This trip accomplished three firsts for me: 1) it was my first trip to Bali, 2) my first trip with E, and 3) my first trip with our nanny.
I had been wanting to go to Bali since forever. But, when K told me 2 months ago that he had to be in Bali for work in September and asked if E and I could join, I immediately refused. K would be busy with work and I felt uncomfortable traveling to a country that I hadn’t been to, with a 3 month old who we hadn’t yet traveled with, and trying to sightsee while K was busy with work… It just didn’t seem like it would be a vacation. So K suggested that we bring our nanny.
As mentioned in an earlier post, Things I Learned During Pregnancy, having a nanny in Hong Kong is a part of life because they’re super affordable here. They’re not easy to find because you have to go through an agency or do over a dozen interviews. But if you find one you like, it’s so worth it! And, because they’re affordable, some families travel with them too.
I scrunched my nose at K’s suggestion because I wasn’t used to the idea. But, I knew I’d need help if I wanted to sightsee with E while K was busy, so I gave in.
Day 1 – Arrival
I was nervous about traveling with E. I asked my friends a million times for packing and travel tips for babies (I’d be happy to do a post on this if you’re interested), but I was still anxious about how she’d do at the airport, on the plane, in a car ride that was longer than 20 min, etc.
Thankfully, aside from a bit of a crying on the descent and while trying to put her to sleep in the airport shuttle, she did great. By 8pm, we were in our room at the beautiful Renaissance Bali Uluwatu, and by 9pm, K and I were having dinner at the Double Ikat in our resort.
Our room was super spacious with a king bed in the center, and a massive daybed on the side where our nanny slept. The only weird part was that the shower was completely open. I’ve seen showers that look open but have a sliding door hidden on the side, but this one only had wall separating it from the rest of the room. It was awkward given that our nanny was with us, but she just stayed behind the wall when K or I showered. The size and comfort of the room more than made up for the shower situation.
Day 2 – Uluwatu Temple, Luwak Coffee, and Jimbaran Beach
We woke up early, grabbed breakfast, and discussed the high-level plan for our holiday:
- Day 2 – Take it easy to see how E does but try to see the Uluwatu Temple and go somewhere for dinner at night
- Day 3 – Morning Light Yoga at Uluwatu Surf Villas and the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park
- Days 4-6 – K had a conference on these days so I thought E, the nanny and I could do a beach day, a day in Seminyak, and I’d use the third day as a spa day (i.e., a massage and dip with E in the pool).
- Day 7 – K has the day off so potentially another beach day with all of us
- Day 8 – Relax at the resort and fly home
We wanted to check out Ubud as well, but we’d heard that it would take a while to get there and to Seminyak from Uluwatu because of traffic. So we decided to get our driver’s opinion on our itinerary.
Lesson 1 – If you’re planning to go to Bali and roam away from where you’re staying, book a driver or at least find one in advance.
Areas in Bali are not far from each other in terms of distance, but they take forever to get to because of the local roads and traffic, and not all areas are walkable. Cabs are also hard to find depending on where you are, so find a driver before you go just in case you need one. There are plenty available and they cost ~$40 USD a day which, I think, is amazing. They’ll pick you up at the start of your day and will stay close by until you’re done. You may not need one daily if you’re staying in Seminyak or Ubud, but having a driver was key for us since our hotel in Uluwatu is far from most other places and Uluwatu itself is not walkable.
Our driver picked us up at 11am, we plugged in the car seat, and left for the temple. While chatting with him on our itinerary, he suggested that, we also see the Uluwatu Luwak Coffee Plantation, the Pandawa beach, and the Jimbaran beach for sunset.
Regarding Seminyak and Ubud, he emphasized the traffic issue, but agreed to take us to Seminyak on Day 6 (minus K) and to to Ubud on Day 7.
One thing that totally surprised me about Bali is that majority of the religion base there is Hindu. Almost every statue we passed was a character from either the Mahabharata or Ramayan epics and there are little temples on every corner. I love learning about religion and related history so I was super intrigued and it made me more curious to see the Uluwatu temple.
But sadly, when we got there, we found that the temple itself is closed off to non-locals to preserve the sanctity of it. And while I completely understand the need to do that, I really wish we could have gone in.
