Sanur.

We are here in Sanur for two weeks. Sanur is quite a relaxed placed. Supposedly a good middle ground between the hustle of Kuta and the quietness of Nusa Dua. Our hotel is the most westernised one we’ve stayed in so far, it’s quite a large complex with an number of swimming pools and on the beach, but it still keeps a Balinese edge to it as the rooms are in little 2 floor Balinese cottages rather than a big high rise building (which I think I read they aren’t allowed to build here). We’ve spent a good few days doing nothing, we’ve caught up on sleep and I’ve caught up on some work and emails. In theory we could have travelled around a bit more but to be honest Sanur is quite a good base and I hate living out the backpack so I’d rather unpack and settle in and then if we want to go elsewhere, like we are going to the Gili Islands I’ll just leave most of at stuff at the Sanur hotel and take a small rucksack for our nights at Gili. Yes a slight waste of money but for me it makes things easier. 
In Sanur the best hotels seem to be right on the beach. They all seem to be big brands; Fairmont, Mercure etc I’m sure away from the beachfront there is more traditional accommodations. But if you’re coming I’d definitely recommend being on the beach, it’s lovely. The sea is calmer on this side of the island compared to Seminyak so it’s safer for kids to swim in. There’s a whole host of water sports available and better for beginner surfer’s. If a keen surfer your best on the other side. So far Faye has given SUP boarding and SUP yoga a go. 
Sanur’s got loads of restaurants to try and so far we have mainly tried the ones up and down the beachfront and they’ve all been great. Next is to trek a little more inland to see what’s about. 
We hired bikes from the hotel and did an 8-mile round trip up and down the beachfront stopping for lunch and ice creams along the way. Came straight off the bikes and dived into the pool as even with the sea breeze it was boiling!

Exploring Ubud. 

Once the sickness bug was over and done with we could finally get out and do some exploring. 

Our hotel runs a shuttle 6 times a day back and forth to the centre so we have mainly just used that to get in and out. Blue bird taxis don’t really operate in Ubud but you can still order them via the app they just may take a while to come. The other options you notice when you are in central Ubud is men holding taxi signs up everywhere and as we are 2 pasty white Brits we get asked every 10 steps if we want one! What you do have to be careful about these ones is that they may mean to provide their taxi service via moped not car! 

First off we hit Ubud Markets near at the top of Jl. Monkey Forest. This was a good fun way to spend an hour bartering for tourist tat, from Bintang t-shirts to bottle openers – watch out grandparents it’s coming your way! There’s also some obsession with tourist tat in the shape of a penis! Necklaces, pens, wooden statues, you name it and there’s one in a penis shape! 

Jl. Monkey Forest is a great road to amble along, probably just over a mile and it leads down to the entrance of the monkey forest. There are loads of cafes, bars, restaurants, spas and shops. Faye found a great little shop that sells DVDs for 50p each so she treated herself to a few for the hotel room. She also saw a fish spa and was desperate to give it a try! 

With a lot of the eateries it’s easy to think from the outside that it doesn’t look much but once you go inside it’ll have the most amazing view of a rice field of river out the back. There are so many to choose from!

The monkey forest itself was an experience. It costs around £2 to enter and is a circular 2km route of which there are about 600 monkeys in. Both Faye and I were a little fearful as they jump out of nowhere and we didn’t want them to jump on us! You can buy bananas in the forest but as soon as you do the monkeys will be jumping on you to snatch them away. You have to be careful with sunglasses and bags as they won’t hesitate to grab them and once they do you won’t be getting them back! 

Balinese dance performances occur every night in Ubud centre. It’s a bit like the West End. There’s about 8 shows on in different temples that alternate every night in and around Monkey Forest road. A ticket is about £4.50 and the show lasts about 90mins. There’s a few different shows to watch, ours was Legong and Berong. They have a full live orchestra and a number of different dances telling a story. The costumes were great, but it was probably a little too long for Faye. 

One afternoon we took a walk down to Campuhan Ridge to admire the view and there’s a lovely restaurant down there called Bridges which we had a tasty tapas meal in overlooking the ridge. 

