Archive for the ‘Sanur’ Category

Durian cake

I slept reasonably well after staying up late to put some recent photos on the blog, but Kirsten was kept awake for four hours until 3am by thumping music downstairs. The hotel also operates a nightclub, however much of a conflict of interest there might be between people requiring a good night’s sleep and people requiring a good night out, separated by only a few metres vertically. And this was a Wednesday night? Fortunately the girls were oblivious to the noise.

We didn’t take long to gather our things and check out, although the reception staff got all fussy about whether we had used two bottles of mineral water. They should be complimentary (the bottles and the staff), but that might depend on whether you used the glass bottles in the bathroom (which I assumed were for brushing your teeth) or the plastic bottles in the fridge. We had just coughed up £50 for the two rooms, and here they were being petty about bottles which cost 10 pence in the shops (even less wholesale, no doubt). It’s also the way they ask you to wait while they call Housekeeping to check your room and fridge, just in case you’ve trashed the place or lied about your minibar consumption. I.e. they say “First we send someone to check your room/minibar” rather than simply getting on with it discreetly. Only in Bali.

Our taxi took us to the airport where we were still a little early for our check-in. We sat around and browsed the limited shopping opportunities, getting Ellen a Kids’ National Geographic. A minimal queue when we dropped off our three bags full (which are lighter than they’ve ever been – we’re now throwing our old dirty clothes away rather than washing them). We took the escalator upstairs and paid our departure fees (another £45 on top of the £70 we paid when we arrived; again, only in Bali). An hour or so to wait before our flight was called; we watched the incoming planes approach us (nearly) head-on from the sea and spotted ours arriving right on time. Once our flight number was Tannoyed, we dropped our remaining drink, went through a second luggage scan and found ourselves in an otherwise empty departure lounge. Where’s everyone else? We had fantasies of our own private jet – “One of us could sit in each corner of the aeroplane”, mused Ellen. Still no-one came. Perhaps they’ll squash us into a Cessna.

But after a quarter of an hour, a group of four Chinese came to sit just across from us, followed by a steady trickle of other passengers. Once it was time to board, we grabbed our bags, ready to maintain our place in the queue (if such a concept exists here). But it was Priority seats first, followed by the back half of the plane, then the left-overs (they don’t even bother with row numbers for the left-overs). None of this ‘families with young children first’, like we used to get in South America. I mean, Ellen won’t be six for much longer, so we want to enjoy it while we can…

On board we were asked to pay attention to the safety demonstration given by flight attendants “Cha Cha, Chi Chi and Chu Chu”. What is this? Job opportunities for giant pandas? The emergency exits are located… Eats, chutes and leaves?

And thus we left Bali. I think I’ll have recurrent nightmares about walking into the local Co-op back home and picking up a can of baked beans, only to be cornered by a sales assistant who pesters “£5, sir! Good price, normal £10. Okay, £4. Genuine Bali beans. For you, sir, £3. You want two? I give you two for £2 each. Is very good price. You buy?”

Some random recollections of our stay. Why would anyone buy a rehydration drink called ‘Pocari Sweat’? It is possible to carry three double mattresses on the back of a motorbike; I’ve seen it done. And those big signs advertising enormous sacks of ‘Semen Gresik’ – it’s a make of cement, folks…

At 3.15pm we landed in Singapore for the second time on our trip. We remembered not to dare approach the Immigration desk as a foursome so we split into two pairs, adult and child in each. After a pause for a loo stop ours were the last lonely bags still riding the carousel; we got cash from an ATM and bought some savoury pastries from an airport stall. (For some inexplicable reason we had not pre-booked any meals for the flight, but at least we had a break from chicken focaccia.) We followed up with an eclair, a slice of apple crumble, a cream coffee slice and… a slice of durian cake! Probably because we won’t have the opportunity of trying this infamous fruit once we’re back home. (This is the one they ban from hotels because the foul stench cannot even be contained by multiple layers of plastic wrapping.)

We took a taxi to the cryptically-named Aces Lodges @ Siglap. It’s glowingly reviewed on the internet (“the best hotel in Singapore”, etc.) but our initial reaction was “is this it?”. Our room is the second most cramped of our trip (after Puno) with two bunks, a tower of metal lockers and a smidgen of clear floor space (until we dumped our bags). The window overlooks a main road, the curtain does not black out the street lamp right outside and the air conditioning gives you a choice between too cold or too warm.

