Friday, February 24, 2012

Where We Stayed in East Bali

We stayed at two places in east Bali, although that had not been the original plan. Strangely, the one place we were most anticipating ended up being the one place we could not tolerate! I think I will not give the name of the first place because the fact that it didn't work for our family does not mean it was not a good place. I wouldn't want to give the place a bad name. The property was lovely. The issue was, well actually there were two issues: First, once again the fact that Balinese people don't mind sharing their homes with nature became an issue for us. We were visited on our first (and what turned out to be our last) night at this property by an ENORMOUS spider. Which shouldn't have bugged us that much, because we sometimes have those in our house in Taiwan. But for some reason that spider seemed to put every one of us over the edge in terms of what we could tolerate. Second, the food. I personally could go back to stay at this property just FOR the food. It was amazing - healthy, tasty, unique and local. I normally am not into "health" food but this property has a garden from which they pick ingredients for the days meals. They have everything there, including coconuts which they pick fresh for the day. Here is one of the staff climbing a coconut tree to get the daily supply:
They cut several of the coconuts open and gave them to us in various forms so that we could eat the meat and drink the "milk".

Trying it made me nervous because I do not usually like things that are new and different. But I figured I had nothing to lose, so I tried. I can not say I loved it, but I do think if I lived there and ate this stuff every day I would develop a love for it.

One of the things we were served at this property was a dessert "pancake". It didn't look anything like a pancake as Americans think of pancakes. It was almost pure white and almost gelatinous (though not quite.) It was rolled up and inside was a mixture of coconut and palm sugar. We all tried it very hesitantly. Eric and the kids immediately said "no!" Most likely the texture put them off, because we all have issues with the texture of food. But for me, that pancake was so good that I am sorry we didn't stay longer just so that I could have requested more. We were also served fresh fish (nicely grilled) red rice and an eggplant curry. I have never cared for eggplant (because of the texture!) but I do love curry so I gave it a go. Loved it. It shocked me that I was eating healthy food and enjoying it! If it hadn't been for that darn spider... (I cannot help but think now of the nursery rhyme which I will twist just a litte: Little Miss Muffet sat on her tuffet eating her curry and whey. Along came a spider who sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away.)

So away we went.

The kids and Eric went on a submarine ride while I did some shopping and tried to figure out where we could stay. I stopped into a little beachside place that had rooms available. It wasn't hard to figure out why.

Thankfully we had a tour book with us. I found a place that looked promising and had a restaurant, so we decided to go to the restaurant for lunch and take a look at the place. As soon as we walked into the restaurant we knew THIS was where we wanted to be. We inquired with the waiter about open rooms and were told they were fully booked. Our hopes were dashed.
But then, Eric decided to go to the front desk and ask, just in case. When he came back he said they had one room and they would hold it for us to look at after lunch. The room was small for 4 people, but we were so at the end of our tether and the property was so lovely that we didn't hesitate to take it. And so, the place we stayed in East Bali was the Alila. A lovely place. I would recommend it in a heartbeat.
Once again, I am using a photo of the room from TripAdvisor because I didn't remember to photograph it myself.

Photos of Alila Manggis, Manggis
This photo of Alila Manggis is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Out of the picture, to the left, was a sort of daybed which both kids managed to sleep on most of the time! Out on the balcony is another daybed which the hotel set up as a bed for us with a mosquito net surround and regular sheets. I tried it one night, mostly because I love to sleep near the ocean and listen to the waves. It didn't work for me. I was awakened about 1:00 a.m. by a giant gecko (yes, they were here too. They are everywhere.) making his "geck-o" sound. I ran inside where, thankfully, this property managed to keep the creatures at bay.

Besides being lovely, the Alila caters to families with young children. They have concierges who lead different activities and at the spa they offer children's massages! Our kids were a bit jealous of the fact that Eric and I had been indulging in massages (yes, plural. We had several. As I said before, Balinese massage is fantastic and cheap.) So we decided to let the kids give it a try. They were hooked! Our entire family spent a lot of our time at the spa! Anna and I even had spa treatments at an outdoor pavillion which was perched at the edge of the ocean. Heavenly.

THIS was our kind of place.
There are tables situated around the grounds near the restaurant where you can choose to have your meals. We did - more than once! Lovely.
This is the actual restaurant, where we first ate and dreamed of staying in one of the lovely rooms.
All over the property (all over Bali, actually) there are Frangiapani trees. They have the most lovely smelling blossoms of anything I have ever smelled. Hmmm - not sure if they are nicer than Jasmine but they might be. In any case, besides the wonderful fragrance they have great color. Ethan came up with the idea of inserting progressively smaller blossoms inside of larger ones, thereby coming up with these pretty creations:
A view from "inside" of the restaurant, looking toward the sea.
And finally, this is the view from our balcony. Paradise, at last.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where We Stayed in Ubud

Villa Agung Khalia.

