IS­LAND OF SUR­PRISE

BALI HAS A MIXED REP­U­TA­TION DUE TO THE NEG­A­TIVE ME­DIA STO­RIES THAT COME OUT OF THE AREA. WHILE IT WAS NEVER ON OUR WRITER’S TRAVEL WISH LIST, SHE DIS­COV­ERED A GEM. AND WENT BACK TWICE.

Scout Magazine - - Elsewhere... - Words: Belinda Glin­de­mann

CHAP­TER ONE

I’m go­ing to ad­mit straight up that Bali has never been on my travel bucket list. For years, I’d as­so­ci­ated the tourist hotspot with drunken hooli­gan trav­ellers, drink spik­ings, drug tak­ing and ter­ror­ism. “Bali bo­gans” is a phrase do­ing the rounds of the me­dia lately, re­fer­ring to Aussie trav­ellers there. But it was a chance op­por­tu­nity, on the back of rave re­views by a grow­ing num­ber of our well-trav­elled friends, that saw hubby and I on a spon­ta­neous kid-free In­done­sian ad­ven­ture.

Now there are a few key words in that last sen­tence. When is “ad­ven­ture” ever a bad thing in the mun­dane rou­tine of life? And be­ing “spon­ta­neous” is al­ways ex­cit­ing. Oh, and “kid-free”? Well, nuff said. Par­ent­ing can be a tir­ing 24-7 job and when you jug­gle that com­mit­ment with run­ning a busi­ness, some level of em­ploy­ment, ex­tended fam­ily and friends, ren­o­vat­ing or what­ever else life holds for you, it’s usu­ally your re­la­tion­ship with your part­ner that can fall off the radar. We are lucky to have the most amaz­ing sup­port net­work around us so when I floated the idea of a much-needed kid-free break it was met with pos­i­tiv­ity and en­thu­si­asm. Phew. Hubby and I were on our way…

Our Ba­li­nese home base for the break was a villa in Seminyak. Not only did the villa op­tion of­fer us space to stretch out in a beau­ti­ful pri­vate trop­i­cal gar­den

set­ting, but the pool that stretched the length of our villa screamed re­lax­ation from all van­tage points - even when we weren’t ac­tu­ally float­ing around in it to cool off from the trop­i­cal heat. Seminyak, as the re­search and rec­om­men­da­tions proved, was the per­fect back drop. Hip, vi­brant restau­rants and hap­pen­ing nightlife col­lided with re­lax­ing and tran­quil day­time beach­side sur­rounds. Zen sanc­tu­ar­ies of In­done­sian cul­ture col­lided (not lit­er­ally, thank gosh!) with crazy busy streets filled with crazy busy scooter driv­ers, who have lit­tle re­gard for traf­fic eti­quette and were in­clined to use pedes­trian foot­paths when the bi­tu­men got too con­gested.

And ev­ery­thing was so cheap. We ate our­selves crazy. Roughly $20AUD cov­ered a more-food-than-two-peo­ple­could-eat lunch. It was hard to fin­ish a $40 AUD din­ner for two most nights. Cock­tails were just a few dol­lars and mas­sages were the equiv­a­lent to about $6 Aud/hour. Yes, SIX DOL­LARS!

