fantastic meal of Lombok style foods while Tim tried to catch the outline of Bali’s Agung volcano backlit by the sunset.

Two days later, it was time to head home.  We knew it would be a long day, one boat, 2 planes and 3 car rides back to Penang.  It turned out to be such a long day.  Our boat was delayed, so the driver was maxing it out on the way to the airport to help us make the flight, amping up the already-anxious travel nerves as he played chicken with every car, truck & motorbike headed in the opposite direction.  We arrived to the airport on time to have our flight canceled.  16 hours after we started off, we were home in bed in Penang, wondering why we ever left our tropical island for another and then another so far away.

And then some friends told us of their plans to visit (another) island this weekend, and I felt a bit jealous.  I’m insane!

Check out more Bali pictures on Tim’s Photo Blog.


View from Suara Alam Villa in Ubud

Dinner at Coco Beach, Lombok