The area around the temple is beautiful, though. It’s located on the edge of a cliff with bright beautiful flowers everywhere. The one thing that might be off-putting for some is that there are monkeys everywhere too! They’re super cute of course, but only from a distance. Get too close and they’ll definitely try to grab something off of you. One poor someone lost their phone to a monkey just as we were leaving.
Lesson 2 – If you eat meat, make sure you get satay (they spell it as “sate” in Bali) where ever you go.
Now, I’d expect that the satay would be better at some places than others. But somehow, it was great at every restaurant we went to.
After lunch we headed to an Uluwatu Luwak Coffee Plantation where we tasted a variety of different flavored coffees and teas and of course the notorious luwak coffee. The flavors included ginseng, coconut, lemongrass, and even durian! Ginger was my favorite and as you might guess, the durian was the worst.
By the time we were done, we didn’t have time to make it to both the Pandawa and Jimbaran beaches with E that day. So we moved the Pandawa beach trip to the next day, took care of E at the hotel, and then our driver took K and I to the New Moon Cafe on Jimbaran beach to watch the sunset while eating dinner.
Lesson 3 – All drivers have recommendations, but do your own research as well because many of the recommendations might either be touristy, based on relationships that they have (e.g., they may get a cut for bringing “x” amount of people to a location), or because they want to avoid high traffic situations.
The restaurant looked super tacky so we thought it might be a tourist trap. But when we researched other restaurants on the beach, it turns out that they’re all on the same level of tackiness and had the same potential to scam you. So we decided to stay and give it a chance.
We ordered our food after watching the sunset (which was beautiful!) and were pleasantly surprised to find that despite the scathing online reviews, their preparation of the fresh lobster and red snapper that we chose was amazing. The lobster was cooked Balinese BBQ style and the fish was lightly fried with sambal; it was delicious.
Day 3 – Morning Yoga and Pandawa Beach
Lesson 4 – Pack bug spray
Yoga was at 7:30am at the Uluwatu Surf Villas. I was nervous given that there was no explanation of what kind of yoga it would be and I hadn’t done proper yoga since pre-baby, but the location and instructor were amazing. It was an open flow class so the instructor tweaked the class based on what folks wanted to focus on (e.g., core work). The only annoying part was that I was attacked by one or more mosquitos and no one else seemed to be affected! Even then, it was so good that I left wondering when/if I could come back again during the week, doused in bug spray of course.
After breakfast, we got E ready and headed over to the Pandawa beach.
Lesson 5 – Not all of the Balinese beaches have umbrellas or chairs, so if you need one or both, research beaches beforehand.
I love beaches, but I needed to make sure that if we were going to spend time at one, that we could safely keep E out of the direct sun. Thankfully, we found out that our hotel’s beach club, the Roosterfish Beach Club, was located on Pandawa Beach, and they had a nice clean, covered, beach and poolside bungalow available for us that we didn’t have to pay for since we were staying at the hotel. So we decided to park ourselves there for the rest of the day, and skip the GWK.
The Pandawa beach is named after the five Pandavas from the Mahabharat. There are large stone carvings of each of them on the side of a cliff that faces the beach which I thought was super interesting because I’ve never seen carvings or statues of those characters before. The beach itself is rocky, but the water is super clear and relatively warm, and there’s a long stretch of shallow water which is great because people can spread out easily. There’s also a little bazaar further down from where we were, but it was so crowded that we stayed away.
Our little bungalow area was great, I could easily feed E, we could dip her into the pool (the sand was too hot), and we could leave her with the nanny while we roamed around.
As the day passed, K and I considered checking out a music festival called Soundadrenaline later that night. But, by the time we got back to the hotel and researched the line-up, we decided it wasn’t intriguing enough. Plus we were tired from being outside all day so we just got dinner and dessert at the hotel and called it a night.
PS – our dessert was so good that we had it every single day for the rest of the week – the martabak manis. It’s made differently depending on where you go, but at the hotel they served it with a savory salted caramel ice cream, chocolate ganache, chocolate granola, and two light marshmallows. It’s become one of my favorites.
K’s conference started on Day 4 and continued until Day 6, so having our nanny there made it so much easier to bring E with me everywhere. I still couldn’t jam pack my days like I would have without E, but it gave me a ton of flexibility. Here’s what we did:
Day 4 – GWK
I started the day at the gym and then tried to get E into the pool, but she wasn’t having it, so we headed out at 12:30pm to check out the Garuda Wisnu Kencana Cultural Park (GWK).
