Seminyak and The Citta!

We spent just under a week in Seminyak. It’s only 20 minutes from the airport. We stayed in a Balinese villa at a resort called The Citta about 2km from the centre of Seminyak Square. This was a very small place of only 5 villas round a communal pool. We had unknowingly booked in at the same time as a Balinese car insurance festival so a number of the villas were used for that and we were the only guests. Faye was a little disappointed there were no other children round the pool but they did upgrade our villa so we were at the opposite end of the complex. 

The villa was on stilts with water all around, full of fish. It was gorgeous! The staff spoke very little English but were so attentive. We were served breakfast in our room every morning and every evening they came into the villa and dealt with all the mosquitoes of which there were plenty!! They also gave us lifts into Seminyak whenever we needed free of charge. Whilst the hotel was great as we weren’t there very long I would of preferred to be closer to Seminyak Square. Although it was only a 2km walk the roads really weren’t suitable to walk along with all the traffic. 

The roads are always full of cars but the worst part is the mopeds. It’s crazy with all the beeping. It seems the way to drive in Bali is almost like playing chicken and to hold your nerve and hope the other person ducks out the way before you crash. The mopeds will drive at cars, go through all the red lights and it’s seems they just cause mayhem. Not sure what the rules are for mopeds but it would seem you can fit a family of 4 on one, you can text, someone was eating a burger on the back of one and all the while no one wears a helmet! One evening a guy from our hotel was dropping us into town and the roads were gridlocked so he said ‘we go back roads okay?’ I did know what he meant so said ‘yes okay!’ Well it was awful! Felt sick by the time we arrived for dinner, we definitely didn’t drive down roads they were like back alley pavements some not wide enough for the car so it nearly slipped into a rice field at one point! 

If you’re a foodie then Seminyak is definitely worth a visit. The restaurants are endless and a whole variety of it. There’s definitely a lot of nightlife going on. There’s also loads of shopping to be done. Kuta, the next down south is full of the tourist tat whereas Seminyak has a bit more about it. Loads of lovely clothes boutiques including kids ones and there was also many homeware stores selling mostly hand made furniture. 

Faye’s highlight of Seminyak – loosing her tooth on a corn on the cob at Potato Head and then finding out their is a Balinese tooth fairy!

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Beach Clubs, Seminyak 

We had our money’s worth on Thursday and spent the day and most of the evening at Potato Head in Seminyak. Before coming to Bali I spent some time researching the best beach clubs for children and pretty much all of them are child friendly, in fact almost everything here caters for children as well as adults. I picked a couple of the beach clubs based on Tripadvisor reviews, one of which was Potato Head. Finns, Cocoon and Double Six all seemed viable but we only had a feed days to fit a couple in. Beach clubs are a great day out for us because Faye loves to swim and they always have lovely pools and it’s a chance for Faye to make some friends for the day. She’s at an age and swimming ability where I can trust her to swim alone which gives me the chance to lay by the poolside!

Potato Head I think appeals to all ages and they were great with kids, sometimes these places can be a little pretentious but none we’ve visited so far have been. They’ve been super relaxed about everything. I just wouldn’t recommend if you want a quiet day as there is music playing throughout the day. Potato Head is free to get in but you need to get there early, doors open at 10am and unfortunately you cannot book in advance. You have to turn up prior to it opening (from 8.50am) to reserve a bed then come back at 10am to get in. We got there just before 9am, earlier than I intended but I had no idea how long the traffic would take (traffic is a nightmare in Seminyak). This did pay off though because we managed to get a lounger right next to the pool. In exchange for the lounger you have to spend a minimum of 500,000 IDR (£28). We didn’t spent much more than that all day on food and drinks all of which was lovely and served straight to the sun bed!! The quietest time was in the morning when the pool was virtually empty and the place got busier throughout the day as there are a couple of restaurants there which people come to. The sun came down around 6pm so we walked down to the steps onto the beach to watch it and it was dark soon after so Faye took one more night time swim, we played a game of Skip-Bo and made a swift exit as by this time there was a fair few lairy Australians parading round in ‘I Love Bali’ speedo’s! 

The following day we visited another recommended beach club called Ku De Ta similar set up to Potato but on a smaller scale and you can’t go down to the beach. We made our way over there in the afternoon and just had a late lunch in one of their restaurants overlooking the beach and took a dip in the pool. It’s advised to make reservations at both the Ku De Ta restaurants as they are busy every day of the week. If you want to start tabs at any of the beach clubs you need ID as well as the credit card. 

