Lets face it, we Aussies (!) go to Bali as often as we can for a cheap, relaxing getaway full of massages, incredible food and a bit of a detox from the rules and regulations that, probably rightly, protect us from ourselves back home! This probably provides some stress if you’re thinking of travelling to Bali with a baby. So here it is, how did it go?
While there we had the pleasure of meeting up with an old colleague of mine from back in the UK and his family while we were there, which was awesome. We love the opportunity to adopt a family for the day, living so far away from our actual families, and these guys were ace. They drove up to Ubud for the day to give Isla heaps of attention and it was great to hang out and share the Ubud experience with the Webbs! Michael’s an epic traveller so it was good to hear about some of his most recent trips as well as how my old workplace is fairing without me! You might want to check out Michael’s awesome travel blog Rough Guide to a Lonely Planet
First things first, the Balinese LOVE babies! Literally every single person we met there wanted to make Isla smile, wanted to hug and kiss her, hold her and ask us all about her (even the angry looking blokes on the customs desks in the airport!) It is a really nice, infectious part of the culture that we couldn’t get enough of. It does provide you with a couple of interesting issues when travelling to Bali with a baby though. Every time Laura and I sat down to eat, a waitress or waiter would take Isla for a quick cuddle so we could eat our meals, it was a lovely gesture and really helped us to relax and enjoy our meals, most of the time. On occasion, the waitresses would walk out of sight to show Isla off to her friends which was pretty awkward, lovely but awkward! We found the best solution to this was to follow and make an excuse like “she needs a quick nappy change” or “she must need feeding now”. It’s really horrible to worry in these situations when dealing with such lovely people and Isla felt so comfortable with everyone because it is such a genuine adoration they had for her. Some of our best times on this trip were watching the waiters and waitresses take turns to try to make her laugh when they didn’t think we were looking! It was good to chat to Michael and his family and be able to ask “I’m not daft to worry am I? I should go see where she is” There’s some things you just can’t Google!
Dad Tip: Chat with the locals. As often as you can, wherever you are. They are incredible people, especially if you have a baby on you. And keep an eye on Facebook, you never know when your travel plans will coincide with those of a distant friend.
I love Balinese food, from the suckling pig to the Nasi Goreng and everything in between, but it does have a hell of a kick to it. Isla was of an age where we were trying to get her into eating our food while we were in Ubud so I would always ask them to bring some meat, fish, rice, whatever – without the spices. They would always be happy to (at no cost) provide a decent plate for her. It meant we could let Isla try a bit of everything and she really enjoyed the local fish, rice and especially the famous pork crackling from one of the suckling pig joints. Overall we avoided anything heavily spiced and only gave Isla one or two new things at a time to try, if she got sick we wanted to know what to avoid tomorrow!
I guess the main worry is Bali belly! We’ve been really lucky and missed out on this authentic Bali experience but its definitely worth taking a few steps to make sure you and baby avoid the trots. The main issue is the level of sanitation and the germs in the water. If you carry a hand sanitiser and avoid things that may have been washed in or contain tap water, for example salads or ice cubes, you should be safe. We stuck to feeding Isla fruit that needed peeling and stuff that came piping hot from the kitchen (after it had cooled down, obviously!) My wife breastfed her in any of the places that seemed too dodgy. For bottle fed babies we’d recommend only using bottled water, even if you’re boiling it – it’s cheap as hell! And only get soft drinks without ice (the Bali belly germs survive the freezing process) unless you’re in a place that you know only uses bottled water to make ice.
Dad Tip(s): Ibu Oka III, Ubud – amazing suckling pig restaurant chain. III is better than the others because it’s away from the main roads.
Cafe Wayan, Ubud – incredible food, cheap as chips (actually much cheaper!) and amazing gardens surround the tables. Good veggy and alternative options here.
The Balinese really do not do baby seats. There are a few drivers that advertise as having them, but we found them unreliable and very inconvenient for anything other than an airport pick up or drop off. We had to get over the baby seat issue as soon as we arrived at ridiculous-o-clock in the morning, because the baby seat-advertising driver did not show up to meet us at the airport. For our travels around Bali we made do with Isla strapped to my chest in the Baby Bjorn or on Laura’s in a F’il up baby sling while in a taxi. It took a while to get our heads around it but we usually felt safe and the drivers always responded when we asked them to go slow or take it easy. In fact, towards the end of the trip the local drivers were selling themselves to us as “slow and safe” as they saw us walk past. In general you can get a driver for the whole day for somewhere in the region of $20 after a few minutes bartering (the baby helps with this), so if you are comfortable with the driving you can see a lot for very little.
