Friday, 31 March 2017

How we spent 5 kid-friendly days in Ubud, Bali

Day 1: Get acquainted with the area
We arrived mid-afternoon. We checked into our villa (which was an awesome find on Airbnb), unpacked our bags and then took a walk around the area. We walked the main street Jalan Raya which runs east-west through the centre of town and ventured off some of the little side streets to find small rice fields, family homes and family run restaurants known as warungs. When on the main road, be careful with children as the roads are a bit narrow where there’s no sidewalk and traffic can be heavy at different times of the day. Right on the main street you can even visit Saraswati Temple (next to Starbucks!), a temple surrounded by water and lotus flowers that is dedicated to the Hindu goddess of learning, literature, and art.

We returned to our villa for a relaxing and refreshing dip in the pool and then got ready for dinner. We found a small warung and had the nasi goreng (fried rice), sate orob (chicken satay) and gado gado (vegetables in peanut sauce), plus I had a bintang (beer) and my daughter had a fresh juice all for less than $10 CDN! It was delicious!

Day 2: Traditional Art Market & Monkey Forest
The traditional art market begins around 9am and encompasses a few blocks, we kind of just walked around until we found it, but you can access it on the main street across from the Royal Ubud Palace (you can’t miss it). There are some beautiful finds if you look hard enough and of course cheap sarongs and t-shirts and tank-tops or “singlets”. Be prepared to bargain, you should probably pay less than half of what they first suggest as a price. My daughter had a bit of money on her and we had a lesson on bargaining. She really wanted to buy bracelets for her friends back home, so we visited several stalls asking for the price and gave really low-ball offers, when we walked away and weren’t called back we knew we were too low, we finally figured out what an appropriate price would be and what we’d be willing to pay and Jules made her first purchase in Bali!  You could easily spend an hour or so just walking through the streets of the market. At the same time we stumbled upon a family temple where a ceremony was being performed, we stopped and listened to the music and enjoyed the smell of the incense that filled the air.

After finding some lunch, we made our way to the Sacred Monkey Forest. You can easily walk from town into protected forest area along the Jalan Monkey Forest road heading south. This location is not to be missed during your visit to Ubud, especially if you have children, they will love it! We spent a couple of hours walking through the park, watching people feed the monkeys, and just observing their behaviour. Be sure not to have any loose objects on your or a backpack with food or something the monkey can grab, because they will. This includes sunglasses on your head!  Jules had a water bottle with her and even the monkey jumped on her and took the bottle from her.  You can watch her video and reaction here.

Day 3
Morning Market & Cooking Class
Before the Traditional Art Market opens, the market area is full of farmers and food, flower and produce vendors. It starts around 4am and closes up around 8am. When we booked our cooking class with Periuk Bali Cooking Class, we were able to pick a morning session which included a guided tour of the produce market in the morning, it was fascinating and we got to learn so much about the flower and different types of fruits and vegetables we don’t see at home.

Our guide, Wayan Sukarnaya was also the chef and he took us back to his family compound where he first introduced us to his family and shared how to make a daily offering to the gods. My daughter loved learning about the meaning of the colours of the flowers and how to make a square container out of palm leaves for the offering.

We were then shown how coconut oil was made and then we were led to the preparation and cooking area. Wayan had all of the ingredients laid out for us and explained the purpose of each of them for our dishes.  We then began to prepare everything, which included peanut sauce, base sauce and spicy sauce, along with the chicken, fish, soup and even dessert!  

We were lucky enough to be the only ones that day in the class as the group of people that were suppose to be with us partied too hard the night before and were apparently hungover and couldn’t get out of bed to meet us at the market in the morning! My daughter got right in there and was not afraid to chop, stir, mash and even flip to prepare.

Wayan was so good with her, and helping and guiding her along the way. You could tell he was passionate about what he did, and about food, and I loved how his family was involved in a lot of it. We ended with a HUGE feast at the end and we got to devour the hard earned 6 course meal we prepared! This was definitely a highlight of our time in Bali. Check out my daughter’s video blog on this experience.

