5 days ago my little girl turned 3 – 3! She’s no longer classed as a toddler. She’s now a pre-schooler. Argh! The time seems to go faster and faster every year.
I didn’t want to get Maya a lot of toys this year but she’s really into her imaginary play at the moment so I knew she’d love a doll house. We got this one from a shop in Bali that only sells doll houses called Rosada. Made picked it out all by himself, I was quite impressed! Of course I couldn’t get any photos of her actual face when she woke up in the morning and saw it because she was too busy playing with it.
I also bought her some books but they didn’t arrive in time (next year remind me to order months, not weeks in advance). Dolls and furniture are arriving with grandma tomorrow She also got more presents from her friends. Spoiled!
Party plans did not really happen this year as we were smack bang in the middle of galungan ceremonies. We’d planned to go over to our other house in the rice fields and invite some friends but in the end everyone had to go out and we would have had to be back by 2pm. So I decided to postpone the proper party for another time.
My sister in law came over with the cousins and she had already bought a cake so I just cooked up a load of sausages and chips. As everyone had to go out, it was just me, my SIL and a bunch of crazy kids (Made came home just as we were bringing the cake out). Maya had fun anyway, which was the main thing. And it’s a good excuse to have another party when the grandparents are here
Happy Birthday Maya!
Wish you were here?
Bali doesn’t seem to be on the main backpacker circuit but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to travel here cheaply. Yes, there are plenty of luxury villas and 5-star hotels if you have a few thousand dollars you want to blow through in a few days but it’s also possible to live and travel in a simpler (maybe nicer?) way. After all you can stay in a posh hotel anywhere in the world, but there is only one Bali…
The view from the bungalow/homestay I lived at in Ubud for several months. Not bad for $5 a night huh?
The prices of accommodation have tripled in the (nearly) 5 years I’ve been here and the days of having hundreds of $5 a night rooms to choose from are gone. However there are still plenty of bargains to be had if you’re willing to do a little looking around and if you’re planning to stay long term, you can still get great accommodation amazingly cheap.
If you’re travelling cheap, first forget the idea of a hotel. And forget hostels (well there are a couple ‘backpackers’ style accomodation options in Bali these days. Quite why you would choose sleeping in a dorm when you can have a beautiful room all to yourself i don’t know).
So budget accommodation in Bali = homestays. This sounds more exotic than it actually is – you’re not plonked in a room in a family home like you’re on exchange (although if you are interested in Balinese customs and culture and are friendly, you’ll certainly be invited to temporarily be part of the family) Balinese houses consist of several bungalows in a walled compound. As it’s normal for extended family to live together (sons never leave, wives join their sons family), normally each of these bungalows would be used for a different family. However in tourist areas they build a few extra bungalows for guests.
Homestays range from the very basic to pretty luxurious. In general you’ll get a nice spacious room with a double bed, a huge bathroom and a little porch where you can sit outside and watch the world go by. Most places include breakfast which is usually fruit and pancake or jaffle (toasted sandwich)
I can’t speak for the rest of Bali but even the most basic homestays with a small bed and cold water in Ubud start at around 150,000 rp these days. If you’re staying for a long time (say a month or more) you can usually haggle the price down. Also the further away you are from a major tourist town, the cheaper the accommodation is.
Food & Drink
Eating Bali style!
As with most of Asia, it’s pretty easy to eat well here on the cheap. Bali lacks the variety of some other Asian cuisines (like Thai, sigh!) but it does at least have flavour (unlike the food in Vietnam, ahem). The trick to eating cheap is to stay out of the tourist restaurants where prices quickly add up. I once ordered a small mineral water from a slightly pricey restaurant in Ubud and it cost me 30,000rp for a posh branded bottle instead of the 1,500rp it would have cost me in the convenience store for the most popular brand of mineral water here – Aqua.
Luckily, it’s easy to find plenty of local warungs (restaurants) even in the most touristy areas. Just follow the locals and you’ll be fine. the most usual options are nasi goreng (fried rice) mie goreng (fried noodles) cap cay (stir fried veg /soup), ayam goreng (fried chicken), padang (choose your own dishes from a selection displayed in the window on an impressively-balanced tower of plates) , bakso (meatball soup), and nasi campur (rice with a nice selection of meat, veg and tofu/tempe dishes)
When you’re starting to feel unhealthy from too much fried food, there’s always a market nearby to stock up on fresh fruit (but stay in the local section of the market and for gods sake, don’t buy anything at the tourist market in Ubud if you’re on a budget!). Juice stalls are common (you’ll see fruits and veggies stacked up in the window). Coconuts are also cheap and plentiful and taste great served with ice, lemon and honey. Again if you buy coconut juice (es kelapa muda) in a tourist restaurant, you’ll be paying a huge premium.
People are often worried about eating in the local places because they quite often look filthy. In general, the food is safer than it looks. The food in padang restaurants sits out for a long time but the spices stop it from spoiling (and it’s probably full of preservatives too but whatever). A good general rule is to see which places are busy with locals and they’ll generally be safe to eat at.
A good compromise is to eat at a more classy local place or one that specifically caters to tourists. If you’re in Ubud I can recommend Mangga Madu, Dewa Warung, and the nasi campur place by the petrol station in Peliatan for cheap and tasty eats that are tourist-friendly.
