A few years ago, my aunt bought the girls a memory game with people from around the world. Kacela’s favourite has always been the “Bali girl”, because her outfit is “so pretty”! Ever since receiving that game, she’s been dreaming about a trip to Bali.
Naturally, Bali was Kacela’s destination choice for our family gap year, and she was incredibly excited we were going for Christmas. I wanted to spend it on the quieter Nusa Penida, but it wasn’t to be. The threat of the volcano scared a number of tourists away, so we were hopeful our time would be a bit quieter than it otherwise could’ve been. I figured, if we were going to spend a week in Bali, this was the time to do it.
The car that picked us up from the airport had a book full of pictures and information about various tours around the island. Kacela spent the entire ride from the airport to our villa, scouring the book, deciding what she wanted to do. There are so many things to do in Bali. But, she figured that since she was the one who picked the destination, she should be the one to choose our activities.
She chose; a waterfall, rice terraces, monkey forest, the volcano, Uluwatu temple and a Bali dance performance. Since the volcano was erupting, it wasn’t possible to visit. She settled for just seeing it from far away. We lumped the rest together into a full day trip to Ubud, for the waterfall, rice terraces and monkey forest; and a half day trip to Uluwatu temple with the dance performance at the temple.
Read More: If you’re wondering “where is Indonesia?“ or what else there might be to do there, head on over here to A Sabbatical and find out. And, if you’re not going with kids, or looking for something a bit different, check out these 10 beautiful spots in Bali from Sonal at Drifter Planet!
You can also check out the YouTube video from our time in Bali
A Day Trip to Ubud
The car picked us up nice and early for the 2 hour drive North to Ubud. Thankfully, the sky was clear and we had a great view of Mount Agung from the toll road. We were barely on our way and had already checked one thing off Kacela’s list!
Just as the girls were starting to get antsy in the car, and proclaiming that they needed a bathroom break, we pulled up to the waterfall’s parking lot. There was a ridiculous number of shops and stalls lining the walkway before and after the entrance. We picked one that looked like it would have a clean toilet, and bought a coffee so the girls could go pee.
Once the bathroom business was attended to, we bought our tickets and made our way down the many stone stairs to the base of the waterfall. Of course, the girls wanted to SWIM in the waterfall, but it was rainy season so the water was fast and a bit dirty. They weren’t allowed to swim in the pool right below the falls, but we made our way downstream a bit and they hopped in. This was good enough for them, and they spent some time splashing and frolicking in the water. I’m sure they would’ve been happy to stay there all day but we had more to do!
Getting out of our vehicle at monkey forest, the driver told us to take off our sunglasses and pay extra attention to anything we were carrying. The girls were excited to see the monkeys, but a bit apprehensive about how aggressive they can be. The forest itself is quite calm and relaxing. It’s a nature oasis from the craziness that otherwise is Bali. We all enjoyed walking in the shade and watching the monkeys from a distance.
As we came full circle back to where we started, there was a troupe of monkeys with a couple babies. Kacela started to gush over the cute little babies until one came up and started biting the tassels on her dress! It completely freaked her out and she couldn’t get away fast enough! But, the more she moved, the more her tassels moved. The monkey kept running after her, pawing at her tassels and trying to bite them. She decided she’d had enough of the monkey forest, and we rushed to catch up to Randy & Calais.
Tegallalang Rice Terraces
We’ve seen a lot of rice terraces on this trip, in many different countries. I was a bit surprised that Kacela wanted to visit more. I do understand, they’re different and beautiful. The Tegallalang rice terraces in Bali are incredibly popular, and I should’ve prepped myself better for it. I’d read blog posts advising to head up the street a few km for a quieter, less touristy experience. But, for some reason, I didn’t listen to that advice. We paid a reasonable entry fee to get into the terraces, then wandered our way up the street trying to figure out exactly how to get in!
