On of the best decisions we made in Bali for us and for our children was to put them in School. Pelangi School turned out to be the greatest educational institute we have seen so far; holistic, bilingual, non-dogmatic, fantastic! Manon & Zoé made some friends and through them we built a good network of friends. Saturday, December 12th was the grand opening of the first playground in Ubud. A great opportunity to see for a last time all children and parents before leaving for Singapore and then Brisbane, Queensland – Australia. A Playground Opening may not sound very appealing, but again, this is Bali, this is Ubud, this is Pelangi School and you know it is going to be something special and it was.
Local bands came playing, There were so many activities, kids did not know what to starts with. Face painting, school shows, Marimba ensemble and dance, pedagogic drumming class and of course all the slides a playground has to offer.
When time came to say good-bye, we realised that we were leaving something really big behind. It was difficult to realise that 2 months in Ubud was coming to an end. A big thank you to all teachers, goodbye Pelangi School…Goodbye Bali, we will miss many parts of it.
Thanks to Manon & Zoé and our Yoga classes, we started to build an interesting network of people in Bali. We were invited this week-end to participate to a trip to Lembongan. Most of the participants had kids the same age as Manon & Zoé and most of them are Westerners living in Bali. After a taxi ride down to Sanur from Ubud and from Sanur an outrigger boat ride to the Island, we arrive at Mainski, a small surfer’s place with reasonably priced accommodation. Its has an infinity pool facing the beach and the sea. The kids, of course, do not admire the infinity part of it and just jump in together. That will become the main playground for the week-end. We get to know all the people gathered for this week-end and realise that most of them have their kids studying at the famous “Green School” of Bali. It is a sustainable project that aims to prepare the new generation for a greener world in 2025. It is quite fascinating to talk to those people coming from very different background but bound by a same project. All have a very refreshing mindset. Isa and I have decidedto pay a visit now to this school to meet the people again but also to build our own idea about this school.
Anyway, the week-end was of course not only about sharing expat experience. We discover the island on motorbikes, we went swimming and snorkeling and some ride perfect waves breaking in front of the hotel. We discover a beautiful lounge at a secluded beach with mangroves as well as other restaurant the served great food (Linda’s Place), which we never expected on such an island. Overall, probably the best week-end we had on Bali so far.
Wherever you stand in Bali in the morning, you can spot the magnificent 3154m high Gunung Agung volcano. It is not only a volcano that last erupted in 1963 it is also a holy place where all spirit of Balinese Ancestors dwell. This mountain is also of great significance in the Indus religion. I have been watching this mountain for the last 5 weeks, waiting for a perfect day and some people who would attempt the climb without guide with me. I finally find 2 Yoga friends, Steven and Rebecca that are willing to wake up at 04:30. We drive at the foot of the mountain (1500m) and from there start the 1600m climb. It is a 4km, 40% straight-shot without switchbacks. The first part, up to 1800m is very lush. The second part until 2400m is mostly pine trees and other conifers. The last part reminded me strongly of Lanzarote: a bare, black, rocky landscape. The last meters are a bit more difficult but the reward at the top is great. A beautiful large crater of ochre and reddish rocks. At the bottom a few pools with muddy water. It is 10:30. We are at the top with a great feeling of satisfaction. The air is fresh & crisp. A welcome change from the constant high humidity back down in Ubud .
The climb was in many ways rewarding. Yes there was this beautiful crater, but it was also a fantastic day to spend with friends, talking about nothing and everything. Last but not least a great fitness training to strengthen my knee and although going down was taxing for the knees, it felt good to know that it can hold again this type of effort. Another 3 weeks and I will be able to start running again!!!
I look every morning at Gunung Agung from our veranda in Ubud. It is not an objective anymore, it has become part of my world, a kind of acquaintance. I am quite sure everyone feels this way with mountains. Once you have been on top of it you look at it differently, knowing the price and the reward.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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 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…
After looking for the best possible Moutain Bike to rent in Bali, I found a flashy green Yokota (probably not more than 100 USD). 2 days after, I upload a bike course around Ubud from “Garmin Connect” on my GPS watch, put my gear on and hit the dirt roads. What started as a boring course became the best MTB trail I have ever done (note that I have done 3 in my life….). The road profile gets challenging, the view more and more scenic. After 1 hour I am in the middle of rice paddies, with not a soul around. This is Bali in all its splendor. I happily keep pedaling following the course on my watch. I am a bit overenthusiastic and do not feel surprise, when the track gets really step and actually impossible to pass with a bike. I am thinking, well, the course must contain some bike-carrying…nothing to worry about. But after 20 min. I find myself in a idyllic dead end, deep down the Sayan River bed. It has only one way up: the same way I came down earlier. A liter of sweat later, I find the bike course again and finish after 2H30 a trail that I will keep in my memory for a very long time.