Bali Like It’s Hot

We stepped off our plane from Bangkok and immediately felt the intense heat on the tarmac.  We made our way through the Denpasar airport and headed out to find our driver.  After walking through the line of drivers, we finally found the “checked out” surfer dude using his handwritten “James” sign as a fan. We waited for him to pull the car around and then saw a total “surfer” van pulling up.  Old school and silver with rainbow stripes along the side and adorned with Bob Marley stickers.  We hopped in and began what we thought would be a quick drive to our hotel. 

Unfortunately, we quickly became acquainted with the insane traffic in Bali.  It is wall-to-wall with motorcycles and mopeds going every direction.  About two hours later, and what felt like a day’s worth of whining, we arrived at our homestay, Pura Angsa.  Wyan and his wife Lea greeted us and brought plenty of refreshments. They then spent an hour welcoming us and telling us about the area.  We ordered takeout, the kids went for a night swim, and we counted the number of geckos on the walls. 

The next day we walked from our homestay to Flamingo Beach Club.  It was eye opening as we passed rice paddies, small offerings that adorned the street, and many, many stray dogs.  Also, beware the passing moped!  We as a family watched the Wizard of Oz for the first time in Tuscany. On the way to the beach club, Manji proudly exclaimed, “Toto, we’re not in Kansas anymore!” We arrived at the beach club and the boys quickly made friends with a local boy about their age.  They spent the day swimming in the pool and playing on the beach together.  The kids also got to enjoy a foam party in the pool and face painting!

Foam party at Flamingo Beach Club

On the way down to the beach, we noticed it was packed with locals!  Some were swimming, some just hanging out, and some praying and laying out offerings. We asked Wyan about the offerings and he explained they are for the gods in gratitude. They are for many different things…”for the nature, for the sky…” and are everywhere. It is very cool to see how much the Balinese appreciate the world around them. 

Later, we went to dinner at Warung Legong.  The restaurant offers free transportation to and from the restaurant which made it an easy choice for our family.  What a treat when we arrived! The front of the restaurant is unassuming, but as you walk in you notice the entire back of the restaurant is open and facing rice paddies. It was beautiful and the Balinese food exceptional!

Grabbing a meal at Warung Legong in Bali with kids.  Check out the beautiful rice paddies behind the restaurant.

Dinner at Warung Legong

We took a Grab car from Puri Angsa to Bali Breeze Bungalows in Ubud the following day.  The traffic was a little better on Sunday and we were greeted by the kind family that runs the bungalows.  Everywhere in Bali it seems that the buildings don’t look like much, but as you get closer you realize the beauty inside.  It was the same for Bali Breeze Bungalows.  Aside from the small yellow sign on the road, you’d never know it was there. 

As we walked back, Ketut, and his family welcomed us to our home for the week.  The very first thing we noticed were the statues of an elephant everywhere.  We later learned the statue’s name is Ganesh, and he is considered the remover of obstacles.  Our villa was perfect, with a room for the kids and adults, an outdoor dining area and a small pool with our own Ganesh fountain! We spent the rest of the day resting up for the kids’ first day of school the following morning.

Bali Breeze Bungalows – Manji swimming with Ganesh

When we were in Croatia and desperately in need of social interaction, James learned about the Wood School in Ubud.  The school provides a Neohumanist education and welcomes worldschoolers on a weekly basis.  Goose and Manji were excited to make new friends, but Bingo was not thrilled to leave Mommy.  On their first day, Manji was sick with a nasty virus (maybe Covid?) so he stayed home with me while James took a Grab car with the other two for morning drop off.  James unfortunately had no cell service to get a Grab on the way back so had to walk until he found Warung Layana (a hidden gem!) where he had a coffee and internet. 

The Wood School in Ubud is the perfect place in Bali for traveling kids.  All three had a blast and loved meeting new friends from around the world

Goose admiring the rice paddies behind the Woods School – they were free to roam among them

While Goose and Bingo were in school, the rest of us decided to go for a half mile walk to a local restaurant. We quickly realized that the oppressing heat and poor sidewalks made it necessary to either get a car or hire a moped.  We subsequently bit the bullet and rented a moped from our villa and James safely got us to our destination.  The traffic around Bali is horrific, but for cars it is especially so.  With a moped you can move past the cars much quicker and get to your destination in a third of the time. Manji, of course, thought it was a joy ride.  I, on the other hand, was a nervous wreck the whole time.

When it was time to pick up Goose and Bingo from school, we realized that I was indeed going to need a moped to get the kids, otherwise a 15 minute ride would take an hour in a car.  We rented the second moped, I got to school repeating prayers the whole time and we were able to pick up the children so much quicker.  The best part was seeing the look on Bingo’s face when we told her she was going to ride on a moped on the way home! It ended up being a blessing in disguise, as one of the most wonderful memories we’ll forever have of Ubud is our morning and afternoon commutes as we rode past rice paddies and watching the entire community opening up their store fronts and doing business about. 

Our morning commute

That first day at school also happened to be the day before Halloween, and the school hosted a Halloween celebration that evening. They let the kids borrow costumes from the school since most of the students are travelers.  They had homemade games for the kids, a haunted house the older students had created, and the entire school had pitched in to make vegan snacks for the families.  The evening culminated in a parade around the school with the kids holding luminaries.  It was a magical evening! It also made us realize the excessiveness of Halloween in the U.S. I mean, we love candy as much as the next person, but you’ve got to admit it is a bit much.

Sadly, the next day James woke with a raging fever.  He was so ill that he could only summon the energy to help me with school drop off and then he was back in bed.  We spent the day just resting before the kids came home. 

