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Bali with Kids

in Families by

Not many work–weary mums and dads would dispute the attractions of spending a holiday in a luxury Bali villa where they can indulge in the pleasures afforded by a personal chef, private pool, in-villa massages or yoga sessions, sunset cocktails and stunning tropical surroundings.

But what about the rest of the family?  Keeping the kids as happily entertained as their parents is key to every holiday’s success. Ondy Sweeting finds that Bali is an epic destination for families, with a great choice of exciting attractions and fun surprises to engage kids of all ages.

Mud, mud, glorious mud!

Mepantigan is a martial art that has a strong spiritual and emotional component and is performed in the luscious Bali mud.

Mud play is a time-honoured tradition where a person becomes one with the mud of the rice paddy and its eternal companion, the duck! Kids can join these amazing Mepantigan sessions that focus on fitness, agility and stress release while developing camaraderie and sportsmanship.

After a sip of some holy water from a bamboo cup, it’s off for warm-ups under the coconut trees then into the mud for training in balance and playing traditional mud games such a frog catching, eel trapping, body painting and having an all-around blast while rolling in the mud.

When you’re done, all the grime is washed away in the river or under a Balinese shower with a banana-leaf roof. The fun and games are followed by an organic lunch to the sounds of the gamelan.  Parents can join in too, or opt for some peaceful mud yoga followed by a massage in the river.

More information here.

Monkey around in Ubud

Ubud’s famous Monkey Forest is the perfect spot for some monkey madness. More than 600 Balinese long-tailed macaques star in this tropical forest that comes complete with ancient mossy temples dedicated to the revered monkey god, Hanuman.

These well-fed rascals have no fear and can be more than a little cheeky, so some safety tips are in order:

  • Don’t dangle anything! Little hands are quick to snatch sunglasses, spectacles, cameras, or anything else they can grab, and swing straight up into a tree with it.
  • If you buy monkey food from a local vendor – or have a snack in your bag – hand it over quickly as they will sniff it out and make demands that can be a little scary.

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Five of the Best

in Recreation by

We present you the best five (extraordinary) activities you can only experience in Bali.

Be a Rascal

Take a day trip on Rascal – a handcrafted 31-metre phinisi cruiser that launched at the end of 2016.  Hewn from ironwood and teak, Rascal is a luxuriously modern yacht with chic interiors that give a nod the beach house style of The Hampton’s.

Life is a lot more beautiful on Rascal. Image credit: Ultimate Indonesian Yachts

Rascal’s pared back style delivers hospitality of the highest order: among the crew of nine is a talented young chef working the kitchen, which was designed by Bali’s famous Watercress Café’s executive chef Josh Job, and the award-winning mixologist outfit Proof & Company inspired the cocktail list. Onboard, for your leisure and pleasure, is fishing gear, diving equipment and a personal dive manager, two tenders, kayaks, waterskis, a biscuit and a banana boat.

Visit the beguiling island and deserted beaches of Nusa Penida, the hot surf spots of Nusa Lembongan or sip cocktails during a private and romantic sunset cruise. 

More information here.

Flying High

Soaring high above the lush, jungle-carpeted mountains, sparkling crater lakes, dazzling Kuta coastline and active volcanoes that leak steaming sulphur into the atmosphere are just some of the highlights of a helicopter tour in Bali.

Life is better at the top. Image credit: Bali Adventure Sky Tours

This island of the gods is an awe-inspiring visual package, with verdant rice terraces that are so exquisite that UNESCO has marked the region for all-time preservation, set alongside ancient sea temples such a Tanah Lot – perched high on top of a rocky outcrop that’s inaccessible at high tide.

Image credit: Bali Adventure Sky Tours.

More information here.

Mesmerising Sunset Trance Dance of Fire

The Kecak dance is an extraordinary display by 100 or more bare-chested men clad in checkered cloth, sitting in concentric circles, swaying, standing up, lying prone as the story of the Hindu epic – the Ramayana unfolds around a raging fire.

Kecak dance at Uluwatu Temple. Image credit: ewigbalitour

Voices chant in a trance-like rapture while the gamelan beats. A woman is stolen by a demon from her princely husband and the story tells of the challenges the young prince and his brother must overcome to rescue her.

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Bali Souvenirs Worth Buying

in Shops by
Textiles outside a Bali souvenir shop

Bali holiday agendas can quickly fill up trying to satisfy everyone’s expectations – I want relaxation, you want adventure and our kids need to upload impressive new images on Instagram. Let’s do this!  In-villa spa therapist: check, romantic dinner: check, snorkelling trip: check, WIFI: check – and at the end of a satisfying stay, everyone wants the same thing: Souvenirs. 

Picking up gifts and treating yourself to something exotic is part of a good tourist experience. This is especially true in Bali, where there is a great selection of things to buy – genuine leather bags, wallets and sun hats are priced at a good value, but are not only found in this locale. Souvenirs which scream “I <3 Bali” are indeed popular buys, like key chains, pens, T-shirts and even tattoos of Mt. Agung. Although they’re all Island of the Gods exclusives, those aren’t the quality goods I recommend to my guests. 