Dad Tip: If you are uncomfortable with the lack of baby seats, make sure you research and pre-book your transfers to and from airport and stay somewhere central so you can walk to some attractions if necessary.
Where to Stay
We always like to get away from the crowds and mix with locals as much as possible when on tour, and are really keen to get Isla in amongst it all too but we had a real think about staying somewhere a bit more civilised this time. When you are in Bali with a baby, especially a new baby, you need to be confident that you are close to everything you need, including pharmacist, doctors, shopping facilities to deal with every eventuality. We decided to stay in Petulu, a village near Ubud. It was nice, quiet and out of the way but still within reach of a major (ish) town. This kind of gave us the best of both worlds, we were surrounded with genuine Balinese people and culture when we wandered around the local villages, the pool was so quiet we never had to share it, yet the pharmacies, restaurant choices and shops of Ubud were very accessible to us. Ubud is s great place to be, the temples, restaurants, museums and crazy markets are all great fun for a family. I guess when you’re planning a trip with a new born (especially for the first time!) you need to do a bit more research than usual and make sure everything you may possible need is close at hand. Staying somewhere a bit more “Aussie” like Kuta, Seminyak or Legian will mean that more English speaking facilities and shops will be available to you, and may help your confidence for that first overseas trip. Wherever you stay, you are a cheap taxi away from everywhere else.
Dad Tip: There are loads of beautiful, quiet, out of the way hotels and bungalows very close to Ubud. Defo worth spending a bit of extra time on the web finding out how to get the best of both worlds!
This was perhaps the most contentious part of our trip to Bali with a baby. The conversation on Jetstar’s rickety sky-bus went something like this…
Mumventurer: “No Greg we can not take Isla to see the angry, mean monkeys”
Dadventurer: “Aw come on, I’ll wear her and protect her from anything too mean?”
Mumventurer: “No you won’t, you’ll be too busy feeding the mean monkey a banana”
Dadventurer: “Well you wear her and I’ll feed the monkeys to attract them away from her?”
It went on a while but of course we went to the Monkey Forrest Temple. We’d been there before, pre-baby and were very confident that we could protect Isla from any getting a bit too lairy and our strategy was baby in a sling with Mum and a bag of banana’s in Dad’s bag to distract if needs be. It was cool, and Isla got a lot out of it. She loved seeing the effects of a more laissez-faire attitude towards the monkeys adopted by Michael and his family who were constantly being climbed on in exchange for a banana or two. Of course, if we weren’t pretty certain that we could protect Isla we would not have gone. I guess you have to draw lines based on your knowledge of what is available, your own limitations and your baby’s health, moods and trigger happiness.
We also went to the Blanco Renaissance museum. The Dali of Bali’s museum was pretty cool – some awesome, unique art and lots, LOTS of breasts. This guy loved breasts, him and Isla had that in common! It also has a load of birds of paradise that are friendly and happy to be carried around. I tested all the birds before letting Isla anywhere near them by giving them a gentle pat around the head and I’ve still got all ten fingers so they were pretty chilled out. Isla loved them, even though she looks confused as heck in the photos!
Dad Tip: If in doubt save it for when they’re a little older but try show them as much as you can. Isla’s face was amazing at the monkey park and the museum. She clearly love the varied and interesting holiday, and I’m sure she would’ve been bored and cranky if we’d have just sat round the pool all week.
I would highly recommend a trip to Bali with a baby. There’re plenty of options and attractions so that you can react to your baby’s moods and needs and fill your holiday with as many, or as little, experiences as you want. Going to Bali with a baby definitely enhanced the experience, the Balinese people’s love for children was enough to see to that. Isla had a week of pure happiness and love from everyone she met and a whole host of unforgettable animals, foodstuffs and experiences to remember.
Greg (Dadventurer) is a husband and father wants to share his story to dispel the myth that life is over when you have a child. His hilarious and insightful blog www.dadventurer.com.au tracks his adventures as a father and lets him reflect on his family’s growth through the experiences they share.