There is a kitchen area fully equipped from Ikea (just like the Apollo Bay Youth Hostel), but there the resemblance ends. Despite all the adverts, here was an Ikea table that had been cruelly assaulted and left for dead, its swollen woodchip innards bulging out through multiple gashes in the veneer; indeed, it was in such a sorry state the Kirsten refused to believe it could be of Scandinavian origin until I located the telltale label on the underside.

We sat at a healthier slatted table and had our sweet pastries. I was the only one to tackle the durian concoction, and although I could bear a few mouthfuls of it, I was left with an unpleasant aftertaste for hours afterwards. And the taste is supposed to be far more pleasant than the smell…

We explored the neighbourhood, letting the girls have a quick play on some nearby climbing equipment before looking for somewhere to have supper. We unimaginatively settled on Pizza Hut and ordered a couple of Kids’ Menu items (just to demonstrate to the girls that grown-up food is far tastier) along with a baked rice dish and a salad. The meal wasn’t as bad as I had feared, although the choice of mood-setting music was a little unorthodox; they chose to play a CD by some purveyor of rap which featured a charming ditty about a certain Mother Farquhar.

It was still light when we emerged at 7.15; we must have flown a sizeable fraction of the Earth’s circumference this afternoon to delay sunset by over an hour. We walked back to the hostel, did diaries in the upstairs lounge and retired to our tiny little room, hoping for better sleep than we have ever had in Singapore.

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Leaving Lovina

Our last day in Lovina, and the first day of our return journey home.

After breakfast we finished the last of our packing, which went pretty smoothly. Our rucksacks are packed ready for the flights tomorrow and Friday; i.e. any liquids or sharp objects are packed into the hold luggage as opposed to hand luggage and spare clothes are at the ready.

Shortly before 11am we made our way to reception and right on cue a member of staff turned up at our door to help us with our luggage. Our driver had already arrived so we were able to load up the car straight away and drive off south to Sanur.

The first third of our journey was identical to the first half of our day trip a couple of days ago, but this time we carried on further along windy roads. At one point the driver slowed down and asked if we wanted to stop for a snack. I murmured to Tim that I wasn’t actually feeling very hungry and was really baffled when he explained to Made, our driver, that we had already seen many snakes on our travels. We had stopped outside some sort of mini-zoo and I misheard!

Apart from this one “stop”, Made carried on driving, not once trying to persuade us to have lunch at an expensive restaurant or visit some temples. This meant that we arrived in Sanur a little after 1.30pm.

Harrads Hotel is on the same bypass road as our first hotel, but could we find it? We kept on driving, and driving and suddenly after nearly 15 minutes Tim spotted it on the other side of the road. It looked extremely posh, with a huge white limousine outside. I joked to the girls that we would be taken to the airport tomorrow by limousine – only Hannah thought I was serious!

We asked the driver to wait with our luggage as we wanted to check out that this was the right hotel. Outside the main entrance we were asked to put our shoulder bags, Ellen’s Zen and Tim’s wallet on the table while we took turns walking through a metal detector!

Once inside it looked even posher and I was convinced this was the wrong place. No, it seemed correct, except they could only find a booking for one room. In the end they did find the right booking in both Tim and my name, but we could not have interconnecting rooms. Our rooms were situated on different floors! At Tim’s suggestion they moved other guests (who had not checked in yet) in order for us to have two rooms almost opposite but at least on the same floor.

Tim and Hannah’s room is at the back and they look out on a field with beautiful light brown cows grazing, chickens pecking and puppies being silly.

Locus iste.

Ellen and my room, on the other hand, is near the front and looks out on the beautiful round swimming pool and… building works! Oh well, it’s only for one night and hopefully they won’t start work too early tomorrow morning.

As soon as we left our bags in one of the rooms (the other room was still being cleaned) we headed back down to the hotel’s restaurant for lunch. It was well after 2pm by now and we were all getting slightly hungry. We entered the restaurant, only to find all tables and chairs pushed to one side and a member of staff cleaning the tiled floor with one of those special machines to make the tiles look shiny and slippery.

A table and chairs were put out just for us and we chose two dishes to share. The girls had an American Bistro (burger with french fries to you and me) and Tim and I shared a portion of very lukewarm lasagna. First impressions of the food were not particularly positive…

We retired to our rooms and left the girls in one room watching their last dose of Disney Channel whilst Tim relaxed reading “House Rules” by Jodi Picoult and I started the blog.

