Done with diving, we flew to Bali for a final week with Elizabeth’s parents. For family travel, Bali is a pretty good choice. Transportation is affordable, attractions are relatively close together, and the food is good and not strange.
Of course, we had to get there first. Our booked flight itinerary went to Bali via Makkassar (on Sulawesi Island). That flight had some engine trouble so they took us all off of the plane after boarding. After a couple hours of hurry up and wait, we were rushed onto a flight going to Jakarta on a different airline and without a ticket. Jakarta was slightly better — although the rebooking counter was surprised that a dozen white people trying to go to Bali had been rerouted, we eventually all received hand-written boarding passes and, after chaotic last-minute gate changes, we were seated together. I think the Jakarta Airport is permanent SNAFU, but they make it work every day.
The trick to flying and rerouting in Indonesia is to think of it as Soviet-style. You can’t do anything to arrange your travel or fix any problems — you just show up and do what you are told.
Bali, on the other hand, is what you make it. We settled in Ubud, the so-called “cultural capital” of Bali, where we originally planned to stay for four days before moving on for more scuba.
Tour 1: Top Sights Surrounding Ubud
For two of these days, we booked private transport — a driver, Nyoman (“n” is silent), and his van — to get to sights beyond town. Our first day with him was a typical loop to main sights on our part of the island, including the Pura Gunung Kawi temple, Pura Tirta Empul temple with a natural spring and baths for washing, the Gunung Batur volcano, a stop at a coffee plantation/tasting room, Goa Gajah “Elephant Cave,” and beautiful rice terraces. The trip was a steal — costing IDR 500,000 ($37) plus tip for the day.
When Nyoman heard that my mom was interested in wood carving and batik, he added a couple additional stops to the end of the day. It ended up making for a long day, but was a really sweet gesture.
Tour 2: Singaraja-Lovina North of Bali Tour
Our outing worked so well for our group of four, that we did another day further afield, stopping at the picturesque Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple, hiking down to the Git Git waterfall, reaching the north shore for lunch, and stopping at Banjar hot springs on the way back. This trip had additional driving and therefore cost IDR 700,000 ($52) plus tip — still a steal. It would have been a good rate for two people, and we were four.
Driving around with Nyoman ended up being a great decision. He was a conscientious and cautious driver, was always on time, and spoke fairly good English (thus doubling as a tour guide). If you find yourself in Ubud, give him a call (+62 81 797 840 25, wechat/line: Suyadnya 86, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).
We also explored Ubud itself on our own. The main sights, including the Ubud Palace and Pura Saraswati “Water Temple,” are in walking distance of most hotels, which is a good thing because getting a point-to-point taxi in Ubud is no easy (or cheap) feat. We braved the heat and rain to check out these temples and a few local galleries.
We also checked out the aptly named Monkey Forest. It was full of monkeys…
For one of our evenings in Ubud, we attended a semi-outdoor dance performance. We haven’t really attended very many dance performances during our trip because getting out in the evening always ends up being a pain (or we keep postponing it, or there aren’t tickets available, etc.). This performance was in three acts: (1) an abbreviated Ramayana, (2) a dance by two children, and (3) a fire dance (meaning a guy kicked burning coconut husks). Priscilla found it enthralling.
With everyone a bit diving and sights-fatigued and having gone to other parts of the island with our driver, we extended our stay in Ubud for the rest of our time in Indonesia.
Elizabeth and her mother did a batik-making course (batik is a fabric with color patterns resulting from wax). Her father and I went and ate burritos. A fair trade-off. Below are her pictures and explanation:
Eating in Bali
The food in Bali was similar to food in Java, but better. Satay Ayam (chicken skewers with peanut sauce) became a family favorite. And we could get varied levels of spice (more for us, less for our in-laws).
And we got to introduce Jim and Priscilla to the wonders of cat cafes (which are theoretically eating establishments, but who are we kidding):
The weather wasn’t great during our time in Bali — it was either hot and muggy or raining, sometimes both. In a place with less tourist infrastructure, this could have been a disaster. But for Bali, it worked out ok. Accommodations ended up being nice and affordable (with our first place, Tebesaya Cottage being awesome) and we found plenty of rice terraces to keep Priscilla happy. All in all a great week in Bali with family.
[This blog post describes our trip to Bali, Indonesia on January 26-February 2, 2017.]