Both nights after leaving the beach clubs getting a taxi home was a little tricky. It seems a good place for unlicensed cabs to hover to rip off tourists. You are advised to only use Blue Bird taxis which are blue cars with a bird on top. But there are looky likey cars that look almost identical. Blue Birds are almost meant to always be on a meter starting at 7,000 IDR. I learnt the hard way and got in a fake one by mistake and my journey was almost 3 x as much! Shortly we are moving on to Ubud and I have prebooked a Blue Bird through their app which is just like Uber! Let’s hope it turns up!

Woobar, W Bali

For the first leg of our trip we are in Seminyak, only for 5 days because I wasn’t overly sure it’d be the right fit for us, high end shopping boutiques and lots of nightlife, but there was a few places I wanted to check out.

We have visited a number of W hotels over the last few years and always enjoyed them so I made a reservation before we came out to eat in one of their restaurants. I chose not to stay at the hotel because I’ve tried to use more traditional Balinese accommodations to get a better experience (plus they’re a LOT cheaper).

W in Seminyak has a number of restaurant’s but I chose Woobar based on it’s relaxed atmosphere and the chance to view a lovely sunset! We had a reservation for 5pm, arrived a little early to wander around the grounds. In hindsight probably didn’t need to book in advance, but it does get quite busy around sunset (6pm) as the hotel guests are out the pool and onto Happy Hour cocktails. It was so casual and laid back, we had some lovely armchairs on the outdoor decking looking out to sea. The waitress was even kind enough to give my daughter a wristband so she could sneak off for a dip in the hotel guests’ pool which made her night!

I had a couple of Tapas dishes, pretty averagely priced around £7.50 a dish, but super fresh and tasty. Faye had a Spag Bol, really being adventurous I know, but I let her off as it was our first night and neither of us had more than 5 hours sleep in the previous 2 days. Kids meals were around £4, cheaper than England and it was lovely, fresh, homemade Spag Bol which she wolfed down.

Point to note as more days go by here, a lot of the restaurants/bars/beachclubs do have dress codes, not necessarily smart, but things like no sport branded clothes which i’ve subsequently seen a couple of guys been asked to change and come back.

We watched the sunset whilst we had our dinner which was fantastic and it was pretty much dark but 6.30pm so we played a few rounds of cards and jumped in a Taxi home!

London, Heathrow to Bali, Indonesia

This next trip of ours couldn’t come soon enough for us! 2017 hasn’t turned out to be our year so far but we are fortunate enough that we can leave the baggage (emotional not backpack, we need that) at home and jet off around the world. Last time Faye and I travelled properly Faye was 3 and we spent 3 months in the USA before she started school. Now she’s at school it’s much, much harder for us to do big trips as we are really limited to the summer holidays and which countries are suitable at that time of year.

Bali was a good choice for us weather wise as July/August is slightly cooler (28-30 degrees) and drier than other times in the year. Plus I’ve always wanted to go since seeing Julia Roberts in Eat, Pray, Love!

Flights were booked through STA Travel, a company I always use as they do a good price comparison and the airline we flew with was Garuda Intl. I found Garuda did the best aeroplane food I’ve ever had and they did Faye a child’s meal which was all things she’d actually eat! Only questionable thing was being woken up and given a spinach and feta pastry at 4am!

Flights were as follows; 14 hours London to Jakarta, 2 hours stop in Jakarta, then a 2 hour flight from Jakarta to Bali. You actually go through customs in Jakarta so once you get to Bali you just walk straight out the airport.

I usually get questioned when I travel alone with Faye so I always bring her birth certificate and this time I brought a signed letter from her Father, but luckily for me on the way out it wasn’t questioned. Don’t think it’ll be as smooth on the way home, but we will see!

We arrived into Bali around midnight Wednesday night, the travelling was exhausting and felt very disorientated for 48 hours after but it all ran to time so you can’t ask more than that!

What we’ve learnt.

89 Days

25 Hotels

Over 20 Places

1 Country

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I was slightly hesitant about going away on our three month trip to America, for many reasons such as work and money, but, mainly because I’m backpacking with my three year old! Would we be safe? How would Faye cope? How will I cope!?!

Once we got there, those worries soon went straight out the window. I remember the first day we set out exploring. We left our youth hostel in Boston late one afternoon and went for a walk around the neighbourhood and I instantly felt happy and calm. The houses and streets were beautiful and Faye was running up and down, laughing away.

Don’t underestimate the hard work that goes into organising a trip like this, it takes a long time, and foolishly I planned mine whilst completing my final year of my degree, which got very stressful, BUT, it paid off as things went pretty smoothly once we were away.