Tim popped out to explore the neighbourhood and returned with drinks for the girls, milk for our coffee/tea and biscuits for our afternoon snack and tomorrow’s breakfast (we’ll have a proper breakfast at the airport).

Shortly before 7pm we returned to the restaurant where Ellen had a large hot dog, Hannah chose a club sandwich (shared with the grown-ups) and I shared some tough, greasy nachos with Tim. When my empty plate was collected, the waitress asked how I liked the food. I hesitated, but eventually did comment that the cheese was really tough – hope they’ll take it on board. [Incidentally, one other guest refused to eat his pasta dish as it was cold and did not want to have it reheated – sounded similar to our lasagna dish at lunchtime.]

We booked a taxi for 9am tomorrow for our transfer to the airport. Not having breakfast at the hotel means that we’ll be able to have a bit of a lie-in we can take our time having something to eat at the airport (and it might be cheaper than the hotel!).

Shower and/or television for the girls before bedtime. Hopefully the other guests won’t be too noisy (or the cows in the field…).

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In Bali, as in Malaysia, I have often spotted youngsters on motorbikes, constantly zig-zagging in and out of fast moving traffic. But what I saw yesterday, really shocked me.

Young families often can’t afford to buy a car, so instead they pile everybody onto the motorbike. It’s not unusual to see daddy at the front, mummy at the back and a toddler squashed between them with its head turned sideways.

But yesterday, it wasn’t a toddler or slightly older child in the middle. No, it was a tiny baby, no older than a couple of weeks, wrapped in a blanket and two tiny bootees sticking out. I couldn’t help wondering what would happen if the father lost his balance or another motorbike or car even slightly clipped the back of this motorbike…

No, I think I prefer the way my parents moved around before they could afford to buy a car. They had a tandem, with my brother at the front, then my dad, my sister in the middle, followed by my mum and me at the back. And I’m sure they didn’t weave in and out of traffic…

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To Taman Harum

We had only just got up and showered when the phone in our bedroom rang. Tim answered and was put through to a lady from our next hotel in Mas near Ubud. We had booked a pick up shuttle for 12pm, as we had to check out of Graha Cakra by then, but now we were told that the driver had to drop someone off and he would pick us up on the way back anytime between 12.45 – 1pm. At least they let us know…

We trundled down to the restaurant for our last breakfast here. The girls and I opted for the usual American breakfast minus eggs and tough sausages. Tim, on the other hand, tried out the Indonesian breakfast and had fried rice (he passed his sunny side up egg to Hannah).

We certainly took our time over breakfast and didn’t return to our room until gone 10am. Our packing didn’t take long at all and we had almost an hour to relax.

We vacated our rooms shortly before 12pm and settled ourselves on the comfy seats near the restaurant where the girls enjoyed one last pineapple & orange fruit juice (with complimentary tiny wooden/paper umbrella) while Tim went to Reception to settle up.

Nice bits of Graha Cakra.




A little before 1pm we headed down to the Reception area and waited for our driver. We waited and waited and waited… The Taman Harum hotel (Mas) phoned up one more time to inform us that the driver was indeed on his way, but was delayed by busy traffic. Around 1.45pm he finally turned up and apologised profusely. Apparently, he had dropped off a guest in Sanur who had not yet arranged his next accommodation and therefore took longer to get sorted.

The journey went very smoothly and as we were nearing our hotel we passed craft shop after craft shop filled with stone statues, woodcarvings, mirrors, bamboo or wood Balinese furniture, bird cages, paintings, etc.

After a little over half an hour we turned onto the hotel’s drive. It was a completely different set up from our previous hotel. This was probably more the Bali that we were expecting. Narrower tree lined streets, rice fields and lots and lots of greenery.

As we clambered out of the car, a young hotel employee approached us with a trolley and loaded our bags onto it and wheeled it down to the reception area. As we walked down the path we noticed several workshops.

We were welcomed by very friendly and helpful staff and while Tim filled in the necessary paperwork we were offered a cooling welcome drink of fresh tangerine & orange juice, the glasses decorated with the lovely smelling frangipane flower (which the girls later put in their hair!).

The man at Reception knew exactly who we were, how long we were planning to stay for and that we would move into a family villa for the last three nights of our stay. If we’d like we could move into the villa in a couple of days’ time, but we’ll think about it first as it would be slightly more expensive and not much different from the two standard interconnecting rooms we have now.

