I must have been the only expat who has lived in Asia for years and never been to Bali. Obviously that had to be corrected and visiting grandparents in need of new adventures were just the right excuse. We decided to spend a few days in Ubud before heading for some beach time in the neighbouring Lombok (more about that later). Ubud sounded like a magical place with Indiana Jones-like overgrown temples and idyllic rice paddies. It was, of course, both those things, and also a quiet town perfect for a family holiday.
We decided to stay in central Ubud, because we (rightly) suspected that the shopaholic mother-daughter team would like to trail the shops after kids’ bedtime. It also made dining out a lot easier, when we were only a short stroll or taxi ride away from our beds.
Since everyone else has already been there, let me just share the highlights for us. There is so much culture (dance and song performances every day, temples and museums) that families with older kids will have no trouble spending a fantastic cultured holiday. For us, traveling with grandparents in tow and with the tiny humans in the sensible ages of three and five, we enjoyed the following:
1. Monkey forest
Not surprisingly our little monkeys had a blast watching their furry cousins. I can tell you those warnings to clear your pockets of any food are there for a reason. I had forgotten a hidden emergency packet of crackers in my bag and got attacked by a cracker craving monkey that hung on to my back for the last crumb. Watching me suffer and eventually get rescued by the guard was the highlight of the whole trip for the kids. Very closely followed by watching the guard playfully hit the monkeys on the head with a banana before feeding it to them.
2. Bicycle ride – downhill all the way
Despite the fact that my eldest got ill and missed the trip, it was a revelation that you can do such activities with young children. The trip was arranged through the hotel and the tour company provided kids’ bikes and seats. Although the 20 km trip was all downhill, I believe my five-year-old, a confident biker, would have had to give up at some point and ride in the support van – a perfectly acceptable way of enjoying the scenery, too.
We made a few stops along the way to see rice being harvested and to visit a Balinese home. And to see this jolly fellow creep on grandma’s arm was pretty cool.
3. All things beautiful
Oh well, the kids would say the swimming pool. Let’s say both. Shades of green. What can I say, just amazing. Everywhere you look there are beautiful flowers, offerings and statues. The Balinese truly have an eye for beauty.
I thought I would rank shopping high on my list but after snooping around every overpriced shop in the main street of Ubud, we eventually found Buddha statue heaven on Lombok. I suspect the famous Bali shopping is to be found in the roadside stalls (if you have good tips, please do share them in the comments).