For anyone considering an overseas trip with a little one, I can highly recommend Bali – the “Island of the Gods” – where we’ve just spent three weeks with our nine month old daughter.
Throughout our travels we were blown away by mystical landscapes, rich cultural offerings, and mouthwatering food. More significantly, we were charmed by the warmth and kindness of the Balinese people, who genuinely LOVE children.
Viewing each one as a little visitor from heaven – possibly a reincarnated ancestor – the Balinese believe that babies should be worshipped and that their feet should literally never touch the ground.
Indeed, everywhere we went – from south to north, east to west – it’s no exaggeration to say that Little Ms Hope was treated like a celebrity.
It was impossible to walk down the street or through a shop without someone asking to hold her or take a photo.
Near the end of our trip, a young Balinese father explained to us that babies in Bali do not leave the house before they’re three months old, and rarely before their first birthday. Only then did we begin to understand why sightings of our little blonde angel made people VERY excited.
What this meant in practice was that nothing was too much to ask of the folks who took care of us during our holiday.
Hotels were family-friendly, fully-equipped with baby cots and high chairs; restaurants would prepare pieces of food on request, and were teeming with staff willing to hold the baby while we ate; taxi drivers would sing along cheerfully with Hope when she was getting fussy on long journeys; street vendors would ask how many teeth she had, and play peek-a-boo, even when we were just walking past their stores.
It was pretty special.
WHAT WE DID
With pre-baby vacations in mind we were keen to be adventurous and move around the island, where we’d holidayed as a couple in 2014. Over the course of three weeks, we stayed at four different locations: Sanur in the south east, Ubud in the centre, Lovina in the north, and Jimbaran in the south west.
My mum thought we were nuts, and upon reflection maybe we did attempt a bit much for our first family holiday in the sun.
Within a week my husband had concluded that “vacation with an infant is like 2-player mode in Streetfighter II. The background changes – the struggle does not”.
Still, I’m pleased to report that we returned to Tokyo with the baby in one piece, our marriage still intact, and the knowledge that we did our bit for local Bintang sales.
Home to the oldest beach resort in Bali, Sanur on the south east coast proved a great starting point for our trip.
Thanks to our Air BnB hosts we were picked-up from Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar) for IDR150,000. Seeing the smiling driver holding a placard with our names on it was exactly what we needed after a 7-hour flight with Hope. We arrived at our bungalow complex within 50 minutes, by the cover of darkness and found that we’d really hit the jackpot by using the “family-friendly” filter on Air BnB.
The 1.5 year old bungalow, run by a young family whose front gate faced ours, immediately felt like a home-away-from-home.
There was lots of crawling space for Hope, a custom-built kids outdoor play area, bath toys, a built in cot-bed, and a high-chair.
Since you should never drink the tap water in Bali we were grateful to see a large, full water dispenser perched on top of the fridge, as well as an expansive stove top where we could boil a large pot of water to sterilize Hope’s things at the end of each day.
Just steps from our front door, in the centre of around twenty bungalows was a huge 30m pool surrounded by grassy verges, and flanked by two large pagodas for Hope to crawl over and climb on in the shade.
To keep her amused – and cool – in the heat, we took along a small blow-up paddling pool sent from my mum in the UK, and filled this with some of her toys from home. (After week 2 she was bored of this set up, but it helped buy us some peace for at least a little bit!)
A basic warung onsite served us Balinese, American, or Continental breakfasts, and friendly staff helped us reboot by taking Hope for little walks around the complex while we ate at normal speed. As anyone who’s traveled with a baby will know, these small acts of kindness felt like big luxuries.
A ten-minute walk away was a large Hardy’s supermarket. On our first day we strolled through local residential neighborhoods, dotted with fragrant caning sari (spiritual offerings) and the odd rogue chicken running around the front of houses, before stocking up on some key items.
Our best buys were arguably “Bay-gon” plug-in mosquito repellent (no words could describe my delight at seeing defeated mosquito bodies lying around our room); and a 3-way converter and adaptor. The latter was SO handy later in our trip as some hotel rooms only offered one power outlet.
Five minutes beyond Hardy’s was Sanur beach with its 5km paved promenade where we could take Hope out for a walk in her travel buggy.
(Sanur was the only location we used the buggy, as generally there are more potholes than pavements in Bali!)
After taking in the lapping waves and colourful fishing boats – and saying countless “no thank yous” to the street vendors – we spent most afternoons chilling out on large Balinese wicker beach “sofas” (1.5m x 1.5km) which Hope could climb on to her heart’s content while we enjoyed a Bintang or two.
For lunch and dinner we ate local specialities such as nasi goreng and chicken satay (minus the peanut sauce for the baby), from a local restaurant or our own warung.
As well as enjoying her first taste of these Indonesian dishes, fresh coconut went down a treat with Hope too!
Unfortunately, the first week brought a few ups and downs, starting with my husband spraining his wrist, and me developing some nasty reactions to mosquito bites. We then had to pay a visit to a local clinic when Hope picked up a nasty bacterial skin infection on her legs – possibly from sea lice according to the pediatrician. Thank goodness our Air BnB hosts were kind enough to arrange a “Grab” cab (Bali’s Uber equivalent) to take us back and forth, and to the pharmacy. It then made sense to stay closer to home for a few days, while we all recovered.
Since we’d done our best to travel light we started to take advantage of the small family-run laundry windows that exist on almost every Bali street. IDR8000 for having 1kg of clothes returned to you perfectly pressed and smelling of frangipani – a bargain if ever there was one.
On our first day in Sanur, we’d managed to catch a local religious parade. Hope was delighted to practice waving at the hundreds of obliging local men and women in colourful dress walking to one of the area’s many temples.
Then on our last night, guided by our hosts, we stayed out until well after dark to catch the beginning of the very vibrant, week-long 12th Sanur Annual Village Festival. It was an upbeat end to what had been a low-key week. And the entire experience reminded us about the true meaning of Air BnB; it’s not about properties, but about people (especially when you have a baby).
The next morning we paid IDR250,000 to be driven from Sanur to Ubud.
– Air BnB (Ideal Young Family / Couple house GIANT pool Sanur) HERE
To be continued . . . “To Bali with baby: part II (Ubud)”