Gise and family Bali adventure

Just back from a short but fabulous trip to Bali.  There was me (4th trip), my 3 1/2 year old daughter (2nd trip; the first when she was only 11 months old), my brother and his friend (1st trip).
Arrived in the evening on the first day after a smooth 2 1/2 hour flight by Singapore Airlines, and breezed through immigration. Fetched from the airport by the local agent, and whisked to the Radisson Hotel in Sanur. The rooms were OK; admittedly not as nice as the Bali Hyatt or Hard Rock Cafe Hotel that we stayed in the last time, but it was good enough, considering the fact that we didn't intend to spend much time in the hotel.
Dinner was at Agung and Sue, just opposite the hotel. Nasi goreng, satay, Balinese chicken, juices for all for of us came up to S$15. Cheap and good, but HOT!!! The fans were turning as fast as they could, but didn't seem to have any effect against the still, warm air.  We ajourned to the air-conditioned Jazz Bar and Grill just up the road beside the KFC, and decided that dessert in this cool oasis would just hit the spot!  Brownies, ice-cream, 2 cappucinos, a milkshake and a spicy chicken soup with garlic toast came up to S$18; a bit pricier, but still good value, considering the very comfortable surrondings.  My daughter, meanwhile, was chatting happily with the manager and playing with the paper dinosaurs and crayons she was given.  Live jazz started at 10pm, and the band was surprisingly good. Then a petite Asian lady took to the stage and amazed us all with her voice: if you turned your back, you could actually believe she was a large Afro-American lady singing the blues!  The manager later told us that the theme changes every night: R&B, Latin, contemporary, hip-hop etc.  
The next morning, we caught the 10am shuttle to the beach, where my brother and his friend decided to spend the morning, and my daughter and I proceeded to check out the pool at the Radisson Suites (the Kid's Club at the Hotel, I'm sad to report, has temporarily closed, and all kid's activities have been transferred to the Suites).  She loved the playground and the pool, and was initially thrilled by the 20m waterslide. However, she changed her mind after I didn't hold her up high enough as we splashed down: that part of the pool was unexpectedly deep, and she gulped half a mouthful of water. Spluttering indignantly, she refused to have another go, but mommy went another 4 times! Besides us, there was only 1 other kid at the pool. The attending staff said that there was only 1 family staying at the Suites at the moment. How sad! 
Caught the 12.30 shuttle back to the Hotel, rested a bit, and hopped on a taxi to Kuta (S$7).  Grabbed a quick bite at a restaurant next to Kuta Square (spaghetti carbonara, chicken laksa, nasi goreng, and lots of watermelon/orange/papaya juices: freshly squeezed of course) for S$25. Then we headed off in different directions for our shopping.
For kid's clothing, I still find Kuta Kidz the best bet for quality and value for money. Most dresses cost less than S$10, and a top/pants combo just cost a couple of dollars more at most. Bought 4 pretty party dresses for my daughter there, and some for my nieces too. Indigo Kids is ok, but I feel it lags behind somewhat in quality and design. Kind of pricey too, even with discounts ranging from 15 - 50%.  Last stop was OK Kidz. A lot more pricey (even at 50% off), but the dresses are more elegant in design and colour. Definitely for outings to nice places, and not the usual beachwear. Bought a long halterneck dress with an embroidered bodice and flared skirt for S$20.  My daughter insisted on wearing it straightaway, and refused to change back into her pink floral short dress.  
After we met up, we hopped in a taxi again and headed for the Surf Factory Outlet at Ngurah Rai Bypass. Had taxi wait for us while we browsed, as we didn't see many taxis cruising that area.  Got a Roxy dress for S$15, and saw Oakley sunglasses for S$60. Brother and friend bought stuff from Ripcurl and Billabong, which they claim are fairly recent (last season) and about 40 - 50 % off usual prices. Taxi brought us back to the hotel; cost S$11 (including 1 hour of waiting).  
