• #ShelinaTravels: My love affair continues with Indonesia, Bali and Lomobk. Until next time…

    Twelve days, four islands, one stellar conference and countless hospitable people have made this an extraordinary journey.

    But it was at last time to pack up and head home. This was my third trip to Indonesia and on each occasion my heart grows ever fonder of the country.

    My obsession with eating satay was inflamed. This has now turned into a fully fledged obsession with the #SataySelfie. And I’ve also discovered similar obsessions with drinking (and photographing) my cappuccino in locations of extreme beauty. And perhaps most unexpectedly I’ve got an obsession with photographing people on motorbikes. I’ll be posting my favourite pics over the coming days.

    It’s easy and comfortable to travel here. People are kind, and perhaps most welcome is their natural and friendly manner with children. They are celebrities and an integral part of the interaction. People naturally love little ones and go out of their way to accommodate them. This makes it a fantastic destination for families.

    After 8 days of holiday I had started to replenish myself and I wished we’d had a few more days to immerse ourselves further. Perhaps my only regret is not having a chance to explore localities on foot and in person. But with work, children and my aspiration at the outset to have the chance to indulge in some true relaxation, something had to give.

    As a working mum, working even while travelling, I’ve learnt that everything is about choices and trade-offs. No holiday, unless it is remarkably long, can cover all bases. I do long to return to the days of spontaneous adventure when in a destination; to have challenging treks up volcanoes and mountains; to eat from roadside food vendors, and to spend hours roaming through local markets and haggling. I do wish for those days when you can change the structure of your holiday on a whim, because something more interesting came up.  But I also love having my kids with me, and spending time with them, and showing them new experiences and cultures. And most of all, I know I need time to just rest and be.

    The extraordinary thing about Indonesia is that you can do all of these in whatever proportion you wish. And so I don’t say goodbye to Indonesia, but rather, until next time…

     

     

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 8: Beauty, privilege and beyond to infinity in Bali

    Perhaps one of the greatest privileges in life is to wake up in a place of beauty and tranquillity. The hotel we stayed at had curated such beauty to perfection. The view from our bedroom had double doors opening directly into an infinity pool of sparkling blue water, which merged beyond into the vast blue of the Indian ocean and the clear skies beyond.  It was only the different textures of each which allows the eye to see how one is transformed into the next.

    Who could resist getting out of bed and straight into the pool?

    As a woman who covers, the private pool villa has been the most extraordinary revelation. The four of us swam to our hearts content. The six year old practised her swimming. The two year old decided to swim with nothing but her nappy (and why not!). And husband delighted into the smaller warm jetpool while overlooking the ocean.

    We ordered lunch in and ate it by the pool. Swimming, splashing and floating. I can’t express how the heart sings, but also the soul is acutely aware of the incredible nature of this blessing.  Once you’ve experienced a private pool it is hard not to want one for a night or so on any future holiday. They cost, of course they do, but for a day and a night of magic, it is well worth considering.

    We managed to escape its allure briefly, to take the children to dress up in local Balinese costume. The bright yellow, red and gold wrapped around them with sparkling head dresses couldn’t have made them look cuter if we’d tried, and the cultural immersion (if repackaged for tourists) was a delight. I think it’s a memory the six year old will hold dear.

    But it was the night time sound of the crashing waves in the distance that was the highlight. The cosy feeling of being tucked up on the clifftops with the sound of the sea roaring beneath gives succour to the soul.  And after hectic city life and managing kids, work and stresses of the daily grind, I felt like a new woman.

     

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 7 evening: cliff top sunsets and the tourist haven of Uluwatu temple

    It’s a given that travel never goes according to plan. For our last night we had scoped out a sunset visit to much acclaimed Uluwatu temple on the cliffs overlooking the sea, to be followed by a local dance performance. The only thing we were warned about were the ‘cheeky’ monkeys who like stealing glasses and hats.

    My husband was worried they’d pinch his spectacles (without which he can’t see) and I was worried that the monkeys might get too friendly with the toddler. (I was once bitten by one).

    But none of this was to matter, because when we arrived we discovered we’d forgotten all our wallets and had no money. The half an hour drive meant it was pointless to return to the hotel, as we’d miss the sunset on return.