The lay-out of the rooms is quite unusual. Downstairs is a rectangular shaped room with a small table and a couple of chairs, a mini fridge, a wardrobe tucked away in the corner and an outside bathroom (with decent toilet and bath/shower). The bedroom with two single beds pushed together is situated upstairs. The girls’ room is a mirror image of ours, with the interconnecting door downstairs.

We settled ourselves in and looked through the extensive information folder. Lots of excursions and craft workshops on offer and the restaurant offers a huge selection of local and international dishes – plenty for all of us to choose from and keep us busy and happy.

Later in the afternoon we decided to explore the local area, but not before we had picked up two large umbrellas from Reception. We have been in South East Asia long enough to know that we’ll get a shower or two on a daily basis and the grey skies were a bit of a giveaway.

We left the hotel and turned right down the main street. We had packed our laundry as well and soon spotted a sign to a laundrette down a narrow track across the road. As with many main roads here, it took quite a while before we could cross the road as the traffic was pretty heavy.

We followed the track and turned left at the corner where we saw a house with lots of washing and we thought we had arrived at the laundrette. A smiling lady walked towards us, followed by a handful of giggling little girls, and informed us that the place we were looking for was in fact further down the path. She kindly walked us there and explained to a young girl what we were after. Her companion only spoke a small amount of English and we are hoping to pick up our clean clothes tomorrow afternoon. We have yet to find out how much it will cost us as her sister (who, I suppose, runs the place) wasn’t there at the time.

To the laundry.

We returned to the main road and carried on in search of any shops that might sell food. We were spotted by a group of school girls at the other side of the road and were greeted by lots of “hellos” and waving hands. Soon we walked past a tiny shop and spotted some biscuits we bought.

We decided to walk back towards the hotel as the skies were getting darker and our tummies’ rumbles louder. As we approached our hotel we saw a small supermarket just across the road from where we are staying!

We crossed the road again and stocked up on a small box of cereal for the girls, more biscuits and ice creams for afternoon snack. As we left the shop it started to rain and we made it inside our rooms just in time before the huge thunderstorm.

We spent the rest of the afternoon resting, watching television or reading and mopping the floor. Part of the roof is covered with bamboo and because of the heavy rain it was leaking in a couple of places.

As soon as the storm had subsided we ventured out again, this time to the restaurant. Hannah chose a burger, Ellen and Tim decided to share a Hawaiian pizza and I had spinach gnocchi. The portions were good sizes and the food tasted pretty good, but neither of us had any room left for dessert. Then again, we’re here for ten nights so I’m sure we’ll make up for missing dessert tonight.

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Belgian Bali

We had booked the hotel shuttle for 9.30 this morning, so we knew we had to get a move on when we were only just getting up an hour before this. We piled out to breakfast, passing on the option of eggs and sausages (but not as we know them) and grazing on soggy, tough toast and cooled-off pastries. When I went to pop back to our room to get some proper milk for our coffee (instead of these powder sachets), I realised that our key was still inside… and although we had the key to the girls’ room, that door was still fastened inside with that flippy loopy metal security thingy.

So I explained our situation at Reception, they phoned someone to help and I waited. A man appeared: “Sorry, I can’t find the master key. Someone else has got it.” So I continued fighting my toast until the key materialised, whereupon I poured a cup of milk and returned to the table.

We barely had time to collect water, hats and fans for going out before taking the shuttle to the Le Mayeur Gallery, just at the northern end of Sanur Beach. This was the house of a Belgian artist who came out here in 1932, married a local dancer and stayed for the rest of his life.

Anyway, we located the property but found to our dismay that it was closed. An overspill of yesterday’s festivities, we were told, but it might be open tomorrow. Just as we were about to move on, a man sitting inside the grounds beckoned us to go through to the back of the shop next door and get in that way. A reprieve – and we seemed to be the only visitors.

We spent a while admiring the assembled paintings and old photos in the five rooms of the traditional wooden building. Le Mayeur featured his wife in many of his works, and despite the considerable age gap (he was 55 and she was 18 when they married), Kirsten commented that “he’s quite decent-looking” in the photos – he certainly hadn’t let himself go…


Le Mayeur and Ni Pollok.

His paintings are colourful and vibrant depictions of the landscapes and people not just of Bali but also of Tahiti, Italy and other sunny, picturesque destinations. No photos were permitted inside the building, so we bought a token postcard from the shop on the way out.

Le Mayeur gardens.



