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July 07, 2016
Bali – where have I been for 19 years?
It’s been a long time between drinks. In 1997, as a backpacker, on my way to migrate to Australia from the U.K, I spent a fun filled month with you staying in Kuta, Lovina and Ubud. I danced my feet off and drank jungle juice at the Sari Club, consumed as many sticks of satay as is humanly possible, lapped up Babi Guling (suckling pig on a spit) and learnt how to politely say no to each offer of “taxi, taxi’ “watches, watches” and “plait your hair.”
But it was time to return, this time accompanied by my eleven year old son Callum for just one week, the first time we’d been on holiday just the two of us. I had a feeling today’s Bali and I were going to be unrecognisable to each other.
We stayed for 6 days at the beachfront Grand Hyatt in Bali’s luxury resort centre of Nusa Dua, one area I hadn’t been to in the backpacking days. We weren’t going to get an authentic Balinese experience here but for an easy mum and son week’s holiday it was going to hit the mark.
Our taxi on arrival was stopped and searched at the entrance to the Grand Hyatt compound and it became clear security is high on the agenda throughout the island and for obvious reasons.
The Grand Hyatt is one of the biggest resorts in Bali and chosen by Callum due to the size of its 50 metre water slide. It is split into separate villages and our large room was on the ground floor facing the ocean, as we had requested. Callum had a large daybed converted into a bed and he gave it both thumbs up for comfort.
We thought we might get lost at the Hyatt but in no time we worked out our way around the incredibly stunning grounds with its 5 pools, tennis courts, kids club and every other amenity a family could ever ask for.
Within a half hour of arrival we were on the look out for the waterslide. First we found one tiny waterslide and were incredibly disappointed thinking the website description had been misleading. Thankfully that was the toddler slide. A walk across a little bridge and following the maps around the resort we find the meandering river style pool with that water slide.
On the vast beach were two soccer goals and volleyball net, just what an 11 year old sports mad guy ordered. Each day Callum found either local kids or other Australian kids to play beach soccer with in between sliding down that slide. It struck me how much easier it is for kids to start up a friendship than it is for adults: “Hi, what’s your name? Do you want to play soccer?” and away they go leaving me to my book.
Talking of making friends, what holiday would be complete without meeting the local wildlife? The Grand Hyatt is home to enormous lizards or perhaps they are mini Komodo Dragons, lots of Squirrels and the obligatory dogs on the beach.
Walking along the Grand Hyatt’s beach to the end we found ourselves at The Bay Bali. The Bay is a charming smaller beach lined with waterfront eateries and a new Waterpark called Surf and Turf complete with a Wave Rider and 3 big slides. $15AUD buys 2 hours of kids’ fun and is well worth it not to mention easier than a trip to Waterbom, Kuta if you’re staying in Nusa Dua.
For those families who don’t want to leave the resort the Grand Hyatt offers a myriad of dining options but for us, venturing out to find local eateries is one of the reasons we travel.
We enjoyed Bumbu Bali, a short taxi ride away, for its selection of delicious satay served at the table on the traditional mini bbq. Here you can watch the chefs at work in their open kitchen.
We loved lounging on the purple cushions in our own private pavilion at Bebek Bengil. Bebek means duck and this restaurant has been serving crispy duck since 1990. Some reviewers say this popular restaurant is overrated but in our opinion, their crispy duck was quite sensational.
A highlight of our 6 days in Nusa Dua was dinner at Warung Bule and Susy. We received a warm welcome on a rainy night from owner Gad and took his guidance on what to include in our Nasi Campur (tasting plate of vegetables and proteins with rice in the centre). Callum is a pretty adventurous eater for his age and Gad picked out the non-spicy dishes for him and the spicier favourites for me.
Taxis in Bali are super cheap so we took advantage of this and had one evening in Seminyak and one in Jimbaran. Must admit to being blown away by the amount of upscale Seminyak shops – so many local designer boutiques and home decor stores. However in one night and with an eleven year old boy as my escort this wasn’t the time for shopping!
Eating seafood on the beach at sunset at Jimbaran is a must do when in Bali but be careful not to go to one of the tourist trap expensive restaurants that the taxi drivers may try to take you to. At the far end of the beach we found Roman Café and enjoyed a feast of fresh bbq’d lobster and heavenly clams in Balinese sauce for less than $100AUD. Callum relished the opportunity to choose the live seafood from the tanks.
The last two days of our week were spent in Ubud. Callum had asked why we going here at all when I was booking the trip and I explained how it would be the place to look at artisan crafts. Also I had fond memories of beautiful Ubud from my backpacking days. Ironically after an hour of arrival in Ubud Callum was asking why we hadn’t booked for longer! Ubud just does that to you.
After a 19 year hiatus our first stop had to be for a Babi Guling lunch at Ibu Oka. Back in 1997 Ibu Oka was one hole in the wall eatery serving suckling pig, they now have 3 legendary branches around Ubud. We sat on cushions on the floor and savoured every bite of the “3 types of pork with rice” dish, as delicious as I remember.
There’s plenty to do in and around Ubud for kids. With only a short time we did a lot of wandering, tasting ice cream at Gelato Secrets and saw the monkeys up close at Monkey Forest without venturing out of our taxi. Callum had been put off by the idea of the monkeys stealing his hat and glasses so we opted not to walk through the forest.
We stayed at the year old stunningly designed Bisma Eight boutique hotel located amongst the rice paddies. The garden suite here perfect for a family, with a separate screened off living area. The bathroom has a Japanese style “Onsen” Soaking Tub – a real treat for both of us.
The infinity pool overlooks the rainforest below and is simply breathtaking with shaded daybeds that scream "Balinese Style and Design."
Breakfast at Bisma Eight is so very "Ubud" - great coffee goes hand in hand with healthy food options with an Asian twist such as the delightful Chia and Sago Pudding with dragonfruit or traditional Nasi Goreng if you prefer.
Bisma Eight offers complimentary activities each day and one of the highlights of Callum’s week was a Mocktail Making Class behind the bar. He had an absolute ball learning how to muddle, shake and serve with the delightful Bar Manager Widya.
Back in cold and wet wintry Sydney I’m wondering why it took 19 years to make my Bali comeback.
Grand Hyatt Nusa Dua http://bali.grand.hyatt.com/en/hotel/home.html
Bisma Eight Ubud http://bisma-eight.com/
Bumbu Bali http://www.balifoods.com/
Warung Bule and Susy https://warungbuleandsusy.wordpress.com/
Mamasan Seminyak http://mamasanbali.com/
Roman Café Jimbaran https://www.facebook.com/pages/Roman-Cafe-Fresh-Grilled-Seafood-Jimbaran/254660481230272
Bebek Bengil http://bebekbengil.com/
Lotus Café Ubud http://www.cafelotusubud.com/
Babi Guling Ibu Oka Ubud
Gelato Secrets http://www.gelatosecrets.com/
Surf and Turf http://www.surfturfbali.com/
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