Technically we did not stay IN Ubud, rather just outside of the town in an
A-M-A-Z-I-N-G Villa. Somehow I did not take a picture of the outside! But it is necessary to show, so I found this picture on TripAdvisor (which is my go-to website for finding hotels):
Photos of Villa Agung Khalia, Ubud
This photo of Villa Agung Khalia is courtesy of TripAdvisor

(The caption under the exterior photo comes with the photo. No problem. I do not take credit for the photo nor do I know who the person or people in the pool are.)

Is that amazing or what? Honestly I have payed more money to stay in a nice hotel room than we paid to stay in this HUGE house. I only wish we could have brought a few family members with us, because we certainly had the space for them!

So do you want to see around the place?

We begin outside looking at the pool. Our own private pool. Is that crazy or what?

We could lounge on the patio in front of the pool, out of the sun:
or we could lounge in the sun on the loungers you see at the back left of the next photo, or we could enjoy dinner al fresco, which we did.
If for some crazy reason you didn't want to dine outside (which I cannot imagine!) there was an indoor dining room.
There was even a full kitchen. What?! I barely use those things in my own home - certainly not on vacation! But I know some people actually enjoy cooking and so I suppose this is useful for that type.
The master bedroom is on the main floor of the house. If we had had to, we could have put our entire family in this one bedroom. There was a king size bed AND a twin bed. Of course it had it's own spacious bathroom, which I didn't photograph.
The rest of the main level was living area. Expansive, beautiful living area.

I will be honest here and insert one caveat to my idyllic description. Beautiful, yes. Huge, absolutely. However, at the bottom of the doors there were large spaces of light. There are no screens and there is no weather stripping. What this means is that at night many things can and do enter the house uninvited. Lots and lots (and lots!) of geckos. In fact, while in Bali we became very well acquainted with the sound of a gecko. We now know where they got their name; the sound they make is "GECK-o". Anna does a very good imitation of it. The reason the geckos come in is to eat all of the bugs who have first entered. To tell you about that I will insert a funny little story from our time in Ubud.

Villa Agung Khali has 3 identical houses, one of which we were in. It also has 2 smaller suites. Near the center of the property is a wonderful pavillion where you can arrange to have a massage. Balinese massage - oh MY! I don't care for a massage any place else in the world, but in Bali it is wonderful. (And CHEAP!) There are 2 massage tables, so Eric and I went for simultaneous massages and left the kids in the house. I believe we instructed them to stay there and not fight. We went so far as to say they were not to come to us complaining about what the other was doing because that would ruin the relaxation of the massage. Our kids are old enough and obedient enough to follow that bit of instruction.

So there we are, deeply enjoying our massages and I at least was thinking how great that I didn't have to worry about the kids. But sounds began coming from our house. Voices. Getting louder. "Oh no, they're fighting", I thought. The voices continued escalating. I tried to ignore the noise. Soon I heard a door flying open and Anna saying something like "Not good, dude! Not good!" as she ran through the door. I had never heard her say anything like that before, so I wondered if they had started the house on fire or something. Our massage WAS interrupted, but it was quickly determined that one of the villa staff could help and we could continue our massages (albeit in not quite so relaxed a state.) What had happened? Lots and lots and LOTS of moth type creatures had flown into the house. Or skirted under the doors or something. They were dropping dead all over the place - I don't understand why. But behind the moths were the geckos greedily gobbling up their evening meal. Lots of geckos. Lots and LOTS of moths. The kids completely freaked out. I don't blame them. I experienced it on subsequent nights and I'm telling you there were a LOT of bugs coming in. And in the morning there were dead bugs all over the floors! But other than that, it was paradise. So let's get back to our tour.

It seems no detail has been overlooked. (Well, except for the aforementioned door issue.) The stair railing is a piece of art by itself. I would call in wrought iron but I don't think it was iron exactly. At least it wasn't just black. It had this wonderful coppery color about it.

Upstairs I have messed up the order of my pictures so I will have to jump back and forth. My apologies.

This is Ethan on one of the balconies, looking rather unhappy because I had interrupted his private game. I include this to show a bit of the view beyond the balconies - rice fields all around. It was very lovely and peaceful.
Upstairs was another huge living area. There was a daybed where you could watch TV. For the life of me I cannot imagine why anyone would watch TV on a vacation like this. But then I don't understand why you would cook either, so I guess that's just me.
This was Ethan's bedroom. I don't think he ever actually slept in it. He is not a person who likes to be alone, especially not at night. Nevertheless, he claimed this as his space and made use of the attached bathroom.
This is Princess Anna's bedroom.
And here, just to give you an idea, is one of the 3 bathrooms! (3-1/2 really, there is a tiny guest bath on the first floor.)
The upstairs living area included a little musical nook with local instruments. I love the sound of the xylophone-type thing (eek! Sorry I don't know it's real name!) There was also a rain stick - I tried to find one suitable to bring home but didn't find anything that I really liked - and there were drums. Rather fun!
More photos of the fabulous upstairs:

The hand-carved doors leading to one of the upstairs balconies. Oh how I wish I could buy some hand-carved doors to bring home. But where would we put them? And there is the issue of our continually moving so, sadly, it made no sense.
Another upstairs balcony.
One final bucolic view. With a couple of slight modifications, I think I could live in this house forever.

