AVA- Bali was full of ups and downs. One of the key points of Bali for me was Christmas. I LOVE Christmas. Sweater weather, traditions, and the jolly mood. While this Christmas wasn’t all bad, there were definitely highs and lows. We spent Christmas in Seminyak, Bali. Widely known for its beautiful beaches and amazing weather, we did not have the same experience as such. We got to our Airbnb to find the kitchen and living room had no walls. “That’s ok, we can have a warm outdoor Christmas.”Then it began to rain. It rained every day. “Ok, we will have Christmas in the upstairs bedroom!” Then Carmen got sick. Next Tucker got sick. We still did our traditions, such as decorating the Christmas tree (plant) and reading The Night before Christmas, but the morale was a little low. Everyone worked hard to stay jolly, and Dad pushed through his sickness to have a Christmas morning. Mom was strong the whole time. I didn’t get sick until later that night.
Other parts of Bali were amazing, such as Room4Dessert, and the markets of Ubud. I really enjoyed going to the monkey park. You walk in, and there are monkeys walking around everywhere. No fences or walls. This would never work in the United States, but these monkeys have been living in this forest a long time, and they seem to have learned to tolerate humans. One ran across my lap and sat on Carmen! I acknowledge I got a tad bit too close trying to take a photo, and the monkey jumped and slapped my hand! He slapped my hand! I couldn’t believe it. It was so human like. You can see the picture I got just beforehand below. The sad thing to see was the monkeys chewing on plastic water bottles and Coke Cola cans. Overall, Bali had its moments, but I am glad to have had the experience.
TUCKER- The first half of staying in Bali was really fun. One of my favorite things about it was the first hotel we stayed at, which was really cool. It had tons of fun and enjoyable things to do. It had two nice pools, a water park style slide, ping pong, video games, and so so much more. Another great thing about this hotel were the people who stayed there, because there were a lot of kids traveling for their Christmas break whilst we were staying at the hotel. (The hotel had some weird Santas). We met a lot of people who were fun to hang out with. It was also just a short walk to the beach. The beach had lots of boats sitting just off the shore and the sand felt really weird (in a good way). During our stay, the final match of the World Cup was held and we went to a local restaurant to watch. It was a blast and we got to celebrate with the rest of the people there when Argentina won. I really enjoyed staying here and it was super fun.
(P.S. The hotel was called Prime Plaza Suites Sanur)
CARMEN- We were going from Ubud to the main city of Bali, and wanted to see some of the rice fields. Just to see what the local life was like, but when we got there, we were surprised to see that the rice field that our driver had taken us to was an Instagram photo stop! It had tons of tourists and photo opps. We still got out of the car though, because our driver was making us carsick. After some food, and pictures, we were just able to get through the rest of the drive without puking.
Bali, oh Bali. How we had high expectations for you! We arrived in Bali, Indonesia a little rough to start. We missed our connecting flight and stayed overnight just outside Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. This was an unexpected country to add to our journey. We were put up in a hotel overnight and it was….interesting. As we are a bit behind in our blogging, this was the week of Christmas and they seemed to have tried hard at decorating for the occasion. Our rooms smelled funny, the door didn’t really lock and that is about it. I will say, I could go back and explore Malaysia someday! Just at a different hotel.
Bali was broken up into three areas for us: Sanur (pretty good), Ubud (great time) and Seminyak Beach (not for us).
*We got to watch the finals of the World Cup in a dingy bar with people from all over the world. It was great mayhem. (Click on photo to play the video of the moment Argentina won the World Cup!)
*Our trip to Ubud was fascinating, delicious and beautiful. I have never been to a place with so many temples. The people were kind and we stayed at a great place called Sama’s Cottages and Villas. Right next door we enjoyed Bisma’s Restaurant with healthy vegetarian options.
*I loved walking around the town and we visited the Monkey Park. It was legitimately crazy but no, I did not get attacked. Ava was slapped by a monkey and that was tense.
*The best part of our time in Indonesia was our dinner at Room4Dessert! Dan and I have always dreamed of coming to this part of the world and having dinner at the restaurant owned and run by Will Goldfarb. Will, who happens to be the brother of our great friend Ben, took us for a tour of the grounds and discussed plans for the future of the business. Our kids couldn’t get over how much he looked and talked like Ben, so we felt right at home. After a tour of the garden, we embarked on our 15 course dinner of mostly desserts. It was perfection. We are so grateful to Will for his hospitality and expertise. If you ever make it to Bali, this is a must do. It was not only the highlight of our time in Bali but is at the top of the “Best of the Trip” list.
