Friday, August 21, 2009

Bali Baby, Yeah!

So how was the holiday? Well I would have to say, pretty darn good and I certainly didn’t miss the good old Omani summer heat.

We flew out from Muscat in the evening with Etihad, first to Abu Dhabi and then on to Jakarta overnight.
There is an awful lot of good things to say about traveling business (Pearl) class with children, the first being a lounge with free G&T’s. For the short hop north it was your common garden variety big seat, plenty of space, personal service with a smile and your down before you noticed you were up.

It was when we reached Abu Dhabi that the comfort really kicked in, a plush lounge, all the food and drink you desire, spa centre and even, a supervised children’s play room! not that Jacob and Oscar stayed in it for very long.
But it was the next bit that I enjoyed the most…….BEDS!!!
Your own little cubby hole including miniature cinema screen, big soft blanket and pillow, fancy wash-bag and as many nightcaps as one may need, it’s oh so nice to be pampered.

On arrival in Jakarta, it seemed that nothing had changed since we lived there thirteen years ago, was it really that long ago?? The were nostalgic reminiscings as we looked out towards the lush green fields and forests. After a short stop over and a connecting flight, we finally arrived in Denpasar, Bali and a twenty minute taxi ride deposited us all at our little garden villa.

Villa Prana is a set of three villas dotted around a beautiful and well established garden with a communal swimming pool. Capable of housing five families, we and our friends now occupied 3/5ths for the next six weeks. Each villa is basic, with either one or two bedrooms, ensuite semi open air bathrooms (very nice), and an outside dining/lounge area and kitchen.

We began our stay will some serious chillin’ , a trip to the beach, splash in the pool eat, drink and be merry.

For my paltry three week stay, I had a pass for three days diving (courtesy of she who must be obeyed), so with the end of my first week looming, Chris and myself took ourselves off to the East coast of the island for a dive on the USS Liberty. Our other dive buddy, Andrew, proved to be a non runner due to a very icky ear infection.

The lovely Marie from Atlantis Diving sorted us out, with a pick up from the villa, kitted out and transported two and a half hours to Tulamben.
We had a short walk along the shoreline, our air cylinders carried on the heads of some local ladies whose business is carrying kit for lazy divers, before kitting up, walking into the sea and descending on the wreck.

The Liberty was hit by a torpedo from a Japanese submarine during WWII, laden with rubber and rail parts the shipped was fortunately dragged to shallow waters where the cargo was salvaged. This is one of the most popular dive sites in Bali and whilst there is an abundance of wildlife to see, there is also an awful lot of divers and as the wreck is relatively shallow, there are also a lot of newly qualified divers. If you want a quiet dive then I would suggest staying at one of the motels that back on to the wreck and then get up early before the crowds arrive on their day trips. All said, it is a really lovely dive and well worth the journey.
Now that the older boys had had their fun, it was time for the wee nippers to get theirs, unfortunately Becky was feeling ill and a little grumpy, so I took the boys off to Waterbom with the others for some serious play time. I think the success of the afternoon may be easily measured at bed time.

Suffice to say that the boys went out like a light and slept in late the next day.

But what about the ladies I hear you say, when do they get to do their things? The minute we landed, I reply (just a slight exaggeration), Becky, Gayle and Olivia have been out on numerous shopping trips, as well as the odd trip to the local Spa, so everyone has been catered for.

But Bali isn’t just about shopping and having fun, there’s culture too. We organized a couple of minivans to take us on a little tour, with the first stop being the Temple at Tanalot, supposedly a must see, I didn’t really get it (Temple on a rock in the sea that you can’t visit, hmmmm), but hey, been there done it, got the T shirt.

Next stop was the Elephant Safari Park, where I was mildly alarmed by the entrance fee (swiftly admonished by Becky, rightly so). The park has been running since 2000 as a sanctuary and has visitors from Tony Blair to Brad Pitt, can’t say I saw any celebs but the management probably forgot to mention that I was coming.

With very little prompting both Jacob and Oscar were eagerly feeding and petting the elephants, we had to keep a beady eye on Oscar as he wanted to get in amongst them.