    The driver turned out to be a saviour and had just enough money for one person to enter: I took the chance and went to explore. The poor kids and husband wandered round the mandatory shops and restaurants outside.

    The path leads down past the monkeys. There were just a few and they kept their distance, although admittedly I didn’t stop to find out if they’d jump on me.  The way opens to a stunning view of the sea and the place was heaving with tourists. I must admit I didn’t see any locals, and our driver didn’t seem to think locals came here often.

    The view is extraordinary, but forgive me for saying that the temple itself rather unremarkable. I wouldn’t even have known the way hadn’t a stream of visitors been flowing towards it.

    On the next cliff top stadium seating had been set up, with maybe 50 – 100 rows of tourists filling it up preparing to watch the dance.

    Again, without any money I couldn’t buy the additional ticket, but videos I’ve seen before have been quite something.

    It’s not the temple you’re visiting here, or seeing locals in worship. This place is just for the experience, the atmosphere and of course the sunset.

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 7 morning: local immersion at last! A visit to the local village of Ungasan

    One of the frustrations I’ve had during this trip is that the hotels we’ve stayed at, chosen for comfort, relaxation and child friendliness, coupled with day trips that visit tourist destinations, have left me whizzing past local villages and unable to really get a feel for local life and culture. Of course, those were the choices I made, and every choice comes with a trade off.

    But at last, on the penultimate day of our trip I took a guided village walk to nearby Ungasan village. My guide was a woman who herself lives in Ungasan, was born there, married there and who said she had no plans to ever leave since her ancestors are also there.

    It was hot, really hot, hot and sticky. The road wound up and down through lush trees and beautifully adorned houses. We passed a junction with a shrine sacred to the locals, it was there to offer safety, and if you drive past you have to ring your horn to acknowledge it.

    The local central marketplace had a row of shops in the middle and shops all the way round the outside. This was where most of the religious items were bought. It was 11am when we arrived and the shops were closing. “What time will they re-open?” I asked, imagining a much needed afternoon siesta. “Oh no, this is it!” said the guide. “They open at 4am and close at 11.” It seems the life of a Balinese woman is tough – she needs to wake up, come to the shops to buy food and prepare breakfast for her family before they wake up. She will also prepare the items for the daily offering for her home’s own shrine.

    What caught my eye is the number of Muslims in the area, from Java, I was informed. This surprised me, especially as the population looked comfortably and historically interwoven, and the guide felt it was perfectly normal. So much so, that she was surprised when I pointed out how beautiful it was to see a shop selling the items of Hindu rituals, right next door to a Muslim shop selling their equivalents like prayer mats.

    As we walked on we saw Banyan Trees (sacred, protected by a wall, a special ceremony to cut them), mango trees (several varieties), coconut palms (the yellow fruits bunched together tantalisingly) and teak trees. In the fields were cows, who moo’d to us and we moo’d back (at least I did) and screeching cockerels.

    Cute children played in school yards. The locals who drove past and knew the Guide honked her. We walked past the bank, an incredibly grand building (‘some of the locals have made a lot of money here from selling their land’).

    Before the hotels came, Ungasan was a small village, mainly farming and some fishing. It’s about half an hour from Denpasar, the capital and feels extremely remote, perched on the furthest southern tip on the cliffs. It’s on limestone and so farming is tough.

    Despite my own choice to stay at a resort in this area and enjoy its delights, I was suffering acute first world guilt that perhaps the row of hotels on the coastline had torn the local fabric of society and environment. But speaking to her and other locals, I felt it wasn’t as clear cut. In her opinion, everyone in the village works at a hotel. The tourism industry is sustaining this and several other local villages.  But equally, large posters across the village were protesting against land reclamation in a nearby area. The village was sprinkled with villas rented out by travellers who would then spend their money in local shops. And in the surrounding areas surfers and long term inhabitants were plentiful, again, spending money.

    Each village in Bali has three shrines: Pura Dalem (Shiva), Pura Pusa (Vishnu) and Pura Desa (Brahma) named after the three gods. You couldn’t enter but could see the large altars and doors.