Sightseeing and Activities
Balinese cremation = free entertainment
You could spend a fortune in Bali doing tours but there really is no need. If you’re staying by the beach then you’ve got plenty of entertainment right there. Inland you have rice fields and jungles, great for exploring. There are free and cheap art galleries and museums everywhere. You must visit a few temples when you come here and they are all very cheap to visit as a tourist.
One of my favourite things to do when i first arrived here was just drive around the rice fields at sunset on the back of a motorbike. If you’re braver than me you can rent a bike for about 50k a day and just go exploring. The road up to Kintamani is a nice day trip from Ubud and easy on a motorbike. if you’re feeling energetic you can even try going by bicycle, although most people choose the option of paying for a tour that drops them at the top in a van so they can cycle downhill all the way back!
The best way to see a lot of Bali is to hire a car with a driver for a day and go wherever you like. This will set you back about 600,000rp (there are still people doing it for 500,000rp but petrol just went up by a third so don’t expect it to stay like that for long) but you can see so much and if you get a good driver you can learn so much more about Bali and its culture.
Ok I think i’ve rambled on here enough. So to sum up – Bali – a haven for budget travellers! Book your cheap flights and go!
I swore i’d never let toys take over our house and yet somehow it seems to have happened anyway. It’s almost as if they’re breeding – multiplying overnight. I try to control the mess but it’s an exercise in futility – 2 seconds later and the room is like a bomb hit it again.
If there’s one thing Kiran loves, it’s shoes – trying them on, biting them, and usually hurling them with great force off the porch. Nothing exasperates Made more than this pile of shoes. We used to have a rack and then it collapsed through to being used as a makeshift train/horse/platform to see into the neighbours house. Now we have a pile.
I’ve been losing interest in project 365 lately – well not really losing interest, more like inspiration. Then serendipitously I got an email inviting me to join a photo-journaling e-course. I’ve done one of Gina’s email courses before so I knew it was going to be good. And it was free! What’s not to love? I’m a bit behind so I’m mixing the topics up a bit but I’m hoping they’ll provide inspiration for my next two weeks of photos.
I’m not one to leap out of bed in the mornings and Maya seems to have inherited my love of starting the day slowly. We lounge around as sunlight spills through the windows, reading books and gradually waking up. Unlike the Balinese contingent who have a desperate urge to be up and sweeping before dawn and thrash around banging doors and throwing open the curtains if we’re not outside by 7am…
Kiran is such a typical boy it makes me laugh sometimes. I thought Maya was a tomboy (and she is) but the differences are apparent – Kiran is only interested in his brrm brrm and his choo choo. Maya builds towers, Kiran knocks them down. Maya draws with crayons, Kiran rips up the paper. He is constantly intent on charging around and destroying things. I’m trying to encourage a few more calming activities into his life – like some nice threading – before he’s off to throw my kindle on the floor again.
I wonder a lot whether I’m doing the right thing for my children by raising them in Bali. Sometimes (ok, most of the time) I get frustrated about living in this little dirty unsafe village house (as I imagine it when my brain switches into negative mode). And I feel like I need to get us out of here into a space that’s big and bright and full of air, that we can really call our own.
I find these amazing learning and playing space on Pinterest and I want them so badly for Maya and Kiran. I have dreams of creating them somehow, at some point in the future.
Things are not so bad here and on the whole, most days, I think I am making the right choice. I certainly don’t think the educational system in the UK has things 100% right and the more I read about the origins of formal schooling and the negative aspects of it, the less good things I have to say about it. This is not to say I don’t believe in schools – on the contrary, both my parents were teachers and moving to a country where education is a privilege, not a right, I appreciate it even more. I have no plans to homeschool but I get the feeling i may well be doing a fair bit of supplemental home education in the future and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I don’t have an awful lot of faith in the local schools for being stimulating and inspiring. The ones that have a good reputation are very focused on academic results which is not what I am interested in (for at least another 4 or 5 years anyway). I was shocked at the sheer weight of text books that Maya’s cousin was taking home as a 6-year-old. His English text book was teaching grammar that we wouldn’t even touch in the uk until high school. My friend’s 3-year-old recently had an IQ test at school (wtf?)
My firm belief is that children should be allowed to learn through play. I do think reading is important and finding learning opportunities in play and everyday life but tests and sitting at desks with books for 5-year-olds? Nope.
The positive thing is that this part of the world tends to attract free thinkers and creative types and in terms of international schools we actually have some promising play-based pre-school options that we wouldn’t in the UK (like the world-famous Green school – although paying the fees would be another matter!).
I’m looking forward to exploring a few of these options when Maya turns 3 at the end of the month. It’s been over a year since she first started at playgroup – she loved it at first and then refused to go back after Christmas. I don’t’ know what happened to turn her from being happy and enthusiastic about school to crying every day until we came to pick her up, but i wasn’t going to push it.
So these are some of my dream spaces to play and learn in the hopes that i can manifest some aspects of them into our reality
Branches Atelier – Reggio Emilia inspired preschool in Santa Monica, California
Global Village Preschool, Miami, Florida
Children’s Library, Singapore
Children’s Library, Karewau, New Zealand
And in the interests of fairness, here’s one closer to home of Green School – I couldn’t find many pictures of the actual classroom as most sites are just raving about the architecture but here’s one I borrowed from pearceonearth.com – i hope to visit there very soon and maybe i’ll get some photos of my own
p.s. I know good preschools are about much more than pretty classrooms, but it does help