For some reason it seems best to begin this story at the end. After a sleepless overnight trip home, followed by a quick sleep at Mum and Dads, we picked up our recently serviced vehicles and made the one hour drive south of Perth to home. After the unloading of many many suitcases and discussions with builders about complete/incomplete renovations, a tired and emotional Cracker and Rae had managed to get five little munchkins asleep by about 10pm, followed closely by themselves. At about 1am this morning, a sleepwalking Cracker arose and went to the bedroom door, feeling the warmth from the raging fire and seeing the glow from the full moon, he sleepily remarked that the new room was wonderful, but "When did we move Hotels?". Rae stifled a giggle into her pillow and reminded him he was home. 24 days in Paradise and the mind would accept no less.
Back to the beginning.
Our trip began the day we discovered the Bali Travel Forum. After many trips to Bali this was a new awakening. We felt we knew a lot about Bali but soon discovered that we were just new kids on the block. The information on this Forum led us to thinking outside big hotels and package deals, and showed us how to get the information for OUR holiday, not a holiday the airlines wanted us to have.
We began by hooking up with Si Badak and Sunshine to have a chat about Gloria's Crisis Care Centre at a get together at their home, and ended up falling in love with images of the Sri Ratu. Well the next day Si Badak sent us prices and next years Bali trip came rushing forward. The reality is that prices at Sri Ratu are what made this trip affordable for a large family like ours.
On with the show.
4.30 wakeup call, Beewwwdy!!!! 6am Perth Airport. Glad we won't pay that much again for Brekky in the next 3 weeks.
8 am ( Cabin Crew, Arm and Cross Check ) It begins!
The flight with Garuda was again magnificent. The children were treated wonderfully and as in most of Indonesia were given priority. Mum and Dad relaxed immediately and the trip over was very easy. Upon arrival a number of passengers remarked on how well behaved Rae's six children were.
The plane nudged up against the Terminal which was a lovely change for an Airbus, instead of the immediate assault of stepping onto the tarmac and bussing to the Terminal.
Immigration was a doddle, too bloody easy. The Porters were wonderful and stood chatting to the children while Rae progressively indulged their whim to check out the toilet. One of the Porters helped Cracker wrestle the bags onto trolleys and then had to convince two others to stop playing with the children and push the trolleys through customs.
It was now time for the magical sights, sounds and smells that greet you as you step through that last door. BALI, WE'RE BACK.
The driver from the Sri Ratu met us with his typically wonderful Balinese smile and made us feel like we had never left. He drove us those few short kilometres with the wonderous ease that only one born in Bali can do. Whilst the children happily and excitedly bantered with the driver, Cracker and Rae exchanged misty stares and large smiles. It took a lot of hard work to get here, but we were here.
At the Sri Ratu,we were met by one large and smiling Si Badak who limpingly led us to our Bungalow. Talk about overwhelmed, these things are HUUUUGE! We were booked into Anggrek which is their two-storey, 3bedroom Bungalow. Cracker measured this out to approx. 190m2 which is a pretty fair size place for 350,000 Rp a night. That price is before discount and the Bungalow is fully serviced and comfortably self-contained. Rae then settled in to unpack while the kids introduced themselves to the staff and the pool. Cracker and Si Badak then went hunting for a quick clothing bargain. Cracker needed shorts, singlet and thongs, Rae just needed thongs at this stage. Well the only pair of shorts in Crackers size were a lovely purple cord, which he gleefully bought and made Si Badak walk down the lane next to him, dry reaching all the way. We were now ready for our assault on the streets.
Wandered down Three Brothers lane to hit Jln.Padma Utara and from there the Visa card began a wonderous journey of its own. Never before has one card done so much for so few in such a short time, it fought and fought but eventually surrendered. Onto Loji Supermarket for supplies. Bottles of water, nibblies for the kids, Mansion House Gin for Mum and Dad (medicinal purposes). Wandered into familiar territory of the Mandira Hotel, heading our way to Sammi and Suzy's.
Stopped to chat to the Mandira staff, a number of whom remembered us from previous stays there. They kindly offered to store our shopping and refrigerate the childrens drinks whilst the children swam and allowed us to pick it up after our session at the Forum Bar. We met
S & S and they were as wonderful as we have all been told. The bar was visited that evening by Sharkie, Koala and Scotty as well as Eskimo Girl, Mick, Rosemary, John, Pauline, Phil and Odette amongst others. Not forgetting of course that Forum Fixture known as Si
We then meandered our way back to the Sri Ratu after picking up our shopping and settled the kids into their beds.
Shortly after came one of the most frightening and quietest taps on the door we have ever heard. Enter Si Badak for a "Welcome Drink". Upon entering he noticed something he termed as "Medicine" lazing in the middle of the table. Well 1750mls of Jim Beam medicine later, Cracker was shilacked and snoring, Rae was rambling and raving, whilst Si Badak was smiling and staggering. Any attempt to match wits or shots with this man is folly. To try and do both is madness and it HURTS!