    There was a friendly buzz to the place. And the locals zoomed past on their motorbikes and smiled and I waved back. Life was in full swing here. And I was grateful to have had a chance to get out of a car, free myself from the cloistered surroundings I’d put myself into, and actually get a taste for what it is like in a local village. It’s worth it – give it a try.

    This guided tour was provided courtesy of the Banyan Tree Bali. All opinions are my own.

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 6: Honeymoons, holidays and heartbreak

    The movies are too often accused on creating artificial dreams about our lives that are neither realistic nor desirable. But on this morning, I thought of the ‘perfect’ honeymoon when couples travel far away to a paradise island and spend their days gazing into each others eyes,into the sea, and eat their dinner on the sand surrounded by candles to the backdrop of the moonlit waves.

    And so, at breakfast this morning it made me smile to see a newly married couple perched on the beach, enjoying their morning meal together. The hotel staff helped them with a selfie. Her feet were painted with henna. Something I had done on my own honeymoon..

    In fact, we’ve seen these special romantic meals set up in many places, perfect for honeymooners. Some set up on the edge of cliffs. Some in the prime spots of restaurants. Some, like this one, on the edge of the lapping waves.

    It reminded me of our own honeymoon – romance in the Maldives followed by adventure in Oman. We looked somewhat longingly at the delight that awaits these couples and their manicured experiences to enhance their love as our own two munchkins run around restaurants in a circle. Or the two year old has a tantrum because the colour of the plates is wrong! Maybe sometime soon our holiday will accommodate more intimate meals again!

    Sadly, our visit to Lombok was at an end I love this island and despite the twenty hours plus to get there, and having been twice, I’d go again. I love its beauty, I love its people. And I don’t know how else to explain it: my heart has found a resting place here. Maybe it is nothing more than just how very lovely it is.

    But my heart which has been busy replenishing itself in this beauty is starting to feel heavy. It was time to depart and we returned to Lombok airport, and small airport but with useful little shops for a quick snack and emergency souvenirs.

    Barely fifteen minutes in the air later, we landed back in Bali. We still have two more days to go, but I’m starting to feel heartbreak already.

     

     

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 5: Stop the world! I’m taking a break! Lombok edition

    IMG_0013 IMG_0091lombok5Slombok5top and smell the coffee, hear the waves, feel the sand in your toes. We cancelled all our plans and decided to put life on pause and enjoy the beauty in which we are privileged to be immersed.

    First, we had breakfast on a table on the beach. Even the kids seemed to enjoy it. The waves were lapping on the black sand beach. My cappuccino was hot and full of caffeine and I got to try some sweet martabak and serabi, bite-size rice flour and coconut milk pancakes dolloped in palm sugar syrup and dried coconut, little morsels of paradise.

    Then it was all change into swimwear and a chance to enjoy the infinity pool. The two year old giggled with delight non-stop for about eight hours. The six year old wanted to swim and swim some more. The sun loungers were epic – double width, plus hanging as swings. So when lunch time came we ordered satay (or course!) for me and pizza for the kids (would it be anything else?) And we sat round the raised tray with our feed, swinging gently in the sea breeze.

    After lunch, a walk on the soft sandy beach, and this one in Lombok was a mixture of black and gold which was beautiful. The sea was perfectly warm, like a second skin. And the waves were great fun – crashing and carrying us to the shore and back out again. The hotel’s private bay curved round and ended at an area of rocks where the waves came in higher and faster. We got drenched each time, but that’s the fun, right?

    The afternoon was about more swimming, this time in another pool with peculiar glass walls so you could see people’s lower halves, with amusing effects as their upper and lower bodies look separated in the water.

    What can I say: water, sand, sea, waves, sunshine in the quiet, with the sea stretching out in front was what we needed. I definitely wanted more, but a day felt good for nourishing the inner.

    But by late afternoon I was keen for exploration again, and we grabbed a taxi to Sengiggi, the local town, mainly aimed at tourists it seems, but locals visit too.  We snapped some photos of the sea behind us at sunset and grabbed a quick light dinner.

    As always the two year old attracted delight and attention with a nearby table of young Indonesian women offering her balloons and smothering her with affection. The four of them told me they had ridden from Ampesan, on the outskirts of the capital Mataram on their motorbikes. Four Muslim hijabi women. On their motorbikes. I love this country.