Afterwards we dragged ourselves along the seafront – it was intensely hot and humid by now – past beachfront hotels and resorts, past persistent touts for boat trips, water sports. We were hoping for a side alley to return us to the parallel main road where we could get a taxi to take us the several kilometres into Sanur, but we drew blanks with ‘No Entry’ alleyways into the back of hotels.

Sanur seafront.

There must be a witty caption, but I can’t think of one…

At last we found a way out (the cluster of motorbikes was the giveaway), bought ice lollies and browsed a clothes stall where we got Ellen the sarong she wanted. (The original price of 100,000 Rupiah soon came down to 50,000 when we started to walk away.) We then accepted the first offer of ‘transport?’ and got dropped off by Hardy’s Supermarket, which seems to be the chief landmark in the middle of town.

We spent a couple of hours just traipsing up and down Jalan Danau Tamblingan, flooded in sweat as the humidity rose. Hannah got a nice red strapless dress/skirt and we stopped for a fruit juice at Ronald’s Cafe (which is owned by a Belgian, although he is away at present). We also returned there for lunch and had proper high-fat deep-fried chips, just like we eat in Antwerp… (We also ordered a sandwich and a giant meatball.)

As we sat having our lunch, the expected downpour arrived and lasted until well after our return to the hotel (we pre-arranged the return shuttle from the supermarket at 2pm). At least it now felt cooler and less muggy; we sheltered in our room as the paths outside our door flooded ever deeper. We read, we typed, we watched the girls’ latest show – the latter containing about four songs they’ve made up themselves over the course of the trip.

Batik stamp on our boutique lamp.

We sat at the restaurant tables while the girls wrote their diaries and then ordered a little after 7pm. Meanwhile, the German/Austrian hotel manager sat down with his parents at a nearby table (nicely set out ready for them) and jumped the queue, of course. So we waited a good hour for our food to arrive, in spite of the fact that there was no-one else dining in the whole establishment. We just had to explain to the girls “that’s the way the world works” and continue watching the geckos defying gravity on the ceiling.

To be fair, we enjoyed the food (and our Planet Melon cocktail, which slipped down far too easily – and which curiously contained no melon). But the plan of a much-needed early night for the girls evaporated thanks to the other table pulling rank. We hadn’t realised that the elderly couple that we met on our first morning here are the manager’s Mutti und Vati, so that probably leaves us as the sole paying guests here at the moment. And the hotel’s short-termist policy of trying to rip us off – er, maximise their limited income – may backfire once we get onto TripAdvisor with our candid review.

But I still can’t fathom why they didn’t just put us in a proper Deluxe room to start with if they are all empty anyway. It’s not that they were overbooked, and it wouldn’t have cost them any extra as far as I can see.

Enough of this; we’ll be out of here by noon tomorrow and there are so many glowing reviews of our next hotel in Ubud that they can’t all be wrong. Can they?

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Bali Blues

Bali has got off on the wrong foot with me. I looked up our hotel correspondence again and our Deluxe room was supposed to have a round bathtub with stonework, a four-poster bed and twice the floor area of a Superior (standard) room. The room we were originally shown yesterday ticked none of these boxes, and yet the staff stuck to their story when I queried the issue. So this is not a simple error; it’s calculated and brazen deception, attempting to charge us £75 for what is effectively a £33 room.

This evening I had a chat with the hotel manager, a young European chap, who also tried to claim that this first room was a Deluxe, but the only one of the five that doesn’t possess all those extra features. So what’s Deluxe about it? He also mentioned that some of the other Deluxe rooms are still unoccupied – so why weren’t we booked into one of those? The extortionate cost of additional mattresses? To persuade people to take two connecting rooms instead, he said. But we had to push for the connecting rooms yesterday; the staff never suggested that option. Anyway, I voiced our dissatisfaction at the way things had gone last night, he apologised and thanked me for the feedback, but I don’t think we’ll see any compensatory discount.

And what I saw of the region today did nothing to warm me towards this island. In Sanur the supermarket charges double the UK prices for items such as fruit juice, biscuits and milk; we’re looking forward to bargain basement Britain. The cafe at lunchtime billed us for a premium ‘healthy’ pick-me-up juice blend (orange, mandarin, lime and mint) but delivered only a plain pineapple juice. The first taxi driver had insufficient change for our fare so I had to pay extra – in Malaysia (okay, maybe not KK) they would have rounded it down instead.

