We spent the first 2.5 weeks in a vacation rental at the end of the road on the North Shores of Kauai: Wainiha. It rained 18 out of 19 days. I will therefore not spent too much effort describing the toilet-bowl-with-continuous-flushing in which we lived.
Fortunately, we had booked a pavilion on a farm in the community of Anahola, a large indigenous homestead. We immediately liked it. The back is “protected” (in the Feng Shui lingo 🙂 by a nice row of exotic fruit trees (lemon, grapefruit). There is a large well-maintained open garden in the front with two giant palm trees. Further away the ocean. The house itself is a traditional but artsy Hawaiian home. The kitchen is well designed and we feel immediately like doing some creative cooking. The vibes of the living room are very good and calming.
There are many things to see on Kaua’i but we felt so well that we often prefer to spend the day at home. One of the favorite morning activities is to go pick some ripe juicy pink grapefruit and do about 2 liters of juice for breakfast.Another activity is to go in the garden and play with the hose. Manon and Zoé often spend the morning with Ramona (our new travel companion, new post coming up) doing handcrafts. They also put their running shoes on a go for a short jog with me around the property. But the biggest highlight is preparing and celebrating Easter!
Instead of going out, we invite sometime a friends of ours for a good dinner and some late night chat in the living room.
And there is Sissy, the owner’s dog. A very affectionate sheep dog that would play with kids and come to me regularly to check, if I have some left overs to give.
We spend 3 weeks in the quiet haven and it is very difficult to leave it behind us. Here some impressions of our stay there. I highly recommend this place for every one who wants to get away from the commercial side of Hawaii and its vacation condos.
As it was rather difficult to gather a big party to celebrate my anniversary, my wish was to go to a place so uncommon I would remember it for the rest of my life. So we packed our 7 things and left Wanaka for Glenorchy (50km from Queenstown), but not after having had a little birthday ceremony that included a wicked chocolate cake, a birthday salad 🙂 and the unwrapping of lovely gifts (including a beautiful butterfly kite that I of course lost in the trees some days later). The beauty of the trip was exactly the opposite to the horrible mood our 2 adored terrorists displayed in the car. I cannot remember taking a more scenic road.
Once arrived to Glenorchy, we bought some bubbly drink, found some peach nectar and had a few Bellini’s together with Heidi, the tenant of a souvenir shop. We discussed with her the art of surviving parenthood as well as the best place to spend the night in the area. Kinloch Lodge, at the tip of Lake Wakatipu. That’s where we should spend the night. 40min of dirt road later, we arrive to this 19th century lodge. Friendly staff helps us pre-order dinner and we are just in time to drink another glass of Red Wine with the sun setting on the opposite side of the Lake. The meal is very, very good. More than anything we expected.
The next day, we cross the lake back to Glenorchy and had a 2 hours beautiful walk before heading home via Queenstown, where we stop for a while to enjoy the trendy beach and cold clear water of the Lake Wakapitu.
The following morning, we decide not to spend the whole day in the Jacuzzi. We therefore put our shoes on, get some Powerade in the bag together with some granola bars and before we go, we check on Garmin Connect different trails that hikers have done in the park before us and decide to go for the so called “Waterfall Box Circuit”. We meet a bus load of tourist on the first few hundred meters and are terrified. Will it be like this all along? Is the trail so easy that these “shaped” people can do it in their flip flops? Well…no…the first crossing says to box circuit “left”, to botanic garden “right”. No one is taking a left.
The walk becomes more and more scenic, the forest become pristine, higher trees and at last rainforest. What we did not expect (mostly because we stand at the opposite side of a wild life expert) was all these encounters with animals we had never seen before and no clue what they could be. First we stumble on a 70cm big blue lizard (we learn later that it is a snake killer and understand better why he was not afraid of us at all…). We then stop of what literally looks like a mini T-Rex. It moves on its posterior legs like a T-Rex, it is not afraid like a T-Rex. Although it was quite small, I did not dare to go to near. Past this mini-dino, we walk a few hundred elevation meters down to the river and its waterfalls. Breathtaking beauty and we soon come to our next specimen: a blue sweet water langoustine surrealistically walking sideways through the forest (we learned later that we were quite lucky to see one of those crossing from one creek to another). After 2 hours of hiking, we arrive at the highest waterfalls. A few pictures later we make our way up back to O’Reilly. After 4 hours, we are back from our 2nd hike together since Bali.
