Published: March 4th 2010March 4th 2010
On our final morning at the Dewani Villa, which happened to be my big 40th birthday, we hung out by the pool and the kids went swimming in the rain. While Mark and I were getting sucked into our computers and checking our email, the entire staff of the villa came out from the main building and surprised us all with a big cake (with the words “Happy Birthday Suzanne Slaven” written on top) and one of the men played guitar while they all sang. The kids and Mark joined in and I clapped happily along It was great. And the cake was amazing! After we indulged in 10:30am birthday cake, we got ourselves packed up and ready to head to our second location in Bali.
The story continues as we head to Ubud. Located in the north of Bali in the mountaineous area, Ubud is famous for its artist community. I had found the Alam Jiwa property via Tripadvisor. Tripadvisor is a great website for finding family friendly properties in these smaller towns. This place was magical. It was in a very rural area, in a village called Nyuhkuning. Remote, but still walking distance to many cute restaurants and
a few shops and the very famous Monkey Forest. We walked past homes and a school as well as community center where local people were working on a sculpture for an upcoming festival.
Our room and the Alam Jiwa itself deserves some blog time. It had a large main room with an attached bathroom. The bathroom was not as fab as the first place, but the rest of the room made up for it. We had a big main bed and 2 twins for the kids. All beds were surrounded by mosquito netting, though we didn't have a big bug issue in our air-conditioned room. I have to say that while I was so pleased in my travel planning to have made arrangements for the kids to have real beds, I was disappointed in Emily’s consistent refusal to use these beds. She ended up wedged between me and Mark almost every night of the trip. Fear of bugs, lizards and a general magnetic draw to my person caused her to be there most nights.
Now on to the deck. Fully furnished, marble floors and a sofa and a daybed with mosquito netting and soft comfy pillows. The view
we found a mag with E's pic in it (a Shanghai magazine another guest left behind). I wrote the blurb.
was of the rice fields, where we could watch a group of quacking ducks being herded to and from a pen each morning and afternoon. We had our breakfasts delivered to this lovely deck each morning. Each evening, usually on our way to dinner in town, we put in our order for fresh squeezed juices (mango or papaya or orange were our usual selections), Balinese coffee, homemade yogurt with fruit and muesli, a bread basket and then either crepe-like pancakes, egg/avocado/cheese sandwiches or eggs. These breakfast feasts were a highlight at this villa. Also the serenity of the place. It was gorgeous.
When we checked in, I noticed right away there was no phone and no TV. I hadn’t realized this when booking and it was not a big concern because I knew there was Internet (spotty but available as it turned out). I whispered to Mark about the lack of TV and my curiosity about how long it would take the kids to notice. It took them a surprising while. Several hours I think. We had 3 computers among us and some DVDs but for the most part we didn’t need the distraction. We had a lovely room,
a great pool to swim in, and a forest full of monkeys down the street.
We enjoyed the pool and our lovely room and then on our first night in Ubud, we went to a dinner show called “The Frog Dance”. It was a variation on the classic frog prince story, and we enjoyed the dancing and costumes, though it was narrated in Indonesian. We were in the front row, and were able to see the dancers and performers up close. Great music too.
The next day we set out to see the monkeys. As we walked toward the Monkey Forest, we saw furry friends all along the road. They were on the fence near the forest and in the trees. Clearly comfortable around people, they were very approachable and we got some amazing photos and videos.
The monkey forest was a little scary to me. I knew from other friends and my online reading, that the monkeys were very used to people and would approach anyone with food or with the potential for food. I made sure there was no food in my backpack for this very reason. Mark and Nathan bought bananas at the
main entrance and Emily and I quickly distanced ourselves from the boys. We were there to look and not touch (or be touched).
The monkeys went bananas and did grab bananas right out of people’s hands and we watched them fight over bananas and steal them from each other. There were babies attached to their mamas and monkeys flying from tree to tree and jumping into a pond of water with trees surrounding it. We spent some time observing and then went to get lunch. I was nervous the monkeys would show up at lunch—the restaurant was just across from the forest—but we were left alone and enjoyed our meal without incident.
On our second full day in Ubud we booked a rafting trip. We talked to the hotel about booking it but it was pretty expensive. Then we went to a travel place down the road and found another rafting company for about half the price of the American one. We went for cheap and I’m glad we did. A driver picked us up and took us to the drop off area which was about 45 minutes away. We all slept in the van and woke up
in the middle of nowhere and signed some forms and got our gear. Helmets and vests for all. The kids’ gear was a bit too big and I realized this might be a key difference between this company and the American one, but I swallowed my anxiety and decided to go with it. Our guide’s name was Boody (not sure of spelling but am sure of pronunciation) and he was this muscular (just stating the facts), long haired young man with a wide and friendly smile. We all enjoyed his company and felt confident that he knew what he was doing as he explained the commands and the plan for the trip.
Fortunately, Boody assessed our group and suggested Emily not take a paddle. After our Vietnam kayaking experiences, that made total sense to me and we opted for Emily to be a passenger and not a paddler on this voyage. She was fine with it and it meant one less paddle to haul to the boat. We had a long, steep walk down hill to get to the boat waiting at the river. Steep and narrow, we slowly walked down and I went in front of Emily to
make sure she didn’t fall. As we were walking I realized absolutely nobody knew where we were. We hadn’t told the people at the villa about our plans and the guy that booked the trip didn’t take any details other than our last name. Again I choked back my typical American paranoia and marched on down to the boat. We’d be fine, the trip would be smooth and we’d be back to tell stories about our latest adventure later that day.
