When #1 son Adam asked us to join him and his wife Jacque, together with Jacque’s family from the U.S. to spend Christmas/New Year with them in Bali I have to admit to secretly wishing that they had chosen a different location.
Up until recently Dave and I belonged to a group of Australians that said we never really wanted to visit Bali.
In Australia, Bali hasn’t had great press over the years due to a combination of realities and perceptions.
- The Bali bombings.
- Bali is often portrayed as a boozy resort island where young singles go to get hammered on the cheap, and where families take their kids to resorts that they rarely leave.
- Every other visitor will be Australian.
- Insane traffic where you can’t get anywhere.
Notwithstanding the above, after our one month in Bali we are now committed Bali-philes and, like any recent convert, we will happily carry on about the place to anyone and everyone. So be warned!
We gave in to Bali in varied ways and there were certainly parts we favoured over others. Some of our best loved experiences had as much to do with the people as the places.
Where we started
For reasons that I can only put down to having an Accor Hotels loyalty card, we chose our first few days accommodation in the pristine resort enclave of Nusa Dua.
Please don’t stay at Nusa Dua and then not stay anywhere else on Bali because you could reasonably imagine that you are in any tropical paradise in the world. Think Stepford Wives.
That said, our room had a nice view of the smoking Mount Agung when the skies weren’t pouring down and it served us well to have a quiet place to recover from the hectic months we’d spent traipsing around Malaysia, Thailand and Cambodia.
Fun with Americans
And then there was the very lovely Sanur, where 10 of us would be together for 10 days.
6 Americans and 4 Aussies, across 2 generations, all in the one villa.
Half of us had never met each other, but that changed pretty rapidly once we all settled in with a few beers and a swim. Our villa was large and comfortable with each of us having our own ensuite bathroom – so no waiting around. And daily maid service – so no arguments about dishes.
We soon easily found our rhythm, and with everything we could want at our disposal it meant that we could choose to eat out at any one of the many great eateries within striking distance. Sometimes we’d head out for breakfast on our own but mostly we enjoyed hanging out as a group, which made the restaurants very happy.
Shortly after arriving at our villa we discovered a biker bar around the corner, owned by an Aussie bloke called Biker Dave, and we had a few quiet beers in the company of really interesting people.
We liked the place so much we all decided it would be a great idea to spend our Christmas Day lunch there, and it turned out to be a real treat.
Different to anything Dave and I have ever done before and certainly one of our more unusual Christmas lunches. Some of you may indeed be a bit surprised by this turnout for us. Others perhaps not so.
Even Santa made an entrance, and it all proved that burly bikers like to have some solid family time at Christmas.
Although later in the night we could hear them still partying hard, so we’re glad we left mid afternoon to continue on with our own more sedate party back home at our villa.
Another great find was our local driver, Made (pronounced Mahday).
Made was a fun guy and he would turn up, as arranged, in the morning with a 12 seater van and we’d all pile in and be taken to faraway temples, beaches, hot springs, mountain retreats and even white water rafting.
Don’t for a minute think there is nothing much to do on Bali. Honestly, we could have spent every day for a month visiting beautiful and fascinating places and then still would need more time.
Made was a great source of information which was brilliant because I love to pick the brains of locals to find out what’s going on.
We even came upon a funeral procession. It was all quite elaborate and disruptive to the traffic but no-one seemed to mind. Made told us that this ceremony would have been for the man’s mother.
We visited coffee plantations, bat temples, and volcano craters.
We discovered that hiring our own driver was the best way to explore near and far on Bali. It was relatively inexpensive (though good income for the driver) and yet we got so much value out of having Made take us around. If you go to Sanur and want a great driver let me know because I think Michael will still have Made’s phone number.
Teaching the Americans some of our Aussie lingo had us all going. I think one of the favourites was when we started talking about the chooks in the house next door. That got a bit of a laugh, but not as much as “crook as a chook”, they had trouble getting the pronunciation just right. And trying to explain bogan, trackie dacks and flannie took a while to work through. Hours of holiday fun.
Actually there was something that we all agreed drove us crazy. Roosters. Seemingly dozens of roosters, crowing at all hours of the night and day. I’m talking 3am, constantly. When one started then another and another. Around the streets we would see lots of large wicker baskets, each with a solitary handsome rooster.
It took a while to figure out why there would be so many roosters around the place and very few chooks (the beginning of the above humorous exchanges). And then it slowly dawned on us.
Cock fighting is actually outlawed on Bali however everyone knows it goes on, and is actually still allowed in temples during “special religious ceremonies”. When visiting another country it can be difficult to put aside our own beliefs and this was one of those times. I’ll leave more explanation about this and other Bali rituals to another blog post.
We loved Sanur and spent countless hours wandering along the beach, pausing to watch fishing or tourist boats heading out, and perhaps just enjoying our morning coffee or evening sundowner. The only things to watch out for were the touts insisting we visit their shop. But just a wave of the hand and a polite “no thanks, maybe later” and on we’d go until the next time. The beach was clean and safe and the water warm.
Sanur is an easy place to get around and has lots of fantastic cafes, many of them right on the beach, which came in very handy on New Years Eve where we celebrated together eating, drinking and setting off cheap fireworks (fortunately with no incidents to report).
Of course, as always, eating was a major focus for us and we managed to enjoy some extremely delicious, and well-priced, food.
Our 10 days together with the extended family turned out to be a much greater success story than we could have hoped for, and as Tom so eloquently put it:
“when I got off the plane I thought, this could be 9 days too long or just brilliant”
We all agreed it was just brilliant, so much so that with an open invitation to visit the family in Denver, Dave and I are planning to break another of our “won’t go to” rules and head over to the U.S.
Then all too quickly Made arrived on that final morning and it was time to hug Adam & Jacque goodbye as they headed back to their London home and Deb & Tom, Liz & Michael and Natasha jetted off to Colorado.
Dave, Sarah and I were then whisked away up to Ubud for our week of yoga, eating and meeting lovely new friends, which I’ll talk about soon.
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