“Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow.”
What do you enjoy most about traveling? The planning? The unpredictability? The sheer joy of surprise? To travel is to embrace the good and the bad, like most things in life. In addition, traveling offers a unique opportunity: it allows you to learn a little more about yourself and the people you’re travelling with. Of course, it is the sense of wonderment and joy of seeing new things that usually forms the spearhead of any travel.
A laid-back and casual travel destination, where one does not have to carry fancy bags, shoes and outfits is Bali…
Bali is an Indonesian island with an influx of tourists, surfing enthusiasts, spiritualists and honeymooners. Visitors find that testimonials attesting to the beauty and charm of the island are not far from the truth. It is good to travel light; one should simply be armed with good shoes, a sunhat, a bottle of sunblock and a comfortable outfit. Ensure constant hydration with carry-ons for the younger children, and water bottles for the older ones. Excessive items will be a burden as they will either tear, be uncomfortable in the hot weather or cause a huge dry-cleaning bill thanks to all the sand!
Not just a trip…
Books on self-discovery seem to point to places like Bali as ideal to embark on such journeys. Bali holds a sense of wantonness: every corner that turns into a new street and every shop that holds wondrous knick-knacks and oddities welcomes you with an array of flowers, incense and haunting Balinese music. You will spot deities and figurines on every nook and cranny. You will stumble upon religious ceremonies held to honor a deity, bury a loved one or just start off the day. You will see temples opening into entire neighborhoods, and landscaped gardens balancing the blackness of soil with the exuberance of colorful plants. In fact, some of the best sights in Bali come without a price tag.
Ironing out the seams…
The best months to visit Bali are from June to October. It is advisable not to visit during the busy Eid holidays or the murk-inducing rainy seasons. Bali should be experienced in its clear, blue-water glory and sunny, azure skies. As is the case, when travelling plans are formulated in advance, and a well-read companion by your side, are good ways to avoid frustration and wasted time. In addition, there are enough English-speakers in Bali for visitors to be able to get around. Bali is an hour-and-a-half flight from Jakarta, and has direct flights from many global cities. The airport hosts taxi services, from which it is useful to pick one that runs a meter, as tourists often find themselves swindled. One philosophy for both Bali shopping and Bali taxis is: bargain, bargain, bargain.
If the name doesn’t convince you…
Kuta Beach is a preferred spot for couples sans children. iy is a tourist hotspot and hosts an array of hotels and markets, with a multitude of restaurants and shopping areas. Lagian Road is ideal for adults and the adventurous-at-heart, being close to the beach and hosting an interesting night life of clubs and fancy restaurants.
Central Kuta is best for activities for couples traveling with kids. It has a wide choice of hotels and restaurants, such as Hard Rock Hotel and Cafe. As you move further up, you may find places like the Kuta Beach View Resort, a collection of huts and private villas to choose from. One of my personal favorites is the Vivo Risso restaurant – wholesome Italian cuisine that even the children will love. With a wide offering of tourism services including trips to temples and water sport packages, night safaris and trips to surrounding areas of Denpasar, Jimbaran, Ubud ,Uluwatu, Benua and Nusa Dua, Tanah loth and Sanur, Kuta is the place to be!
Come one, come all!
Kuta offers many activities for families with children and teenagers. As the older children take surfing lessons, engage in kite flying or just swim, the younger ones can swim in the water, and build sand-castles. There are henna artists along the beach, to add to the fun. Most restaurants have a kids’ menu.
When it comes to accommodation, online researching (we recommend Agoda and My Trip Advsor) will show you that the options are many. Hard Rock Cafe and The Mercure are child-friendly hotels, and both house a pool. You can rent a sizeable villa at a reasonable price in Semniyak and Ubud. The villa choices are not great in Kuta. Areas around Kuta or closest to it are Uluwatu, Benua, Nusa Dua and Semniyak, all about 30 to 45 minutes’ drive from Kuta Beach. Budget deals can be found from under 100 dollars a night, with some accommodation going up to 500 dollars per night.
Let’s map out and hit the town!
The drive to Ubud reveals the inhabitants’ love for landscaping, paintings, antiques, lovely tea leave terraces and temples. The sky is mostly dotted with inspiring eye-catching kite art. The artwork on the kites is very inspiring. Glass bottle works, nurseries, sculpture and wood workshops are housed along the driveways, a great opportunity to expose children to arts and culture.