I initially thought that the GWK might have a walking path to the new, 120 meter Garuda Vishnu statue that you can see as you land in Bali (our driver lead me to believe this as well). But when we went in, we found that: 1) the park is not stroller friendly so we had to carry E and her stroller up and down stairs, 2) there are only two statues in the entire park, 3) the majority of the park was being used for the music festival so it was kind of closed off; I snuck in anyways to look, and 4) you can’t walk to the statue from there. In fact, the huge statue has no connection to the park; it just offers a good view of it. I was disappointed. I also then realized that our driver had never actually been inside; all he knew was that it was a tourist spot <insert eye roll emoji>.
On our way back to the hotel, we grabbed a coffee at El Merkat, and then K and I got ready for dinner at Opia. That dinner and the fact that E did so well during the day were the highlights of my day. Opia offers a great mix of Peruvian and Balinese cuisine and is absolutely stunning. We could totally see it being used for rehearsal dinners and the like.
Day 5 – A day at the resort
I’ve never spent a day at a resort just relaxing (for the exception of an all-inclusive in Cabo) but it was worth it. I went to the gym, played with E in the pool (she finally didn’t freak out), got an amazing Balinese massage that was also super affordable, and then later met K for a dinner with his team at the Intercontinental. The hotel was built based on old Balinese architecture and it is stunning. The food, however, wasn’t my favorite, but that may have been because it was an easy selection for a large group of people. I would have loved to have gone back during the day.
Day 6 – Seminyak
We left our hotel at 9am to beat the traffic and spent the day roaming around. I had an amazing hair treatment (a creme bath) at Spring Spa plus a blowout for only $14 USD more, we had a great lunch at Sisterfields, enjoyed a great cup of coffee at Revolver Cafe, and had tasty gelato at Gusto, a Balinese favorite.
Overall, I preferred the side streets where the boutiques and little markets are mixed in with each other vs. Seminyak Square, but we had great time. I definitely need to go back.
Once we got back to the hotel, K and I had a quick dinner at Fat Chow in Jimbaran. It’s a nice, chill spot with great food and fun decor, and they had a different version of martabak manis.
Day 7 – Ubud
We met our driver at 9am to kick off our day in Ubud, and 1.5 hours later we reached our first stop which was a cooperative artist gallery called Semar Kuning. K and I would have loved to have purchased something there, but hesitated since it was just our first stop. Ubud is known for art generally so we wanted to see what else we could find.
Our next stop, 40 minutes from there, was the Ubud swings. From the pictures we had seen, it looked like the swing had a large arch and was set up in the middle of a jungle, but the one we went to (I suspect there are a few locations) was in a man made area. I wish the set-up was a little more natural, but it was still fun and we got some great pics. That said, if you get motion sickness from roller coasters, you should probably avoid this. The swing area was also connected to a luwak coffee plantation, but we were getting hungry so we skipped it.
Our driver was trying to avoid downtown Ubud because of traffic, but since majority of the food options are in the downtown area, K and I decided to go anyways. Sure enough, a 10 minute drive turned into 40 minutes but we finally reached a pretty restaurant called Hujan Locale. The dining area on the second floor of the building gives you a nice view of the nearby rooftops and temples, and the food and staff were great.
Majority of the shops were selling similar clothes bags and paintings, but it was really cool to walk through. It was super colorful and completely surrounded by Balinese homes that reminded me of older homes in Kerala, India. None of the paintings were as good as the ones we saw at the Semar Kuning Gallery, but at least now we knew and could go back there on our next visit.
Lesson 6 – If your plans for the day require driving, assume that you might need to cut out one or two of them because of how long it might take to from place to place.
We wanted to see at least one of the temples there as well as the John Hardy Jewelry Workshop, but because of how long it had taken to get everywhere, both were closed by the time we were done with the market. Plus it was a really long day for E and we had to pack up to leave the next day, so we headed back to the hotel.
Our week long trip was a perfect first trip with the baby. Baby girl had some minor meltdowns which was to be expected, but she did great otherwise.
We had to stay in Uluwatu the whole time because K was there for work, otherwise we would have only stayed in Uluwatu for 2-3 days and then moved to Seminyak or Ubud. But there’s still so much that we want to see and do, and it’s so close to us right now so we will definitely be back. Next time perhaps in Ubud as our hub. See you again soon Bali!
Blog edited by: Betty Ho