Finally, we came across a small archway leading to a path, tucked between two of the many, many shops. We made our way down the path and blissfully enjoyed a few minutes of quiet as we walked further down into the fields. The terraces are definitely pretty, and the scattered palm trees made them different from many of the other ones we’d seen. It didn’t take long, however, before the magic was lost.
It Lost It’s Charm
First, Randy took a video as we walked. It happened to include one of the ladies picking rice in the fields. She immediately stopped what she was doing and asked him for money. I understand the opportunity to make a few dollars, but the number of people who’ve taken pictures of our kids this year, without asking or respecting them at all, decreases my desire to pay for photos. Then, almost immediately, we walked past a small thatched hut with a lady selling postcards. They were pretty low quality, but I do like to support the locals and figured this was a good way to do it. I prefer making an exchange over giving a hand-out. I don’t think giving money to people “just because” actually does anybody any good.
I’d much rather purchase something than just give away money.
Kacela picked out a pack of postcards, and I paid 50,000 rupiah for them ($5 CAD). It was too much money for 8 grainy post cards, but Kacela was happy and we’d contributed (hopefully) directly to the farmer. As I started to walk away she stopped me, asking for a 10,000 rupiah donation per person to keep walking. I showed her that I had purchased the postcards, and tried to convey that the postcard purchase was my donation. She was having none of it! I got a bit exacerbated and she finally gave up, letting us proceed without a further donation. We’d already paid the entrance fee to the area, and I was NOT expecting to continue to pay my entire way through the fields.
We felt like we had to pay just to leave
After 20-30min we decided we’d had enough and decided to make our way across the valley, back to our van. We came to another “donation” point! The farmer stopped me and I told him we’d already paid. “That was different farmer,” he said to me. I’d had enough. I took Kacela’s hand and turned her around, deciding to just go back the way we’d come from. The farmer shook his head, stopped us, and let us pass without paying the “donation”.
I know that the donation amount was small, but this had nothing to do with the amount of money. I felt like we were walking dollar signs with people just wanting to extract money from us at every turn. It completely ruined the vibe. Had we been wandering around some random farmer’s field, I’d have been happy to give a small thank you gift. Since we’d paid an entrance fee into the terraces, I didn’t anticipate the expectation of multiple more donations. That in itself is a reason to walk a few km up the road to explore the less touristy countryside. The only real reason to visit Tegallalang, is the Bali Swing, and we didn’t even make it there! This may have softened the blow a bit, but not easy on the bank account!
But…it was Kacela’s choice
The one thing I had to really pay attention to, was to be careful not to speak negatively about the experience out loud. It was Kacela’s choice, and I didn’t want her to think I wasn’t happy with her choice. I am happy we visited, and saw it. It was beautiful, and the girls enjoyed wandering through the different fields. We also got the chance to compare the different rice terraces we’d seen during the trip so far, which was fun. It just wasn’t my favourite!
Bali was our down week. We visited over Christmas, had a great villa with plenty of room, and needed time to relax. Our villa was within walking distance to Jimbaran Bay, and we enjoyed a few days playing on the beach. One afternoon, the girls spent 4 hours straight jumping in the waves! It wasn’t busy, there were only a few touts, and there was great beach-front food.
A Half Day trip to Uluwatu Temple
Bali is full of great temples, but we decided to only visit Uluwatu. We’ve seen temples in Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar & Thailand. Although they’re all different, none of us felt the need to temple hop our way around Bali. Uluwatu seemed to be one of the closer, unique temples…with the added bonus of having the best Bali dance show.
Our driver picked us up mid-afternoon, and we drove South. We were warned, again, to watch out for our bags and sunglasses. I took my sunglasses off, and the girl’s, and put them all in my purse. We wandered off to the washroom, squinting in the afternoon sun. I was welcomed upon our return by Randy hurriedly asking me for money! As soon as we’d walked off, a monkey had come up from behind Randy and grabbed his (very expensive) prescription sunglasses right off his face! The monkey then proceeded to jump onto a nearby car, rip off both nose-pads, and eat them!
