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Archive for November, 2009

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We have now weekdays and week-ends in Bali, since our daughters go now to the bilingual English-Indonesian Pelangi School of Ubud. We decide on Friday night that we will travel to Tirtagangga. We were told by other travellers that the water palace there is truly worth a visit, especially that basins can be used to swim.

After a horrendous 2 hour drive in the mad week-end traffic of Bali, we arrive there. Before passing the gates of the palace, we fear disappointment. Well, no disappointment in sight after crossing the gates. Beautiful water fusion-style gardens. Fusion because you recognise classic Versailles architecture, but all statues and ornaments are either Indus or Bali style. Fusion because it was not only an esthetic exercise but also a practical one to build those gardens. We discover a 25m competition swimming basin with lime stone starting block!! To our surprise there is also a 50 meter basin open for swim. All basins, built after rice paddies irrigation principles are filled with deliciously fresh natural spring water. The caption of the spring is situated in a temple just behind the garden. There is also a “Mahabharata” pond with a path made of concrete stilts. IMAGE_041

This was of course the first activity to tick off with the kids. Running on the stilts without falling in the water. Everybody masters this very well. And now to the pools. The water is clear, the ambiance is great with locals enjoying the fresh water. I decide to do a few laps.

After 2 hours, we decide to have lunch in the restaurant of the complex and we ask ourselves whether we should overnight here instead of fighting our way back to Ubud. We ask to have a look at the villas situated in the rear of the complex and to our surprise we discover a cosy little Pool Villa, free for the week-end. We do not hesitate, buy a few T-shirts as pyjamas and new toothbrushes.

The next morning we enjoy one more time the pool, the restaurant overlooking the water terraces and we decide this is going to be our “Summer Residence” in Bali. We have booked the villa again in 15 days and are looking forward to spend a week-end at the King’s Water Palace….poshy…hey?

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There is about 80% chance that we end up at this restaurant, when we decide not to cook at home. It’s not only close to our house, it is sophisticated, modern Indonesian food served by the most friendly and attentive staff. The restaurant decor is classy Balinese and the lighting concept is minimalist . The view on the rice field is very relaying to the eye. The fresh made juices and herbal iced teas are the best we had so far on the Island. I asked to have a honeydew, lime and ginger juice…bliss! As for the food, we can recommend the Grilled Beef on Fresh Papaya Salad, The Crispy Duck Spring Rolls, the Black Pepper Fettucine, The mixed satay (see pic), Tom Gha Kai (spicy Thai soup). You can of course get the usual Nasi or Mie Goreng.018

It is up market, but prices are still reasonable for what you get. Many other restaurants ask a lot of money for average food and service. The Pond is definitely not one of them.

  • Food: ****
  • Drinks: ***** (juices)
  • Freshness *****
  • Value: ***

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The first issue is to find a map with marked hiking paths. I found none. The second issue; even Garmin Connect has literally no GPS courses mapped beyond Ubud centre. The third issue; coming down from the North are multiple but bridges on the contrary are quite scarce, so you might end up going up or down a stream from some kilometres before being able to cross it. All those constraints should not prevent anyone to go and discover the countryside and the mountains/volcanoes of Bali. The impossibly green rice fields, the jungle (and sometime pristine rain forest), the scenic rivers, the friendly people along the way, the fresh air up in the mountains, all are great rewards for the effort made. It is the second time after Lanzarote that I travel with sport gears and I do not regret it a bit. It is a new way for me to discover a region, far away from any touristic path. Hiking in Bali is meeting the true spirit of this island, if you ask me.

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The first hike was around Ubud, the second one on the 2nd highest peak of Bali, the extinct Gunung Abung volcano. On the second hike, I did not meet a single tourist. The only encounter I did was on the top of the volcano. 4 Balinese from Denpasar were picnicking after making some offerings to the gods at the temple erected at the top of the mountain.IMAGE_077

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Today October 31st, I decided to take our daughters to the first and only Zoo in Bali. Situated at the North border of Denpasar it is a 20min drive from Ubud…for those who know. For me…after 2 wrong turns…50 minutes.  The Bali Zoo is very expensive and quite unaffordable for locals. The advantage, it is quite empty and you can enjoy the zoo as if it were your own. The zoo itself is the best I have seen so far at this latitude (Very few cages, mostly natural barriers). The aviary is impressive and loads of Indonesian species overall. It is all very well organised and clean. You do not go for errands, but follow a lovely path that brings you to all main attractions. The biggest one for us was to have a patting session with crocodiles. When I was told at the entrance that our kids could caress baby crocodiles I thought they would be something like 30cm long. But no sir, the fellow sitting on the lap of my daughters was well over 1m50cm and had a full set of sharp teeth, which did not impress them at all, actually. Both sat quietly and started patting the young fellow as if it was a little doggy. As a disclaimer, the zoo staff said it was absolutely safe…

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The second highlight was a tour on ponies. First time both daughters sat alone on a pony. Again, no fear, just laughs!  After this, I cannot wait to go to the Elephant Safari in the North of the Island.

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The minuses are that we do not have a wireless connection and that we need to cross the road to jump into a swimming pool as we have none in our garden. Otherwise, there are truly only pluses. This little 100 square meter 2 storey house has a lovely little garden with its own temple (Maintenance and offerings are done every morning).offerings in our garden temple We have a decent kitchen with gas cooker and a little grill to make morning “Heidi” toasts. The highlight of the house is its large 3 by 5 meter veranda. It is a great shaded area. We can fell a fresh breeze from there nearly every day and it’s truly luxury when average day temperature is over 30. It provides kids with a large enough play area and all meals are served here as well. The view from the terrace is the second highlight; a few meters away, fresh rice paddies and a little further stands the “Arma” Drama and Art centre with a beautiful stage. From 19:00 to 21:00, 3-4 times a week we can hear traditional Balinese sound and see traditional dances and ancestral rituals.

The house is part of a small complex called Bali Putra, situated just of the centre of Ubud in the rice paddies. All houses are staffed. Cleaning, dishwashing, gardening, etc.. is taken care of every morning. Breakfast is even brought up on the veranda every morning at eight. It is very clean without being luxurious. All this for about CHF 750.- a month. We couldn’t ask for me for this price. We like it here very much, because of the space, the view, the friendly staff and the air-con. After 2 weeks beefing up the place with better kitchenware, we really feel at home.Friseur Ubud 004002

My ratings for this house

  • Value *****
  • Rooms ***
  • Location ***

Address: Jalan Raya Pengosekan, Ubud

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We realised that the only way for us to travel with young children and enjoy it was to give a structured daily routine to our daughters. We have finally managed that after 14 days in Ubud. We have found a central but quiet 2 bedroom house with a view on rice fields (and an Art & Drama Centre!) The big plus is that it has a kitchen and we are not forced to go to restaurants anymore (,which remains sometimes a challenge…especially if the service is slow). We have also found a great school five minutes drive from the house. It’s called Pelangi School and accepts “drop-in” children. It is a holistic bilingual school. Bahasa-Indonesian and English are taught. Our kids are so far coping with the challenge and come back from school now singing “row, row, row the boat” or “hello, hello, how are you”!!!. Part of the structure is to have a cleaning service, a laundry service and a few people that are ready to help. It is all very affordable and we now enjoy at last some free time to do sport, answer mails, read on the terrasse, etc…

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