Yes we backpacked, but very organised backpacking, I had pre-booked all our accommodation and transport before we left the UK, this is partly because I wouldn’t have been able to sleep at night if I didn’t know where I was going to stay from one week to the next, and also, i’m with a young child, I wanted suitable places for her. Ultimately I know I would not have enjoyed it as much as I did if I was spending time trying to find accommodation. Another bonus to it, is that its cheaper. If you can book hotels, train tickets, car hire at least a few months in advance you can get things quite a bit cheaper.

So we stayed in 25 hotels during the trip. I initially set my budget at £50 per night for accommodation and the average worked out at £51.25, so I thought that worked out pretty well. Obviously depending on the area you are in, a hotel can be £30 a night and others can be £100 plus, but, you’ve just got to keep on top of your budget the whole time. Its also nice to spend a few nights in an average hotel to save some money and then have one night in a nice one. Hotels on average in America are way, WAY, better than what you would receive in England. Most places we stayed, had two large double beds, fridge, microwave, hi speed Wi-Fi, satellite TV, kettles, free parking and breakfast – for £50. When researching my hotels I used hotels.com as you get one free night for every ten you book through them, but its also worth going direct to the hotel for a price. I used Tripadvisor for everything, but you have to take it with a pinch of salt, people on there seem to moan about anything and everything. My main priorities were, does the lock on the door work and is the bed clean, any extras I’m over the moon. We were very fortunate with ALL our hotel, everyone was more than adequate for us two and I always felt safe.

I was advised by STA travel agents when initially discussing my trip that I would need £1000 per person, per month, in America as everyday spending money for food and activities etc. I took half that amount of money as that’s all I had. We had £39 per day, around $68, dependant on the exchange rate. Obviously some places are twice as expensive as others, so any opportunity I could find to save cash I would. We didn’t go out for three meals everyday because I just couldn’t afford it. We made use of the fridge and microwave in our hotels and always tried to get the free breakfasts. I also always carried snacks for Faye so instead of stopping for a meal she could graze through until dinner time. I have come home with a small credit card bill, due to the clothes shopping during the end, but that was to be expected. However, on average I did manage to keep to my budget, the best way to do that I found was to spend as little as possible during the start of the trip to make sure you know you have enough to last the duration.

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The trip has done a lot for Faye’s social skills, before we came away she was not particularly confident doing physical tasks, and wasn’t keen on having conversations with new people, which is fine as she’s only three, but since being away she’s thrown herself into pretty much all the activities, she’s much more confident and she’ll even order her own food in a restaurant! When you ask her about the trip, she will mainly tell you about Disney, but she has really enjoyed all the other places. Things like the US Mint in Philadelphia, I found slightly dull looking at coin after coin, but Faye loved it! She found it really interesting looking at the factory and identifying what different coins were. Giving her her own digital camera was one of the best things to keep her entertained, she loves to take photos and did so throughout the whole trip. People passing by would often smile when they saw Faye taking pictures of me, and would offer to take a photo, but Faye (being a very independent child) would say ‘no thank you, I’m good at taking pictures’.

Don’t get me wrong it’s not always easy being in each others pockets for three months, when we are at home in England, I work and Faye has Preschool so we have time apart, which I believe everyone needs, so there was numerous times I could of strangled her, and I’m sure she could me. It doesn’t help that when Faye’s asleep she still doesn’t stop talking or fidgeting! There’s not much that can be done about it really, just go the bathroom, count to ten and think at least I’m not at work!

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Neither of us wanted to return home, we could of easily stayed away for another few months, but unfortunately the VISA and the money ran out. In the airport on the way home we were reading travel books for where we would like to go next. We like Mexico, Thailand and central America – to be honest, I’ll go anywhere! Faye starts primary school in September 2014 which will be quite an obstacle but I won’t let it stop me. I am aware taking children out of school is very difficult these days, however the knowledge Faye has developed on this trip for her age has been immense and its never ending. She’s practiced her hand writing when sending postcards, she’s been identifying all her numbers when finding hotel rooms and using elevators. She can now identify different flags and countries. She’s learnt about pounds and dollars as well as different cultures and some of the history behind the United States of America. She’s been educated on looking after the environment and pollution of the sea. She has seen a whole variety of wildlife in their natural habitats. She’s used so many modes of transport and tried different foods. The best thing is, that I am not having to teach her these things, we are learning them together and enjoying it at the same time. We are both incredibly fortunate to have been on this adventure.

So the plan now is to work hard, save up and play the lottery to fund the next trip!