One of the employees took 2 chocolate bars out of her pocket and handed them both to the monkey, who then dropped Randy’s glasses in the process of grabbing the chocolate bars and ran away with his prize. At the very least Randy got his sunglasses back…even if the nose-pads were missing!We gave the lady a small amount of money for the chocolate bars, and laughed about the ordeal as we wandered into the temple complex.
Luckily for Randy, our friends (and optometry business partners) were leaving the next day to come meet us. They were able to quickly pop into the clinic on their way to the airport and snag him some new nose-pads. I would’ve loved to see the look on Amy, our assistant manager’s face, reading the note explaining that the nose pads were missing from a pair of glasses in the clinic because Randy’s nose-pads were eaten by a monkey.
The temple grounds of Uluwatu were packed with people. It was too busy to be enjoyable, and we completely missed seeing the temple up close due to the sheer volume of tourists. The walkway along the cliff edge was much less crowded, and we enjoyed a view of the temple on the cliff from a bit further away.
Our driver stood in line on our behalf to procure our dance-show tickets. Once the theatre opened we made our way inside to get a seat. This was THE activity Kacela was most excited for, and we’d left it until our very last night. The forecast called for rain, but our driver assured us that he didn’t think it would rain. Even if it did, he said they’d give out rain suits at the theatre.
Either way, we were prepared to risk it.
The sky was a beautiful blue with a few wispy clouds as we took our seats 45min before the show was supposed to start. Over the next half an hour, we watched the black clouds roll in over the ocean. First, it sprinkled a few drops of rain. If that was it, we’d be okay. But of course, that wasn’t it! It started to rain a bit harder, and soon buckets of rain ponchos appeared on the stage floor. People madly scrambled to grab ponchos for themselves and their families.
The lady sitting beside us had an umbrella, and was nice enough to snuggle the girls close to her so they were sheltered from the rain. Randy and I were both soaked before the next round of ponchos were “released” on the stage floor! Randy ran down and got some for everyone. We were both pretty wet already, and my entire butt was completely drenched from the water running down my back and the seat. Thankfully the girls were relatively dry, and it was warm enough that no one really got cold.
The Keciak Dance Show
The show started and everyone put their umbrellas away. It was amazing to watch the dancers carry on in the pouring rain, as if it was totally normal! Both girls were mesmerized by the performance, and kept asking Randy for the plot of each act. We got a quick picture with the Bali girls after the performance, and Kacela left feeling fulfilled! It would’ve been a great evening if the sun had stayed out, and we got to watch the sun set over the ocean as the show went on in front of us. Instead, we got rain, and a memorable evening in a very different way! I’m sure it made it more unforgettable for the girls.
She Did Awesome!
Bali was Kacela’s first foray into “tour planning” for the family, and she did a great job! She also really loved it, and both girls enjoyed the activities more because Kacela had picked them out. I loved that she combined a good mix of nature and culture…she’s learned well! It’s definitely something I’ll have her do again in the future. Now I need to find Calais a location to plan.
Where We Stayed
Villa Kencana Jimbaran
Since it was Christmas, and we were traveling with another family, we decided to splurge on a villa with a pool. Really, split between the two families, it wasn’t outrageously expensive. And, it was SO nice to have our own pool. The kids swam naked pretty much the whole week!
Jimbaran was a great location for us. We were about a 10min walk from the beach & beach front restaurants, and 20min from the main shopping street with a Starbucks, grocery stores, and the local market. It was a nice mix of local and touristy, much better than over-touristy Kuta just up the road.
Cost: $525US/family for the week
What We Did
This likely would be nicer in dry season when you can swim in the pool below the waterfall, but the girls still enjoyed their swim. It’s a bit of a hike down to the base of the falls, and you have to pay more if you want to climb up the other side to the top of the falls. If a “waterfall” ends up on your list of activities, this is a good one!