Decided to go to the Abian Boga for dinner, at Jln Kusuma Sari near the Bali Hyatt. It has a nightly legong dance at 8.30pm that I thought my daughter would enjoy. Would normally go to the Legong Restuarant (nearby on Jln Tamblingan), but it was closed that night. What a bonus: we had both the legong dance and a topeng (mask) dance that night!  Admittedly not as 'authentic' as the dances I have seen in Ubud, but  I am sure my daughter enjoyed this a lot more: good food with entertainment, and royal treatment from all the wait staff! Had satay (brought to our table on a mini grill), rice, babi guling (Balinese suckling pig), ikan pepes, and chicken wrapped in banana leaves, and the usual fresh fruit juices.
There was the usual touristy photo-taking with the dancers after the show, and my daughter was thrilled when one of the dancers presented her with the intricate pattern weaved from leaves that was used during the dance. Everything came up to S$40, so we felt compelled to leave an extra S$4 tip for the good service. The guest relations officer Mr I Made Sudiarsa then told us that their restaurant would arrange for our transfer back to the hotel. Apparently, the restaurant arranges transport to and from the restuarant for guests staying at any hotel in Sanur. Just give them a call at 0361287174. Should have found out before hailing the taxi to the restuarant...! 
Dropped off at the Alas Arum supermarket first to do some shopping for snacks and water for our island trip the next day. Picked up some markisa (passionfruit): S$3 for 2 large bunches.  Simply love them, but they are not always available in Singapore. 
Woke up early the next day for our trip to Lembogan Island and the Coconuts Beach Resort. U$45 per person, with a 10% discount. Kids go free.  Had breakfast at the Retro Bistro beside the hotel: S$3 per person for eggs (done any style), juice, toast/jam, pancakes and a fruit platter. AND the servings are unlimited. Unfortunately, didn't have much time to stuff ourselves, because the Island Explorer bus came promptly at 9.30am. Boarded the Fast Cat at the Benoa Harbour, and reached the island after a 45min ride. Lunch and water activities were all included in the package, and my brother and friend were going to stay the night at the resort (U$69 for that package).  Clutching our welcome drinks, we hurried into the airconditioned hut. It had a killer view of Bali island and Mount Agung, and the resort pool below.  The water was relatively clear, and we could see the neat squares of cultivated seaweed on the seabed that the islanders sell to cosmetic companies and spas for income. Lunch was so-so: rice, macaroni, grilled sausages and chicken, salad and fruits. However, it was the flies persistently buzzing around our food that really spoilt it. The candles lit did little to deter the flies. We discovered later that the restaurant pavilion closer to the pool had less flies, and was cooler because it had fans.
Lounged around the pool after luch, before taking the small boat out to the floating platorm for the water activities. Snorkelling was OK ( I hear that Sibu and Sipadan in Malaysia are better).  The banana boat was more fun, especially for my daughter.  Not being great fans of water sports, she and I went back to the pool after that, and watched people surfing from our perch by the infinity edge pool.  After changing, we followed the boat back to Bali island, leaving my brother and his friend on the island.
Had a sandwich and juice (again!) at the Retro Bistro while waiting for the local agent to pick us up for the Kecak dance at sunset. Not particularly cheap at S$40 for the two of us, but it was more convenient for me to liase with someone I already knew, instead of shopping around.  
I think the Kecak dance is particularly impressive for someone who hasn't seen it before, and my daughter was mesmerized for a full 45 minutes of the dance before getting fidgety. She was particularly tickled by the 'cak' chorus and kept repeating it. We had the agent drop us off at Lumut, a beautiful restuarant on Jln Tamblingan. Extremly atmospheric and romantic, with its gently gurgling fountains, private tables under verdent trellises, and the best part: an air-conditioned area!! The fan-cooled balcony area was breezy too, but since my back was starting to hurt from not diligently reapplying my sunblock after swimming in the sea, I opted for the air-conditioned area instead.  Thick pumpkin soup, spaghetti bolognese, calamari with spicy cilantro dip,  tuna steak, 3 glasses of papaya/orange, watermelon/orange juice cost just S$22.  The staff was attentive but unobtrusive, and as usual, completely charmed my daughter. Did a bit of walking/window shopping after dinner, and took a trusty Bluebird taxi back to the hotel for S$1.50.