*If only we would have stayed in Ubud! We made our way to Seminyak Beach where we planned to spend Christmas. Along the way we begrudgingly stopped and many Instagram sites where people put on flowing dresses to swing over a rice paddy. It is not as glamorous as they make it look but it was entertaining in a most bizarre way.
*It does not feel like I have the right to complain on a trip like this, but if I did, this is where it would be. Sometimes the best laid plans are not actually laid well. When I booked our AirBnb I was excited about the “open floor plan.” It looked like a beautiful place for the holidays. My misunderstanding was that “open” meant no walls (my mistake). Toss in a lot of rain, heat, humidity, leaking ceiling, broken stove and mosquitos, and you are not headed for a holly, jolly Christmas. Add to that, not 1, not 2, not 3, but 4 members of the Carroll Family getting what is known as Bali Belly and things take a turn for the nasty. Sprinkle in outdoor bathrooms that rain on you when you are sick. Ava said, “I have never thrown up while it was raining on me. That was a first.” All of this is a recipe for really missing home. We did get to live-stream the Village Presbyterian Candlelight Service which brought a little gem of Prairie Village to Bali.
*If you are wondering, it was me who didn’t get sick. Thank you. Someone had to walk to the store and pharmacy to get meds, rehydration supplies, paper towels, cleaning items and learn that everyone else at the pharmacy was there for the same reason. Yikes.
*Sadly, the beaches on this part of the island are incredibly dirty. They cleared trash in the mornings with a bulldozer. The tourism industry in Bali was hit especially hard by Covid and people are just beginning to recover. They are doing what they can to survive but there was a lot of desperation in our conversations with locals. People there are kind and everyone wants a job and seeks additional work for family members. The tragedy of the pandemic and rippling economic ramifications on families and businesses has been a recurrent theme as we travel. However, resilience has also been evident in their words and actions.
DAN- Ubud – Room4Dessert
I love entrepreneurs. There is something about a person trying to create something new in the world that I can’t resist. The more unique it is, the more closely tied to who you want to become it is, the more bold you have be. Our family has been lucky to know many creators and we were able to connect with one in Ubud, a world famous pastry chef, Will Goldfarb. (see the Netflix special about him here Will Goldfarb’s Netflix appearance!)
Will and his family continue to put all the chips back on the table in service of his vision for pastry. That’s right, he is transforming the way we think about food. His home base is Ubud, a busy hill-top town about two hours from Denpasar. This town while lovely and full of shrines, temples and tourists is not exactly the blueprint for an easy pastry career. Will and his team at Room4Dessert have never-the-less turned a bit of this town into something magical. The tremendous Balinese staff runs the best orchestrated food performance I have ever been a part of. Fifteen courses, each with a drink pairing, served in three different settings, live music, food grown on site all delivered in a choreographed celebration of what dessert is becoming. The entire experience exudes creativity. It is both meticulous and joyous. Each dish a balance of art and science, daring you to push your own conceptions a little further.
It is a miracle that this place was able to survive Indonesia’s covid lockdown, one of the strictest in the world. Though it has only seemed to strengthen their commitment to the craft and remove the ceiling of what was previously possible.
2 thoughts on “Bali, Indonesia”
I’ve kept up with the Carroll family posts; I much enjoy the videos and the descriptions of the same visit from different eyes and voices–Carmen, Ava, and Tucker each have distinctive and valuable perspectives, as do their parents. I admit to some envy, but also to admiration for your willingness to neither avoid remarkable tourist sites nor to avoid adventuring well beyond them. You folks are having amazing experiences and we are lucky to have you share them with us. Here are two quotations from a favorite travel writer, Anthony Bourdain (the second one applies more to Dan, I suspect, than to Teresa):
“Travel isn’t always pretty. It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart. But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you. It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body. You take something with you. Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
“When dealing with complex transportation issues, the best thing to do is pull up with a cold drink and let somebody else figure it out.”
I love that you went to ben’s restaurant! Great video and read! Counting down the days until you are home! Love you guys!