SANUR HYATT POOP COFFEE SHADOW PUPPETS BEACHES
NOODLES FOOT MASSAGES NASI GORENG SHADOW PUPPETS CIVATS
TEMPLE GOA LAWAH WATERSLIDES KIDS CLUB GAMELAN ROPE SWING
BABI GULING FOOT MASSAGES ELEPHANT TEMPLE Tenganan HINDU GODS BAT CAVES
RICE PADDIES IBU OKA
Bali is not only one of Yao Yao’s favorite islands, but one of her favorite places in the whole wide world. (Or so she told us early on.)
It’s always been a special place for my husband and me, as well. We’ve been to beautiful places all over the world, and yet Bali is a place we return to again and again. For obvious reasons: It’s beyond romantic, the weather is almost always perfect, the natural beauty is unparalleled, and there’s a spiritual quality to the place that’s absolutely captivating, without being in your face or too Buddha-chic. (I understand that the island is predominately Hindu, also – but you get my point.)
Anyway, it can also be touristy and crowded, and some areas get rowdy with Australians, Europeans, and Americans on two-week beer-fueled beach parties. But it got its reputation as paradise on earth for a reason.
There are numerous things that set Bali apart from all other bucolic islands. But for Yao Yao, it’s simply her love affair with a particular Hyatt hotel.
Now Yao Yao has been privileged to stay in some special hotels in her short life, and she’s not unfamiliar with the Four Seasons, Ritz Carlton, or Relais & Chateaux chains, around the world. But there’s something about the Bali Hyatt. . . .
A little background: I spent much of my adult life traveling for work, and the Hyatt was one of my go-to hotels. From Hong Kong to Paris, Hyatts accommodated my crazy travel schedules and my over-the-top requests. (The Grand Hyatt in Seattle even stored my rain boots and a raincoat for my frequent stays in their always-inclement city.)
On a trip to the Caribbean, I had to make a stop for a business meeting in Seattle and brought Yao Yao with me. When we arrived at the Grand Hyatt, there was a gift of two stuffed animals on her bed and a personalized note from the management, welcoming her. (She often feels that hotels forget kids. She laments, “Kids need big towels, too,” when there are two sets of towels instead of three when we check in as a family.) So she was predisposed to loving Hyatt hotels in the first place.
Anyway, on our first Bali trip with Yao Yao, we were going to redeem my unusually large holdings in Hyatt points on a weeklong stay at the Bali Hyatt in Sanur, in a large corner Club Level suite. (The rest of the time was spent at three different hotels in the Ubud area – wonderful places in their own right. More about those later. . . .)
From the minute we walked in, Yao Yao was treated like a visiting celebrity. This despite the fact that, after settling in, her first official act was to proclaim her sheer terror of the Balinese spirit statues tucked away in the gardens all over the property. Fortunately, the manager, who showed us to our room, was sensitive to her fears and had frightening statues and artwork removed from our suite. (Perhaps it was her stifled sobs or tiny clench fists that clued him in?) He even suggested alternate routes to the pool, beach, and restaurants that minimized the statue sightings. (The fear was short-lived, though: On our next trip, to India, she fell in love with the Hindu religion and for about two years adorned her room with Hindu gods. Go figure!)
We also took advantage of the Kids Camp, where kids under 12 played games, learn a few Balinese words, did art projects, and even learned to make Balinese “pizzas.” (I love Yao Yao dearly, but the Balinese pizza? Not so much.) Typically she is glued to me on vacation, so I was a bit put off that she wanted to go to the Kids Camp, but she loved it. We’ve tried camps at other hotels, and she was not a fan, at all! And Club Level residency gives you access to The Club – a private restaurant with free drinks and hors d’oeuvres and lovely gamelan music in the evenings, which she particularly enjoyed.
The funny thing was, for a kid who loves over-the-top luxury, this particular Hyatt was a bit dated, but sometimes that unpretentiousness can add to the homey feel of a place. (They’ve recently embarked on a large-scale renovation, with completion set for 2017 – we hope it won’t lose any of its considerable charm in the process.)
Every time we go back to Bali, she begs to stay at the Hyatt. On that first trip, we stopped in Guam and spent the day at the Hyatt there, just to break up the trip. We also stayed in a beautiful villa with spectacular views and a private pool, another hotel made entirely of bamboo, and another in a restored Javanese house, all in and around Ubud. And we spent a few days in Sanur, at the Bali Hyatt. Which do you think was her favorite?
