Bali is to Singaporeans, what Goa is to Mumbaikars. You go there mostly to chill out and get away from the stress of city life. Everybody you meet in Singapore has been to Bali. Even people whose moving vans have not even left the unloading bay in their Condos. We, on the other hand, had stayed over a year without going there and I could not wait for the first opportunity to go.
The folks were visiting and it seemed as good a time for a Bali holiday as any. As the regular reader knows, our holidays usually involve hanging around a family friendly resort and keeping sight seeing down to a minimum. We followed this simple and successful formula this time around too.
On day 1, we flew into Bali after a reasonably good flight where Bobo did not protest much, excited as he was to have the grandparents around. We checked into our resort hotel and immediately hit the kids club (How exciting for Bobo. How not at all for me). Post lunch, our rooms were ready and we all had a nice long snooze. The evening was spent walking to a nearby restaurant cum shopping area, with a spot of dinner from an Italian place.
On day 2, we spent the morning sightseeing in the famous Ubud area. Bali has the rare distinction of being a Hindu-majority island in a country where people largely follow Islam. Balinese people are very religious and the place abounds with temples. These are supplemented by the private temples that people have in their homes. Offerings are placed in every door step, be it a house or a shop. Needless to say, we had plenty of temples to choose from and decided to focus just on the most famous ones which were also easily accessible from where we were staying.
The first stop was at the Tanah Lot temple complex. There were two temples, located atop bits of land that projected into the sea. One temple was connected to the shoreline through a natural bridge. The sight was breathtaking. The temple not so much. It was in ruins and there was not much to see. The other temple was accessible through a path that was covered by the sea on account of the high tide. So we could not see it and perhaps it may have been more impressive.
Bobo had been safely tucked into a carrier through the temple visit. Once we had seen what we could of the temples, we moved to an open ground where he was finally let down. He excitedly ran around, fell down and split his lip. Blood gushed out and D and I were both shocked and rather mechanically picked him up and washed his mouth. The cut was a superficial one, but the lip stayed swollen through most of the trip. It seemed to bother us more than Bobo. Apparently even if you were careful and alert all the time, there was no escaping small mishaps.
The next stop was at the Taman Ayun temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The temple was more impressive than the previous one in terms of size, but here again there really was not much to see. There was a large courtyard with a few pagodas. A couple was performing a religious ceremony, dressed in ceremonial white. We were not permitted to enter the courtyard and hence walked around pondering over the cockerels which had been placed in solitary confinement in tiny cages in various corners around the temple campus. We never found out why but it did not look pleasant at all.
Post the sightseeing, we made a quick stop at a tourist trinket shop which was both overpriced and ordinary. Then it was onto lunch at a place obviously popular with tourists. I laughed at the other tourists taking lots of photos of the fields adjoining our restaurant. Till I realized that even Bobo had never seen a field before, and then humbled, took him for a quick walk.
The evening was spent at the beach where Bobo got to inaugurate his new beach kit which included a water can that fascinated him no end. He refused to step into the water and was not in the least bit influenced by his mom who enjoyed prancing around in the water as usual.
When it was time for dinner, on popular demand, D was commissioned to pick up food from the Italian place again. It was a short walk, which would have been uneventful but for the fact that a stray dog picked up the smell of food emanating from D’s takeaway and gave him the chase till the hotel gates. The man bravely made a dash for it without abandoning the food!
The next morning was spent getting massages and generally being pampered. In the evening, it was time for sightseeing again and this time we headed out to the Uluwatu temple, made famous by the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ book and movie. We walked up the long flight of stairs with an extraordinary view of the beach and the clean, blue waves. The temple, here again, was nothing special. I realized that it was not so much the temples themselves as the spectacular settings that made the trips worth it. We were scheduled to see a Kecak dance performance in the open-air amphitheatre adjoining the temple. The setting here again was beautiful, with a view of the sun setting into the sea. The seating comprised long rows of steps and there were no seat numbers. We got there well in time to make sure we sat somewhere close to an exit. It was to be Bobo’s first ever show. Conscious as I was of my own low tolerance levels during my childless days, I was stressed about whether he would be able to sit through the hour-long performance without fussing. There were plenty of other kids, so we had company. Still, before the show began, I gave Bobo plenty of exercise to get his energy levels down. As show time neared, I watched with growing alarm as the crowds swelled and the route to the exit also got converted to seating. The two young couples sitting one step below us looked rather annoyed by the presence of a toddler behind them and were alert to all possibilities of snapping at us. This they did at one point during the performance when my dad tried to distract a fidgety Bobo by saying something. I was mortified. In the end, they left ten minutes before the show finished, thus blocking everyone’s views. So much for their being on a high horse and so much for my being upset about one instance of fidgeting by an eighteen month old.
Bobo’s reaction to the show was interesting. The dance-drama was based on scenes from the Ramayana. The dancers performed entirely to the ‘kecak kecak’ sound that the vocalists made throughout the show. There were no songs or instruments. When the vocalists made an appearance with a loud ‘kecak kecak’, I looked at Bobo and learnt how the expression ‘jaw-dropping’ came about. Bobo remained that way for five whole minutes. After that, he fiddled around a bit and moved between our laps, but he was overall very well behaved for his age.
We were scheduled to complete the circuit by making a dinner stop at the Jimabaran beach. However, looking at Bobo’s drowsy mien, we decided to just head back to the hotel, making a stop for dinner (rather imaginatively) at the Italian place. When you traveled with kids, I had come to realize that sometimes it may be worthwhile sticking to the predictable.
The last morning was mostly breakfast, packing and then to the airport. Despite the fact that we had been there three nights, I still did not feel like we had made proper acquaintance with Bali. Maybe it was do with the fact that we had stayed in the santised Nusa Dua area or that I had not had a chance to shop for a souvenir or that I had sampled the food in non-touristy local restaurants.
I suspect there may be another trip to Bali in the future.