Shady and families just back
JBR 5th of October.
Well, since I got back from Bali on the 5th I have done nothing but work, so this is a little overdue... sorry but its a bit long too, IM not good at compressing what I am trying to say...
So we drive from home on the 28th to the Airport and grab a piece of expensive asphalt and park the car at the long term parking lot and get dropped off at the airport by the parking company staff. This made it easy for us on return which I'll get to at the end.. ;) I should point out now that we live in Japan, so we were traveling to Bali from Tokyo. Everything went smooth from that point until boarding, so Ill skip all the boring pre-flight airport stuff.
We got seated on the plane, my wife, 2 kids 5 & 2 1/2 and myself. The best thing about flying from Japan is that we could fly with JAL (Japan Airlines) who have in-flight entertainment in all seats, so it was a fairly bearable 6 1/2 hour flight even with 2 kids. Good movie choices and games made it all the more pleasant.
Arrived in Bali at about 10:30PM on the 28th and as soon as we stepped off the plane my wife and I both took a deep breath, through the nose and looked at each other and said "Bali", for those who've been before they will know what I'm talking about, those on the way will learn about it... Bali has a remarkably memorable aroma that can stay in memory for years.. I love it.. so we get to the VOA almost 1st, since we were on a plane full of Japanese who had no idea what they were doing, within about 5 mins I had paid my $100 US, which I took in cash thanks to all the good advice I read here on the forum, we cleared customs and were met at the airport by our hotel (Bali Hai) staff as arranged and shuttled off to the hotel, which is only about 7 mins from the airport.
Check in went smooth, by the time we got to the room (Bali Hai suite - 1112 for anyone who knows the Bali Hai, you'll know its location is really convenient for the pool and breakfast etc.) it must have been about 11:30, the kids were ready to sleep and I was starving, fortunately for me, O'Brien's Bar was still open so I headed off for a couple of Bintangs and much needed BLT... went for a bit of a walk around the hotel pool and to the beach just to get a bit familiarised and back to the room for about an hour of mozzie killing. Up until this point I was thinking this hotel was going to be OK, but I have never seen so many mozzies in Bali in one place, it was as if the hotel doesn't do anything for bug control. Fortunately we took an electronic Mozzie vapor thing with us and I plugged that it on arrival, but I still killed about a dozen mozzies after that....... the next day we bought some HIT (bug spray) and from then on whenever we left the room we gave it a blast with the HIT and no more mozzies the whole time.
For us most days were pretty much the same and since it was our 6th time in Bali, I'm not going to go into a day by day account as we didn't do a lot of the things that most people will be looking for in a JBR, but I will mention the highs and lows of the hotel we were in just for others reference. My wife and I have stayed in a number of other hotels in Bali, all of which are either 4 or 5 star, we weren't overly impressed with the Bali Hai, in fact we tried to move to the Ramada Bintang or the Kartiaka Plaza, but neither places had any rooms available. I think the Ramada or the Kartika Plaza, if you choose Tuban as a location, are better located than the Bali Hai. I originally booked it because I couldn't get into the Ramada, which I stayed at last time. Why would we not go back to Bali Hai? Rooms were disappointing considering we were in a 2 room suite (not cheap I might add), the hotel is kind of tired, the grounds are small and not as nice as other hotels we've stayed at, the breakfast was ordinary, the staff were not very friendly compared to where we have stayed on other occasions and prices inside the hotel were not very attractive, although still not outrageous. Don't get me wrong, this hotel was not a dump, but we just didn't feel that it was right for us. Positives about the hotel - we had a room in a good location, easy access to the pool and breakfast area and beach, the kids club was very well coordinated, with babysitting services as well, the hotel was good for a family, the beach hawkers in front of this hotel were very friendly and warm, we actually gave them a whole bunch of adults and kids clothes for them and their families... The pool wasn't too bad, we spent most of our time there, as my 2 kids think they are dolphins or something, so it was hard to get them out, they have a pretty good kids pool, not too deep. The evening buffet meals at this hotel were very good, the other day time food was average. We ate in the hotel for dinner twice, once for the Aussie BBQ they have and once my 5 year old and I had an Indonesian dinner and watched the Barong Dance show they have as well.. Other than that we ate out, or room service, which was only a result of the youngest having a fever for a couple of days, so we were restricted on what we could do.
Things we noticed about Bali after a 3 year absence - Prices have gone up, again not outrageous, but it was noticeable. The streets were in much better condition although there is still a bit of work going on along the road from Tuban to Kuta. The people are still as friendly as always and are always my favorite memory of our holiday in Bali, the Bintang seemed to be bottomless... the Sampoerna were just as I remembered. There seemed to be a real shortage of Lobsters, which by the way, seemed to be illegal size to me, they were absolutely tiny.
Restaurants - As I mentioned, the hotel buffets at the Bali Hai were really good. We ate at Green Garden Cafe a couple of times (the one near the Dynasty), the first time we had Indonesian food and it was great, the second time we had seafood and the kids had kind of chicken schnitzel thing and the whole meal was terrible. In fact we decided we would not bother going back. Went to Pappa's for lunch, which as good, but the service was horrible and half of the menu was unavailable, which was a real disappointment since we went there for lunch on my wife's birthday, my wife ordered a wine which even the people on the next table commented on how small the volume was and asked if we would ever do that again. Found a really nice restaurant right on the beach almost next door to the hotel, called Pantai, which had great seafood and nice sized lobsters. Apart from that we spent a fair bit of time this trip at the hotel, since we had the kids with us and we just wanted to hang out in the pool with them.
Shopping - didn't really do too much shopping. One warning though, don't bother going to Galleria it was a waste of time and every shop there was expensive. The only good thing about it was that the Matahari there was really quiet compared to the one at Kuta square. Other than that, we bought some DVD's from the place across the street from Green Garden Cafe one night after dinner, of 30 movies only 1 doesn't work and I think that's because the label has been printed on the wrong side....
Coming home we had a late flight leaving Bali at around midnight, although it was delayed and didn't actually get away until about 1:30AM. On the day of our check out, we had to check out at 4PM, but the Bali Hai has one set of Toilets near the kids club that have a shower, so we were able to stay in the pool well after check out and take a shower and get changed prior to going out for dinner and doing some last minute shopping for a laser pointer that my daughter was harassing me to buy her. After we finished off the shopping we went back to the hotel and relaxed for a while in preparation for our trip to the airport. Once at the airport it was business as usual, check in went fast and we were in the waiting lounge before we knew it. The flight home went quickly since it was a night flight, although I didn't get much sleep as a result of my 2 1/2 year old laying all over me. On arrival I we gave our friendly asphalt rental co a call and they drove our car to the airport for us and within an hour we were home - exhausted.
Since returning my kids have asked when we can go again several times, so it wont be long before I start planning again, in fact the wife and I are both keen to go back at the end of the year...
One thing that I noticed this time in Bali, as it was the first time there with our kids, is that if you are taking kids with you, you really need to be there for at least 2 weeks to enjoy yourself. We were only there for 1 week and we ended up feeling tired by the end of the trip because we spent all our time with the kids, accept one day where we had them both in kids club... Next time we will go for at least 2 weeks and definitely take more advantage of the kids club.....