Our hotel were great at offering us lots options for activities so on Saturday we took them up on there offer of a driver to take us on a tour on some different areas. We went to Tegenungan waterfall, Elephant Cave Temple, Holy Spring Temple, Wood Carving Centre, Coffee & Chocolate Plant, Mount Batur Volcano and to a Rice Terrace. This was a great day, we saw loads! There was a lot of steps to climb! Faye is at a good age for all this, any younger and I think we would of struggled because there is a fair amount of walking and climbing and I can’t carry her anymore! The waterfall we visited I believe made the news as a couple of people died there recently but we were told by our guide that was because they tried swimming in it despite all the signs everywhere telling you not to! You could see the force of the water from standing nearby so you’d be crazy to try and swim near it! The coffee and chocolate plant was a really good experience which Faye enjoyed. They explain everything they grow and give you a tasting of 6 coffees, 6 teas and 4 chocolate bars. Faye really enjoyed the Wood Carving Centre and has since declared it’s what she wants to do when she’s older!! 

Another point to note is that there aren’t really many pavements when walking around Ubud. The ones there are are very very uneven, some with huge holes that drop down 3ft, it’s not somewhere you’d want to manoeuvre a pushchair around! It’s done Faye good in the sense of paying attention when crossing the roads as you are constantly on and off the pavement, if there is one as they aren’t wide enough for two people to pass. Your watching for the unevenness of the ground, pedestrians, mopeds and offerings on the ground all the time. 

Also in Ubud we’ve been to Bali Zoo and had breakfast with the Orangutans as well as elephants and parrots. You get a table for breakfast overlooking the elephant bathing pool and get called up to meet the Orangutan’s. There are also a couple of elephants by the breakfast area which you can go and see. Faye loved this experience but it was pretty expensive and a very early start! 

Towards the end of our Ubud stay we went and spent the day at Jungle Fish pool club. This was a gorgeous setting with an infinity pool looking out into the trees and the food was really tasty! Faye spent the whole day in the pool with a new friend she’d made! 

Can highly recommend our hotel, Bali Spirit, the location was great, the setting was like nothing I’d been to before and the staff were lovely. Added bonus was we both got an hours balinese massage each which was FAB! Faye’s never had anything like this before as in England children aren’t really allowed but she laid down for the whole hour and thoroughly enjoyed it! 

Ubud

We arrived in Ubud Sunday afternoon via taxi. On the journey over it became apparent the driver didn’t know where he was headed. Luckily in my bag I had a little map, the full address and phone number of our next hotel which I gave to driver. After a few circles round and him telling me to “look, look” for the hotel he rang the reception a number of times and a few heated discussions later we arrived! 

Our hotel is about a 10 minute drive from the centre. Most things seem to be in and around Monkey Forest Street. We were greeted with cocktails, a shoulder rub and a complimentary upgrade. They’ve given us the honeymoon suite here which is fab and is huge, 2 floors so we can have a floor each! Not sure if they realised I was coming with a 7 year old! 
Ubud is forest, rivers and rice fields as its central to the island. It’s a completely new feel for Faye as she’s usually been used to more beach-based vacations. 

The weather is Ubud is different to Seminyak it can shower at any time, so useful to have an umbrella with you! It’s a consistent 28 degrees which is nice, even when round the pool and it’s raining it’s nice and warm! In the evening’s it cools a few degrees as there’s a gentle breeze through the mountains (not enough to need a jumper) but it’s nice that you can turn your air con off in the rooms. I find a/c gives me a sore throat after a while! 

Traffic in Ubud equally as awful as Seminyak but the hotel shuttle driver seems to know lots of back routes to get round the bulk of it. Again probably the best way to get around is via moped but I’m just not brave enough to do it!!

The people in Ubud also seem to be a different crowd, Seminyak was prodominatly Australian tourists whereas Ubud has a much wider span of ages and nationalities. A lot of French speaking. This will be down to the fact you don’t come to Ubud to party it is very chilled. 

Within the first 48 hours of arriving in Ubud I was hit was an awful sickness bug so we didn’t get a lot done, but thankfully for wifi Faye did lots of FaceTime’s to friends and family back home to occupy her whilst I was ill and the staff from the restaurant were great at bringing me toast! 

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!

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!

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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WARNING FOR TRAVELLERS!

Just a word of advice through a lesson learnt…

If a hotel porter is packing your luggage into your taxi for you, double check they put it all in!

When leaving San Francisco, the man packing the taxi left a suitcase behind which I did not realise until I was AT the airport. So I had to phone the hotel and they had to send it ASAP in another taxi. It was a heated discussion to say the least as they somehow didn’t think it was their fault. I did have to pay for the second taxi because I didn’t have the time to keep arguing as we had a plane to catch, but I have kept the receipt and will be contacting the hotel to follow up with a complaint.