On Wednesday, with James still unwell, I spent the morning exploring the shops in Ubud and getting a massage for $10!!! The kids enjoyed another amazing day at school and Bingo was slowly starting to warm up to her teacher, Ebu Ayu.  At pick up, we enjoyed mingling with the parents as the kids ran to the playground to spend a few more minutes with each other.  It was nice for the kids and us to have the familiarity of a school routine for a few days!

Bingo with Ebu Ayu

Finally!!! Thursday, James was getting better (looking back, we think it may have been Covid??), so he and I decided to do the Campuhan Ridge Walk, which walked along the tree line of the forest.  The moped ride from school to the trail was unreal.  We passed rice paddy after rice paddy.  It was a beautiful 3km trail at the tree line and we stopped to have smoothies along the way. 

We spent the rest of our morning without the kids visiting Ubud town center and the art market.  The art market was a bit of a disappointment as there really wasn’t much art, just more of the same flowy pants and buddha statues, but still fun nonetheless!  When we picked up the kids from Wood School, they were so exhausted so we made it a ritual to stop at the grocery on the way home, grab loads of snacks, and then spend the afternoon swimming in our pool and filling the kids with calories. 

The last day of school was so much fun for James and me!  James was finally feeling 100% and we had planned to just drive around on the mopeds and go to several waterfalls.  We ended up inviting our new friends, Laura and Lee, also parents at the Wood School, to come with us.  They are from the UK and on a family gap year as well and we had very similar stories to share about our experiences.  We spent the day visiting Suwat and Kanto Lampo waterfalls, jumping off rocks and taking epic Instagram pictures amongst the falls.  We even ventured into a cave and were surprised by a bat that almost took our head off as it flew past!

Kanto Lampo Waterfall with our friends, Laura and Lee

When we went to pick up the kids on the last day of school, Bingo couldn’t have been happier! She had a very difficult time adjusting to the long day.  We received multiple messages from her via her teacher each day that all went like this, “I love you, Mommy.  I miss you, Mommy.”  Poor James didn’t get a single one!

During the weekend, we hired a driver to take us to Uma Ceking rice terrace nearby, Tirta Empul, Segara Windhu coffee plantation, and Tegenungan waterfall.  The rice terraces just outside of Ubud were a bit disappointing.  They definitely catered towards the Instagram crowd with several opportunities for photographs of people swinging above the terraces in flowy gowns.  Apparently, the UNESCO rice terrace sites are two hours from Ubud.  Our fault for not doing more research, but we’re hoping to see the real thing in Thailand in a few months. 

Following the rice terraces, we went to Tirta Empul, which was the most memorable experience during our stay in Ubud.  Tirta Empul is the water temple and comprises a spiritual experience of entering the pools and submerging in fountains. It’s open to foreigners and we hired a guide to both explain and accompany us throughout the experience.

We started by changing into emerald green sarongs with red belts. Next up, we met our guide who provided us with offerings that we place before an altar.  We sat in meditation and prayer for a few minutes before placing our offerings on the table.  After, we joined the que of people entering the water as our guide explained the significance of each fountain.  In the first pool are nine fountains which we sipped from three times, splashed on our faces three times, and then submerged our head in three times.  Each time we were to ask for cleansing. 

We then exited and went into another pool where we then did the same ritual. However, one fountain is intended for good karma and the final where you ask for your ultimate prayer.  The pools and fountains were very, very cold, and ultimately, Manji and Bingo decided to sit out during the last pool because they were chilled.  Our guide was so nice and filled a bowl with the sacred water and anointed each of them as they waited for myself, James, and Goose. 

Tirta Empul was our favorite experience in Bali with kids.  It was magical for all of us and such a special way to learn more about Hindu culture.

Tirta Empul

After a brief stop at a restaurant for Mie and Nasi Goreng, we headed to Segara Windhu coffee plantation. There, we took a tour and tried a dozen different coffees.  We even tried the famous Luwak coffee, made from beans extracted from muskrat dung! We watched our guide boil a special cup just for us and it tasted incredibly strong!

Coffee taste test at Segara Windhu

Finally, we spent the remainder of the afternoon going to Tegenungan waterfall.  It’s interesting how they have turned most of the waterfalls into major tourist attractions.  This one had a huge restaurant and bar pumping music as we walked past.  It wasn’t nearly as beautiful as the others, but the kids did get to experience swimming close to the waterfall. 

We spent Sunday with our UK friends, Laura, Lee, and Mike, and their kids Olivia, Max, and Jude at Titi Batu. The kids had a blast at another foam party. They spent the day running between the pool, the skate park, and the basketball court. The parents had just as much fun sharing a few drinks and socializing for hours. We loved hearing about everyone’s travel experiences!

Sunday Funday at Titi Batu

On our last day in Ubud we visited the Sacred Monkey Forest.  We were all a bit nervous as the videos online show some very cheeky monkeys.  When we arrived in the forest, there were monkeys roaming around the entrance.  There are also signs everywhere that tell you to never look a monkey in the eye! Apparently, it’s a threat to them. We kept looking over our shoulders the entire walk to make sure there were none lurking around the corner. 

The forest itself is beautiful and there is a gorgeous temple and cave to explore.  We had almost made it out of the forest when we all heard a short “eek!” It was Manji! A monkey had walked up behind him and grabbed his shirt! He was terrified, but thankfully the monkey ran away right after.  As we left, we saw several people experiencing very close encounters with the monkeys, with some sitting on people’s heads!

The monkey forest is a top spot in Bali for kids but wow, are the monkeys aggressive.

Sacred Monkey Forest

Bali was incredible!  From the moment we stepped off the plane in Indonesia, we were overwhelmed by the incredibly kind, generous, and beautiful spirit of the people here.  The Indonesians we met were genuinely interested in us and what brought us there. They greet you with a warmness that is unique and love sharing their own culture.  I hope we never forget these interactions!

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