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Returning Home.

We have arrived back home in England last week, after a LONG day of travelling. I’m so disappointed its all over and it seems to of flown by! We have both had an amazing trip and done so many things.

Our journey home was pretty straight forward, we travelled through the night. Faye slept around three hours of the seven hour flight, but I didn’t manage to sleep at all. It was all going smoothly until reaching boarder control at Heathrow airport where I was questioned as to the relationship between Faye and I. As Faye has a different surname to me, due to her Father and I not being married, apparently I cannot prove she is my child. The lady asked for Faye’s birth certificate, which I had in my suitcase, not my carry on luggage, which she told me was no good. She then said she would need to speak with the child’s Father, so I got my mobile phone out but she then said don’t bother. What aggravated me was how indecisive she was as to what she was going to do, so in the end I said to her, if you’re going to stop me, do it, if your not just let me go through and so she just let me walk off. I never encountered anything like this in the USA which was why I was so annoyed to go through it back in England. So from now on I will always have to carry Faye’s birth certificate when travelling, which is fine, OR marry her Father, which is not fine, but it makes me feel slightly put out as if I am in the wrong for not having the same name as my daughter.

So eventually we were through boarder control and were surprised by a group of our closest friends and family which was a really nice gesture. Perhaps not so surprisingly it was raining when we left the airport and we got stuck in traffic on the M25 – a traditional English welcome!

Once back at our house Faye was high as a kite getting all her old toys out as if they were new again, and I on the other hand could not keep my eyes open. As soon as Faye stepped through the door, she ran up to her room and all I heard was ‘SIIIMMMBBAAAA!!!! Have you missed me?!’ – this is the cuddly toy that’s bigger than she is which she wanted to bring with her in her backpack. I’m cruel to not let her I know, but don’t worry we did Skype him at least 3 times!

We both went to bed around 9pm and slept like logs all the way through the night. Faye didn’t wake up until 1pm the next afternoon, but we paid the price for that as the next night she just could not get to sleep, she laid in bed reading until 3am. So to get her back into a normal routine and re-adjust from the time difference, for the next few days I made sure she was up reasonably early so she was worn out by 8pm, and since that she has been sleeping fine through the night again.

Since being home, Faye has spent the week at home catching up with her toys and family (priority in that order) and I have started back at work. Faye has another two weeks before returning to Preschool and her Child-minder, so it’s nice for her to have some chill out time before the madness starts again in September with school, dance class and swimming lessons!

 

welcome home

 

Shopping in the USA.

I tried to leave the shopping as late as I could because I wouldn’t be able to carry it all, but we ended up buying a second case for our final flight back to London.

Faye had saved and been kindly given her own spending money for the trip of which most got spent at Disney – SHOCK. Luckily for us her Father was visiting for that section so he took her bits home for us.

Out here it is hard not to shop to be honest. Miami was my favorite place as I had a car at that point so could travel out to malls easy enough. In Miami the Dolphin Mall is an indoor outlet shopping mall, it’s pretty big and packed with plenty of shops and a Cheesecake Factory!

If you’re in the States to shop you want to find the nearby Premium Outlets. There are plenty all over the country, I think I’ve been to 8 or so in the last month! They all have similar shops in, but you can get most things. Over half of the ones I’ve been to have had a children’s play park which has provided a nice break for Faye. I’ve been to both regular malls and outlet malls and I would definitely advice to start with the outlet ones first.

Items that I’ve picked up a lot cheaper in America than England are;
– Levi Jeans
– Ugg boots
– OPI nail varnish
– Chicco stroller
– Ralph Lauren clothes
– Michael Kors bags and watches
– Pandora
– Suncream
– Disney toys and clothes
– Clark’s shoes for children
– Nike running trainers
– Sports apparel

This probably explains why the extra suitcase was needed!

I’m bringing home about ten bottles of sunscreen because in America they do these great spray on creams which I haven’t seen in England which are great for Faye as they’re light and dry in seconds as well as being waterproof. You can also get Suncream up to factor 70 which is good for Faye as she has very fair skin. As its now mid August all the supermarkets in Minnesota have their sunscreen on sale so they were $4 a bottle, when I pay around £12 for one in England.

Whilst on the subject of toiletries, Something I’ve picked up upon in the States is that you cannot easily buy spray deodorant, all I’ve found is roll on! Very random I know, but I thought that was weird!

I’ve already looked at when I can get the cheapest flight to Florida to take an empty suitcase and fill it with shopping – I better buy a lottery ticket as soon as I get home!