I’ll be honest – when my husband first suggested the idea of spending the summer in Bali, with our two children, I thought it was a crazy idea. How could it work, I wondered? I worried about the expense, the 17 hour fight, how we would keep our businesses running from 7700 miles away, and in a totally different time zone. As we researched, we found solutions to the problems, and the plan came together. With our terraced house in West London listed on Airbnb to help fund the trip, we booked flights and pored over accommodation listings. Fortunately, we have a friend who lives in Bali who helped us work out our itinerary. I realised that this was a great opportunity for Clasp London as Bali is renowned for its silver making, so I set about researching factories and contacting manufacturers. Soon I had meetings set up and initial design sketches ready. I’d outsourced order fulfilment back in the UK to make sure the online part of the business would continue to run smoothly in my absence. Bags were packed, (with tons of jewellery, of course) taxi to the airport booked. We were ready to go!
Week One – Holiday Mode in Nusa Dua
We treated ourselves to a week in the hotel we’d stayed in for our honeymoon in 2005, as our first stop. The beautiful Melia Bali Hotel in Nusa Dua was just as I remembered and gave us a sun-drenched week of rest and relaxation. Having survived the long flight relatively unscathed, we made the most of the kids’ jet lag and slept in until 10am for the first 3 days (they soon reverted to their early morning wake ups!). Nusa Dua is a purpose built resort made up of a string of international hotels surrounding a sweeping bay of golden sandy beach – it’s very peaceful and safe, but provides a somewhat sanitised experience of Bali.
Nusa Dua Beach
Nevertheless we enjoyed the luxury and soon fell into a routine of lazy days by the pool, followed by evenings lounging on beanbags on the beach, sipping wine and watching the kids play in the sand – bliss!
Week Two – Working Holiday, Double Six Beach
In our second week we moved to a small villa in Seminyak, not far from Double Six beach. We’re lucky in that our friend has a villa rental company in Bali, and our fantastic villa was a great base for exploring the area (www.berawabeachestate.com). We arrived at the villa in the late afternoon and after settling in, headed out onto Jalan Raya Legian at dusk to explore the area. In contrast to be tranquillity of Nusa Dua, Seminyak is a hectic, bustling tourist spot, that’s a total assault on the senses. It’s hot, noisy, and busy. Let me start with the traffic. Basically, there are very few road rules in Bali – and the narrow roads aren’t built for the sheer volume of cars, taxis and thousands of mopeds (Bali’s most popular mode of transport). Everyone pretty much drives as they please and warns other drivers of their intentions to turn right, overtake, slow down, do a U-turn unexpectedly or any other risky manoeuvre by beeping their horn every few seconds. Combine that with being beeped by taxis every 10 seconds as you stroll down the street – it’s a total cacophony of noise. Shops lining the street spill their goods onto the narrow pavements meaning you have to frequently step around selections of counterfeit sportswear, woven bags, leather goods, tattoo parlours, cheap & cheerful fashion and tacky souvenirs. Diesel fumes intermingle with the scent of sizzling satay ayam (chicken satay) from the street vendors, and fragrant incense from ‘canang sari’ – small offerings to the Gods left in temples, small shrines and on the street outside businesses and homes. These small baskets woven from banana leaves contain a selection of flowers and are topped with an incense stick, coins, sweets and tobacco. You quickly get used to sidestepping these pretty gifts which are replaced daily. Bali is predominantly a Hindu country and its unique fusion of Hinduism flows through every day life there. The people of Bali come across as gentle, peace-loving, respectful and smiley – there’s something magical about the vibe of this beautiful island which brings visitors flocking to it, and it’s more than the tropical climate and the cheap beer.
It was upon the next morning in Seminyak that we first experienced the effects of spending time in the vicinity of the Pacific ‘Ring of Fire’. I was awoken early to find the bed shaking and gently vibrating from side to side, for a few seconds. I initially dismissed my first thought – ‘earthquake?’ and convinced myself that it must have been our 5-year-old bouncing on the bed. On waking fully my husband checked Twitter and yes – we’d experienced our first tremors, measuring 6.3 on the Richter Scale. Our friend reassured us that it’s a common occurrence in Bali and gave us some advice on what to do if it happened again. We didn’t feel any further movement that day, or in the rest of that week, so it was soon at the back of our minds, filed away as a holiday anecdote.
We were back into work mode this week – the husband flew to Singapore for a couple of days, and I fell into a routine of getting up early, doing a few hours work while the kids played and then spending the afternoons exploring, swimming and finding new places to eat out.
Working at the villa
One afternoon I dragged the kids to a ‘spa’ to get myself a mani and pedi – it was essentially a simple room behind some shops, but the women working there were warm, friendly and professional. Halfway through, 2 small children appeared and their mother scolded them gently in Indonesian as they ran in and out, eating sweets. I asked her about the children and we soon got chatting about schooling, childcare, and juggling motherhood with work, as my own kids watched the others with fascination. It was evident to me that despite the many differences in our respective cultures, we faced many of the same challenges. I was reminded though of how fortunate we are in the UK – schooling in Bali must be paid for and as a result many people are not well educated.
Beautiful Frangipani flowers gave a Balinese flavour to my social media posts
Our next stop on our trip was due to be the beautiful Gili Islands – 3 tiny islands off the coast of nearby Lombok. I was particularly looking forward to this part of the trip - the islands are traffic free as cars and mopeds are banned, so I’d heard it was like stepping back in time. The only transport available on the islands are bicycles or horse-drawn cart, and I had visions of the kids running free (you took your life in your hands crossing the street in Seminyak), snorkelling, swimming, visiting the local turtle sanctuary and enjoying the simple life for a few days. The day before we were due to travel, we received notification from the fast boat operator that the route was cancelled, due to rough seas. I was disappointed but hopeful that the boats would be back on the next day. We checked out of the villa as planned and into a cheap room nearby for the night. News next day was not good – the boats were cancelled again. I emailed the hotel on Gili we had booked to try and move the reservation back a few days, but no luck. Worried that the crossing would be cancelled for a third day, we reluctantly cancelled the booking and searched online for alternative accommodation on Bali for the rest of the week. We settled on a hotel in the Jimbaran hills which was offering a great last minute deal on a family suite. Little did we know that this would be the best decision we could have made, as on the 5th August Lombok and Bali were rocked by a magnitude 7.0 earthquake, with Lombok and Gili taking the brunt of the devastation.
Coming soon, Part Two -Earthquake, Canggu and Silver Factories
Thank you for reading!