Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Ubud - Elephant Park

The last big thing we did while in Bali and my last post on our trip was the day we spent at Taro Elephant Park. I had booked transportation and our day prior to us leaving and it worked out really well. We had a car pick us up at the hotel and take us to the park. When we got there we walked to the elephant riding area and we split up to go on our elephants. Peyton and John went together and Graham and I rode an elephant named Lady Gaga. 

I was nervous about keeping Graham still for the ride but he was so still and so quiet. I think he was overwhelmed and just in shock about the whole experience. He was loving it. Peyton was asking the handler all kinds of questions and then telling us behind what she was learning. They both had so much fun. The ride was actually really long which surprised me. 

When we got off Graham was so upset and wanted to go again. He loved it so much and still talks about it after being home about riding the elephant and "please" to go again. After the ride we went and fed the younger elephants and gave them hugs. It was so much fun to have them grab the bamboo sticks out of your hands. Both kids loved it.

We then went for a walk to see the new baby elephant born that morning at 5 AM. I loved watching Peyton and Graham walk ahead and hold hands and talk about what they were experiencing so far that day. 

This baby was born about 4-5 hours earlier. So cute!

We then had lunch and watched some elephants play in the water together. It was fun to watch them interact, jump on each other and swim around. The kids found it hilarious.

The final part of our day was the elephant show. The elephants did all sorts of tricks and performances and the kids loved it. The best part was when the elephants sprayed the crowd with water from their trunks. Peyton was laughing so hard!

It was a really fun day at the elephant park and one that both of the kids talked about over and over and was the highlight of their trip. Such a fun thing to do and even more so when experiencing through the eyes of the kids!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Ubud - Cooking Class

While in Ubud I was able to have the day to do something by myself. With the kids it is hard to do a lot of things and so we made the decision that on vacations we should each have some time to do something ourselves. My choice was a Balinese cooking class hosted by a local family. I am not a chef or passionate home cook, I just thought it sounded different and would be a nice cultural experience and it was a great experience! 

We started the day with a tour of the local market. This is where most Balinese shop. We were told that all the food used in the cooking class was purchased from a more Western style market/store with different health standards because our bellies would not be able to handle the local market. The class was actually the day before a huge festival and so it was incredibly busy with people picking up supplies and food for the first day of the festival which is when they cook and prepare huge meals because the second day you are not allowed to cook. It was really busy, lively and a great experience walking around.

You could select your chicken alive or if you would like or you had the option of already killed and de-feathered. You would never see non refrigerated whole chickens just laying on a table cloth back home....


After the market tour we were brought to the families home/compound and given a tour and taught about how the homes are set up and how certain houses are in certain directions, and the kitchen is always in one direction. We were taught more about daily life and served a cup of Bali coffee before meeting our instructor and taught about all the ingredients we were to be using that day. Such beautiful and fresh ingredients! 

And then it was time to prepare our nine dish meal. We cut, grinded the peanuts for peanut sauce, chopped, sliced and made everything as a group. It was very hands on and educational. We all worked together on every step so you really were involved. We made a salad, a soup, peanut sauce, a curry chicken, a fish satay stick, rice, crepes filled with coconut, a vegetable dish and I am sure more that I can't remember! Here I am making the peanut sauce....


Several hours later we were finally done! While we were cooking the mother of the house was preparing the offering with pieces of our meal. It is customary to give an offering in the family temple prior to eating. We were all given sarongs and invited to witness the offering in the family temple.

And then it was time to eat! We were seated at a table in the gardens and served our dishes from salads and soups to our main meal (seen below) and dessert. It was delicious! It was a lot of fun getting to know the other nine people in my class as well and where everyone was living and what brought them to Bali. A wonderful afternoon!

At the end of class we were given a bottle of homemade coconut oil and a recipe book of what we made to bring home. The whole day was so much fun, totally different than anything I have done before and a great memory!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Ubud - Monkey Forest and Exploring

Our last stop on our trip was to Ubud. Which is known at the cultural/arts and crafts center of Bali and was made even more famous in the book, Eat, Pray, Love. When we arrived we were shocked at how busy, big and more like a city it felt. I was not expecting that from the yoga area of peace and tranquility to be so busy. The first day or so was a little overwhelming but after several walks around, finding some small and unique restaurants we started to feel the charm and appeal of Ubud but both agreed it would be more appealing without the kiddos. Lots of fun but laid back places to go out at night to and the abundance of yoga and meditation classes all of which are hard to do when managing the little ones. 

Our first stop in Ubud was the famous Monkey Forest. We debated for weeks before we left about going due to the risk of rabies. We read so many conflicting reports of the aggressiveness/ boldness of the monkeys. We decided to go ahead and go and be very cautious and leave if we felt it was too much or scary. We walked in, made sure all our loose items (sunglasses, hats etc) were put away, didn't buy bananas as we didn't want to attract the monkeys and walked in. They were crazy! There were so many monkeys everywhere and it didn't help that there was a stupid man in front of us teasing the monkeys and just being completely inappropriate. I was a nervous wreck and then one jumped on the backpack John was carrying to try and get at one of Graham's bottles in the side pocket and at that point I was done. We had walked about 10 feet into the forest and that was it. I was done and ready to leave. We all were laughing though how scary and overwhelming it was and made a joke of the crazy monkeys the rest of the trip. 