But I have only shown you half of the places we stayed! It still gets better!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Where We Stayed in Lovina...

The Hotel Adirama.

There were a lot of nice things about this hotel and nothing really bad. It was by no means grand or fancy, but there were some lovely touches. I was a bit worried our first night there. After setting our things down in our room we went to check out the pool. The property's only restaurant is adjacent to the pool and at night they sometimes have live music. This was one of those nights. The band was playing "Welcome to the Hotel California", but they changed the lyrics to "Welcome to the Hotel Adirama". They seemed to get fuzzy with the lyrics after "such a lovely place". I wondered if they didn't KNOW the rest of the words or if they wisely skipped over them. You know, the part that says "You can check out any time you like but you can never leave". Their song choice did worry me a bit. Was this some crazy sinister place? Was my family and I about to disappear? Leave it to me to think such things. Obviously, it was not sinister and we were able to leave when we wanted, but if I was in management there I would instruct the band on their choice of songs!

This quirky but lovely little path led to our patio.
Probably my favorite feature of our room was this beaded entry into the patio.

We had a private little garden between our room and the ocean. It was pretty. (And thankfully I did not SEE the rat which Eric reported to me was scampering about.)
Inside our room, looking out toward the patio and garden. Unfortunately there were no screens on the windows or doors, so we were not able to leave them open at night. I would have loved to listen to the waves crashing just beyond our garden.
To the right was a king size bed, swathed in mosquito netting. Very useful and necessary in Bali. Ahead is a second bedroom.
The 2nd bedroom was HUGE, although lacking in character, charm and air conditioning. Oh well, the place was pretty cheap, what can I say?
The charm which was lacking in the rooms was evident in the gardens.

Yes, Bali knows well how to design gardens and swimming pools.

They could use a little help though, when it comes to decorating for Christmas!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Dolphins Up Close

As I was researching hotels before our trip to Bali, I looked at one called the Melka Excelsior. It's main claim to fame is that they have a dolphin pool and offer you the opportunity to swim with the dolphins. While I thought that would be great fun for the kids, the reviews I read of the hotel were awful so I chose another hotel to stay at while in Lovina. There is not a lot to do in Lovina, mostly you just stay there so that you can go out to the ocean to see the dolphins (which I posted about here.) So when we found ourselves with some time to kill, we decided to mosey on over to the Melka Excelsior and see if we could arrange for the kids to have a dolphin swim.

As we walked into the grand lobby we all thought I had made a mistake by not choosing to stay at this hotel. It was lovely. As it turned out, we missed our chance to swim with the dolphins since that is done only at specific times and we arrived just after one of those times. We were severely dismayed. We tried everything we could think of to get someone to bend the rules, to no avail. As consolation, the hotel also offers pony rides on the beach so we signed the kids up for that.

On the way to the pony corral we were guided through the hotel's small zoo and past the dolphin pools. (Sniff, sniff. We really wanted to swim with the dolphins.) Our guide asked if the kids would like to pet the dolphins. Why, yes! That would be better than nothing. And so it began.There were lots of men in wet suits around, I assume they were all part of the dolphin training crew. Very quickly several of them came to the rescue of the poor children whose parents had messed up by not getting them into the swim program. While one trainer called the dolphins into position, another gently led the kids toward the dolphins. They were quite hesitant at first.
Gradually the kids became more comfortable.

I'm not sure what that face was about, but I think it is funny!
While it had been impossible to bend the rules for a dolphin swim, the staff at the Melka Excelsior did everything they could to give my children a wonderful, memorable experience with the dolphins. And at the end of the day the kids (Anna, especially) realized they would have been too scared to actually swim with the dolphins. Petting them was just exactly right for my kids. And then they got a pony ride to boot! (That was a bit of a let-down, so hurray for the dolphins!)

I have looked back at the reviews to try to remember why I elected not to stay at this hotel. I'm a bit suspicious that perhaps the reviews are written by owners of other hotels in order to steer guests away from the Melka and into their hotels. Because although I didn't see inside any of the rooms, from the outside everything looked very nice. Oh well, we stayed in a nice enough place. I hope to put up pictures of the places we stayed soon.