Hubby will tell you that I’m al­ways bang up for a chin­wag with the lo­cals wher­ever we travel in the world. Peo­ple sto­ries are my thing – es­pe­cially when ex­pe­ri­enc­ing dif­fer­ent cul­tures. There is so much greater learn­ing to be had by sim­ply tak­ing the time to lis­ten. In Bali, you can eas­ily get around on foot, via one of the myr­iad lo­cal taxis or, for those who are want­ing to tour a lit­tle bit, a per­sonal driver is your best bet. We were lucky to meet a driver named Ke­tut Udi (yes! I met a real-life Ke­tut in Bali #life­goals) and, wow, did I talk that man’s ear off. In the two days we spent with Udi, we saw some truly pic­turesque sights and were treated to some great ‘in­sider’ tips on where to find cheap and de­li­cious food and where to buy sil­ver jew­ellery di­rect from the sil­ver­smiths, for ex­am­ple. But it was dur­ing our car rides, the chats with Udi about Ba­li­nese life and cul­ture were what have re­mained with me. The peo­ple of Bali are so happy and so hum­ble. Udi, for ex­am­ple, sur­vives on an in­come of roughly $10 AUD per day – to drive tourists around for 12 hours. And he was dili­gently sav­ing for his up­com­ing wed­ding with plans to also build a fam­ily home one day. He took us through lo­cal vil­lages where women were bliss­fully wash­ing the fam­ily’s cloth­ing in the road­side streams while their kids played hap­pily with their ba­sic toys along­side. Not an ipad, smart­phone or hand­held gam­ing de­vice to be seen. Udi took us to beaches where we drank Bin­tangs while get­ting our feet mas­saged for a few dol­lars by the most joy­ful old women. They were all sim­ple quiet peo­ple liv­ing sim­ple quiet lives with not much more than their hap­pi­ness to keep them go­ing. I took home a load of lessons from th­ese beau­ti­ful and truly thank­ful peo­ple, and it made me cast a crit­i­cal eye over our own hus­tle-bus­tle life­style, liv­ing-large in Aus­tralia with our house full of ‘things’.

I think the great­est tes­ti­mony for any hol­i­day is whether or not you’d go back and do it all again. For Bali, I’d have to say that, yes, we will re­turn one day. Iron­i­cally, while we took away so much from our kid-free break, that I’m ac­tu­ally keen to take the kids next time to give them the op­por­tu­nity to ex­plore and ex­pe­ri­ence this eye-open­ing place and its hum­ble peo­ple and their sim­ple happy lives…

CHAP­TER TWO

Well, just as ex­pected, the Bali bug hit us (and I’m not talk­ing about stom­ach cramps from drink­ing the lo­cal tap wa­ter!). Af­ter liv­ing on the mem­o­ries of our first Ba­li­nese jaunt, it was 18 months later that we re­turned with our two tweens in tow. Rather than the hus­tle and bus­tle of Seminyak, we opted for a beach­side re­sort at Nusa Dua for our fam­ily re­treat. It of­fered way less crazy and way more beach while open­ing our eyes fur­ther to the beauty of Bali.

We chose one main ‘thing’ to do each day, let­ting our girls drive the de­ci­sion-mak­ing process. We snorkelled. We held turtles, bats and snakes on Tur­tle Is­land. We learned to weave. We ate lunch atop a Pi­rate Ship (for real!). We let mon­keys climb our heads. We held the largest but­ter­flies we’ve ever seen. We shopped. And shopped. And we ate lunch over a koi pond, dan­gling our feet in among the coloured toe-suck­ing beau­ties. I’m al­ways one to en­cour­age true lo­cal cul­tural ex­pe­ri­ences when trav­el­ling abroad and a batik class in the rural out­skirts of Ubud was one of those mem­o­ries we’ll take with us for a long time. My mini cre­atives were to­tally ab­sorbed in the ex­pe­ri­ence and when (on our very last day) they were given the op­tion of vis­it­ing one of Asia’s largest wa­ter­parks or a re­turn visit to do a sec­ond batik class, we were stoked to be­ing head­ing back to Ubud for more waxy cul­tural fun.

As ex­pected, the kids got re­ally caught up in the daily bless­ing rit­u­als they wit­nessed on the beach and busi­ness premises. They made friends of the gor­geous Ba­li­nese staff. And they ate their weight in noo­dles and sa­tay. All in all, our re­turn trip to Bali re­in­forced our love for the is­land, for its peo­ple and its sim­plic­ity. Bali proved it­self to be just as much a cou­ple’s re­treat as a bril­liant fam­ily hol­i­day des­ti­na­tion. And we’ll be fans for­ever.

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