On our last day, we woke up early again for the Retro Bistro breakfast, and set off for the Monkey Forest with our guide from the travel agent.  My daughter was fascinated by the pictures of Bali island life that flashed by the minivan windows: women effortlessly balancing loads on their heads, buffalo grazing in fields, rice paddies...and finally, a road lined by monkeys sitting and sunning themselves, oblivious to all around them. Our guide managed to get a few packets of peanuts from an old lady who had a shop near the Monkey Forest, and the monkeys all sat expectantly outside her shop, waiting for the guide to emerge!  The monkeys were quite bold, and one climbed up the guide's head, slipped its little hand into the side of his buttoned breast pocket, and pulled out a packet of peanuts!  My daughter was persuaded to try to feed the monkeys, and it was fine; as she held out one peanut,  a monkey stood up on its hindlegs and took it quite politely from her. I found that if you give the peanuts out one by one, the monkeys will take it from your hand in quite an orderly fashion.  But if you try to hide some in another hand, or in your pocket, they will try to pry open your hand or stick their little hands in your pocket to rummage!  So we just took the peanuts one at a time from the tour guide, who protected himself from the monkeys with a large stick!      
Unfortunately, the temples in the Monkey Forest was closed, so all we saw there were the monkeys.
Then we had lunch at the Dirty Duck Restaurant (Bebek Bengil). It had undergone such a transformation from the last time I visited it in 1995! The added lotus pond, fountains, trellises, sandstone sculptures, and elevated pavilions with the breathtaking view of the rice terraces were simply sumptous! The food was great as usual: spinach gnocchi, escargot provencale, Aunt Mitzi's chicken soup (still on the menu after all these years!), spaghetti verdure...and watermelon/papaya juice in nice Bebek Bengil signature glasses!  I invited our guide to have lunch with us as I thought it would be nice for him to get out of the midday heat, and sit under the fans.  He said his nasi campur was excellent and the portions generous.  Pity we didn't get a chance to dine in the evening or at night this time at the Bebek Bengil; I'm sure the experience would be even better.
After lunch, we headed to Batubulan to buy some stone sculptures to bring home for our water gardens at home. I picked small ones this time; 2 frogs and 2 wall reliefs. About S$80. 
Arrived back in the hotel just in time for a quick shower before the 2pm appointment I made at the hotel spa. The spa was having a 50% discount on all treatments, and the traditional Bali herbal body massage was only  S$15 for 1 hour.  Had no choice but to bring my daughter with me, as she was curious to see what a massage was all about! The massage was great, and the the masseur had really strong fingers that pummelled my sore shoulders and legs. In spite of the incessant chatter between my curious daughter and the amused masseur, I actually found myself feeling sleepy as all my limbs, the whole torso, and even my face/head(!) were mothodically massaged.  Must be the quiet and relaxing ambience in the private room... Too bad I didn't have time for the body/foot scrub and flower/herb bath: only S$15 more!
After showering off the oil at the spa, we rushed out the hotel again! I was now a woman on a mission! After keeping my daughter entertained for the past few days, I had to squeeze in some last minute shopping! Hopped on the hotel shuttle again to Alas Arum supermarket at Jln Tamblingan, and and we started walking and shopping from there: after an intense 1 1/2 hours, I ended up with a hoard of 4 sarongs (embroidered) S$4 each, wooden puzzles (shapes of dinosaurs, bears, rabbits) S$5 -7 each,  2 printed beach dresses S$16 for both.  By that time, my daughter was cranky and sleepy, so it was back to the hotel in a taxi. Quick bath, some biscuits and milk: and she was happily watching the Disney channel again. 
My brother and his friend just made it back in time from the island: sticky, sunburnt and sweaty.  Squeezed in a shower, some quick packing and we were off to the airport again. 
Can't wait to go back again!
(Just a note; moneychangers on the main road are generally OK, and offer better rates than the hotel/airport. Just shop around a little for the best rates: a short walk in any direction in the shopping districts will have at least 4-5 moneychangers for you to choose from.  Ask first if commission is charged, and whether the rate advertised is valid for smaller quantities (sometimes, they will tell you that the advertised rate is for $100 or $200 only, and $50 gets you a lower rate).  Small change eg 1000Rp can be reliably obtained at the big shops/supermarket/shopping centre, and it's useful to have some with you.  The taxi drivers invariably have 'no small change'. The fare is usually rounded up to the nearest 1000Rp, but I paid 10,000Rp for one 5500Rp trip because both the hotel and taxi driver had no small notes (not a big deal, but a few such trips will add up).)