A Travellerspoint blog

March 2013

Escape to Bali


View Southeast Asia on noahv's travel map.

Traveling with your family teaches you a lot. Spending 24x7 with your spouse and kids, sharing a single bedroom at times, dealing with the stress of getting to the airport or catching that bus, trying to come to a consensus on where to have dinner when you are all already hungry and crabby and the kids just want to eat McDonalds and you just want to eat ANYTHING BUT MCDONALDS -- these are the times that you grow closer as a family (since the alternative is to bludgeon everyone in sight, and that's been pointed out to me as illegal - even in the countries that we've been traveling through).

But sometimes, you just need to have a little quiet time and recharge your batteries.

What's the answer? PUT YOURSELF ON A TIMEOUT!

That's what Anne and I did after 7+ months on the road with the kids - we left them in Singapore with Auntie Helen, and escaped for 5 days to Bali. BY OURSELVES! NO KIDS! As you can imagine, we are forever in debt to Helen...

Helen actually helped us out even more - she found us a really cheap Groupon for a nice hotel in Seminyak. While I love a good deal, I'm always a little skeptical about Groupons. They seem to typically be from hotels that need to drive the extra business for some ulterior reason - like the pool being closed for maintenance, or a large construction site next door that generates enough noise and dust to make staying at the hotel painful. Luckily, we were unable to find much fault with our hotel (the Sunset Mansion Suites) - the room was clean, the bed was good, it was quiet, the pool was nice (although for future reference, using green and white tiles for the pool bottom gives the poor first impression that the water is filled with algae), and they brought us complimentary breakfast in our room every morning. Only downside was that it was at least a 15 minute walk to the beach, along a street system that does not have the concept of "pedestrian sidewalks" - but once you got used to sidestepping the big holes and open grates, and dodging scooters and cars on the road, it was easy to get around.

On our first morning, after we managed to roust ourselves from our luxe bed in our airconditioned room which was oh-so-quiet without our kids (okay, okay -- I'll stop),
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we did our usual "first day in a new place" activity, and wandered around until we got lost. Luckily, after nearly escaping a very persistant time-share-seminar-tout ("HELLO! You may have already won a new iPad, just come to this presentation - I swear it will only take a few minutes"), we found ourselves at the beach. Little did we know that this was the start of the Balinese New Year celebrations (aka, Nyepi).

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The cleansing of the sacred statues - day of Melasti

Sometimes getting lost is just what you need -it was wonderful to have stumbled across this ceremony with no prior knowledge (no, we had not planned on being in Bali for Nyepi)

After we hung around a bit longer, we wandered down the beach in search of something to eat. We had expected a bunch of local small places on the beach, but apparently that was not in the area that we were in. We ended up finding a place called Ku De Ta - although it was a bit more expensive than we would have normally gone for, since we were starving, we went for it. Great food and cold drinks - exactly what we needed!
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But tell us, are these people swimming in a really small pool, or in the fountain? We couldn't decide...
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After lunch we walked back to the hotel, had a swim and a nap, and planned our next day (which would be the last for us in Seminyak before we headed to Ubud). We decided that (although our anniversary was not until July) to combine our 2nd honeymoon / 15th anniversary into our AnniversaryMoon! We made our plans that night over dinner at a fantastic local restaurant (Warung Eny).

The next day - 4 hour honeymoon massage at the very nice (and affordable) Murano Spa, followed by dinner at a fancy beach-side restaurant.
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Our flower bath - after the full-body massage and before the foot massage / facial (you can guess who got what)

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Gado Gado - a traditional Balinese dish, and a damn good restaurant too

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Happy AnniversaryMoon!

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Oh, and we got a super sunset too - tough to beat.

The next day, we packed up and left Seminyak for Ubud. This was actually a day ahead of schedule, but since the next day was Nyepi, on which the Balinese spend a day of silence with no traveling, we needed to get to out of town. We're very glad we did, since the next place we stayed (Villa Agung Khalia in Ubud) was a place that we could have stayed for months!

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On the way to Ubud, we stopped to see traditional batik making - they use hot wax to protect the design before dyeing the fabric

When we got to our Villa, we were blown away with the location. Situated about 10 minutes by car from the center of Ubud, in the middle of the rice fields, the facility and staff were amazing. They had booked us into the Honeymoon Suite, and everything was perfect - probably nicer than our first honeymoon!

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Our lovely bed

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The view from our balcony

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Our private pool

It was all wonderful, and we recommend this place highly! It helps that the price was reasonable too.

That night, after a great dinner and a beer at our personal honeymoon table
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we headed into the local town for the Ogoh-Ogoh ceremony (the night before Nyepi). The parade consists of huge statues of demons that each town spends months creating, which are then paraded around the town and burned for cleansing purposes. It was great to see these in the light of day, and we loved being welcomed into the parade as we went around the town.
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Look out behind you Anne!

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The next day we stayed in our villa, quietly reading. Quite a nice way to celebrate New Years Day...

The day after (our last full day in Bali), we took a walk around the rice paddies after breakfast to see all of the ducks,
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and then got a lift into Ubud for some sightseeing and shopping and a great lunch at Warung Sopa.

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No, we didn't buy any of these, but they are very cool

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Traditional Ubud house entrance - check out that great statue of Ganesha in the courtyard

We headed back to our villa for one last dinner on the patio, listening to the sounds of the birds in the rice paddies, wishing we could stay for ever. I can see why Dan from TropicalMBA chooses to live in Bali. However, we were missing our kids (and figured that they were driving Helen crazy by then) so we headed to the airport the next day. It was a wonderful couple of days, which allowed us to have the time to reconnect as adults and partners and team-mates, and gave us the necessary recharge that we needed to continue to enjoy the challenges and adventures of traveling as a family.

