Sunday, 18 August 2013
Babymooning in Bali (Ubud)
I've just walked into a local restaurant tucked away on a narrow windy road. I'm deliberating whether to lunch on the nasi goreng or the nasi campur when I hear gun shots. I turn quickly and discover a small boy, perched on his father's parked motorbike, hands posed in a classic pistol shape, pointing straight at me and firing with a devilish grin on his cheeky little face.
I don't think he really wants me shot (as far as I can tell) - I'm pretty sure it's just a game. Whatever his motivation, the shoot out is accompanied by a radiant smile, just like the ones we've been receiving all week. The old cliche about the 'land of a thousand smiles' rings true to me, gun shots or not.
My husband and I chose the exotic location of Ubud, in central Bali, for a rare treat - a babymoon. With the ever-generous parents-in-law tucked up safely in our KL home with Master Three (who was so keen to get on with his five days of doting grandparent time that he barely glanced as we headed out the door), we were making the most of a spot of child-free travel. We chose Ubud because it is full of artisans and their galleries, chi chi little cafes, long walks through rice fields and hidden away little temples. Hardly a destination for little tots - or is it? (I'll get to that later).
We stayed at the very beautifully appointed (though slightly overpriced) Kenanga Boutique Hotel. Set back a little from the centre of town, it's nestled in amongst seemingly endless rice fields. With a regular shuttle into town it was a good combination of retreat and sightseeing-base. It was also perfectly adult and featured not a single water slide or kids' club. That said, there were a number of children staying at the hotel, and they seemed to be having just as much fun as we were.
So how did we spend our idyllic five days in Ubud? Honestly? My Kindle got a workout. This was the first holiday in the last three and a half years where I have managed to make actual headway on a book. The free-standing bath tub cocooned me in hot water at least once a day. And breakfasts were a thing of beauty - think long, drawn-out meals with not a baby wipe in sight.
We did manage to get out and about too. In fact, we hired a car and driver for a day (Ra at Ubud Taxis is to be highly recommended) and visited several beautiful temples, a volcano and a few craft districts. We bought two stunning paintings. We visited a nearby spa and discovered what a hair cream bath is all about. We watched a dance show at the Ubud Palace and enjoyed dining out at several good restaurants. We meandered down rutted pavements, popping in and out of crafty, arty shops. (We quickly learnt to veer away from the tourist-tat of Monkey Forest Road, and head instead for the quieter, less touristy and more interesting back streets.)
The verdict overall? Beautiful, though unfortunately not immune to some of the spoils of modern tourism - touts, congestion and tat (does anyone actually buy those carved penis keyrings?). But the area just outside the town is stunning and the little touches that greeted us at every corner - the elegant women carrying straw baskets on their heads, the little offerings placed at intervals along the footpaths and the breathtaking tiered rice fields further afield - were entrancing, exotic and elegant.
So is Ubud a destination for families? Actually, it probably is that too. You'd have to do some careful planning - strollers look like a bit of a disaster in the centre of town and your quota of art galleries would need to be carefully considered, but we saw lots of families out and about. Some of the temples, the dance shows, the markets, would be great fun for littlies. And if you pick a hotel out of town, the rice fields would make a wonderful stomping ground for small people.
In fact I'm already planning how to make it work...
I'd love to go back and show Master Three and Baby-On-The-Way such a stunning part of the world. The moment we got home I snuck into the little man's room and gave him a huge sleepy cuddle, whispering to him about our adventures in this exotic little spot. I think it was my favourite moment of the whole week.