Having travelled my whole life, exotic adventures and cultural immersion is what I do best. With a backpack on and sandals on my feet, I lived the bohemian lifestyle for most of my travels, hitchhiking, catching local buses and trains, wandering to find accommodation when required. My travel was about feeling life, experiencing a place through its alleyways and local dives, helping out in jails, orphanages and animals rescues. A night in a luxury hotel was a big deal!.
In the heady travel filled days prior to having children of my own, I would see nomadic hippy families travelling in buses through Thailand and Cambodia, dancing to goa gil at a beach rave in Anjuna, and I was sure that I too, would definitely be doing similar when/if I had children.
Fats forward to my new life as a mother and my oldest is 3.5 and youngest is just about to turn two and the most travelling we have done is 3 trips to Queensland. Life has changed and travelling now requires much more than a few clothes and some cash. Along with the obvious financial constraints, the fact we now lived on a farm meant that with all its added responsibilities (ponies, chickens, dogs, cats, fish etc) the gypsy life was not presently an option.
So it was with great excitement that I booked flights for Bali, mainly because of the incentive of my youngest turning two and not wanting to miss out on the tax only fare for him. I booked it in time for celebrating my own birthday as well, never one to have much ado for getting older. So with a few months to save and plan, I organised passports, travel first aid kits, and even booked accommodation which I had never done before, feeling so grown up!.
The day arrives and we depart for the airport, alone, on the train which is a 5 minute walk from the hotel in city centre. Looking back, oh what was I thinking! how did I even delude myself that this would be a fun way to start the adventure. With no friends or family to help (I had resisted all offers), the 5 minute walk to the airport train line took 30 minutes, and my travelling outfit which started off saying cool, stylish miranda kerr traveling mum looked now sweaty, dishevelled and milk stained. Somehow, we make it to the check-in counter and while I’m handing over the passports and getting the bags checked, my almost 2 year old manages to tip over the large suitcase with his little toe stuck inside the wheel, because of course in the space of two minutes they have both removed their shoes. Screaming and crying ensues, I try to shrug it off but then realise there is blood streaming out of his tiny toe. The staff kindly bring tissues and bandaids and we hurry off avoiding eye contact with other passengers who probably don’t realise why he is crying and are just thinking oh lord please let me not be on their flight.
Sitting down at the nearest cafe, I ask for ice and inspect the toe. It is bruised and sore looking, but the bleeding stopped and he has calmed down, though he now can’t walk on it. I think it will be fine after some ice and rest, so on we proceed to the flight. The boys are actually great on the flight, despite the fact I forget to charge the dvd player or download the inflight entertainment app onto my phone. They end up sleeping a few hours and its only a 6 hour flight to Denpaser.
On arrival, my little injured man is still in pain and can’t walk, and the waiting in line for the arrivals checkpoint is pure torture for us. Finally we escape and find our luggage and the driver from our villa. This was an awesome call on my part, booked the first 3 nights in a luxury villa so we have a driver waiting with my name on the card and everything, thus avoiding waiting and haggling.
We arrive at the villa just before dinnertime, and its gorgeous. Lush surrounds, private pool, outdoor shower and a deep bath. sometime after the boys go to sleep, mister R wakes with a fever. His toe has started to swell and is now 3 times its usual size. His fever continues to rise and by sunrise, his toe is black and enormous. It is, of course, a weekend, and we are out the the other side of ubud, far from a hospital. The villa staff are already up getting ready for the day, so they arrange the driver to take us to a nearby clinic where we call the emergency doctor. It is decided to cut what appears to be a blood blister open and cut off the skin to avoid possibility of sepsis. Poor little guy screams and cries, and god so much blood comes out. $300 and hours later we leave with an arsenal of creams, bandages and instructions to keep the area dry and change bandages daily or if gets wet. How well do you think that goes, we are staying in a place with a pool and the only shoes I brought them are sandals and natives. It soon feels like every 10 minutes his foot is getting wet. Little trooper he is though, he still manages to smile and at least his fever receded immediately and he was in much better spirits.
