When planning our journey we quickly reached the conclusion that spending an endless 24+ hours straight on a plane to New Zealand would not make any of us particularly happy, and that this would therefore have to be cut in at least two parts. Bali was our stopover and we spent 3 fantastic days there. For long journeys we have learned that night flights are a safer bet with a young child. It was a wise decision as our son slept almost 12 hours and played the last 4. I can’t say the same about the parents though, but hey, I got to watch ‘Lala Land’ and ‘Jackie’! How often do I watch something uninterrupted? 🙂 The only issue was the seat belt. He loved closing and opening it but he had a hard time wearing it when required. I wonder if other toddlers have this as well. We showed him the connection with the fasten seat belt sign: “sign on, belt on; sign off, belt off”. As we repeated this during the flight he became very enthusiastic and would happily shout along, but he obviously liked the theory more than the practice. The joys of travelling with toddlers!
In Bali we booked a hotel a few minutes outside the center of Ubud, in a peaceful, serene area surrounded by a wonderful permaculture landscape and organic rice paddies. Normally when visiting a tropical destination we always go for a location close to the beach. For this journey, with plenty of beach opportunities ahead in Australia and New Zealand, we figured that a more cultural experience would be better for Bali, which is why we chose to stay in Ubud. It was a great central base for short day trips. The plan was to relax, adjust to the new time zone, enjoy the Balinese cuisine and visit a few places nearby.
We arrived in our hotel in Bali at 9:30pm local time and were more than ready to jump in bed. Of course, our well-rested toddler couldn’t resist taking a powernap in the taxi on the transfer to our hotel, so his battery was fully charged by the time we arrived, while ours was rather depleted. With a curious toddler in the room, there is of course no question of who won. We continued, half asleep, singing song and making new discoveries until 4am when we all collapsed.
As a consequence, our first day in Bali started very late. We went straight to the Monkey Forest, a natural reserve and Hindu Temple known under the official name “the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary”. At first we were somewhat reluctant to visit it since I had heard and read a few stories that made me think that this may not be suitable for a visit with a toddler. As cute as they are, these monkeys are wild animals and could get aggressive. Toddlers are also unpredictable little creatures. An interaction between them could take various forms.
However, I figured that if you respect the rules presented at the entrance, don’t get too close when taking a picture, don’t pat and don’t antagonize them with fruit and don’t let them sit on your head (really, people do this there all the time!) for the sake of a picture, it should be a lovely experience. The monkeys are normally fed sweet potatoes and fruit but you can also buy bananas to feed them. We skipped this. All we wanted was to observe the monkeys and enjoy our time there. I loved their face expressions, their gestures, their playfulness and smartness. We’ve even seen a few baby monkeys. It was beautiful to be in the middle of it.
After a delicious and healthy Balinese lunch we had a walk in the busy center of Ubud through the temples, art galleries, restaurants, boutique shops and visited the Ubud Palace. Walking around Ubud made me understand the fascination for the spirituality of this place. The beautiful flower offerings that Balinese prepare every day, the calm of an otherwise very crowded and somehow touristy place, the scent of incense, the often overheard spiritual discussions, the beautiful vegetation surrounding the area, the spa culture, genuine smiles and healthy food just made me very happy to have at least tasted a little bit from it.