Isola di San Michele
Ile de Re
What can I say? Lovely rooms, hammocks, swim-up bar, pristine beach, and gardens that have become a model for Balinese landscape architecture.
Jalan Danau Tamblingan 89, Sanur, Bali, Indonesia, 80228
Wonderful experience outsideUbud. ! I found this to be a great bargain and enjoyed the services, privacy, and location. Villas enjoy their own private plunge pools, with views across the valley to the mountains beyond. They were great helping us book transportation to Lombok.
Hotel Puri Wulandari
This is a fascinating concept – a number of authentic Javanese houses brought lock, stock, and barrel onsite, with all the common buildings fashioned from bamboo and local hardwoods. (I loved doing yoga in the hotel’s huge replica of a Javanese clan house.) The food was great, services wonderful, and Yao Yao loved the big outdoor tub and toilet that heats up! (Thank you, Japan!) They have a rope swing over a pool that’s laid out like a natural river. Kids love it!
This is a stunning property with situated on a prime location.
Jimbaran Bay, Jimbaran, Kuta Selatan, Bali, 80361, Indonesia
Tel. 62 (361) 701010
Four Seasons Hotel
This is a fascinating hotel, similar in concept to Bambu Indah, only more colorful, with great yoga classes, organic garden, and alternative medicine. It gives you the feel of real village life. Yao Yao and Jim loved it!
Subak Sari No.13, Canggu, Bali 80361, Indonesia
Phone:+62 361 8446392
This is a historic area that has its own row of hotels, cafes, bars, and retail, but it’s relatively low key, and if you get off the main street you quickly find yourself in cute little residential areas. It has a really nice beach lined with small eateries, massage huts, and swank hotels. Sanur is an easy base for sightseeing and a great jumping-off spot for families. Oddly enough, this sleepy town also has a reputation as a center for Balinese black magic. (Oh, and it happens to be home to the Bali Hyatt!)
In the center of the island (and its spiritual center as well) Ubud attracts expat artists, writers, performers, local craftsmen, and intellectuals. It also has an amazing market, wonderful restaurants, and chic hotels. Don’t miss out on the natural beauty outside of town. There are incredible hikes in this area, and if you are at all interested in wildlife and nature, you’re in the right place. Make sure to check out Monkey Forest Road for kids’ clothes.
This “village” is quite large and primarily residential. It has been put on the map due to the luxury hotels built in the surrounding area. The Four Seasons is the best known, and its reputation is well earned. But at night, it’s all about the beach restaurants – the beach simply glows from the candles on the tables. It’s a captivating sight, and pretty good eating to boot.
Here you can see the results of tourism run amok. If you are 21, I say, go for it – otherwise, skip Kuta. It’s packed with nightclubs, pubs, souvenir shops, and bars, plus the requisite budget hotels and surf shops. Aimed to attract the youth market and not great for small kids.
Goa Lawah (Bat Cave)
One of the holiest sites in Bali, here’s a temple that’s always got some sort of ceremony going on. But the main attraction is the thousands and thousands of bats swirling around the cave behind the temple area. Kids’ reactions will depend on their perspective, and this will either be a huge win or a horrifying experience. For Yao Yao, it was both.
Kopi Luwak (Luwak Coffee)
Okay, let’s call a spade a spade, here: this is poop coffee, and around Ubud you can get a guide to take you to where it’s “made.” Coffee beans are ingested by the Asian palm civet, and the outer layer is digested while enzymes in the civet’s stomach work on the bean, reducing its bitterness and enhancing the flavor. The bean is then defecated, collected, cleaned, and roasted by hand. The result? Well, juvenile hilarity, for one thing – and some really delicious coffee, maybe the most expensive in the world. Yao Yao had cocoa, once she was assured that the cocoa bean was not put through the same . . . ehem . . . process.
This remarkable village is home to the double ikat weavings for which the village is justly praised. Simply walking around the village itself is a moving experience, and watching the weavings take shape is incredible.
There are literally thousands of temples to see in Bali. Below are some resources to help you sort through the best ones to visit.
Frommers Bali Destinations
Lonely Planet Indonesia Travel
Percussion-based gamelan music takes some time to get used to for some, but its swirling rhythms and exotic tones make a gamelan concert a memorable experience. Catch kacek dance performances of the Ramayana stories, as well – it’s a fascinating dance form and kids love it.
Rice Paddy Walks
Many hotels or local agencies will arrange a guided tours of the rice paddies, where you see the process up close and personal.
The variety is amazing and you can eat for a song or a king’s ransom, everything from street food to five-star internationally known fine dining.