Ubud is a magical place, situated amongst lush forests and rice paddies. Crumbling streets wind up and down hills and valleys, friendly people on scooters smile and wave. Groups of schoolchildren in freshly washed uniforms no longer pay any attention to strangers, so heavily touristed is the area. All kinds of shops selling all kinds of treasures and foods from all nations abound. We walked all the way from central Ubud to the monkey forest, me carrying the injured babe on my back. I normally avoid monkeys, as every encounter I have had with them in the past has ended badly, but the boys had never seen one in the wild, so of course we had to go. Walking into the entrance and the monkeys didn’t fail to exhibit their usual attraction for me, immediately one jumped on me, scaring the crap out Master R, ripping my scarf and leaving a scratch on my shoulder. An ancient lady hawking old bananas still tried to force her wares on me, no way would I be offering monkeys even more incentive to accost me.
By this time we had moved from the Villa to accommodation I had found on Airbnb, Payogan Homestay. Our room was a self contained apartment in a renovated traditional balinese villa, part of a family compound, complete with private temple and all. The extended family of the host, Ketut, still lived there and he provided wealth of information thanks to his previous role as Bali’s best guide!. The apartment itself was bright and airy, with a big balcony from which we could pick fruits off nearby trees. The morning greets with the traditional sounds of Bali, roosters crowing, a coterie of native bird calls and assorted other noises of people going about their daily life. Breakfast was eaten communally with other guests and Ketut if he was around. It was such a great experience to feel what family life was like, and engage with people going about their daily lives.
My oldest boy suffers from anxiety and shyness, so it was beautiful to see his friendship form with a little boy who lived in the complex. Kids of all ages would play until dark, chasing and riding bikes, making up all manner of games, language no barrier. Sadly we had to say goodbye as we headed onto our next destination, promising to return one day.
Only a two hour drive to candidasa, which was the location for the next weeks stay. We would stay in Gedong Gandhi Ashram, a proper Indian style ashram complete with vegetarian meals and daily yoga practice. Meals are eaten communally with other guests and staff whilst seated on the floor of an outdoor raised platform. Each meal begins with prayer and chanting, which my children were uncertain of at first, but loving it by the end, and indeed when we returned home asked could be continue the practice ourselves. The accommodation was very basic huts, with a little balcony facing out toward the ocean. A primary school was located within the grounds, so there was a little playground for my kids to play in. The little school children were adorable milling around before the morning bell, eager to play with my kids who were unfortunately being very shy.
The beach in front of the ashram was not great for swimming, so we hired a motorbike and the 3 of us went on a day trip to white sands beach. We had a great day there, except for the part where when we were alone at the top of the hill, a guy that had been serving us in the restaurant followed us up the hill and tried to cuddle and kiss me in front of my kids and I had to physically push him off. Really.
We escaped unscathed and then on the ride home both the boys fell asleep whilst I was driving. I had to stop on the side of the road to wake them up and buy some sugary drink so as to keep them awake!. After that I hired a driver to avoid any more such incidents, and we did a day trip to a water garden temple and other cultural points interest.
The finale of the trip was spent in a big fancy hotel with the standard buffet breakfast, smorgasbord of pools, kids club and day spa. We chilled on the sandy beach, played with water toys in the pools and I left them in the kids club with their own extra babysitter so I could bliss out with a massage and a facial. Shopping and dining in Seminyak was excellent, most notable was Motel Mexicola and Zula Vegetarian Paradise.
I had always avoided going to Bali because of the over saturation of Aussies going there since I was a child. Now that I have my own family, I would love to go back and see more of Bali, especially now they are older. It is a perfect holiday destination for families. Its close enough to home, the locals love children and theres enough of a different culture that children can learn a bout the world and develop their own personalities to, only if you venture out of the resorts that is.
So there were a lot of things that I didn’t take into account with travelling abroad with tiny children. It was an eye opening experience and I am definitely better prepared for next time. Also the fact I was alone with the two kids added to the issues that arose. The fact we had no screens most of the trip, no variety of toys and other homely comforts was challenging. It was definitely more like an extreme sport then a holiday most of the time, but we made memories to last a lifetime and both boys ask to go back all the time, so I’m fairly confident my boys have inherited my wanderlust.