After a spot of lunch the opportunity to ride the elephants arrived, and whilst some people may not like it ‘morally’, we wanted the boys to experience this as possibly a once in a life time event. At first Jacob made up all the excuses he could imagine not to get on, but we would not be swayed. A little odd really, he did get on, as did Oscar, they enjoyed every minute of it (I think Oscar would have stayed on all day), and the whole time we swayed back and forth (Boom Boom!). This time we really did get the T shirts!

After leaving the park, we traveled through the town of Ubud in search of the reptile and bird park. It was late in the afternoon and everyone was tired, so it was thought a quick run around to see the Komodo dragon would be enough.

How wrong we were, it proved to be just what we needed to reinvigorate ourselves, as you can see Becky became quite attached to a monitor lizard, Jacob a blue tongue skink and Oscar was particularly fond of a tortoise. The bird park was enthusiastically explored by all the boys and everyone left with a smile on their face despite the fact that the komodo dragons had all been asleep.

And the days rolled on with yet more time lazing by the pool, on the beach or having a bit of retail therapy. Ubud appears to be the cultural hub of Bali so it was inevitable that we would return. Our next big trip was to see the monkeys and temples at Desa Pekraman Padangtegal.

We bought bananas from the sellers just outside and warily followed the path into the jungle. The place had a real Indiana Jones feel to it, a great atmosphere and lots and lots of monkeys.

They can get pretty rambunctious if you tease them or look them in the eye, so best not to and just give them what they want.

The temples or shrines were small but spectacular, a real sense of a bygone era , I don’t think that the boys noticed the statues of daemons eating small children otherwise we would have had a few disturbed nights.

We stopped for lunch at a lovely restaurant with delicioso (Oscar is a confirmed Dora Fan) food that backed on to vibrant paddy fields called the Three Monkeys, before heading into Ubud to wander amoungst the arts and crafts shops. The town is well worth a look see, but very, very touristy.

So it was time to say goodbye to Chris, Olivia and family, who were off to explore Lombok and say hello to a couple of Australian families who were taking their place.

Jacob, Becky, Hamish and Gayle returned to Ubud one evening for a little more culture in the form of Ketchak dancing. The boys were entranced by it all and came back bursting to tell me about what they had seen. Jacob had been let loose with the camera which allowed him to get really expressive with his descriptions of
Given that he is only six, sorry six and a half, he took some pretty impressive photos, maybe a future career path in the offing?

As the end of my holiday was rapidly approaching another trip to the beach was in order, neither Becky or I are particularly fond of the sand, somewhat ironic given where we live, but that was no excuse to stay away.

The boys were enjoying themselves (Oscar eating sand etc.) Becky was relaxing, but I was twiddling my thumbs. I had been playing around with the idea of learning to surf, a few people had mentioned it but no one had done anything about it, so I took the plunge and Gayle agreed to join me. After fifteen minutes of tuition on the beach we headed in to the surf to learn how to body board, much to both our surprise it was no long before we managed to stand up and actually surf!!!

As the above evidence proves, I now have the right to wear the official apparel of a surfer. So there! This is definitely something I could get into, although Becky is not so happy about two sea centric hobbies.

Speaking of which, the following day Andrew, finally infection and cold free and myself went off with the Atlantis dive team for a trip to Nusa Penida.

The first dive, down to a very chilly thirty four meters was to see Mula Mula, or sun fish, which are not only enormous but also very ugly. Strangely enough they are also found in Oman, up at the Musandam peninsula.

The second dive has been on my must see list for a very long time, Mantas.

Like with a lot of eagerly awaited events, you can easily be disappointed, as was the case during the first twenty minutes. The next twenty minutes were a great improvement and really enjoyable, but still falling short of the experience I had been hoping for. It was cold and I considered heading back to the surface with the divers who had used up their allotted air, but for some reason I chose to stay and I am really glad I did.
As the last three of our party hung unmoving in the murky water, I thought to myself, ‘Wow, those two Mantas are big!’ followed shortly after with ‘No, they’re not big, THAT’S BIG!!!!!’.

So I finally had my wish and had a very memorable dive, big grins all round.

So our final day together was spent by the pool and the following morning Andrew and I bade a sad farewell to our respective broods before heading off to the airport.

The joys of business class manifested it self as soon as we stepped on board,

And with a glass of champagne and perfectly attentive Etihad cabin crew, the sun set on a perfect holiday.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Silly sod, that's what you get for tidying up. From now on I vow to live with the mess I make.