Back at our supposedly upmarket, boutique hotel (a self-styled “opulent property”), there is mould at the top of the shower curtain, the bathroom paintwork is badly cracked and peeling and the swimming pool has seen far better days with dangerous broken and jagged tiles around the edge and on the bottom. The initials HTB in tiles on the base of the pool imply that it may have been inherited from a previous hotel on this site, but they should have given it an overhaul.

So after a mere 24 hours in Bali, my initial impressions are of superficiality, a lack of genuineness, a gap between what is said or written and the reality of the situation. I have read that although most Balinese would never perpetrate a scam on visitors, they will happily refrain from intervening if they happen to be around when it happens. Sounds like good men doing nothing.

The local music? [I’ve only heard it pre-recorded in the background so far.] It’s primary school assembly music, but that may be unfair to primary schools… There’s someone bashing a small drum and someone else on a shaker while the rest tinkle bits of metal. There’s a two-note repeating pattern, with the occasional variation, and the rhythm’s a bit iffy. The tinkly bits come in sporadic bursts – I’m sure there’s a teacher saying “now, when I do this, you all start playing and when I do this, you all stop.”

I’ll give this place a chance. But I can’t see the attraction yet. Yes, it’s warm and sunny and the architecture grabs the eye, but this southern area is one big tourist pit and we are keen to get out and away the day after tomorrow. (And Sanur was supposed to be the nicest part around here.) Central Ubud won’t be much different, I suspect, but I hope we are staying far enough out (in Mas) to escape some of the fakery.

Incidentally, today was an important festival called Galungan, celebrating the death of a legendary tyrant, Mayadenawa. We didn’t see any ‘action’, but there were tall, drooping decorated bamboo poles outside just about every property as well as extra propitiatory offerings – even on the counter at Reception. It all sounded very interesting and I wanted to know more. I asked about where we could go to experience something of the festival, but I was simply advised to hire a driver for the day and go on a tour. How about just not trying to sell me something, for a change? Aaargh!

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The Usual

We all slept pretty well in our respective rooms and comfortable beds. Although I did wake around 5am feeling quite peckish as I hadn’t managed to eat much during the day due to my tummy upset and all the travelling. [I’m glad to say that I’m feeling a lot better as I’m typing this.]

As you can imagine, we had yet again a slow start and didn’t sit down to breakfast until 9am. We had a choice between a set Indonesian breakfast with either fried rice or fried noodles or an American breakfast.

All four of us opted for the latter. This included orange juice and coffee/tea, a bread basket with two chocolate rolls and a slice of toast with butter, pineapple jam, strawberry jam and marmelade. Then we could also choose between an omelette/fried eggs with sausages and ham. (Only Hannah felt like eating sunny side up eggs.) For dessert(!) we were offered slices of watermelon and papaya.

As if we didn’t have enough choices to make, the waiter asked us if we would prefer Balinese coffee or Nescafe. As we didn’t know what Balinese coffee tasted like, we chose to order one of each. Tomorrow we will only order one pot of Balinese coffee as it tasted really nice and we can easily get three cups out of one pot – neither of us would even drink three cups in a whole day, let alone during one breakfast! (Imagine the state we would be in after all that caffeine!)

It was well after 10 when we returned to our rooms. But first we had a look at both swimming pools which looked very inviting.

Graha Cakra garden.

Tim took on yesterday’s blog while I settled the girls down for their diaries and we managed to get out before lunch time.

There should be a free shuttle service from the hotel, but today being a Hindu festival day, the driver had the day off. Never mind, we ventured outside in the street thinking we would be able to flag down a taxi in no time. The amount of traffic was enormous, but after several minutes waiting in the hot sun we had only spotted one taxi on the other side of the road. We trudged back to our hotel and asked the receptionist to call us a taxi, which was a lot quicker.

I was interested in visiting a shop called “Body Talk” on one of the main streets in Sanur, Jalan Danau Tamblingan, for “ultra-comfortable women wear” (according to Lonely Planet). But once driving down this long street it was hard to spot the shop, let alone any house numbers. The driver dropped us off somewhere in the middle and we had a leisurely walk along this restaurant/cafe/souvenir shop littered street. In the end someone told us that the shop was closed due to the festival.

Bamboo poles for Galungan.

My first impressions of Sanur are that it is very much an over-priced touristy seaside resort, but a very pleasant one at that.

