We really didn’t know what to expect coming to Bali and now that we are here I don’t think anything could have prepared us for what it’s like. No amount of research or stories could have ever painted the real picture that is Bali! It is like nowhere we have ever been. It is exciting, overwhelming, confronting and amazing and the more we see, the more we want to see!
We arrived late at night after a pretty breezy 6 hour flight. The kids were great. They spent the first half of the flight being excited, playing, colouring, eating, taking turns going to the toilet ( I would like to avoid aeroplane toilets as much as I can. My children however, for a reason I cannot understand, think they are fun…..) and the second half sleeping. I’ve said it before: flying with kids – it’s no big deal!
After collecting our suitcase (and me having my usual little secret “oh no, our bags have gone missing” panic when it was not one of the first seven to come down the belt) we went through customs surprisingly quickly and were greeted by a driver whom we had organised earlier. You know those people that stand holding signs with people’s names on them at the airport? Well, this time one of them had our name on it! It’s the little things…
We had booked a hotel room quite near to the airport so it wasn’t a long drive. It was long enough though to get a glimpse of a place so different to one we had ever visited. Even in the middle of the night, the traffic was heavy and the streets were lined with people. Sitting, walking, eating, yelling, laughing, peddling…. By this time I was extremely tired, so thinking back it’s a bit of a blur, but I do remember feeling pretty overwhelmed by it all.
The second we stepped out of the car at our hotel a lady appeared and picked up Korey and walked away with him. I had been warned about this but I don’t think I was quite prepared for it to happen the second I arrived. And actually, I’m not quite sure anything can prepare you for the first time a complete stranger picks up your child, in a foreign country, and walks off with him…… It was all good though. Korey seemed quite fine with it. Anna, who has unfortunately inherited my tendency to worry, was absolutely mortified!
We all pretty much fell into bed as soon as we stepped into our room. It took me a while to get to sleep though. Honestly, I didn’t feel great. You know how there are some people who, when you tell them you are doing something or going somewhere, seem to take great pleasure in telling you some horror story about whatever it is you are telling them? “Oh Bali? My Aunt’s neighbours daughters friend nearly died there!” Well, suddenly it was only those stories I could think about……..
It’s funny what a good night’s sleep can do! The next morning (after being woken briefly at 4am by Anna, who’s body clock told her it was time to get up and start the day) I was excited and ready to really start our adventure. Our hotel room (Pete had booked a cheap 3br villa close to the airport just for that night as we were arriving late), which in the dark of night, to my tired and sceptical mind, seemed a little rough and scary, was actually really not bad at all and (in the words of our kids) pretty cool! Korey was so excited to look out the window and see a banana tree full of green bananas growing right outside and declared “Bali is so cool!” (which he then spent the whole rest of the day exclaiming to anyone and everyone he saw).
Breakfast was an amazing experience. Sitting down in the busy dining area, the only ‘westerners’ there, people stared, took photos and smiled at us. The breakfast was a traditional Balinese breakfast with rice, spicy chicken, tofu and vegetables. Most of the kids found something they liked, and several things they didn’t (still working on teaching them they don’t need to declare so loudly when they don’t like something…….)!
After breakfast, and happily posing for photographs with other guests……, we headed to the pool. We had it all to ourselves and spent a good hour swimming and playing around. We then went back to our room and packed up before being picked up once again by our driver from the night before.
Driving through the streets of Kuta, this time in daylight, was just as overwhelming as the night before, but also exciting and amazing. People everywhere and shop after shop after restaurant after shop. And the traffic! Whoa! Are there any road rules in Bali? Amazingly, despite the congestion and craziness, it all just seemed to flow. People giving way when needed and no signs of any road rage. Even the beeps were to say ‘thanks’ or ‘look out’ not ‘up yours’ like we’ve seen plenty of in other places.
We were dropped at our next night’s accommodation, Cicada Luxury Townhouses in Seminyak. We were too early for check-in so after a cold welcome drink (which Korey dropped, smashing the glass all over the floor…..) we headed out on foot to check out Seminyak and find some lunch.
People warned me not to bring a stroller, that the paths and roads were no good for one, but with five kids, three of them under five, we chose to rebel and bring one anyway. And you know what? All those people were right! But you know what else? I’m totally glad we brought one anyway! Ben’s too big for a carrier for more than a short period of time and the roads are Crazy with a capital C! Peter pushed and manouvered the pram and I held the little kids hands, my heart beating noticeably faster than usual. People stared. People pointed. People said hello and high fived the kids. People counted our kids in disbelief.
As we approached the beach we stopped to put sunscreen on the kids and Peter headed to some nearby street food stalls for cold drinks. He came back with drinks……and food! I suddenly started remembering all those aunts neighbours daughters friends who had got horrendously sick from eating street food in Bali. I didn’t say anything. Peter was so proud of how cheap it was (especially in comparison to the Italian restaurant we had passed minutes earlier and briefly considered eating at) and everyone was hungry. I tried telling myself not to be paranoid (as I visualised everyone fighting over the toilet bowl in a few hours time) and even had a little myself. It was so good! (Once again my paranoia was fleeting and I am happy to say days later I am a lot more relaxed…..touch wood…..)
After the food we headed on to the beach. It was sunny and hot and we were excited to be standing on a beach in Bali for the first time. We were a little surprised however by the amount of litter that was washed up on the shore but it didn’t stop us having a play and splash in the waves. There was a pretty extreme rip though so, much to the kids disappointment, we didn’t get to go very far in at all. After a little while we made our way back to Cicada, keen to check in and get in to the pool.
Well, wow! There is good reason they are called luxury apartments! As we walked through the private courtyard, past our private pool and into our villa we were beyond impressed by the five-star, luxurious presentation of the apartment. Pure opulence. “Bali is so cool!” Yes Korey, it is!
We spent the rest of the day swimming in the pool, ordering room service and chilling in front of the TV. When the kids were in bed Pete and I took turns to have a bubble bath in the upstairs outside bathroom and then sat in our robes drinking coffee and catching up on some blogging.
That was definitely one of the most extreme, jam packed 24 hours I have ever experienced. And I was totally ready for more….