Cost: 50,000 rupiah ($5 CAD) for 2 adults, 2 kids
Personally, I could skip the Monkey Forest. It was just a bunch of macaques running around, stealing glasses and scaring the kids!! If you’ve never seen monkeys before, you’re guaranteed to see them here. If you’ve seen monkeys before, you’re not missing anything by not coming here! Although, it’s nicely treed and I enjoyed the walk in the (slightly) cooler shade.
Cost: 180,000 rupah ($18 CAD) for 2 adults, 2 kids
Tegallalang Rice Terraces
These really are very beautiful, and if you’re prepared to be constantly asked for money, you’ll likely enjoy it. There are lots of people, and I imagine when a volcano isn’t erupting there are even more people! But, it’s worth a walk around. It would also be enjoyable to grab a drink or snack at one of the many restaurants perched along the side of the terrace. This way you’d get to enjoy the terraces from multiple perspectives. If you’re able to, however, I’d head up the road to the terraces outside of town and avoid the tourist throngs.
Cost: 10,000 rupiah ($1 CAD) per adult, kids free
Uluwatu Temple is set in a beautiful location, perched up on the cliffs overlooking the sea. The area around the temple itself is quite busy, but there’s plenty of space to get away and enjoy a wander in the shade while looking at the Temple on the edge of the cliff in the distance. If you’re heading to the Keciak show, it’s worth coming early enough to wander around the grounds.
Cost: 50,000 rupiah ($5 CAD) per adult, kids free
Keciak Show @ Uluwatu Temple
This was my favourite activity in Bali, even with the rain! The seating is all arranged to be overlooking the ocean, with a view of the setting sun. The dance performance is also very good, and the kids were mesmerized the entire time! I was even more impressed with the performers as they went on in an absolute downpour, without missing a beat. It was incredible!
Cost: 300,000 rupiah ($30) for 2 adults, 2 kids
Where We Ate
Balinese food is incredible, and sadly we barely scratched the surface of it. Most of our meals were bought from the grocery store and cooked in our little kitchen. Although it was great to cook for the week, now I think I need to go back just to do a bit of eating!
White Sands Beach House
We ate at White Sands a few times and enjoyed every meal we had. The beef rendang is delicious, my absolute favourite dish in Bali. They also make a pretty great burger. It’s owned by a Canadian man and his Indonesian wife (she’s the genius behind the rendang!). We couldn’t pass by the Edmonton Eskimos & Oilers signs on the beach! We lucked out as well, as they were serving up a Canadian Christmas dinner! It was such a treat to eat turkey dinner with our toes in the sand.
Cost: 592,000 rupiah ($60 CAD) for dinner for 8, including adult bevies
Reportedly the best ribs in Bali. They were decent, but not amazing, although I didn’t eat ribs anywhere else in Bali for a comparison!! If you really need a rib fix this’ll do the trick, but it’s maybe not worth it otherwise.
Cost: 302,000 rupiah ($30 CAD) for 2 rib meals.
The rest of the time we enjoyed having a kitchen and cooking for ourselves! We also splurged on Christmas Eve dinner, and had the caretaker prepare us a traditional Indonesian meal. It was delicious!!
How We Got Around
We mainly used Uber and Grab to get between places, except for the 2 days when we did some sightseeing. The average was about $3 per ride.
Andi’s Car Hire
Andi picked us up from the airport, and toured us around on our full day to Ubud. He was a safe driver, made conversation with the us, and was great with the kids. I have no complaints!
Cost: 500,000 rupiah ($50 CAD) for our full day tour.
Batong Bali Car
Andi wasn’t available for our Uluwatu trip, so we went with his friend. I also felt safe all the time, and he made a few recommendations along the way.
Cost: 400,000 rupiah ($40 CAD) for a half day to Uluwatu
If you’re brave enough to let my 5 year old plan your Bali trip…
Average Cost Per Day in Bali…$153.67 CAD.
Even with the splurge on our villa, our trip to Bali wasn’t too expensive. However, we didn’t do a whole lot and we self-catered most meals. This significantly reduced our costs. The downside to self-catered meals, is that we missed out on eating a lot of great Indonesian food. The ability to relax and recuperate was worth it though.