I met Alysa, a Montrealer, through her daughter, Ella. My son had moved up a class in his daycare and his teachers kept telling me that he was very affectionate to a particular little girl. He always sat beside her and they were inseparable. Of course, it was little Ella. She was absolutely adorable, and every time I showed up to get Bastien she would always wave and say ‘Hi Bastien’s Mom’! Alysa was on the same drop off and pick up schedule as me and we soon got to talking. One thing led to another and we’ve become friends. She’s a real firecracker and I wasn’t surprised to hear she took her daughter all the way to Bali. She has always been so helpful and inviting and I can’t wait to hear about more of her journeys with her daughter and husband.
Here’s her take on Bali, Indonesia:
After 10 months of living in lululemons, wearing vomit in my hair and having nursing pads as a staple in my purse… I needed a vacation. Pre-children my life was all about adventure, living in different countries, experiencing new cultures, eating extraordinary food, working hard and playing hard. I promised myself I would try to maintain my balanced lifestyle even with kids and I was ready to take my 10 month old as far as I possibly could. My parents instilled a love of travel and appreciation of different cultures in me, and I hoped I could pass this on to my daughter.
My husband and I decided to travel to Bali, Indonesia. Bali has a remarkable culture, perfect climate, great food and fantastic beaches. We researched the destination and it seemed safe, kid friendly and easy to get around (if well planned). The Balinese kindness is legendary, so I had no fears.
We spent three weeks in three different areas of Bali. We visited Nusa Dua, Ubud and Legian. All three are very different but wonderful, kid friendly regions. My experience in Indonesia with an infant was very positive.
We traveled over the Christmas holidays, which is the Indonesian rainy season. It rained about half dozen times for no more than an hour or so per day. I didn’t find it to be a problem. A little rain never stopped me before and it was not going to stop me then.
Nusa Dua is an up and coming area of luxurious hotels, golf resorts and beaches. We stayed at the Nusa Dua Beach Resort and Spa, which is a lovely family hotel. The grounds were spectacular and there were children and adult activities by the hour. The Gecko Kids Club was popular amongst older children (2 years and up).
We learned about the nanny service the hotel offered and decided the $4/hour was a darn good investment for an extra pair of hands. Our nanny was very sweet and gentle and I could tell immediately that she had a lot of experience and ease with children. She stayed with us throughout the day helping with meals, diaper changings and entertainment for our daughter Ella.
The hotel had a number of different restaurants to choose from that offered both Western and Indonesian dishes. The food was all very kid friendly. The majority offered kids menus and those that didn’t were very accommodating to special requests.
Most of our time was spent relaxing at the pool and beach. We also took a day trip to Pecatu Village to visit the Uluwatu Sea Temple. This is a Hindu temple set on the cliff bank in the southern part of the Bali Penninsula. To get there, we hired a driver with a car seat from the hotel. This worked out well. The driver, Wayan, spoke excellent English and acted as our tour guide for the day.
During our visit of the temple, we met a group of school children from one of the villages nearby. They were amazed to see a blond hair and blue-eyed baby. The children surrounded us in admiration and asked to touch and take photos of Ella. Momma Bears first instinct was “look, but NO touch”. I soon realized these children were harmless and eventually I didn’t mind them taking photos and playing with Ella. The extra attention from the local people started to become the norm throughout our trip. Everyone seemed to adore children and took a special interest in Ella with her light features.
Wayan drove us to our next destination with a quick stop at the famous Monkey Forest. This natural reserve is home to three Hindu temples and approximately 660 monkeys. There were monkeys everywhere! This was the only time during my trip that a little anxiety hit me. The majority of the people visiting the grounds seemed relaxed and at ease with the situation, but the monkeys were a little too close for comfort for me, especially with an infant. I tried to put on a brave face but our driver, Wayan, recognized my hesitancy to bring Ella in the forest so he ended up holding her the entire time protecting her from the monkeys. I didn’t feel that this was an especially great experience with a child. Personally, I would probably skip this stop if you were traveling with small children.
Ubud is a beautiful town in central Bali and a completely different experience compared to Nusa Dua. It is surrounded by rice fields and is known as the cultural and Yoga center of Bali. The region has a peaceful energy and the air is crisp and cool.
