It is 3.30am and we are all sat in the lounge of our Bali villa, wide awake and watching Indonesian cartoons. Jet lag has not been kind and we are all wired after our 3 hours sleep. It has been a long journey to get here but thank god we’ve got telly and toast. We all woke up an hour ago but thought we’d treat ourselves by lying awake for an hour in bed, cursing the neighbours cockerels. We are on holiday, after all.
We said goodbye to Mum and Dad on Sunday which was as heartbreaking as I thought it would be. 27 Hours later we arrived here in paradise, albeit a very tired one.
The flight was fine, the kids were great- hardly complained at all apart from occasionally turning to one of us and pleading with pain in their eyes ‘please, we just want to get OUT’. I now know why 15 hour flights aren’t popular especially on that particular plane. The seats were small so Mike and I had exactly no sleep- but my tiny Indonesian friend next door did and kept jabbing me in the ribs every time I thought I might doze off. Funnily enough she probably couldn’t sense my pissed offness- due to my very British non complaining. Either that or she thought my brooding silence was due to having to deal with the stream of sick bags coming from my eldest. Poor boy.
The next leg of the journey meant we had to run for the connecting flight from Jakarta to Bali as we had 1 hour to clear security and customs. Running through the airport was welcome relief after the cramped plane journey- but then we sat on the runway for an hour with the kids teetering on the verge of meltdown. We managed, we actually made it and got off the plane to find my bag was not on the carousel.
50% of our world belongings were missing and I kept a lid on the panic; I held it down. Muttering prayers and promises under my breath that we hadn’t lost our bags at the first hurdle…. But thank goodness, it arrived on the following flight- my nerves in tatters but the relief almost made up for it.
We had a lovely driver, Andye who took us to the villa who was super laid back and friendly. It was HOT we were tired… he cheerfully tried to teach us Balinese, showed us the beach and said he’d drive us about if we wanted. Perfect.
When we got to the villa near Seminyak (quite a way from there actually but you know how it is) we were so wired we stayed up till 3. Archie and I woke up at 7 and went to find breakfast, feeling drunk- the sticky heat, the fizzing of deet on the skin made everything surreal. The smell of incense and mosquito coils was intense, the sound of the birds morning song and cockerels were deafening. There seemed to be a temple next door to us- everything about it was so ornate. There was another temple next door too- we almost went inside to have a look and then realised just in time that that is just how houses look. Each home has its own altar and people leave out offerings on the altar and- annoyingly- all along the pavements. I am sure I am going to Hindu Hell for stepping on so many of them constantly.
We battled the searing heat and the crazy mopeds to get to the closest café which happened to be an organic cafe which cost a fortune- note to self: check the menu before you order.
Finally Mike and Finn woke up (separate rooms for us, as the villa is huge and we couldn’t hear the children from the other room. Happy holidays, darling!) we walked to the beach battling against the crazy traffic- it took 3 times longer than it should have done but for the mopeds and open drains and building rubble along the paths. Not to mention the dogs! So many stray dogs- we are keeping a wide berth.
The beach was immensely beautiful with black sand- pitch black from lava and the huge crashing waves were more drama than A could take. He had a meltdown and couldn’t explain what was going on through the tears. Apparently when you’re 7 you need more than 4 hours sleep and also need to not to have been to the Natural History Museum recently to learn about Tsunamis. (parenting fail) A thought that with every wave a tsunami was coming. That’s a lot of worry for little shoulders.
Selfless to the last, we tried to take him to a beach bar to calm him down and happened upon PotatoHead. THE Coolest bar on Bali, that required bomb squads to greet you at the door. Our bags were searched, there was a road block for the cars. I did not make any jokes about carrying a bomb or a gun as they definitely would not have laughed. Has security been this tight since the bombings in 2002? Crazy.
We ordered drinks amongst a sea of bronzed buff bodies and felt like I had stepped into a Spring Break Instagram account. It was full of beautiful people but this time it was my turn to have a meltdown when I realised how much our drinks cost. Seriously, we’ll be flying home in a month if Bali keeps rinsing us like this.
On a positive note, I took advantage of the enormous number of Staff at this place to ask each person one by one how to say ‘thank you’ in Indonesian. Each person I encountered I asked at least once. They told me, I forgot. I asked again and again and again. I realised eventually that I had had 4 hours sleep in 3 days and that my brain probably isn’t best equipped to learn stuff, so I decided to stop bothering for now… then I was told the Balinese is Suksima which sounds like ‘sucksyourma’. I’ve remembered it ever since. Hooray for gutter brain, I knew you’d come in handy.
Just as we left the rain started and it was sheets of water coming down from the sky. Warm rain and thunder! Then home to eat Pot noodles and hoping for sleep
Obviously I was up at 3am again and we had booked our friend Andye to drive us about for the day. It worked out cheaper than booking one of those organised trips and we can play it by ear what we do- taking the boys energy levels into account. Andye took us to a coffee plantation where we systematically ignored all of the animals in cages and smiled sweetly to our hosts. The boys were shown how coffee was made (whatevs) and then how chocolate was made (YES!) F said it was the best hot chocolate ever (in 35 degree heat) and Mike and I tried the Luwak coffee which was delicious. The civets climb up and eat the coffee beans and then poo it out again. That’s gourmet.
We did lots of research beforehand and went to Bali Elephant Safari in Taro. It cost a fortune but I think you get what you pay for in this instance. We wanted happy animals and a chance in a lifetime experience for the boys. The boys said it was the best experience of their lives and couldn’t stop feeding the elephants and stroking them, their eyes shining with happiness. They spent lots of time with these beautiful animals as there weren’t many tourists around which made it special. Pure moments of boy-elephant bonding joy, and worth every penny.
Each handler stays with his elephant long term- Mike’s had had his for 8 years. Our handler, Wayan had been with his elephant for 6 years and belly laughed at us.
‘you lose your job and house for long holiday! No way, you guys CRAZY! He he he!’
It’s no secret that I did feel crazy at that point but I think that was the coffee, sleep deprivation and insane thunderstorms that keep striking. The boys are bouncing about and whipping themselves into a frenzy and we decide to check out a temple as we are passing by. Tamun Ayun was beautiful, we all loved it. I laughed at the ‘no menstruating women’ signs and Andye couldn’t understand why… but then something tips them over the edge and the kids become like jet lagged over tired, over excited wild things, getting more and more frenzied as time goes on.
Our guide humours our children because we are paying him and also he is really nice. The boys are now totally feral and jumping all over him screaming. We don’t seem able to stop them and we can’t get home quickly enough. The usual ‘look’ doesn’t work and they literally laugh in my face. I can hardly keep my eyes open, Mike’s patience is running thin and they narrowly escape being chucked out the window.
A distant bell rings in my head and I reflect on how this ‘travelling’ experience compares to others- and I realise that this is just like how our first Glastonbury felt with children. You basically can’t judge previous experiences to the present. Our own needs and wants don’t get a look in- and no matter how much fun it has been in the past, we have to find a new way of doing it. Hedonism be damned, this is survival. Once we get beyond this we will find our fun in a different guise.
Then another thought comes to the fore: Please universe, let us all get some sleep soon before we kill eachother. It turns out though, all we needed was some dinner. Some things never change.
Where we stayed:
Budget villa with Air BNB 50GBP per night 15 minute walk to Batu Belig
How we got around:
Andy- the driver who picked us up when we arrived in Bali became our personal driver and guide. He was amazing with the children and as we didn't feel confident hiring mopeds as the traffic was crazy- suited us while we acclimatised! Pleased Pm me if you would like his number.