Day 4
Walk & Spa Day
One thing I had to do when in Bali was to have a massage!! Before arriving in Ubud I did some research and found a very reputable spa near Ubud called Karsa Spa, which was considered “higher end”, meaning more expensive, but for $30 CDN, we got a one hour massage, a body salt scrub and masque, and a soak in a flower bath. It was absolutely delightful!  Because I was travelling along with my daughter I had to find somewhere that could accommodate her as well, and lucky for me they had a double room for couple’s massages and were quite happy to provide my daughter with the experience too. Karsa Spa books up fast, so you need to book in advance.  Jules and I made the 30 minute walk to the spa travelling along the Campuhan Ridge Walk (even if you’re not going to the spa, this is a great walk to do, but best in early morning or evening to stay out of the sun!). The spa itself is located on the Campuhan Ridge, in the village of Bangkiang Sidem, tucked behind Karsa Kafe and villas.

My daughter was very excited for this experience, I mean what nine year old gets to have a massage and body scrub! For $30, hey why not! We arrived a bit early to the spa and were able to enjoy a relaxing drink and a bite to eat at the Kafe. Jules was asking so many questions in anticipation for the spa treatment, she had no idea what to expect and couldn’t believe that you take your clothes off for a massage! We were greeted and asked to fill out paperwork, asking us to circle what areas of our body we had the most tension in and needed to be worked on, Jules circled her upper shoulders, and then picked out the scents for her massage oil and body scrub. We were then shown to our outdoor private room. It was quite adorable to watch her as we prepared, she was ecstatic and nervous at the same time. We laid side by side on the massage tables and were able to talk to each other throughout the whole thing. It was a sweet bonding moment that I think we’ll both remember for a long time.

Day 5
Rice Terrace & Temple Visits
From the villa we were able to request a driver to escort us to various temples around Ubud. When you get a good driver, they can be very knowledgeable and informative about the area and the history and even show you some less visited areas. It was a scorching hot day, but we made the visit to Tegalalang rice terraces and 2 temples and had to cut out the third temple visit and Jules was just melting in the heat and it was taking all her energy from walking so many stairs in the sun.
Our first visit was to the rice terraces, they were breathtaking, with beautiful lush green steps perfectly formed into the steep land, framed by palm trees on the uppermost stair.

They were designed and currently maintained using a traditional Balinese cooperative irrigation system. You can read about this Subak here. Just be aware of the friendly little old man who offers a photo and then asks for money afterwards! Here’s Jules as we got suckered in!

We quickly moved onto Tirta Empul Temple- Meaning holy water spring in Balinese. It is a Hindu water Temple built in 962. The temple is dedicated to Vishnu, where melukat Hindus come to cleanse the physical body and the spiritual. I felt like I needed to participate in such a spiritual Balinese ritual, so I rented a water sarong for $1 and proceeded into the pool. Jules was a little nervous about the whole thing, as there were huge looking koi fish in the water too, so she stayed out of the water and took photos. The water in the pools is believed to have magical powers and local Balinese come here to purify themselves under the 30 water spouts that feed the pools (purify in a spiritual sense). Bathers start in the pool on the left and dip themselves under the first water spout. Once they have cleansed themselves under the first spout they join the next queue. They continue this process until they have been cleansed themselves under each of the 30 waterspouts that fill the two purification pools. It was a long process, but also a time to reflect and think about what I’m grateful for and what I hope the future holds for me. It was actually very powerful and at times I found myself holding back tears as I dipped my head under the freezing cold spring water.

After changing out of the wet sarong, I found our driver and we continued onto the next stop, Gunung Kawi which is an 11th-century temple and funerary complex in Tampaksiring north east of Ubud. There were SEVERAL stairs to climb down to get to the complex. There were not a lot of people (I assume because of the stairs!), but once you reached the area your jaw drops!  The carvings into the side of the rocks were huge and to just think how long ago these were created is magnificent. They stand about 7 metres high and there’s 10 of them. These funeral monuments are thought to be dedicated to King Anak Wungsu of the Udayana dynasty and his favourite queens.

After roaming around with the place to ourselves we made the trek up the stairs, having to stop every so often to gulp our water and catch our breath. Small vendors had stands along the way selling water and sarongs, we actually stopped and bought ourselves some batik tops- I’m pretty sure I got ripped off. Once we got back to the car Jules was in no shape to make another visit to a temple (it was going to be the famous Elephant Cave), as the driver warned us there were even more stairs. Instead he recommended the Kemenuh Butterfly Park, which was just perfect for her.
We could casually walk around the park area take in the beauty of the native species of butterflies and also see some in the hatchery, Jules even got to hold a giant moth that had just hatched!

As the day wound down we found ourselves tired out and journeyed back to our villa for a quick dip in the pool, dinner and bed!  Overall a great day!


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