Family Travels: A Land of Contrasts – The Melzers roam volcanic ash and white sand beaches in Bali

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The Melzer Family

Travelers: Justine and David Melzer and their two kids, Alicia (age 5) and Daniel (2)
Destination: Bali, Indonesia (Ubud, Lovina Beach, and Jimbaran Beach)
Dates: September 22-October 7, 2012
Cost: RMB 44,770. This includes flights for two adults and two kids on Jet Star (RMB 13,500) and Air Asia (RMB 4,500), hotels (RMB 450-1,850/night), car transportation (RMB 2,000), two boat trips (RMB 1,220), and food (RMB 5,700). Visa fees, sightseeing, souvenirs, and spending money not included.
Tour company: None. We used to find hotels, and reserved our flights through each airline’s website (Jet Star for Beijing to Singapore, then Air Asia from Singapore to Bali).

We went to the island of Bali during the last Golden Week. We stayed in three hotels in completely different parts of the island to make the most of our trip. The first one, located on the north coast, was Lilin Lovina Beach Hotel (six days), the second one was Kertiyasa Bungalow in Ubud (three days), in a town quite in the heart of the island, and the third one on the south coast: Keraton Jimbaran Resort and Spa (six days). To get around on the island, we hired a car with a driver at the hotel or took a taxi for short distances.

There were vivid, eye-catching colors everywhere. Many people still wear traditional Balinese clothes, and the streets are filled with Hindu decorations made of plants and flowers. The diversity of nature was also impressive, with both black and white beaches, dry and lush regions, and mountains and volcanoes in the center of the island. The kindness of the local people was outstanding. For example, we arrived late at night to our first hotel. The manager simply entrusted us with the room key, asked if we need anything for the night, and told us to check in the next day because of our long trip.

The town of Ubud is one of the major sightseeing spots in Bali. It is the cultural center of the island, with many temples, yoga retreats, and arts and crafts. The locals call it “the soul of Bali.” At the beautiful Ubud Palace courtyard, we had a chance to enjoy a Legong dance preformed by professional Balinese dancers. We also visited the well-known Monkey Forest in Ubud. We didn’t expect so many monkeys just hanging around outside! Once, while having dinner at a restaurant, a monkey jumped on our table, discarded the straw from Daniel’s juice, and drank it straight from the glass! We were shocked at first, but then it was very amusing.

Not far from Ubud, we went to the famous Tegallalang rice fields. We enjoyed the short hike through this beautiful landscape, but since we have seen a lot of rice terraces before this one seemed quite small to us. In the south, we visited the Pula Uruwatu Temple, which is situated on spectacular cliffs between a small forest. We had a relaxed picnic and enjoyed the sunset over the sea behind the pagoda.

The best part was definitely our stay at Lilin Lovina Beach Resort on the less touristy north coast. We had our own bungalow with a pool, and breakfast was served on our private terrace facing the beach. The kids couldn’t get enough of collecting shells on the beach, finding starfish in the calm waters, and watching fishermen return with full nets in the afternoon. One morning, we were taken to see frolicking dolphins at sunrise by a fishing boat. Seeing so many dolphins at once was an unforgettable experience for the kids. After a short drive, we also hiked to the 40m-high Gigit Waterfalls after passing through beautiful rice fields. The kids loved taking a refreshing bath in the cold spring water.

The driver we hired on the north coast of Bali took us to an ancient Buddhist temple called Brahma Vihara on the top of a mountain. This is a beautiful temple with interesting ancient buildings, a very spiritual atmosphere, and fantastic gardens. We were the only visitors, and got to enjoy the tranquility of this place. Alicia loved picking fallen orchids and Daniel was excited to see exotic birds tweeting loudly from the trees.

By contrast, we booked a trip to Turtle Island on the southern coast of Bali, expecting to see turtles living freely in an appropriate reserve. But this turned out to be quite a tourist trap: very expensive, with most of the turtles living in small plastic water basins. Some kids even rode on them. In the end, the guides insisted on taking a break at the reserve’s restaurant. The only nice memory of this trip was the private glass bottom boat tour from Nusa Dua to Turtle Island; the kids could see exotic fish and coral underneath.

We didn’t expect to eat such delicious dinners in the seafood restaurants located on the southern part of Jimbaran Beach. We loved spending evenings there watching the sunset and eating terrific fish. Afterwards, the kids were excited to walk across the beach to our hotel revealing  crabs in hiding with their pocket lamps in the dark. Justine Melzer

Travel Tips:

The best time to visit Bali is the dry season between May and October.

Bali is a convenient destination to visit with kids; ours generally liked the non-spicy local food and freshly-squeezed juices. Some places, like Ubud, had many organic restaurants. There are small markets – often with ATMs inside – and bigger hypermarkets accessible by car. It was also very easy to organize tours and reserve transportation. We booked our trips at the front desk, but there are numerous local travel agencies as well. We communicated in English with the locals.

Because it is a long ride (3-4 hours) from the airport to the north coast of Bali, it is much less touristy than the other parts of the island.

Jimbaran Beach on the south coast is probably the most beautiful beach on the island. It’s very welcoming and kid-friendly, with white sand and calm turquoise waters. Not surprisingly, the resorts here are more expensive. You’ll also find an International SOS clinic in this area.

Photos courtesy of the Melzer family

This article originally appeared on p38-39 of the beijingkids June 2013 issue.

Check out the PDF version online at


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