The rafting trip was great fun. We started off without issue but were soon totally and completely stuck on a rock. Wedged, immobile, going no place fast. Boody spent a lot of effort getting us unstuck and we moved around the boat, got up, got down, rocked, you name it we tried it. Finally we were free and moving again and we had a lot of fun just taking in the views and having a few quick turns and drops. It was mild in comparison to previous rafting I’ve done, but perfect for the kids to experience rafting for the first time. They loved it. Emily held onto the ropes the entire time, but Nathan was a good
paddler and we all wanted more drops than the two we had.
At one point we were heading toward a water fall and Boody jumped out and pushed us entirely under the water fall. Emily and I were on the side closer to the water and we were screaming and gurgling under the pounding water. It was like a very intense shower massage. We later saw another boat doing the same routine, and figured it was part of the package.
There were beautiful carvings all along the river. Mark asked how old they were and we both expected to hear about how they were ancient and historic parts of the area. Turns out though, they were a whopping 5 years old. Tourist pleasing creations, apparently. Worked for us. We did enjoy the carvings.
Mark made a funny observation as we took in the waterfalls, the natural beauty all around us, and the almost too green greenery of the trees and plants along the river. He said he had to keep reminding himself it was real and not a Disneyland rafting ride. I knew just what he meant because it was breathtaking.
After the rafting ride ended, we
had to hike back up to the road and main area. I knew this was part of the deal but in my mind I had convinced myself the walk back was not as steep and would be shorter. Not true and not true. It was so steep and so hard to walk back up. Somehow I was leading the pack again and felt compelled to keep the pace decent but at about the halfway point I had to pause for a breather. Mark and Nathan passed me and Emily and I took a mini break. Boody offered to carry Emily and that got her walking again—she was too embarrassed to get on his back. I wasn’t, but the offer didn’t extend to me. We made it to the top and just as we did it started to rain.
Part of our package included showers and towels after the rafting trip. The driver brought our backpack with dry clothes to this meeting spot and we were told to help ourselves to the towels and we were sent off to the showers. Remember how I said it was raining? Well soon it was pouring. The showers were curtained off but they
flowers from Dad
Dad arranged for flowers to be in our room for my birthday. so sweet.
were outdoors without roofs and we were trying to rinse off and not get our dry clothes wet. There was a pink shower scrubby in Emily and my shower and I quickly told her not to touch it. Eeek.
Another part of the package was a meal. We didn’t want to eat—had low expectations and had lunch before we went, but it was one of those obligatory things where if we refused it would be much more complicated than just taking a little of the food. So, we took a bit of everything and sat in the covered eating area while the rain beat down around us. I kept thinking how lucky we’d been to have the rain come after we were safely back up from the hike.
After we moved the food around our plates, we were invited to another area where Boody was playing large traditional musical instrument . Emily joined in after some cajoling. We were also offered samples of many tropical fruits. I wasn’t sure if it was for sale or was just dessert but we tried a few things and later bought some mangoes to go. Our driver was also hanging out with
us and told us we could stay as long as we wanted. It was all about relaxing and enjoying. We stayed quite a while and then we drove back to the villa.
On my birthday card, the kids both wrote how I deserved a day off, and Emily wrote I would get a relaxation coupon…so of course I cashed in! On the last full day, I was lucky enough to get a three hour spa experience. Five treatments all for me. Facial, massage, manicure, pedicure, and an avocado cream hair treatment with scalp massage to help repair the damage from the bad water in Shanghai. My hair is usually so dry and the hair treatment was one of my favorite parts of the three hours.
While I was being pampered beyond reason, the kids and Mark got ice cream, bought a few small souvenirs and then walked through the Monkey Forest to get back to the hotel. I’m not the best person to share the details, but from what I was told, they bought bananas and I believe at some point these bananas were in the souvenir bag. Even after giving the bananas to the monkeys, the monkeys
were interested in the bag of souvenirs and one monkey took the bag from the kids. Drama, tears, horror ensued. After tasting the souvenirs, the monkey rejected them and most of the items were recovered. However, a pair of wooden kittens did not make their way back to Emily and we quickly replaced them later that evening. It sounded pretty wild, and I was glad to have avoided that bit of monkey business.
We spent the last morning in Bali by the pool before grabbing a quick lunch. Once again, the rain came while we were heading to the airport. The trip home was insanely long and difficult but we were ready for it. At lunch earlier that day I asked everyone to rally, to recognize the journey ahead was going to suck, but that we had an amazing trip and the last bad travel day was well worth all the previous good days. The kids were their usual excellent traveling selves and we journeyed home from Indonesia with stops in Malaysia and Thailand. Our already long layover in Bangkok was extended with weather issues in Shanghai and we spent a good 5 or 6 hours waiting for the
last leg of the trip. Four countries in less than twenty four hours is really par for the course for Team Slaven.
Still to come: a blog I'm finishing about Kuala Lumpur. Currently, we are back in gray and rainy Shanghai, trying to stay warm off the memories of Bali and wishing spring weather would hurry up and arrive.
There are more photos below