    After dinner, time for a walk, and we went past restaurants politely touting – only Indonesians could tout in the most respectful polite way possible. There were shops offering tours to tourists, and souvenir shops. It was dark by now and the kids were tired. Strangely, there were no taxis around, but we did get offered a pony and cart to ride in. In the spirit of adventure, we said yes! The four of us piled in at the back and off we trotted. It was a small space, but cosy.

    As the difficult road wound its way uphill the horse started to gallop. It was pretty terrifying being overtaken by large coaches, or have another pony and cart almost chasing our bottoms. But deeply exhilarating. I recommend it! And so do the kids who had a fantastic ride.

    We tumbled into our room exhausted and happy. Sometimes stopping is the best thing in order to re-start.

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 4: Lombok’s Gili islands, snorkelling and private lunch

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    gili1Sometimes when you’re travelling, even your very high expectations are surpassed. Or, as my six year old commented after our long but exhilarating day “This was the best day of my life!” Since she is six, I can well believe it’s true. But at much older and more travelled than her I can still agree that this was a real highlight.

    We were collected promptly from our hotel lobby at 830am by a friendly driver and our English-speaking guide Arif. We had a comfy air-conditioned car. And both of them were excellent with our two girls, helping them settle into the car.  Arif outlined the day: a two hour drive to the harbour, where we would board a traditional boat, and then take a twenty minute ride to Gili Nanngu where we would do some snorkelling and swimming.  When we felt ready, we would travel by boat to Gili Sudak where we would have a seafood barbecue lunch, and do more swimming if we wanted. We’d return back to the mainland and be home for 430.

    Spoiler: I’ve never snorkelled! But I had brought along my burkini and my spirit of adventure!

    We’d packed towels, snacks and extra clothes, and the kids already had the swimwear on underneath.

    Two hours for a six year old and a two year old is a long time in a car, but the drive was beautiful. Lombok is green, very green. And it feels like you are driving through real every day life. We first passed through the capital Mataram, a small provincial town with low buildings.  The road then opened up to pass through small village upon small village, with single storey homes with laundry hanging outside, farmers in the fields, and children playing in playgrounds at their schools. It felt like we were really experiencing Lombok, not just as privileged travellers (which we are) but seeing every day life.

    Eventually we reconnected with the coastline and we could see across to islands scattered across the water.

    Our car pulled up at the beach and we all tumbled out in excitement: we had to collect snorkelling gear. We tried on masks for size as well as flippers.  Not the two year old of course.

    Sandals off!

    We padded across the white soft sand with the prickly coral that had washed up on shore. It was time to get into the beach island mood, as we had to walk through the shallow sea water to climb into the katamaran.  It was long and narrow with benches on either side. I gripped the toddler. The six year old wore an oversized life jacket.  The boatsman hoisted the anchor (“He’s like a pirate, mummy!) and the motor whooshed us away. It was glorious!

    The water was silver blue, to the backdrop of green covered mountains and paradise islands. The children giggled. It was hard to feel anything but euphoric with the fresh breeze and visual perfection.

    Gili Nanngu is how you would draw your own perfect desert island: white sand curving round the shore, actually clear water, and a gentle breeze. It has a small basic resort with about forty chalets. I don’t know why but I had been expecting our own private desert island, so the fact that there were some day trippers – perhaps no more than thirty or forty – was unexpected.

    There were several covered platform areas – in the typical Lombok style – where we left our stuff and our guide and boat crew waited for us. The husband and kids were ready to swim in no time, but as I had to change fully into my burkini I went to find the toilets.  It wasn’t great – smelly squat toilets with doors that didn’t close. It’s possible the resort was better, or the café that was signposted.

    But ooh-la-la, the water was exquisite. The perfect temperature. Absolutely clear. You could see the fish swimming around from above the water. The two year old giggled “fishies!” The six year old put on her mask and had a go at snorkelling. And she was off. All our video footage of her from the day is head down, body floating, her observing the sea life.