Renting a motorcycle allows visitors to avoid traffic. With children, it is always better to rent out a Blue Bird taxi or a car – rates are comparable across providers. Adults will enjoy a drop-in at an antique or auction house. Ladies should look out for the popular Uluwatu Lace shop in Kuta market.
Let’s gear up!
The best thing to do the day you land in Bali is to hit the beach; you can either stay busy with the many activities at the beach, or rent a spot to just lie on the deck chairs and daydream your worries away. Get a massage, a manicure or a pedicure, learn to surf or just laze around – a life of pure self-indulgence. The next couple of days can be planned with water sports activities ranging from snorkeling, flying fish, paragliding, jet skiing and more. You can mix and match your options. Packages usually include pick-and-drop, as well as lunch and a drink. Do consult the instructors and/or package providers on the suitability of the activities for children.
Of terraces and evening times…
Uluwatu Temple sits on the edge of a hill looking down on a majestic ocean with pristine beaches. An hour’s drive away from Kuta, the temple hosts Kecak dances on one of the terraces in the sky-like amphitheaters as lights dim to a twilight setting. Watch out for the cheeky monkeys that are known to run off with onlookers’ glasses or anything that is of interest to them. One made off with my earring, I still miss it terribly.
Of culinary adventures…
Once the dance ends, a drive to Jimbaran allows the choice of restaurants along the beach, and an experience of dining by the waves under the starry night sky. With a little payment, serenading can be in the air too. Cuisine is fresh produce such as fish, crabs and shrimp. You get to choose how you want it cooked, which is always a welcome delight. This is good for children too, as you get to choose how spicy and intense you want the flavours to be.
Of setting suns and lagoons
The Tanah Loth temple is a 2-hour drive from Kuta. There is a walk through a market to get to this temple, which sits off a wide rocky beach with lagoons holding sea urchins and tiny fish. The evening offers the best experience of the temple outlined in a dark silhouette. As the day draws to a close, you can also catch lone fishermen throwing out the last nets of the day to land a catch just before the dark engulfs the water. There are many restaurants on higher ground that afford you a view of the temple from its terrace-like seating areas.
Of monkeys and such!
Ubud houses a famous Bali Bird Park and a GWK theme park with statues of Garuda and Hindu deities. This visit can be educational for children, with information on different cultures, legends and folk-tales. The monkey forest in Ubud seems to spring straight out of the pages of Kipling’s The Jungle Book. In fact, the Kipling description of mischievous monkeys is quite accurate, so the children will enjoy this. Just don’t let them get too close to the monkeys, or allow them to open their bags or handle food, especially the little ones.
For the culinarily safe.
Bali in short, is welcoming, laid back and fun. The two things to be cautious about is the sun-burn and the food. Bali is mostly non-Muslim, so it will help to ask about Halal food. There are fast-food options such as Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut and McDonald’s. Seafood restaurants and eateries might be a little spicy, but if your children enjoy their vegetables and rice with a little fried fish, you are all set for a good meal.
Of retail therapy
If you are looking for some retail therapy, you will find among the shopping picks, handbags, miniature paintings and beach wear. Both expensive and cheaper local ones are available. Kuta has a mall named Beach Walk which houses all the popular brands. The best thing about Kuta that you will enjoy as a family is the element of surprise: in a single instance, you might come across a palmist reading customers in restaurants, art exhibitions, live music, street performers and assorted knick knacks.
Of bargains and things…
For souvenirs, try out the Matahari for Bali art designs. Everything in Bali is a tad more expensive, so again, bargain wherever you can. For the ultimate budget shopping experience, visit Krishna. It is located in Kuta area. You can shop for yourself and bring back gifts for the family and friends back home. Krishna is a one-stop shopping point in Kuta with clothes, art, jewelry, artifacts, handbags, soaps, perfumes, sandals and hosiery items all under one roof.
Bali, Kuta Beach – fun in the sun and under the stars
Bali holds a world of wonder. Amongst the places that I have visited, I would suggest that Kuta is the best, logistically and entertainment wise as well. It holds a variety of people; older people, couples, individuals, college students, young people, families with children of all ages. Kuta will leave you with a smile on your lips, flowers in your hair and fond memories that will make you want to go back again.
If Europe is your destination of choice this year, then read up on Rome and Assisi before you plan your holiday!
Rabia Basharat is an inspiring author, art enthusiast with a Master in Philosophy degree in English Literature from Kinnaird College, Lahore.