For lunch we stopped at a quaint looking little eatery called “Cafe Smorgas”, and yes, it even had Ikea cushions on our seats. The girls shared a plain ham & cheese sandwich (on the menu it was called “the usual” – how did they know that’s exactly what the girls usually choose?) and a strawberry juice. Tim and I shared a salmon & dill quiche and a local Bintang beer. We also ordered one of their detox drinks called “Pick me up” which was meant to have mandarin, orange, lime and mint – but we reckon instead we were served a fresh fruit juice which tasted suspiciously like pineapple (actually, the slice of pineapple might have given it away). It was quite tasty and refreshing though.

While we were waiting for our food to arrive, the dark cloud we saw earlier looked more and more ominous by the minute and it didn’t take long before we spotted the first lightning flashes and the first rumbles of thunder made us jump in our seats. Sure enough it started to rain, but even though we were sat outside on the verandah, we stayed dry and the cool breeze was very welcome.

By the time we had finished our food, so had the rain shower and we headed down the road to Hardy’s supermarket. The shop was based at the back of a shopping centre and we stocked up on some milk, shampoo and some exciting items like a bottle of coke, Bahlsen biscuits and Pringles. Some of these items were actually more expensive than in the UK but we reckoned it was alright to treat ourselves every now and then…

By now it was time to head back to our hotel, before the chocolate on the biscuits had a chance to melt, and we had no trouble hailing a taxi. As Ellen commented: the blue taxis look a lot nicer than the red/yellow ones in Malaysia, but they are a bit harder to spot.

It was nearing 3.30pm when we arrived back at our rooms and we decided to have a little rest – still recovering from our travel day and late night. We are all feeling tired as we are nearing the end of our trip, so these last three weeks are more like a holiday and we might take it quite easy. (Some of us have to return to work shortly after arriving back in the UK.)

After we had our delicious biscuits (and nearly finished the whole box – then again there are only nine biscuits!) we changed into our swimming gear and headed for the nearby pool. It didn’t take long for the three girls to take a seat on the underwater stools at the poolside bar. Except there was no one to serve us and the bar itself looked pretty empty…

The sun had gone in and the water wasn’t particularly warm, but just right for swimming a few lengths. After a good half hour the grown-ups called it a day and the little ones followed reluctantly. Back in the room I made a start on today’s blog and Tim went out for a little wander along the main road in search of any eating places nearby.



Shortly after 6.30pm we made our way across the lush gardens to the hotel’s restaurant, as there was nowhere else to eat in the nearby vicinity. We were the only guests and the kitchen shutters were shut. This didn’t look too promising. Last night we were told that the restaurant was open until 10.30pm – what’s going on? The waitress informed us that the kitchen would open again at 7pm, but if we wanted we could order now. We decided to wait for half an hour which gave the girls enough time to write their diaries before they would be too tired.

In the meantime Tim tried again (in vain) to connect to the internet and eventually someone called the (German/Austrian?) manager. None of his tricks seemed to work, and in the end he offered Tim the use of one of the business meeting rooms where he would be able to plug in a cable. Normally we would be charged but because the connection doesn’t seem to work anywhere else we could use it for free.

Tim took this opportunity to have a quiet word with the manager about the trouble we had with our room last night. We don’t know if, in turn, he would have a chat with his staff…

The girls and Tim shared two beef burgers between them, while I chose a chicken steak with mushroom sauce. My dish was served on one of these extremely hot, sizzling plates – but why was it in the shape of a cow…?

The girls had had it by now and were starting to act in a silly overtired way. Time to head back and settle them down for the night.

We’re hoping to have an earlier night as well, and an earlier start tomorrow. We have booked the free shuttle for 9.30am.

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We rose at 7.30 and were soon packed ready for our flight. Taxi to Terminal 2, check in straightaway and then time for a snack breakfast at an airport cafe. We sat and read for the remainder of the wait; the girls are so good at coping with the boring bits compared to the early days of the trip, happily devouring a book or two in the spare hours at our disposal.

We were called for boarding at the scheduled time and joined the queue snaking towards the gate. Except that one local man chose to bypass the line and barge in just ahead of us, dragging his family reluctantly along behind him. Well, don’t mess with Global Prices. We expanded to fill the width of the roped-out channel, thus preventing any further overtaking, and Mr Barger was compelled to wait for the rest of his gang to catch up with him at the point where they checked boarding passes – while we sailed through ahead of him…

We took our traditional seats (pre-booked to be identical on all five of our AirAsia flights) and found we were sharing a plane with the entire Sandakan Rugby Team; flying with the Eagles. Our take-off presumably took us right over our hotel, but our view was of the various islands we had visited for snorkelling.