Oh what first day!
Having been Badakulated the evening before we awoke late. The children in their wisdom had already found that if you smile sweetly at a passing waitress Banana Pancakes will appear. While they were noisily feeding themselves downstairs we were joyously coming to realisation that we were in Bali. The beautiful upstairs bedroom that we lay in had woven bamboo walls and floors, a magnificent Kingsize bed, large mosquito net hanging from the ceiling and a fan to lightly move the air around the room when the evening breezes weren't tickling through the walls. Immediately outside the bedroom is a small retreat with lounge seats for four and a coffee table. This is an open air room with views out through the beautiful palms and trees.
We finally took ourselves downstairs for breakfast by the pool, the kids swam while we ate and their squeals of delight soon had all the staff standing around watching, smiling and laughing. After brekky we had to persuade the kids to leave the pool by telling them we were going to another one. Wandered down Three Brothers lane, across Padma Utara and into the Melasti Beach Resort. We had friends staying there the following week and thought we'd check it out. This is a wonderful hotel, has great family accomodation, good pool and restaurant, well priced and in a great location.
Hit the beach in front of the Melasti, on the new "Road", turned left towards the Padma, Cracker casually says to Rae "Where's the stroller?" Rae stops and thinks and the realisation dawns. The stroller has for the last 24hrs been going round and round the baggage carousel at the airport. Rae believes it's a plot by Cracker because he never wanted to bring it any way. Wandered down the new road at a very slow pace, remarking on the bunglings of Bureaucracy. The poor old Beach sellers not only have to endure a downturn in Tourism, but this piece of foolishness as well. Lets hope the finished item suits everybody. Wandered along to Mandira once more and stopped on the beach to shop with old friends. Then a quiet meander through the Legian Beach Hotel, which was very busy. A short walk from LBH to Melasti Art Market and stumbled upon a young store owner sitting with his head in his hands, sweating profusely, and nursing the hangover of the century. Cracker and Made connected immediately through common pain. Made then informed us of his bottom prices for all his goods, as it was too hot to barter and his head hurt. In typically Balinese fashion he smiled and joked his way through it all. He then bought small waters for all the children and we were yet to make a purchase. Now when it comes to Mades prices, you may find slightly better in places, but his range was very good and his attitude was excellent. For those larger gentlemen like Cracker, he carried at least 100 XXL and XXXL shirts, t-shirts and singlets. Rae found the kids range to be very good, and the ladies range to be well varied from beach wear to smart casual. Just a sample of his prices.
Janji Shop. Shop 35A. Melasti Art Market
Corner of jln. Melasti and jln. Sahadewa (Garlic Lane)
Singlets Rp. 15,000
Shorts Cords 30,000
Shirts Hawaiian 25,000
T-Shirts White 15,000
V-Neck White 20,000
Beach Towels 25,000
Sarongs Plain 15,000
Long Pants 30,000
As we said you may hunt around and get a bit cheaper but if you don't want the hassle, visit Made and his beautiful wife Nyoman, ask for the internet price and he will know what you mean. This is not a fixed price shop, so you will have to make yourself known to him, and say Hi from us.
After stocking up on clothes for the family, to get us through the next week, we wandered back to the Sri Ratu for a swim. At dinner time, we loaded the camel train and headed in search of an Oasis. Dropped into Loji for medical supplies. Then onto Garlic Lane. Wandered into an old Favourite "The Legend". Great live music happening and a lovely dinner. Prawn Cocktails, Mixed Satay, Hamburgers, Club Sandwiches, Gado-Gado and Cupi-Cupi, all with Bintang and cool drinks for 7, came to 149,000Rp. We placed 170,000Rps on top of the Bill and immediately gave the Waiter the nod on the change. Well, he rolled that 20,000Rps so quick and slipped it up his sleeve, it was like watching a Digger roll Ciggies between Sorties in the trenches of
Wandered back up Garlic Lane and stopped to chat with a Balinese family, also with five kids. After sitting for half an hour with the children showing us that language is no barrier, we moved on. As we moved further down the lane we gave assurances to watch sellers and shoe sellers that we would come and visit them. Now we are not naive, we realise that in Bali this is a Binding commitment, one which you will be reminded of each time you pass their shop. Reaching the end of Garlic Lane we looked longingly across at Joni Bar (Legian Village Hotel) The atmosphere around this pool whilst watching Bali race by on jln.Padma, has always captured us, it did again this night. The eldest two swam, the baby grabbed a chair cushion and put herself to sleep on the floor, the middle two were entranced by beautiful Balinese dancers on the stage by the pool while Mum and Dad chatted to people from around the world.
Back to Sri Ratu by 11pm and as we walked through the Bungalow door, Ketut the Security Guard wandered up and said that Mr.Peter (Si Badak) would like a word with Mr.Cracker upstairs. Cracker says to Rae "Back in 5".