The remaining of the week-end is spend to taste O’Reilly food (average) and O’Reilly wines (excellent) before driving back to the Sunshine Coast.
As New Year gift, our host, Rita, offered us to spend a long weekendwithout our daughters. We first thought about a romantic place on one of the Whitsunday Islands or a City trip to Sydney. But after a few minutes, we realised that we wanted cool, fresh, crispy air, escape from the heat that has surrounded us in Hong-Kong, in Bali and in Australia. What we also realised was how much the Southern Region of Queensland has to offer. Just 250km away from white sand beaches of the Sunshine Cost lays a 1000m high plateau in the middle of the Lamington National Park: the O’Reilly Plateau. It is named after Bernard O’Reilly, who settled in the region with his brother and became famous by saving 2 survivors of a plane crash in the Lamington Mountains: The Stinson Rescue in February 1937.
Anyway, we find the O’Reilly mountain resort very attractive and think it is a very good response to our needs. Let’s also say straight away that O’Reilly is way beyond our daily budget, but we thought; what the heck, it is our first week-end without our children in 12 months. So, I call and yes there is still a lodge available from the 1st to the 4th of January.
The packing is done in just minutes, the tank of Rita’s Chrysler Grand Voyager is filled up to the brim and there we are, kissing goodbye to our two little blondes. The kids reacted surprisingly well, as if they were as happy to let us go for three days as we were 🙂 .
The first highlight was the last 20km drive on the Green Mountain section of the Lamington National Park. A windy narrow roads amidst, or I should better say, under the big rainforest trees. Windy because the road respected big old trees and instead of bulldozing a highway the National Park Authorities decided to go for more elegant and environmental friendly way.
The second and biggest highlight is the O’Reilly resort. We could only book a “Rainforest Villa” (meaning that you have big trees and vines in front of your window without a vie really. But we got super lucky and we were checked-in a Valley View villa.
Part II of the week-end in Lamington National Park Coming Soon…
Why Singapore? Simply because there is no Star Alliance flight that goes directly to Brisbane…or, more honestly, because we wanted to splurge for a few hours after 2 months of good but rather basic lifestyle in Bali. We had seriously put our feet down on shopping bonanzas and other consumerism instincts and we now had to let the dogs out! We check into a Hilton Club Suite and a Paul Smith shirt + a pair of Bose travel-loudspeakers later we go to the lounge to taste some sparkly fluids plus a ton of raw fish delicacies. Yessss!!! one would say…but no…this would have been too easy… Daughter No1 and No2 decide to have one of the most miserable day since the beginning of the trip. So what was meant to be a recovery in luxury ended in a crisis meeting to see how we could limit damage. After deliberation, we nonetheless decide to go out at night with our two little terrorists (to try) to enjoy the Christmas feeling on Orchard Road. It is not as kitsch as Hong Kong…quite tasteful actually (just the 150 Decibel Xmas-progressive house DJ in front of the Wheelock Mall is rather unsettling). We enter the Takashimaya Shopping Centre and suddenly stand in front of the biggest Xmas tree we have ever seen. Perfect opportunity to take a family pic. We ask One Professional-Looking-Nikon-Holding-Tourist to frame us in front of this monster and we are not disappointed. The gentleman takes a real pleasure to make pictures of a European family.
We spend a good night in those gorgeous beds and feel ready for another round of Xmas shopping and hair-dressing in Singapore. The result is all too foreseeable. A Madame Visa in terrible mood, but Alain’s eyes are gleaming in front of his new gadgets and Isabel is looking awesome after a 3 hour hair cut and treatment.