Graham's face completely sums up our trip to Monkey fun! We even hated walking near there at times to get to some of the shops. One day we were walking and saw a monkey run up to a lady carrying a shopping bag and start attacking the shopping bag, ripping it open for food. After that we would walk out of our way to avoid the monkeys. Crazy!

Our hotel was backed up to a rice field which was beautiful. The first night it was cloudy and rained and we loved sitting on our patio, looking at the rice fields and listening to the rain. 

We had many wonderful meals at delicious organic restaurants. They were all so kid friendly with small play areas, coloring sheets and even the staff would take the kids for walks around the restaurant to look at the fish. They especially adored Graham. 

We had lots of walks around, looking at shops and exploring. The kids got little drums that are still a hit. There were so many beautiful art carvings, fabrics and handicrafts and furniture. If I could ship stuff from there I would furnish my house with most of the things I saw. The woodwork was beautiful and so unique.

One of our favorite parts of our time in Ubud was the Galungan festival that took place while we were there. Part of the festival was the Penjors lining the road in celebration of the Galungan festival which is a celebration of the triumph of dharma over adharma. It is calculated according to the 210-day Balinese pawukon calendar and takes place on the Wednesday (Buda) of the eleventh week (Dunggulan). According to tradition, the spirits of the dead descend form heaven, to return ten days later on Kuningan. All the temples were decorated, there were smells of incense, parades of people dressed up in the ceremonial dress heading to temple to make offerings. A wonderful thing to be able to experience.

Also, part of the festival was seeing Barong dance down the streets. So many of these lions with their band would be walking around and as soon as the kids heard the music they would get so excited and look for the lion. Some of them were so beautifully decorated. Lots of fun!

 We had a good time exploring Ubud and it was a fun immersion into Bali culture! 

Friday, March 22, 2013


Our second stop on our trip was two nights on the north east coast in a village called Amed. On our way though we stopped at Tirta Gangga Water Palace. It was so beautiful and we all loved all the fountains, fish and views. We ate at the restaurant inside the palace and it was delicious and then we wandered around afterwards. It was a nice way to break up the drive to Amed.

John and Peyton decided to walk along the water stone maze while Graham and I stayed on the side and fed fish.

We made it to Amed and to our hotel Life in Amed which was amazing. Our only complaint was that we didn't book another night here. It was wonderful. We had a beautiful two story villa on the water with outdoor showers that overlooked the mountains and then the balconies overlooked the beach. 

The food was delicious at the hotel restaurant. It was filled with fresh ingredients and seafood. They had a very extensive kids menu which was very much appreciated and we all ate really well when we were there. The kids loved sitting at the tables on the ground and sitting on the floor cushions and they worked out well at night time when they were sleepy or just wanted to relax and watch movies. 


We spent most of our time swimming in the pool or walking along the beach front looking for sea shells. John went scuba diving at the USS Liberty wreck site on day and he will have to come back and do a blog post on his dive. Pretty much the whole reason we came up this way was for him to dive but even if he didn't it would have been a very worthwhile stop. We loved it! 

My favorite thing in the mornings was watching the sunrise and then the fishing boats coming in from their morning catch. It was well worth waking up early both mornings. 

We had a wonderful couple of days in Amed and loved it! We are a beach vacation family for sure!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Sanur....Barong Dance

One of the activities I really wanted to do while in Bali was go to an authentic Barong dance performance but when I was looking into all of them, they all started at 7:00-8:00 PM which was not going to work with the kids. I kept looking and found one in Sanur that was at 9:30 AM...perfect! We worked with the taxi/tour at the hotel and it worked out really well.

What I was surprised about the most was how interested the kids were and how they didn't get scared. There were some intense parts but they were so fascinated and loved it. They were both clapping and so excited about the whole thing. And the ENTIRE trip they talked about the "dragon" (below) which was actually a lion and Graham always asked to pet the dragon. Non stop!

Following the dance performance we headed back for more swimming and relaxing and then decided to try a coffee shop nearby that I had heard about for lunch called Luhtu's. They had seating right on the beach and was really cute. I had read that their cappuccinos were really yummy and they were! 

Peyton was in a pretty grumpy mood and just tired from all the swimming. Although her mood greatly improved when her pancakes with ice cream arrived :)

Following lunch, it was Graham's nap time and John's turn to get to nap while I hung out with Peyton. She watched a movie for a little bit and then she came and hung out with me at the beach. We just sat in the chairs, collected sea shells and chatted and finally ordered chips. This was one of my favorite times on our trip. I loved hanging out with her, being silly, talking literally about superheroes and whether they are real or good guys and our favorites and also whether there was a princess living on the island across from us. We had so much fun and it was such a blessed time to have such quality time with my girl. She is so much fun and so amazing!

Following nap time we thought it would be fun to walk to a local supermarket and get some supplies since we would be heading to a small village the next day and wouldn't have any options for snacks etc. We looked up the directions online and figured we could walk along the beach and then turn off and be there. It was a nice walk and not too far but our little ones didn't want to walk. I ended up carrying Graham and John carried Peyton who fell asleep until we got to the store and she slept in the shopping cart.

It was a fun store with souvenirs on the top floor and groceries on the bottom. We were amazed at how much more options they had in comparison to Saudi and how much cheaper things were even the imported USA products. We loaded up on some snacks and then took a taxi home and it was bedtime for everyone. A long but fun day.