They usually get the food served early on, and we had our pre-ordered sandwiches along with water purchased at the airport; ‘Eau Claire’ was the refreshingly grammatical Malaysian brand name (as opposed to ‘Eau de l’Mineral’ or some such), though I’m sure ‘Eau Claire’ is a Gilbert O’Sullivan song… It’s ‘underground natural mineral water’ filtered for thousands of years, and then they warn you ‘best before Nov 2012′.

We landed 10 minutes early in KLLCCT (snappy, eh? Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal) and endured a longer connecting wait. Time for a Dunkin’ Donut each, and the girls got new books based on The Wizards of Waverly Place, a programme they enjoyed in North America (Ellen finished her 120 pages during our second flight). A major thunderstorm came and went as we sat in transit.

Our Bali plane was also on time, taking off around 6pm, and the journey passed uneventfully. Just another round of stepping into a metal canister and stepping out again somewhere completely different, with little sense of how you got there – especially when the flight is mostly in darkness.

We stepped off the plane into 29’C heat and joined the first of several queues. For your Visa On Arrival you first line up to pay US$25 per person (children included) in return for a receipt. At the next desk you then hand over your receipt, passport and completed immigration form in return for a 30-day visa stamp. Except that we chose the queue that wasn’t going anywhere; a whole group of flights had just arrived and we were at the back, but the fingerprinting and photographing of each and every passenger was taking an age (they’ve just introduced this US-style system).

After perhaps half an hour of wondering whether to risk swapping queues, an official came to whisk certain groups – including us – over to a secret channel on the far right-hand side. It soon became apparent that all young families were being fast-tracked, and as a bonus they didn’t want any of our fingerprints. If you have children then you can’t possibly be a terrorist?

Anyway, we emerged ahead of the bulk of waiting passengers (a shock to be among so many Westerners again), collected our hold luggage, cleared customs, withdrew some cash (I’m a Rupiah millionaire!) and were relieved to spot a man holding a name placard waiting to take us to our hotel. He warned us that the journey might take 40 minutes but we were happy to sit back in the large, air-conditioned vehicle while we caught our first glimpses of Bali By Night.

So much traffic, endless built-up areas, youths on motorbikes hogging the fast lanes but getting in our way, overblown statuary at roundabouts. A sign advertising ‘Chocolate Therapy and Red Wine Spa’ and lots of ‘Circle K’ shops.

After half an hour we turned into the Graha Cakra Hotel (which I’ll always think of as the Graham Chapman Hotel – ‘c’ is pronounced as ‘ch’ here as in Malaysia). We collected the key, paid in full – they added a supplement of one-third of the room rate for the girls – and were shown to our room.

Er, is this it? I was expecting something nearly twice the size, going by the website description, and they had brought in just one extra floor mattress and pillow to accommodate both girls. Disappointed, we returned to Reception. Had we been given the larger Deluxe room rather than the Superior (i.e. standard)? And please could we have another mattress and pillow; we have two children.

Okay, but there would be an additional charge for this mattress, too. What?? That meant our £45/night had now shot up to £75/night. Can they be serious? I had specifically asked in my emails whether there would be any extra charge for the girls (it’s always been minimal everywhere else) and they had never responded on this point.

We said that this was now way over our budget, so please could we see a Superior room instead. Once there, we realised it was scarcely any smaller than the supposed Deluxe, and we also spotted a connecting door – perfect! And the maths told me that it would be a lot cheaper to get two Superior rooms than one Deluxe with two extra mattresses. More space, proper beds, more privacy, an extra bathroom, and all for less money; a bizarre situation arising from their scandalous overpricing of the extra mattresses.

Oh, and although they initially quoted a price of RP450,000 for the Superior room, they then bumped this *up* to the internet rate of RM465,000. Firstly, why is the online rate higher? And secondly, why are we paying this online rate when we’re standing there at Reception?

So we ended up paying more than the full rate for two standard rooms, with no hint of a discount for children (although they eat less breakfast and they didn’t get their own welcome fruit bowl, pathetic though it was; one apple, one orange and three mini bananas). Not an encouraging start to our time in Bali – it’s back to being a cash cow there for the milking, an I.O.ewe ready to be fleeced. Bali after Malaysia seems like the difference between Peru and Bolivia: in one country you’re treated as a tourist sucker, in the other you’re treated as a human being.

Some time after 11pm we got the girls into bed and we followed not long after. The BBC World Service reported forthcoming talks between the Tories and the Lib Dems, and then we zonked out.

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