    So I thought I’d give the snorkelling a go. The first, second, fifth, tenth time I must admit I gagged. My instinct was to close my eyes and either stop breathing or breathe through my nose. But slowly with some concentration I finally managed it and boy, it was amazing! I didn’t want to do anything except swim and watch the fish. Silver ones with yellow tips; schools of hundreds of the tiniest black fish you’ve seen, flat fish… if our snorkelling had been at a higher level the guide would have taken us into deeper richer waters.

    Eventually at 1pm we were hungry and scooped up all our stuff and returned to the boat. From there it was another ten minute ride to Gili Sudak, another small island with perfect white sand beaches and clear waters. We went in our swimwear as we were, the warm breeze kissing us dry.

    We disembarked, our guide and crew helpful as always getting the kids off the boat and across the water. There were tables and chairs set for lunch and we had been advised we’d be eating here so we picked a table with a perfect view across the sea to the next island and settled down.

    Only the guide then came back and told us to follow him. To our amazement we were led to a traditional-style wooden chalet on stilts and were led up the stairs to the verandah. This, we were told, pointing to the private villa, was in fact where we were going to have lunch. The elevated height of the building meant the views were even more spectacular. We also had our own private space. And it was great to let the kids run around.

    There was more – the villa had a large studio inside, with tinted windows for shade and privacy. Inside was a double and a single bed, along with a small toilet, shower and sink. Everything was clean and neat. Even towels were provided.

    Having our own little private home even if it was just for a few hours made all the difference. We could even have had a nap, but of course the lunch and waters beckoned. People can and do stay here overnight.

    By the time we’d explored this wondrous delight of having a place to call our own, the first course for lunch had arrived: a traditional Indonesian soup with egg, sweetcorn and carrot. Boiling hot and utterly delicious. Just as we had finished slurping it down, the second course arrived and this was really an extraordinary delight: freshly grilled fish flavoured with lemon, garlic and turmeric (I think). We had two traditional rattan woven plates, covered with a neat banana leaf and a mound of rice. There was also a bowl of local stir fry vegetables. Everything was fresh (I think the fish was recently caught) and tasted amazing.

    What was great was that for our fussy little children they made up fish and chips which the kids happily munched down. It was also incredibly delicious. You could taste the freshness. And if this wasn’t enough a large plate of freshly chopped fruit arrived. Everything tasted incredible. Everything looked amazing. It’s not an overstatement to say it was practically perfect.

    Then it was off for more mooching around the beach, swimming and snorkelling. The clouds overhead were dark grey and there was intermittent thunder. However we were fortunate that the monsoon did not affect us today.

    As the afternoon passed, we knew that we’d need to eventually leave. I had heard nothing but laughter and delight from the children. From my part I’d learnt to snorkel and eaten a delightful lunch.  And my quota of Instagram perfect photos was beyond full.

    We needed to get ready to leave. With children it was a welcome relief to have a clean private place to dry them off and change them. And of course a clean western toilet to call your own is priceless. We changed, rested and freshened up. We prayed in the room. But then discovered a very cute little prayer area downstairs, on a traditional raised platform with a prayer mat.

    It was time to cast a farewell look at the unforgettable island, before returning to the boat for our final ride of the day back to the main harbour, and onward back to the hotel.

    The children smiled all the way home. And I left feeling blessed to have enjoyed this privilege; and wondering that if this idyllic place is something we can experience here in our lifetimes, then what on earth will paradise be like?

    Today’s trip was organised by Serendipity Travel. All opinions are my own.

    For more photos head to my Instagram page

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 3: From Bali to Lombok

    welcome to lombokI’ve always had a soft spot for Lombok. After a short visit here in 2008 I couldn’t wait to get back. So today was spent on the journey and then relaxing at our lovely hotel.

    It was a quick hop from the hotel to Ngurah Rai airport, perhaps only twenty minutes. I felt sad leaving the lovely folks at the Bali Nusa Dua hotel who felt like old friends after three days of conference and two of holiday.

    Bali airport has a chilled out smooth vibe and within a few minutes we were through security and into the lounge. There are some good shops. I treated myself to a gorgeous Indonesian silk scarf. And the kids got treated to Kinder eggs – strictly to keep them occupied on the flight.