We leave early to the airport. It is, the only airport where I want to check in at least 4-5 hours before departure. And we did well to plan an early check-in. At the baggage check-in, we are first told that we should have applied for Visas for Australia :-(….but Singapore is up to its reputation. 20 minutes and few desks later, the entire family has got nice shiny visas. We did well to plan an early check-in, because we found a great bouncing castle and kids jumped around FOREVER (which made them sleep so deeply for the entire trip to Brisbane – thank you Shangi Airport, thank you bouncing castle!). We did well to plan an early check-in, because it gave is a last opportunity to stuff our carry-on luggage with some last-minute “great” x-mas deals for the entire family including two super flashy pair of Flip-Crocs or Crocs-Flops. In the end, Singapore remains for us the World Shopping Capital of this world and we took shamelessly advantage of it til stepping in the plane.
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.
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?
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). 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.
We extended our stay in Hong Kong by 1 week, because we liked the place but also because we felt too unprepared for Bali. We thought it would be easy to land and find a good, reasonably priced accommodation with pool in Ubud, Bali. Well, after multiple calls and mails with contact persons in Ubud we had to come to the conclusion that all that all interesting places for families in Ubud published on the internet were booked!!!
But the additional week in Hong Kong allowed us to make better contacts with expats in Ubud and one of them personally went to check and book for us in a small hotel. Melati Cottages has 22 rooms, a pool and a fantastic staff! We arrived at the main airport in Denpasar and a driver was waiting for us. After a few minutes drive, he proposed to go have dinner at the beach as the restaurant of the hotel would be closed at this time.We arrive late at night and check in the ground floor of this lovely house with garden view
After 24 hours staying in the hotels, we have members of the staff helping us finding a house, helping us hiring a car, helping us finding good places to eat, etc…
The last time I was in Bali was in 2001 and the most vivid souvenirs were the temples everywhere and that true Balinese were the sweetest people I had ever met. I was afraid that the expansion of the (mostly american, english and chinese) tourism would change the people and the place. Well, so far, it seems it has not and I am deeply relieved and glad to be back here, in one of the last paradise on earth with my family.
After lengthy research on Trip Advisor, we decide to check-in in the Gold Coast Hotel in Tuen Mun, New Territories in Hong Kong. We felt that kids, would like to go to the beach, swim outside in children friendly pools with water slides and not stand all the time in the bustling city centre.
The main entrance is beautifully decorated with red and gold fish lanterns. The hotel is luxurious with marble water feature in the huge lobby, a pagoda-style structure, many orchids, a circular bar and good seating. The lifts are glass-sided with polished brasswork on display.We like the well thought architecture of the building (although not really appealing from the outside, it gives most room a good view on the Marina the pool area and the sea. The huge grounds and pools are extremely well maintained, with secluded paths through the gardens.
The clientelle are mainly East Asian with very few Westerners, which we enjoyed.
Outside the hotel to the left is a marina and a market/shopping area, with a handful of restaurants plus the usual golden arches. We tried three of the restaurants which overlook the marina with outside tables but only “Chili & Spice” had excellent meals. At weekends there are stalls set up along the marina selling trinkets etc.
We checked in a generous 40 s-m room with King Size and Queen Size bed. The staff is friendly without being caring. The room service is doing its job without looking at details (folding pyjamas or leaving a flower on the bed). Hotel rooms are functional not romantic. The outside is different. The Gold Coast Hotel is booked quasi daily for big weddings. And there is a reason for it. They have beautiful gardens and decorated open spaces (which are rare treats in Hong Kong). The hotel stands by the beach, they have romantic lighting concepts in the evening, etc…
Overall, as a family we feel we made the right choice and are happy to stay here for 3 weeks. In our package the breakfast was not includes and the breakfast comes per person at 150 HK dollars, which we find too expensive for a family. There are some inconveniences as well. You need to take a 35min bus ride for 25 HK dollars to the city centre and you lose some flexibility. Taxi can quickly get a burden for the daily budget. If you check-in this hotel, make sure you have a breakfast included and maybe free shuttle buses.