Gili.

We’ve spent the last few days on Gili T. All a bit stressful and not something I’d organised beforehand. 

A taxi driver we’d met had offered to assist me booking the boat tickets which I’d been looking at online and it just seemed so expensive for the boat over. 
Getting to the Gili Islands (Gili T, Gili A & Gili M) is only possible via boat. There are loads of ‘fast boat’ companies which the crossing takes around 90 mins for around £50 per person return or you can get the ferry for pennies but it takes 8 hours!! I hate boat rides, I always get seasick so fast boat was the only option. Dewa our friendly taxi man booked us tickets for the boat with a company Semaya One, for 700,000 Rupiahs return whereas they were quoting me 1,200,000 so he saved us a fair bit of money! In with the ticket they come and collect you from your hotel and drop you back once you arrive back on Bali. 

It’s was another 6am start to wait to be collected and whilst we were waiting I googled the boat company. BIG MISTAKE! It had horrendous reviews, but then I looked at some of the other companies and they all have rubbish reviews. Basically the boats don’t run to time schedule, it’s a very choppy crossing with lots of people being sick, they also serve Bintangs on board so there’s drunks, and sometimes the boats get cancelled! I think we experienced all of the above. 

After the 6am start, being collected at 7.15am, an hours drive to Padang Bai we checked in ready for our 9.15am boat. Boat didn’t leave until 10am and it was a pretty choppy crossing. Luckily we both managed to hold it together on the way out and Faye slept for most of the way. 

On arrival at Gili T the boat pulls up, you jump off into the shallow water and make your way up the beach. White sand and gorgeous blue sea! For this part I was very glad not to have luggage. People are trying to pull suitcases up the beach – looked very painful! 

I’d pre booked our hotel the day before and looked up location in advance. Glad I did because there’s not really any street signs it’s just a case of figuring out if your North of South of the island and wandering around to find it. We stayed at a lovely hotel a few streets back from the main strip called Marta’s Hotel. We had a little bungalow, hot water (not all places do in Gili T!) and the staff were so friendly and helpful. Marta (Balinese) married his wife Joanna (English) 20 years ago and they run the hotel together. Breakfast was served on our little veranda – fresh fruit, juices and pancakes! 

Once we’d checked in a put our bags down we went for a wander for lunch, ate in a place called Scallywag’s, a little tacky. Then went back to the hotel for a swim in the pool. It seemed much hotter on the Gili’s than in Bali. 

Late afternoon we set out to climb up to sunset point. Hard work on the climb but well worth the hike. Perhaps worth wearing trainers though as we did it in dresses and flip flops! The decent on the other side of the mountain brings you down onto sunset beach were we stopped for dinner and watched the sun set. 

There’s no motorised transport on the island so the options are push bikes or horse and carriage. I didn’t feel comfortable using the horse and carriage, they are just little ponies pulling 6 people at once, they looked shattered! 

The next day we were due to get the 3pm boat back to Bali so we got up, hired bikes and cycled the whole way round the island – bloody boiling – not my best idea. We stopped off at north beach for some snorkelling and were lucky enough to see lots of fish and turtles. 

Then it all went a bit wrong. We went to check in for the boat to be told boats weren’t running due to choppy sea. At this point we were exhausted, boiling and in desperate need of a shower! Our options were to get the 8 hour ferry – not a chance in hell – or wait until the morning and get first boat out at 11. So then we had to find a hotel for the night. We tried about 15 but they were all full. I then went back to Marta’s were we stayed the night before, they were also full but they could tell I was getting stressed so they made Faye some lunch and helped me find a little homestay a couple of roads behind them for £20! Joanna looked after Faye whilst I went to sort it out. It was very basic, cold water, a bit grubby, a few bugs, but the door locked! Marta’s let us use their pool for the rest of the day and helped us with everything. 

That evening we went for an early dinner at Pearl on the south of the island. Lovely food and beautiful building. It was also Independence Day and one of the local hotels had a screen up on the beach for an open air cinema showing Independence Day, not the most child friendly film but never mind!! We both really enjoyed watching a movie and eating popcorn on sofas on the beach! 