Well he Bloodywell got me again. He and his mate Arthur (whose 71st Birthday it was) decided to tempt me with some 40proof Arak. My memory after the first glass is dim, suffice to say that Arak is off my list of
Very quiet day! Banana Pancakes for the kids again, Cracker sleeps in again. ARAKATTACKED!!!
Went shopping at Toko Bintang- Seminyak, stocked up on a lot of goodies for the kids. The eldest four children followed Mum with their own kids trolley's. It was like a freight train, that had Cracker following behind with the Baby in the Backpack. We realised this day that for the next 20days we were going to be responsible for the amusement of most of Bali. Their looks of astonishment at the amount of children and their ages, was overwhelming. One of our purchases at the Bintang was a 20lt water bottle and a pump to suit. Now we know that the ceramic dispensers were available for 35,000Rp, compared to the pump 67,000Rp, but the beauty of the pump is that the babies could not reach it and use it. With a ceramic dispenser a small child can open the tap and leave it open, which on ceramic tiled floors leads to dangerous situations. Just a point to ponder if you are up there and plan on buying one. We also got plenty of great pool floaties, fresh fruit and nibblies for Mum and Dad.
Back to Sri Ratu for a lazy afternoon around the pool. Kids got their hair plaited, 2 kids for 70,000Rp, took 3-4 hours. Dinner at the Hotel and a quiet night.
The one thing we have discovered so far is that being here for 3.5 weeks, your relaxation is immediate. There is no hurry to do anything. A much better feeling than the times we've had 7 to 10 days and rushed to fit it all in.
Up and at 'em nice and early today. Off to Camp Splash to meet Sharkie, Koala and Scotty. This place is wonderful for kids. It has a great waterslide that the kids, big and small, thoroughly enjoyed, when Cracker wasn't stuck in it!!! Anyone looking for a great family holiday should seriously consider the Radisson Suites. These are not Hotel Rooms, these are Apartments. The facilities are very family oriented, whilst the Hotel is somewhat out of the way, you needn't leave. Having said all that our last trip was to the Radisson Hotel which we would not recommend for families but the Radisson Suites are a definite yes.
After lunch at Camp Splash with Sharkie, Koala and Scotty, we took the kids back to Sri Ratu for a well deserved nap.
The kids awoke as evening fell so we decided to wander to Poco Loco's for a feed of Mexican. Ordered entrees only,to stop the kids from wasting food and they didn't even eat those. We also found the food to be quite bland compared to previous meals there on other trips, and consequently did not go back there this trip. We feel that with the amount of good restaurants serving good food on the island, that second chances are not warranted. This Restauarant has apparently just won a Gold Plate Award, but our meal wasn't served on it!
From there we caught a Blue Bird to Sri Kasuma Hotel to visit our next door neighbour. Ken was on his 17th trip, but his first in June.
He normally goes at Christmas but has now changed his tune due to weather at this time of year.
From here we went to Timezone for a treat for the kids, not for Dad, no really I mean it, it was for the Kids, I just had to show them how each game worked.
Another wonderful day, dinner being the only hiccup, but hey we're in Bali so what's it matter.
After brekky Cracker and Si Badak wandered off to Denpasar hunting down a VCD Player. Found one fairly quickly as Si Badak had done some homework prior to our arrival. We purchased a Bomba brand VCD player that also plays MP3's and has two Karaoke inputs. Price 450,000Rp. We then hunted around for a few vcds and got 11 for 220,000Rp including Pearl Harbour, Shrek, Sword Fish and Tomb Raider. All reasonable quality.
Rae and the kids had a quiet day at Sri Ratu, kids caught up on school work, baby slept and our new friend Putu Trisna came to do 2yr old Brittany's hair. Only ended up with a Braid as she would not sit long enough for a head full of plaits. All the girls, including Mum had their fingers and toes painted, we gave a generous 100,000Rp for the lot. Just to have Putu there playing with the kids for half the day was very relaxing for Mum.
After setting up the vcd player Cracker quietly slipped out once more, heading for the Forum Bar. Met Burti and Ron, Zontious, Rosemary and Si Badak once more. After a few convivial slurps and some wonderous lies, Crack and Badak headed to find a Cyber Cafe to post on the BTF. After having done so they were waylaid by a thing of great beauty. An empty table next to a full fridge! I don't believe the staff at Warung Ketut had ever heard so much nonsense in one night before. But truly a special cause for this evening of drunkeness and trivia. Sunshine was coming and the Badaks freedom was almost over. He was quite pointed in telling that once she arrived, it was her turn to let her hair down and he would remain the levelheaded cool one. SURE!!!
Back at Sri Ratu, kids sleeping soundly, Rae and Cracker headed for the pool. A beautiful lightning show in the darkened skies with the distant sounds of rumbling thunder. In bed by 1am and quickly off to sleep, then at 3am, the loudest clap of thunder that we have ever heard in our lives, then 20 minutes of the heaviest rain we are ever likely to see.
Five days in and Bali has us caught in its Magic, yet again.
[Days 6 to 10]