Week 2 | Bali

BALI, day 1 - 11/09/17

Strong. A strong feeling as soon as we stepped out of the plane. A strong scent we woke up with in our shed of straw, the noise. A strong atmosphere, a strong light, a strong emotion during our first evening, while having dinner in the small restaurant opposite from our hotel. Two beers and two straws. Mie and Nasi Goreng, our kids eating food with their hands, the sweet sweet smiles of the waitresses. The warmest welcome in a magic country.

The strong impact as soon as we stepped out of home. Pineapple juice and passion fruit. The road to the supermarket, Lia in the baby pouch on the back, Teo on his daddy’s shoulders. It all seems so unreal, incredible, insane. It feels like we’re in a painting, a canvas of which we’ve always been the creators.

One of our traditions: visiting the local supermarket. Terima Kasih. Thank you. We’re only buying local products. And then the rice fields, endless, immense. That little place where we had lunch. The big moment, the emotion. That slow, calm music that puts you in a good mood. Lia drinks a dragon fruit juice, Teo eats enthusiastically all the rice and vegetable in his plate. They both smile at an indonesian little girl jumping in front of them. It feels like we’ve always lived like this. We look around: paddy fields everywhere.

Conical hats appearing, and that music. Un grand moment de la vie. Thank you life, this first day gave us so many emotions. We will stay in Indonesia for the next 30 days and we already feel so good here that it’s like we just came back home.

These are the words I had on the tip of my fingers the first night. As we came back to our bungalow I could not resist writing them down. Here the sun sets around 6PM. In the dim light of the night, while Julien was putting the kids to sleep, I sat down on the wicker chair in the livingroom (which is more of a terrace, with bamboo and palms) and I started writing.

The first impressions are always the most natural and real. We’ve been fantasizing of this place for so long, always daydreaming on how it would look like. It’s been exactly 6 days since we landed on the Isle of the Gods and now it’s very clear to me why they call it this way. This place is a real paradise.

We do not particularly love touristic paths: very often people wonder if we’re out of our mind, especially travelling with two toddlers. While discovering the world, we are not looking for comfort, but for real life. Instead of a “western” menu, we always prefer a simple paper sheet with five indonesian dishes written in pen.

We also decided to speak less english and more local languages: good morning and thank you only in Indonesian. Also Teo joins the chorus (and when he does it really sounds too cute). This place got under our skin. At all costs, we want to feel at home.

We had dinner at the same restaurant almost every night. Here we also found a daughter-in-law: a gorgeous indonesian girl that Teo fell in love with and kept calling “Amore” at least until that night we had dinner in another restaurant. There he fell for an indonesian salsa dancer. He wanted to dance with her at all costs but unfortunately it ended up in heartbreak (with tears, too): she decided to dance with someone else after waiting for him for too long. Nothing to do Teo, c’est la vie! Carpe Diem or… goodbye Honey!

In the meantime, we developed an addiction for Nasi Goreng. We spent the first day discovering the surroundings of the village we were staying, Canggu. This place is so unknown that it becomes dark and desert at 6:30PM. After Canggu, we wanted to find out more about Seminyak, that is so interesting, even though it’s more touristic.

It’s the indonesian version of the Saint Juan Les Pins island, I would say. A myriad of locals, including Starbucks (which is not bad for me, I confess. But for me now balinese coffee is the new tall cappuccino with cinnamon, and I’m proud of it). Hundreds of lovely shops of the wildest variety, although we couldn’t find a single supermarket selling a dummy, gosh! Balinese kids are immune from this addiction, but my kids are most certainly not: the last dummy we have is precious as gold - all the others disappeared because Lia and Teo love to play boules with them. Long walks towards the sea, beaches with adorable places where you can enjoy a drink.

We walked back home km after km, naively thinking we could walk it all on foot. At a certain point we realized we still had a 25 minute walk ahead. No way we could hand this off to our legs. We then used Grab: the indonesian equivalent of Uber, a real blast! Balinese taxi driver do not have a fixed price list, they tend to go with their feelings, “let’s see this western people faces and then decide”. With Grab you will be charged on your credit card via the app, the fare is determined by the distance, no bad surprise and you can also rate the driver. So, we already became Silver customers, it’s been a great discovery!

Any big trip involves unexpected events. In our case the unforeseen arrived after a sleepless night during which Julien and I could not breathe. We realized that we were developing an allergic reaction to the material our bungalow’ s roof is made of, mostly straw. Not a good thing, no. Especially when two people out of four are knocked out and the other two people hardly reach the age of 3 together. What a great new considering that the whole guesthouse we are staying in is solely made of bungalows. Blocked nose, strong headache, it’s like the Autumn we’re going to skip this year is taking revenge on us with a cold we’d rather avoid. We find out our bungalow has just been renewed and the scent is even stronger. They kindly moved us to another bungalow, a bit older.

We start breathing again. After a morning spent with a head that was so aching (as if a heavy metal concert was taking place right inside) I decided I would not care about it: I took with me my baby boy, who’s always up for some dancing all over the rules, and go swimming in the pool. I’m not even in the pool yet when I deeply cut my finger with a tile. Good, good, good. The end of the run. Definitely not in the mood for a bath anymore. I suddenly find myself with a booming headache, a running nose, a sore throat and a cut finger. Jackpot. Come on, I can’t be like this in Bali, can I? So, I decide to slap the destiny and act like nothing happened. Tomorrow, the seaside will be waiting for us, even if we’ll have to get there rolling.