My idea of the best Bali souvenirs are goods made from local materials that represent Balinese culture and traditions of artistic expression. The ornately carved statues, exotic Batik patterns, beautifully adorned temples and carefully handcrafted everyday items are what make Bali so special and memorable. Well, not all of these fit nicely into a suitcase.

So which asli (real) products from Bali are beautiful, useful items you can easily carry with you to be reminded of Bali for years to come? 

With a bit of effort, you can take home keepsakes that are true to their origins. This list of souvenirs worth buying has pictures to inspire your shopping wish list and tips about where to go to find Bali’s treasure without a time-consuming hunt. 

Patung Kayu  (Wood Carvings)

Wood Barong mask Bali souvenir

BARONG MASK – OASE, JL. BASANGKASA 5 AND JL. LEGIAN KAJA 462, SEMINYAK, BALI

Barong masks are a prevailing Bali souvenir. Barong is Bali’s guardian spirit, and masks worn to play Barong and Rangda in the traditional dance about good and evil are sacred. Nothing is more representative of Balinese art and culture than a hand-carved Barong mask made from local wood.

Painted wood figures from Bali

PATUNG KAYU – BATIK ETCETERA, JL. BASANGKASA 5, SEMINYAK, BALI

Matching wood figures seated together to bring good luck and fertility to couples.

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Phuket for Families

in Families by

Tropical Phuket, with its miles of golden beaches, has obvious appeal as a family holiday escape. But Thailand’s largest island also holds plenty of charm beyond its sands, with many outdoor attractions and a rich cultural heritage that travellers of all ages will love to explore. 

First, those beaches. With more than 30 beaches around the island, you could spend weeks in Phuket simply relaxing on the sands, but those with kids in tow may want a beach with some fun activities and a bit of shaded comfort. Kamala Beach is one of the most family friendly with its shallow bay for swimming, beachfront eateries, shops, cafés and sea-view foot massages.

And with several luxury villas in Kamala along its lush headland, discerning families looking for a private holiday hideaway are well catered to.

Kata Beach is also a fine spot for families, its powder-soft sands ideal for idling away a day and excellent surfing conditions from May through October. If the sea is too smooth for surfing, then hire some standup paddle boards, or stop at Surf House on the Kata beachfront with its continuous man-made wave offering fun flowboarding action. 

10-villa-amanzi-family-fun

Villa Amanzi in Kata Noi is a perfect holiday haven for friends and families looking to explore Kata Beach.

On the quieter northwest coast is Nai Thon Beach, an idyllic one-kilometre length of soft sand that never gets crowded. Simply relax on the sand or do some snorkelling, standup paddle or boogie boarding, with a number of low-key restaurants offering a cosy place for families and friends to dine at an unhurried pace with sea and sunset views.

Nai Thon is also home to the award-winning Malaiwana villas and residences, luxurious sea-view havens with private pools and friendly service that offer the perfect family retreat after a day at the beach.

phuket-for-familiesNai Yang Beach just to the north is another decent surfing spot and a favourite place for kite boarders and windsurfers. Not far away near the airport is Splash Jungle Water Park, offering some wet and wild fun away from the beach with waterslides, a wave pool and a lazy river.

Villa Saanti - Natai Beach, Phang Nga

Home to the idyllic Villa Saanti with its beachfront pool and lawn, Natai Beach could easily 

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The Balians of Bali

in Tips by

The otherworldly powers of Bali’s traditional healers are well documented and are part of daily life for locals and expats.

On top of ordinary health issues, spirits both good and bad abound on this Island of the Gods and they can wreak havoc on the physical, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. Everything from a broken bone to a broken heart will invoke a visit to one of more than 8,000 healers practising in Bali.

Traditional Balinese healing shot to fame with the 2010 movie Eat, Pray, Love – which shone a light on the late Ubud Balian and priest, Pak Ketut Liyer. He became an instant rock star of the alternative medicine scene and his home was a major tourist destination.

Healers reject being called a Balian as too conceited for their spiritual calling, which is delivered through illness or an ancient family line. Balians specialise in specific areas such as heart problems, migraine headache, sports injuries or the removal of a spell.

The Four Types of Balian

The first is a Ketakson, who is usually a female and will channel between the client and God and call on the spirit of a dead person for guidance and pass on the information.

The second is a Pica – a medium and not a formal student of traditional medicine, massage or magic. There are stories of physical objects – such as the Balinese dagger called a kris – appearing out of thin air during a session with a Pica.

The third is a Usada who receives divine knowledge during a severe illness that leads them to study the Lontars – ancient, sacred texts written on bamboo. They are a masters’ apprentice while studying anatomy, ethics, traditional herbs, massage, magic, meditation, yoga, and tantra among many subjects. Black and white magic are widely practised in Bali.

The fourth kind of Balian combines all of the above and during a session, the healer may appear mildly psychotic, hearing voices and having visions while the wisdom enters their body.

How To Visit a Balian

Travellers can visit a Balian or even study for a few days with an expert. Etiquette must be observed so dress modestly and be patient since locals with real illnesses will be also waiting. Bring an offering of money but never pass cash directly to the healer.

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