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! 

Advertisements

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!

Los Angeles.

5 nights, 6 days.

Hotel –
Jerry’s Motel, Downtown LA, Lucas Av & 3rd St. Clean, affordable, has all you need. Free car park space. Get a welcome gift with some snacks and drinks in. In your room they provide a folder with all the information you need for the area and lots of leaflets to look through. Rated highly on trip advisor which is how I found it. $90/£58 per night.
http://www.jerrysmotel.com/m/hotel-sitemap.html

Activities –
Firstly i’ll say LA is big and it is busy. You need a car, it’s spread out so its easier/cheaper if you can drive yourself about, BUT, there can be a lot of traffic at any time of day, so make sure you allow plenty of time for journeys, even if its only a couple of miles. Try also to look your journey up before leaving as my sat nav system always wanted to take us I the freeway which is where the traffic was worst.

We started our time here with a bus tour. I like to do this in each area to get a feel for the place and try to figure out where things are. It’s also useful for learning bits and pieces about the places. If you go on tripadvisor they rank tours based on customer satisfaction for companies all over the world. This is how we found ‘A Day in LA’ on a rastabus.
http://www.adayinlatours.com/

The tour was $79 for adults and $69 for children. The buses are small minivans and you are provided with fruit and water. Our tour guide was Brad, real friendly, funny and knowledgable. I took the stroller and he put it in the front every time we were on the bus.

This is what the tour covers;
Start the day in Malibu with a drive to the pier and surfrider beach. Hop off for half an hour.
Drive up Sunset Blvd. through Brentwood, Bel Air and Beverly Hills and check out a few of the stars’ homes
Then we went to Rodeo Drive, the super expensive famous shopping street. Hop off for half an hour.
Then onto lunch at the Farmers Market at the Grove. Off bus for an hour and a half.
Drive up to Griffith Park for photos of the Hollywood sign and views of the downtown L.A. skyline. Hop off for half hour.
Take a walk down the Hollywood Walk of Fame and see the beautiful Chinese Theatre, where the celebrity hand and foot prints are and Dolby Theatre (aka Kodak Theatre) where the Oscars are held! Off bus for half hour.
Check out the historic Whiskey, Viper Room and Roxy music clubs.
Back to Santa Monica for sunset.

So it stops five times but your driver comes with you which is nice as you don’t have to worry about waiting for the next bus. Things like Rodeo Drive and the Walk of Fame would be a pain to park at as they are busy and expensive so hopping off on the tour was perfect for us. Although half an hour sounds short, down Rodeo Drive you need appointments to go in most shops and the Walk of Fame is very busy and quite tacky so get a few snaps and go!

We brought cheap last minute tickets for a Dodgers Baseball game. $25 a ticket. Always a good evening out. Can be long but you are free to leave as and when you want to. Car parking $10. Hot ‘Dodger’ dogs $5. Can also take snacks in.

We also spent one evening at the Hollywood Bowl. Brought tickets that night for $11 each! You can also get ones for $2 but they were sold out. Take a picnic with you or eat there. Car parking is $15. But once your in you cannot leave until the show is done. We saw the LA Philharmonic orchestra. Not mine or Faye’s first choice of music, but we wanted to experience the venue – an outdoor amphitheatre holding well over 20,000 people. Can seethe Hollywood sign from your seats. You can still see in a $2 seat, not like in England if you pay for a cheap seat you will be sat behind a pillar and won’t see a thing. They do all sorts of shows. Ours lasted two hours with a 15 minute interval. The only thing to watch with children is that when the music is on, absolutely no talking is allowed, it is silent in the audience. I had read this beforehand and packed plenty of snacks and colouring books to keep Faye occupied, but to my surprise she actually quite enjoyed it and spent the whole second half dancing along to the classical music, in silence of course! Can get a bit chilly over there so pack a jumper and a blanket.

Beaches –
So the tour took us to Malibu and Santa Monica, both nice beaches, however I also wanted to check out Venice Beach/Muscle Beach – well I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s tacky, touristy and dirty. Saw cops arresting people on the beach. Lots of homeless people begging for money as well. On the upside the children’s playground was nice and Faye met lots of friends and the large skate park is good to go and watch for half an hour. I’d recommend Will Rodgers Beach it is one up from Santa Monica Beach, $8 to park there a day and its nice and quiet. It’s has no shops or anything so pack a picnic. Our tour guide told us this beach is used a lot for movies because its so quiet. The Santa Monica Beach is host to the Annenberg Community Beach House, which is a beach house that was donated by the Annenberg family to the City for public use. This has a pool and changing rooms, children’s play area and a cafe as well as a guest house which presents the history of the building. Nice stop off. One afternoon we also used one of the City’s public swimming pools, there is loads open in the summer, around $2 for an adult, under 17s swim free. List of all pools can be found on LA City Councils website.

Favourite spots –
Griffith Park for its views – big difference from hustle and bustle of the city.
Santa Monica – Much nicer beach and shopping area
Hollywood Bowl

Advise for LA first timers –
Start with a tour of some sort, this place is HUGE and I felt I was going round in circles most of the time.
Buy a detailed map with all road names on, cannot always rely on the sat nav.
Allow plenty of time to get to places.
Keep plenty of drinks and snacks with you at all times when travelling with children here.

20130727-002259.jpg

20130727-002310.jpg