March 29, 2009

Bali Vacation - Kuta

Bali is one of those places we had heard terrific things about, and which really isn't so accessible from the East coast of the U.S. So we decided it would be our family get-away destination this year for Spring Break. We had a blast. The next couple of posts will be about our family vacation to Bali, Indonesia.

We chose two very different places to stay while in Bali, starting at the Hard Rock Hotel in frenetic shopping and surfing-crazed downtown Kuta, and ending the week at the relaxing Nusa Dua Hotel and Spa in secluded and luxurious Nusa Dua. (Both came recommended by friends; we couldn't decide between these two very different destinations, so we just split up our time and did both!) In between, we chartered a car for the day to check out some of the sights in the fascinating Ubud area of Bali.

Our journey started in Kuta. Very late at night. We arrived at the Hard Rock, located in front of Kuta Beach, at about 12:30 AM on Saturday night. From the sound of things, the party was just getting started. The music from the Centerstage Bar was pumping. All sorts of people (including a particularly large Australian contingent) were out milling about the streets. All the energy made us feel wide awake, so we took a little stroll around the hotel grounds and the pool before warding off Jacob's call for a second dinner and hitting the sack. We are so lucky that these kids are such great travelers! They are better than most grown-ups.

There was a disconcertingly detailed security sweep at the front gate (remnants from the bombings in Kuta in 2005) that gave us slight pause . . . . We saw that at both hotels, so it must be necessary. But other than that, we felt very safe. It was the first time we had stayed at a Hard Rock Hotel. It was a very fun family-friendly place.

We spent Sunday hanging by the pool, and then headed to the beach for a fabulous sunset. Jacob had a blast jumping waves. Serious waves at Kuta Beach. Surfing, lots of crowds, and lots of locals hawking their wares. One funny encounter was with a Balinese guy who spoke to us in accented English about whether we wanted a taxi. Lauren looked back at him and dead-panned - "We don't understand you. We only speak some Japanese!"

The vibe at Hard Rock was totally fun. Rock and Roll music plays non-stop. The pool is the largest in Kuta, and includes two perfect sized kiddie slides, as well as music that is broadcast through the water so you can hear it while swimming underwater. We got in some great restful pool time that made our three days in Kuta feel more like a week.

Here we are with the iconic Bali surfer dude. We encountered him on our way to Kuta Square, a shopping district in down-town Kuta. We had an extremely humorous encounter with a team of time-share-selling con-artists who tried to convince us that we had won a grand prize of $1000 and a free stay at a time-share, but it had to be claimed immediately at their resort 45 minutes to the south. ("Sir! I cannot believe it! Three stars. You are a winner! This is the first time for me!")

We ventured out onto the very busy streets of Kuta to go out for dinner and do some browsing. For dinner one night we hit local fave Warang Made, and discovered a delicious local vegetarian peanut-saucy specialty called Gado Gado. The spring rolls (lumpia) were also stellar. Jacob (re)discovered that timeless classic, pancakes for dinner. As for shopping, there are no prices and it is all in the haggling. We scored a new dress for Lauren, and a Barcelona soccer outfit that Jacob pretty much wore for the rest of the week. We did OK price-wise (we think), but can safely say that having a begging 7 year old by your side does not make for the best leverage in price negotiations. (Incidentally, the exchange rate is about 11,600 Indonesian Rupiah to $1, so you can blow through 100,000 RP like nobody's business.)

We spent all our evenings at the Hard Rock at the Centerstage Bar, watching live music while drinking cocktails and sharing dessert. We all loved hanging out and watching the action. Breakfasts were had overlooking the pool. We got to sample some interesting new fruits, like passion fruit and snake-skin fruit. Snake-skin fruit had the consistency of garlic, but a nice firm sweet taste.

We spent Monday at Kuta's fabulous Waterbom Water Park. Best water park we have been to, hands down. We rented a thatched little cabana hut near the kiddie area, where we could hang out in the shade. But we did not stick to the kiddie rides. They have a ton of different slides that you can ride, either on one or two person rafts, boogie slides, or on your back. There is also a great lazy river. Our very first ride was the tame-sounding "Macaroni." Lauren and Jacob went first in a two-person raft, and Mike and Ilena followed. This covered slide - fast as hell and completely in the dark - had us both sure that we would come down to find our kids scared out of their wits and in tears. They both LOVED it, especially Lauren who kept riding Macaroni all day! (One of our favorites was the Boomerang, which Mike and Ilena did together, while the kids watched. Here is someone else's video we found of it - no camera that day for us).

On our way back to the hotel, we encountered this very interesting ritual on the beach called Melasti, a beach-side purification ritual performed on the days leading up to the Hindu holiday of Nyepi. (Bali is the Hindu enclave of Indonesia - 90% of Balinese are Hindu)

Those curved bamboo poles are religious symbols called penjor. With the Nyepi holiday occuring on Thursday, the streets everywhere were lined with them.


Melissa said...

Amazing. I love your blog. I almost don't want you to come back, just so I can keep reading it.

(not that maplewood, new jersey isn't TOTALLY fascinating.)

jmgesq said...

Wow...the Boomerang video had me instantly motion sick so you can imagine what it might be in person. The ritual was fascinating. I probably would have skipped the Hard Rock but then I don't travel with two kids.

Me...I would have used the kid as leverage for bargaining -- you (the vendor, that is) doesn't want to leave him disappointed now, do you?

Semsavblanc said...

Sounds awesome! You guys really know how to make the absolute most of your travels. By the way, I also was the grand prize winner of $1000 and a free stay at a time-share. Like you, I had to pass up on this fabulous prize. What is wrong with us?? I wonder if anyone ever believes them.
I will be passing on Lauren's classic line to use with the beach hawkers too. I know so many people who will find this useful! I think it would be a cool thing to have printed on a Bali souvenir T-shirt. I'm still laughing about that one!

Mike said...

Melissa - thanks, sort of. We're still coming home!

JMGESQ - Hard Rock was a great family spot, no doubt. Without kids we would have opted for a villa on stilts somewhere in some rice paddy.

Semsav - I am also filing away Lauren's beach repellant for future use...

jmgesq said...

BTW, did you guys surf??

bali hotel said...

Awesome Bali Photo,

Need Transport in Bali?
I offer Bali Private Tour and Airport Pick Up Service for your vacation in Bali. Please visit my site for more detail