Sunday, October 6, 2013

We said we wanted a Balinese experience... and boy, did we get one!

We had not been in Bali for a full 24 hours, and already we were amazed at how different a trip this will be for us. When we first began planning our trip, we decided that we wanted to spend a majority of our time having a truly Balinese experience - no Western hotels for us - so we found a villa for rent in a traditional Balinese family compound. Balinese families typically living within the walls of a compound and each have separate houses. The owner of the house is named Ketut and he was incredibly helpful and quick to respond when we first started asking about his property. When we arrived in Bali, his nephew was waiting for us with a sign bearing our names and helped us with all of our luggage. He drove us to the city of Ubud - a 1.5hr drive from the airport - and even pulled over at a KFC so that we could grab some dinner since the kids were about to fall asleep. And let me tell you, that was by far THE BEST fried chicken I've ever had at a KFC.

We arrived late in the evening, and it was dark when we were being led through the family compound. We were SO excited to be here and couldn't believe we'd be having this great experience. Family members were coming around each corner greeting us and helping us with our baggage. When we arrived at our villa in the back of the compound, it looked just like the pictures, only not quite as clean as I would have hoped (some dirt on the floor, a bit dusty, etc.). There were two bedrooms downstairs, and one bedroom up a spiral staircase with a king size bed. I opted to sleep in the king with my girls, and because the villa isn't air-conditioned (most homes, and even some hotels, in Bali are not), we ended up sleeping in only our underwear.

Dogs started barking and fighting right as we were drifting off to sleep, and Thing 1 kept complaining that she couldn't go to sleep because of the noise. Both of us finally passed out (Thing 2 had fallen asleep in the car), but it wasn't too long before I was woken by a strange noise coming from the floor right beside my bed. I started to sit up, and all of a sudden, something jumped up onto me! It was some random cat! Before I realized what it was, I had yelped and shoved it off of me. I watched it walk to the other side of the room, and then dash down the spiral staircase. My heart was racing, and it took me a while to fall asleep again. I kept hearing chickens land on the roof above me, there was some strange noise (not a bird... reptile, maybe?) coming from the wall above my bed, and I swear at one point, I heard what sounded like a giant gorilla in the tree outside. Needless to say, I did not sleep well.

About 3:00am, the first rooster started crowing. And then another. And then another. And they didn't stop ALL DAY LONG. The baby woke up right around 3:00am, and the rest of the kids woke up around 4:30am. When the girls woke up, we turned on the light to get some clothes on. I was laying there in bed, staring at the ceiling above me, when I noticed something strange tucked in-between the beams.... It was some sort of large lizard!! No wonder I had heard a strange noise on the wall at night! And, it pooped on the end of our bed! Not cool.

We weren't slated to have breakfast until 8:00 or 9:00, so we had a lot of time to kill that morning. The lizard crawled somewhere it couldn't be seen, and thankfully, the kids thought it was awesome instead of terrifying. We took showers in our outdoor bathroom, and walked over to one of the other compound homes for breakfast. We were served fruit juice, toast, eggs, and assorted fruit. It was pretty good considering we were all starving by 8:00am.

Except for the wildlife INSIDE the house, the house was beautiful.

See the trash can and bag on the counter? Everything has to be bagged because of the ants swarming the counter.

My favorite part of the house. Take notice, however, that the walls and ceiling don't actually touch.

The random cat that came with the house....

Offerings are EVERYWHERE, including our porch, the shrine just off the porch, and the walkway in front of the house.
I'm not going to lie. We were having serious doubts about being able to stay in that house. My friend had already said that if she had been the one in the room with the lizard, she would have already had her bag packed. We hung around that morning, because the baby needed a nap since she had woken so early. It was difficult to get her to sleep, and for her mother to nap without earplugs, because the roosters were still crowing. And I don't mean one or two. I mean probably half a dozen, all of which were crowing every 2-3 minutes. This REALLY made us reconsider.

The owner's nephew came by to see what we might want to do that day and we asked to go out for lunch, and then to head over to the monkey forest sanctuary in the middle of town. Another downside to staying at the house: we were at the mercy of our driver. He didn't tell us his rate until after he'd taken us somewhere. We we wanted to go to lunch, he took us to one place without giving us options. It became quite clear that he had a certain group of friends whom he always took people to. Not necessarily a bad thing, but we didn't like having so few options.

So... by the time we had finished our outing to the monkey forest, we had pretty much decided that we were going to find new accommodations. We told our driver that our children were not sleeping well, and he said he would talk to his uncle, the owner, about getting us a refund. The roosters were STILL going when we got back to the house, and we were exhausted and dreading another early morning the next day. We checked around online for hotels and found openings at one that a friend had stayed at during her trip to Bali. A couple hours went by and we hadn't seen our driver or the owner. It was close to dinner time, and we did NOT want to spend another night there. So around 4:00pm, we packed up all of our bags (within 5 minutes!) and told one of the family members that we were leaving and needed a driver. They willingly helped us with our bags, called the owner, and called our driver to pick us up. The driver gave us some money for our refund and quickly got our bags loaded in the car. On the way to our new hotel, he said his uncle asked if we could refrain from leaving reviews about the noise! Ha! Made us wonder just how many complaints they have had.

We ended up moving to Sri Bungalows in the center of Ubud. It was like walking into a slice of heaven! We got two rooms, with A/C, two double beds with mosquito netting on the sides and a canopy over the top (yay for no lizard poop!) an indoor bathroom, a gorgeous balcony, free breakfast for all of us, free wifi, and even satellite tv with shows for the kids! My friend, Jessica, was about to cry! It was such a difference from the house we had been staying in!

Ganesha is guarding my room. :)

So, although we were wanting a true Balinese experience, we got a little more than we could handle. Could Jessica and I have toughed it out? Yes. But we only have a handful of days in Bali and when you're traveling with kids, your schedule depends greatly on how well your kids travel. Early mornings and little-to-no naps meant our kids were exhausted even before they had lunch, and we were limited in where we could take them without tantrums and breakdowns. Not fun. So, we may not be hardcore travelers, but we are DARN proud of ourselves for even coming to Bali without our husbands! And if we have to stay in a hotel, so be it. We've had a lovely couple of days since.

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