Next morning after not a lot of sleep we went down to the beach early to check in for the boat, said they were running again so we had an hour to kill, went for breakfast, had feet massages and went back down to the boat to be told it’d been pushed back another hour so we found a spot on the beach and chilled out for a very. long. time. After lots of back and forth the boat came at 2pm and it was a free for all to get onto the boat. Once we’d boarded I thought brilliant, 90 mins of feeling sick and we’re back! That however wasn’t the case! The boat went over to Lombok, I assume to drop a couple of people off. Then the boat didn’t move for ages and we were sat bobbing around and sweltering. After a while people started to go upstairs and find out what was going on, there was a lot of heated discussions starting. Basically the boat was apparently 12 people over the limit and the harbour master wouldn’t let us go until 12 people got off. The thing was none of the staff came and told us what the situation was. A few volunteers stepped up, there was talks of everyone chipping in and giving them some money to pay for their hotel in Lombok but we were still 3 short. 10 minutes later a big Geordie lad went upstairs to get to the bottom of what was going on and kept relaying the info back to everyone. Eventually the harbour master agreed to sign some bit of paper allowing us to go so an hour later we set sail again, 9 people over capacity. As we’d left so late the sea was awful, incredibly rough but so hot in the cabin so people were being ill everywhere and you’re not offered water or anything. We had a further 2 hours of this before we pulled up in Pandang Bai where people were fighting to get off the boat. Loads of people had missed flights! 

Faye and I thought thank god we’re off that boat! Just an hours drive back to Sanur to our hotel, but, when the boat company was putting people in the taxis back we were forced into a 7 seat mini van that already had 9 people in and all their luggage. Faye had to sit on the floor whilst a Dutch guy stopped cases falling on her and I had to share a chair with his wife. Everyone was outraged but they really didn’t care and no one then spoke any English. So off in the car we went, again boiling, to arrive in Sanur and he pulled over. He didn’t drop us at the hotel just pulled into a lay by on the motor way next to a sign pointing to Sanur. He spoke no English and everyone in the van tried to help me but we just got out, walked to the nearest thing which was a Dunkin Donuts and used their wifi to order a Blue Bird cab. 8pm we got home. It took 11 hours. It was hellish. 

I’m so grateful to Faye that day because she had the patience of a saint and didn’t moan once. All she simply said once we got back was ‘maybe can we not go there again’ and I don’t blame her. I don’t know if we used the wrong boat company or what but for us what was meant to be a quick overnight stop turned into 3 days. Perhaps Gili T was the wrong island to pick and we should of done Gili A which is meant to be more peaceful. In my opinion the tourists are ruining Gili T, the rubbish, the drinking etc. I am glad we went because if we didn’t I would of regretted it but I won’t be returning!

A highlight for Faye was she’s lost another tooth in Gili – it’s costing me a fortune!



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!

Elephant Safari Park.

Upon checking out of Ubud and moving to Sanur we went to the Elephant Safari Park, which is on the outskirts of Ubud, about 30 mins from our hotel. A very expensive experience but well worth the money. This is a hotel/elephant rescue park and had I known about it before we came I would of booked us in to stay there. It was a very early 5.30am start but we got to clean and scrub the elephants with hoses and scrubbing brushes, then it was our turn to ride the elephants into the lake and take them for a swim, we had been prewarned to bring a change of clothes! This was then followed by a warm shower and a buffet breakfast. After that we had a 30 minute safari on the elephants around the grounds and finally they showed us some of the things they’d taught the elephants to do; painting, hula hooping and kicking footballs. 
I did my research before booking this as there’s a lot of stuff out there warning you not to do these things because the elephants are mistreated however at the Elephant Safari Park in Taro, Ubud all the 31 elephants are rescued Sumatran elephants who are treated with such devotion by their trainers. The elephants range from 4 to 54 years old and 4 babies have been born there so far. It was definitely worth getting up early as we were one of the first families in the park and could spend quite a while on each activity, whereas when we came to leave around midday it was much busier and queues were starting to form. 

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! 

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!