We opted for Sanur beach, definitely less known than others and we wanted to find out why. Expanses of white sand, so truly charming. A lot of coloured fishermen’s boats run aground, one after another. A magic spot. And most of all: nobody is around, even in the sea water. We had a wonderful walk, then we sat down, calmly enjoying a silent Bali. Best choice for families with small kids, especially for the seafront that allows to move easily even with a stroller (of course this applies to those parents whose kids actually sit in the stroller). As soon as Teo saw the water he dashed into it. Two seconds later he was all wet, proudly wearing his panties only. Cannonball is his signature solo.

Once we found the ideal spot we watched the sunset enjoying a drink on the sand. In front of us a neon sign on the water: LOVE. Oh man, this is the life I want. We ate tacos in a place on the main street, first heartbreak for Teo on a salsa rhythm and then back home. A great experience ahead.

Life as full time travellers - Laudry day

We decided to spend a whole day in the spirit of adventure. Comfy shoes, backpack on (or Lia, in my case). Moony will lead the way, a real balinese, in and out, a super funny guy, amazing. He shows us the most beautiful rice fields of Bali. So beautiful that Unesco declared them to be a World Heritage. Jatiluwih rice terraces: hills without an end fully covered in rice crops. Surreal, beautiful. We stepped out of the main paths: instead of looking at them from above, as everyone does, we walk among them, on the hills.

Our feet are covered in mud and in front of us the most beautiful scenario, we are surrounded by green. All around us lay the most beautiful rice terraces ever. Moony carries Teo on his shoulders, Lia walks in the grass. We cannot believe our eyes, we cannot find words to describe it: it’s magical. We wash our feet with the water of an icy natral spring and then Moony promises us a fantastic experience, not to be missed. An hour by car from here, destination: Tanah Lot Temple. We arrive just in time, it’s almost 6:30PM. Moony tells us to hurry, “hurry because you won’t regret”. We get out of the car, kids on our shoulders, we walk fast to the destination.

Wow, we never thought we could be welcomed by such an atmosphere.

It’s the sunset, the sky is colored in such a way that cannot be described. The impression is so powerful that it gets under our skin. Taking a picture is mandatory and the colors are so beautiful you can’t help but wonder if you’re living in a painting. Tanah Lot Temple is one of the few temples who are only reachable from the water, a thin strip of land links it to the island. Walk on it is pure magic. We suddenly find ourselves standing in the dark, the waves of the sea finally ate the sun. We are living an incredible moment, an experience like this one is enough to recall why we traded all of our possessions with a journey like this. Sitting on the rocks and facing the sea, we stare at the most beautiful sunset in front of us. Priceless. Priceless to live all of this, together.

We will always remember this first indonesian week as something special. The first impressions, the first balance, the first attempts as full time travellers. The jet lag is your friend if you travel towards East. Also the kids were not victims of its potential mess: the first three days they fell asleep an hour later than usual but then they got used to the new rhythm right away.

The same applies for the food. Lia, well, Lia is the gourmet of the family. She never gave us any problem with the food, she eats anything. She tries something and if she doesn’t like it she tries it again and then she most likely will end up liking it. Voilà. Teo is more picky, way more picky. Teo is so picky that when we saw him eating Nasi Goreng vegetables without any hesitation we almost cried.

Anyway, we alternate an indonesian diet with “western” food (as they call it here). And also, surprisingly, it’s very easy to find ragù spaghetti (also in the warung, super local small restaurants). The only thing we are a bit struggling with? Moving.

In Bali there are almost no sidewalks and this makes it difficult to move around with the stroller. We often leave it at home when our destination is nearby. However, Teo and Lia are still so young and we cannot deprive them of their afternoon nap. So we decided to steer our ship with positivity and repeat like a mantra that this would’ve not been so different than facing the dips in the roads of Florence or the bridges of Venice ;-) With 6 hours time difference we also managed pretty well to Skype or Facetime with grandpas and grandmas (Europe’s early mornings are our lunch time). And so, success!

It’s very true when someone refers to Bali as a paradise. It really is. The pure green, infinite rice fields, bright colors everywhere. Balinese people live a very simple life. For example, they only cook once per day, usually during the morning, and the diet is the same from lunch to dinner. Outside the front door they use to lay gifts to the gods to protect their house. Flowers, many flowers. City comforts are two steps away from the countryside atmosphere. But most of all they carry the smile, the soul, the spirit. Yes, if Bali is a heaven is not only for the sea and the nature, but mostly for the people. And for the Sama sama (which means prayer) chanted with a sweet voice, for the respect, the openness, the smiles. If Bali is a heaven is because its people are heavenly.

And we couldn’t be happier than sharing these moments with them.

Terima Kasih, beautiful Island of the Gods.

With a Lot of Love #miljiansgotobali

Here some helpful links:

Sanur: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/bali/sanur
Jatiluwih rice fields: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/gunung-batukau-area/attractions/jatiluwih-rice-fields/a/poi-sig/1226206/1321457
Seminyak: https://www.lonelyplanet.com/indonesia/seminyak
our sweet little cafe: https://www.instagram.com/warnacafecanggu