    A bus trundled us across the runway and we walked up the steps to the flight. It was filled with locals. The flight was short and comfortable. Soon after the seatbelt lights went off, the captain announced preparation for arrival. We were flying Garuda, which meant we had a generous inclusive weight allowance, plus a useful little snack box.

    Lombok is an even cuter airport. We walked in from our plane, collected our luggage and out the other side in about ten minutes.

    We stepped out of the building and the monsoon struck.

    Lombok is much less developed than Bali and the vast green fields and mountains in the distance have a more soothing and homely feel. The mosques have unusual cone shaped domes and the capital Mataram is just a provincial capital with low buildings and much less development.

    An hour on the road reached the sea and from our view on the high up road the sea shimmered silver in vast glory. We passed through the tourist town of Sengiggi with its hotels and restaurants. A part of me wished we were staying here so we could walk along the road and be part of the buzz.

    But when we arrived at our hotel we were not disappointed. It was like a travel catalogue brought to life. Can’t wait to take a dip in the infinity pools.

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 2: Tanah Lot and Nusa Dua beach

    Tanah Lot temple, Bali | Image credit: Shelina Janmohamed

    Tanah Lot temple, Bali | Image credit: Shelina Janmohamed

    The story goes that a 16th century religious figure Niratha sat on the rocky outcrop island at Tanah Lot (Land in the Sea) and the fisherman down below started coming to give him offerings.  So he told them to build a temple as he felt this was a religious place. The legend says that below it in the waters snakes guard the temple.

    We wanted to see some of the local history, religion and culture, so this was a great choice. The Temple made for a good half day trip from our hotel in Nusa Dua. We passed through Denpasar after a cheeky stop at KFC – entirely at the request of the kids who seem tired of trying very hard to eat Indonesian food and just craved some halal chicken nuggets.  An hour later after driving through stunning rice fields and whizzing through small villages the glorious silver sea greeted us.

    We paid for entry to the compound and found ourselves in a long marketplace. It had all the usual tourist offerings. But also useful things like lots of toilets, ice cream (it was hot, this saved us from cranky kids!) Eventually the walkway descends down the sea through imposing gateways until you reach the black sandy beach.

    Our timing was unlucky, we arrived at high tide so we couldn’t walk to the temple. But the kids had fun on the rocks, and the black sand was unusual. As it was Sunday the crowds were large. And it is also the period of Kuningan festival so everywhere was festooned with yellow cloths and offerings. The other smaller temples were also closed only for worshippers, so we missed out there too.

    But the fresh sea air was invigorating, and a relief from the humidity. And what could beat watching the glinting sea and crashing waves while eating a cornetto with your kids?

    Nusa Dua beach in the cloudy twilight Image credit: Shelina Janmohamed

    Nusa Dua beach in the cloudy twilight
    Image credit: Shelina Janmohamed

    Around 430 we set off again, to return to Nusa Dua and enjoy dinner at the beach.  We took a promenade along the beach front, the golden yellow sand soft, the beach quite quiet and the beachfront hotels and restaurants looking welcoming. With hungry kids we picked the first one – Agendaz, and sat perched on their epic beach beds. I ordered – you guessed it – satay. And boy was it good. Although a light meal for the four of us it was definitely the priciest, but the view was priceless. Nusa Dua might be a bubble for tourists, but boy is it a well-manicured, hospitable and relaxing bubble.

    Then it was straight back to the hotel for an early night – after all further adventures await!

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  • #ShelinaTravels Day 1: Kintamani, Cegakin Rice Terraces and Ubud

     

    Shelina Janmohamed overlooking Mount Batur

    Shelina Janmohamed overlooking Mount Batur

    The days before we started our holiday in earnest had been long and tiring, (I’ll post about AdAsia Bali soon!) and so by the time we set off it was already midday. We’d set our ambitions high: a two hour drive to Kintamani to see the lake and the Mount Batur Volcano.

    The car was spacious and cool.  From our hotel in Nusa Dua, we followed the bridge across the water and through the heart of Denpasar, Bali’s busy commercial centre. The car started to crawl through the terrible traffic. But some while later, the city cleared and the backdrop changed.