We stayed at Chapung Se Bali, which is a haven surrounded by breath taking views of the rainforest and rice paddies. This resort housed half a dozen villas each with a private pool. This is an intimate place where everyone knows your first name.
The one and only restaurant was located off a cliff overlooking the rainforest. All meals were made from the fresh produce grown at the hotel. The food was outstanding and they catered each meal to Ella. They were open to puree anything! The staff absolutely adored children and most of the time offered to play with Ella while we ate our meal in pure bliss.
Our days were spent visiting the local market and walking the streets of downtown Ubud, which was a 5-minute drive from the hotel. Using a stroller was difficult as the sidewalks were nonexistent and a baby carrier would have been the smarter option. If you are an Eat, Pray, Love fan then you may want to meet Ketut Liyer who is the medicine man from the movie. He really does exist! He lives in Ubud and is VERY popular among tourist. Unfortunately, we never got the chance to see him in person.
Once again we called our reliable driver Wayan to transport us from Ubud to Legian, which was about an hour drive through small beautiful villages.
Legian is a popular beach area on the west coast of Bali. The area was busier and much more crowded than Ubud and Nusa Dua. We stayed at Padma Resort, a mega family resort on the beach. There was a kids club, a kids pool and kids activities every hour. The food was mediocre but had decent options for my daughter. We travelled around Legian by foot as we looked for more authentic restaurants than what our hotel offered.
The chaotic driving in Legian brought back memories from my visit to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. Crossing the street was not an easy endeavor, especially with a stroller. We had to look both ways, say a quick prayer and cross as quickly as possible without getting hit.
Legian was a little too commercial and crowded for my liking. If I were to do it again, Legian would be on the lower end of my list.
Tips for travelling to exotic destinations:
-Ensure your child’s vaccinations are up to date. Visit a travel clinic and inquire about vaccines. Also make sure to ask your doctor about antibiotics.
-Pay close attention to the food. Make sure everything is well cooked and served warm. Raw fruits and vegetables without a peel, uncooked meat or uncooked seafood should be avoided. Dairy products made locally, tap water and ice are also high-risk foods so avoid them as well. Even though travelers’ diarrhea can happen to anyone at any time you want to do everything you can to prevent it.
-Stock up on Pedialyte, Gravol, Water Resistant Insect Repellent with Deet (make sure not to apply on hands and mouth to children under the age of 4), Benadryl Kids, Polysporin Kids, Tylenol and heaps of sunscreen.
-Brand name diapers like Pampers and Huggies are much more expensive abroad and cannot be found everywhere so bring a good amount from home.
-Food may be unfamiliar and there may be times when there are few options for your child to eat. Be creative! For example: Pick out the tofu from your miso soup, or scrape out the avocado from your sushi. Any restaurant should have beans and rice and some kind of fish. You will be amazed what your child will eat when they are hungry.
-Before you leave on holiday, map out and print out the closest international hospital from your hotel. You always want to be prepared for the worst-case scenario, especially with a child.
-Buy medical insurance for your family and if you are pregnant make sure your unborn child is included on the insurance.
-Plan your trip ahead of time. Unfortunately the “lets wing it” days are long gone, especially when you travel to underdeveloped countries with children. Book your hotels and transfers ahead of time.
-Choose 1-2 activities a day and just be happy to get through them. Pre-children, my travels use to be packed with activities from morning to night. Unfortunately, that ship has long sailed. Now with children, everything is in slow motion and travels may revolve around naps, meals and diaper changing. Make sure you see the glass as half full. At least you are traveling, out of your house and experiencing something different.
-If you hire a driver with a car seat, make sure the car seat is properly installed. Unfortunately for us, our driver just threw the car seat in the car and never installed it! Also ask for a driver who speaks decent English. This will make your life easier when you’re telling him to slow down!
-We were extremely happy we brought our City Mini stroller. This is one of the only strollers that will allow your child to lay flat. It permitted us to enjoy quiet dinners while Ella slept by our side in her stroller.
A HUGE thank-you to Alysa and her family for sharing their story and their photos!
Remember to also check out Emily’s Tips & Tricks for International Travel with Toddler, New York City and San Francisco & Napa
Nusa Dua Beach Resort: www.nusaduahotel.com
Chapung Se Bali: www.chapung.com