Posted by noahv 20:31 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali nyepi Comments (3)

Halfway There

Where we are, and where we're going


View Southeast Asia on noahv's travel map.

It's hard to believe that we're over half-way done with our epic year-long travel adventure. We spent so long conceptualizing, thinking about, and planning the trip that it was almost a bit of a surprise when we found ourselves actually on the road. After we got into our rhythm, we've been doing a pretty good job of traveling as a family. Keeping updated on the blog has been more of a challenge than we thought, but we've done a great job of really being in the moment.

We're currently working on a separate blog post about what we loved, learned, and were challenged by during the first 7 months of our travels. However, since there's so much to discuss and write about in that area, and it requires that we get the kids to sit down and actually think about it, that will have to be a separate blog post (although we already know some winners - like snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef, trekking Torres del Paines in Patagonia, and visiting Machu Picchu in PerĂº are at the top of the list).

Our itinerary started to get fast and furious once we finished our month in Australia and flew to Singapore at the beginning of February. It's going to stay crazy for the next couple of months, until we get some stability when we reach Chiang Mai and volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park (and, if you're so inclined, you can donate to our ENP fund here - it would mean a lot). After Chiang Mai we have broad strokes for our remaining itinerary (Shanghai, Chen Du, and Beijing in China, then Trans-Mongolia Railroad from Beijing across Mongolia and Russia to Moscow and St. Petersburg before flying back to the States).

Here's the map:

As you can see, we've been using Singapore as our hub. Although it's been great for flights (most carriers operate out of here, and have good hub fares), it's not a cheap place to live. It's worked great for us because we have family here - win/win being able to see Anne's sister and her family, and to be able to stay in a place that's free and has great wifi! Thanks Helen and Tom!

Stop 1: Myanmar (aka. Burma)

Our first destination in SEAsia was a "new" one to many US travelers - Myanmar/Burma. We spent a wonderful 8 days here in mid-February with Helen and her daughters, and we loved it. The people were extremely nice, the architecture of the pagodas and temples were breathtaking, and it was great to travel in a country that still feels un-tainted by tourism (although it's coming - get there now before the tour-busses take over...) We booked through a tour package ourselves, which is pretty much needed at this time, although not our usual style. Since the tourism infrastructure isn't well built out, visitors would be well served with a company that will help with visas, internal flights, drivers, and hotel bookings (this one is especially important, since many popular locations don't have enough hotel space for visitors). This trip will get its own post soon, but here are some of our favorite pictures from the trip.
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Stop 2: Phuket, Thailand

We flew back to Singapore for a few days, and then the four of us headed up to Phuket, Thailand, for some time on the beach. We had found a cheap flight via SkyScanner, and spent some time looking around for cheap accommodations. Unfortunately, even in Thailand, cheap <> good, and it took a while before we found something that was a good value match for our budget. We ended up in Kata Beach, which turned out to be a lot nicer (in our opinion) than neighboring Karon Beach, and a LOT nicer that Patong (which just seemed crazy). In retrospect, we wish that we had been able to get over to Koh Tao (highly recommended by most people we spoke with), but we had a great time in Kata Beach.

We zipped around on a scooter:
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We spent a day on a boat, visiting Phang Nga Bay, kayaking through caves and goofing around at James Bond Island (wait till we tell you about the drunk Russians!):
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We had our feet nibbled on by doctor fish (the most INCREDIBLE feeling!):
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And basically enjoyed a couple of days just relaxing at the beach:
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Stop 3: Bali

Now we're back in Singapore, and Anne and I are getting ready for a couple of days away, in Bali, BY OURSELVES! You could call it a second honeymoon, but after spending 24x7 with all four of us together over the course of the last 7 months, we're just happy to have some time alone. A big THANK YOU to Helen for hanging out with Alex and Leah while we're gone.

Stop 4: Borneo

After Bali, we have a couple of more days in Singapore, and then we leave for good. Next stop, Kuching Malaysia, where we will be taking a page from our friends Tracey and Colin and staying in a longhouse in the Sarawak jungle. We think this is going to be a lot of fun, but we'll probably be looking forward to that hot shower afterwards...

Stop 5: Penang Malaysia

From Kuching we fly to Penang Malaysia, where we will spend some time exploring the area, and finding some adventures on our way. Nothing too planned here yet, so we're hoping we'll find something cool.

Stops 6, 7, 8, 9...

After Penang, we fly up to Bangkok Thailand for a couple of days in the city, then hop over to Siem Reap Cambodia to meet up with Helen, Isobel, and Evie for a week exploring Angkor Wat and surroundings. We say goodbye to Helen the second week of April, and then fly to Hoi An Vietnam, where we will spend the rest of April working our way up the coast to Hanoi, with a quick visit to Luang Prabang Laos, where we will fly from to Chiang Mai at the beginning of May. Yeah, we just covered another three countries in that last paragraph - we're working out the details now...

So, it's going to be a busy couple of months upcoming. Hopefully we'll be able to continue to post to the blog, but more likely will only be able to grab a couple of minutes of wifi to upload status and a picture or two to our Facebook page. Head over there and "Like" that page if you haven't already - that will be the best way to get updates from the road!

And away we go...

Posted by noahv 09:01 Archived in Singapore Tagged travel update Comments (3)

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