    We began winding through the villages with their local stores and altars and temples. People whizzing by on their motorbikes. The lush green backdrop of coconut palms framed the single story buildings and shops which sold the necessities of daily life. Some people sat on the floor chatting, others were busy in their businesses. I peered down the side roads and saw the familiar stone lined Balinese lanes with the green leaves and locals zooming forward on their motorbikes, sometimes alone, sometimes two or three riding shotgun.

    We passed through several villages, and an hour and a half later the road started winding up in height towards kintamani. We could feel it in our ears and the little two year old yelped in pain intermittently.

    At a checkpoint we had to pay an entry fee to enter Kintamani area. We drove past the Geopark which we were told explains about the formation of Lake Kintamani, a modernist interpretation of a pagoda in the signature Bali black.

    The road circles round, and you then get the views across to Mount Batur with its dark grey clouds, and then nestled in front of the mountains in Lake Kintamani, blue and clear, with villages sprinkled around it.

    We had lunch at a restaurant with several layers of terraces prime for the view across to Batur and the lake.

    It was in a surprising area of several halal restaurants, which was unexpected. It did make lunch for us unexpectedly more enjoyable as it opened the whole buffet. At IDR 150K + tax and drinks, it was reasonable given the kids ate free. However, the buffet did run out often and despite assurances from the staff that it would be replenished, this restocking did take quite some time. However, I forgave this because both the Balinese and the Chicken Satay were delicious and I’m a sucker for these.

    For parents to know, there are railings, but I did feel constantly nervous about the children throwing themselves over the side.

    The noise from the crickets and other creatures was incredibly loud, so you do feel like you’re immersed in the natural surroundings, but you might find it a distraction from lunch. The place has lovely little raised tables to sit Asian style. Great for adults but again we avoid so the little one didn’t fall off. I did feel rather envious of the singles who had their coffees and gazed across to the mountains with no fear of fearless children, while they meditated (or perhaps just snapped their selfies.

    Also for parents – the toilets are surprisingly good, they are ‘up’ toilets with sprays and the level of cleanliness was good.

    If we’d had more time we would have headed on further to the lake and to visit the villages, but for a short whirlwind tour the views and the fresh air and seeing the delight on the children’s faces made the long car journey worthwhile.

    Shelina snaps Cegakin Rice Terraces

    Shelina snaps Cegakin Rice Terraces

    We then headed back south towards the Cegakin Rice Terraces. This stunning landscape cut away into the hillside was the highlight for our six year old. She raced passed the tourist shops and we could hardly contain her from descending the steps through the terraces to the bottom and then all the way up to the top.

    At one point a woman in a kiosk demanded a ‘donation’. We shrugged our shoulders as we had already paid tickets to enter and we pointed that out. She blocked our progress. Ticket or donation we asked. ‘Donation’ she said fiercely pointing to a basket of cash. We forked out and proceeded.

    It was hot and sticky, but the beauty of the place was motivational. However, you could easily have spent two or three hours there and we were determined to head on towards Ubud to enjoy the markets, shops but not the monkey forest. Many years ago I was bitten by a ‘cute’ monkey in Thailand and have been wary ever since. In our last trip to Bali in 2008 we did the monkey forest and the little creatures really are everywhere and fearless.

    Alas – or happily – we got stuck in traffic as a result of the Kuningan Festival and its processions which I’ll blog about later in the week.

    And so, by the time we got to Ubud, night had already fallen. The kids were hungry and tired and the markets had closed.

    We parked up and walked into the first restaurant we found. There was pizza and the children were happy.

    We didn’t get to see much of Ubud other than the drive through. But this proved disappointing. In 2008 this was a cutesy, eclectic village with one main street. The town was surrounded by lush green farmland. On this trip all I saw were streets and streets of high end tourist merchandise.  And strangely, a Ralph Lauren Polo shop every few hundred yards. Can anyone explain this to me?

    There was extraordinary Saturday night traffic through Denpasar so we arrived back exhausted. Batur, Kintamani and the Rice Terraces had all been extraordinary.

    With one more day left in Bali before we head off to Lombok, we spent into the night wondering what to do the next day.  I even asked Facebook for suggestions

    What did we do? Check back tomorrow for the details!

     

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