Bali Hai – Kuta

20120402-135756.jpgAnd thus begins our grand holiday, sanctioned by the U.S. Gov’t as “R&R No. 2/2” for our posting to Nepal.
Friday 23 March (Kathmandu, GMT +5:45) we exited the international terminal of Tribhuvan Airport through the diplomatic line and proceeded to wait, and wait (I had us get to the airport waaay to early) for our Thai Airways flight to arrive. Right when we should have been taking off, the plane rolled up and began unloading passengers (Nepal keeps booking more flights to the airport, but hasn’t expanded past the one runway). We only ended up taking off an hour late, and made time in the air. The kids were ecstatic to get airline food (remember those days?) but their reactions to the offerings were less than enthusiastic. The wine flowed, the movies played, and times were good.
The first world accommodations of the airport in Bangkok (GMT+ 7:00) short-circuited our senses. The tropical wash of air met us like a crashing wave on exiting Bangkok’s airport. Shortly our ride to the cottage suvarnabhumi hotel rolled up and we cruised through the night traffic of the city and took in the sights of the night markets lit by CF bulbs, cars modded by ground fx and lit emblems, and palm trees. Our hotel was tucked into an alleyway; we deboarded. We negotiated two adjoining rooms, relieved ourselves of our belongings, and came back down to dinner at the in-establishment Amigos Restaurant. The cool air and Mosquitos outside were a welcome respite compared to the sweat and vinegar heat indoors. An added bonus; the cook’s naked-from-the-waist-down toddler seemed to be content with the indoors, and didn’t try to play with my fully cloed kids. The latter group busied themselves with playing on the red wicker furniture that included a bird’s nest hanging chair, all of which looked like they were made of red rope licorice. Dinner was simple and touristy, and sufficient. The kids managed to get to sleep not too late that night…

24 March, 0600, our phone rings for our wakeup call…and the kids’ room phone does too. Jean gets both calls. We relax in bed and mentally prepare for the second half of the journey. The kids are reluctant to rise, but our shuttle departs at 6:30 and we must motivate! The phone rings, again in each room, and we both jump for one. The shuttle is departing! “You take shuttle now or get taxi yourself!” GO GO GO! I’m unshaven, unshowered, and have lost a button from my shirt, and we run downstairs with our bags. We make it in time, signing receipts on the way out the door, and are off to the airport. We are treated differently every step of the way because we have children, the airport staff pity those of us around us who have to deal with the noise and pity us for having kids obviously, but the secret is that our kids are awesome and we win either way. Check-in goes smoothly, Eleanor announces she must go pee in the middle of the line as per her MO. She also has an infected eye, just like last year on R&R, but we still have the eye drops so we’re set. We’re used to this so Jean dodges out with her and I check us in and send our luggage into the system. We pay homage to the Starbucks Temple and sacrifice wages for caffeine and overly sugared baked goods and we like it. Onboard, the crew issues metal lunch boxes with enough sugar to bring adult onset diabetes; Oreos, kit Kats, gummi snacks, corn flakes, juice, etc. Thinking this is the “child meal” option, we reluctantly let the kids have Oreos and milk. Then in flight, we get another meal, a breakfast, at which the kids mostly turn their noses up. No individual tv screens on this flight, the kids suffer like the damned. We wind our way down through the south china sea and cross the island of Bali before landing in Denpasar (GMT+ 8:00) in the afternoon. A tropical downpour and humid climate wash over us for our ride to Hotel Melati View (“cheapest acceptable place in Kuta”) in Kuta, the haven of sunburned Australians who can’t afford better. We take a short break before going exploring. The hotelier says the beach is just five minutes walk. The road winds and curves slightly, convenience marts, ATMs, restaurants and upscale hotels line the small lane. 20 minutes later we find a mall, and a short ways beyond that, a motorcycle choked beach access lane with sheer craziness; it’s a local holiday and everyone is out. The beach is littered with…well, litter. It’s like Pashupati with a beach rather than the Bagmati. We quickly walk south along Kuta searching for access between the beach and the road. Finally letting hunger overtake us, we stop for a late lunch/dinner. That done, we move on, and finally see a cut-through. Not exactly the pristine beach we’d thought, and certainly not accessible like Kata Yai/Noi is in Phuket. Most beach access is controlled by upscale hotels, and side roads are hard to find, but choked with vendors so look for those as your first clue (exit through the gift shop and all).
25 March: after allowing ourselves the included breakfast, we move on to the mall to get boy some clothes (we discover he packed only one pair of shorts, and no extra underwear or socks) and some beach towels, AND some flip flops for boy as well. On a lark, we cab up to Seminyak beach as its supposed to be cleaner. It is! And it has ‘No Swimming’ signs due to it being a protected Hindu area. And all along there are ‘no swimming’ signs as we walk south, looking for the beach, hidden beneath the crashing breakers of high tide. Finally we scale a wall into KuDeTa, and decide to wait out high tide and have lunch. We move on and finally find a spot with lower waves, the tide is going down and there are beach chairs and we rent them and a boogie board. The waves crash, the kids laugh and squeal, all is good. Dinner at a place near the hotel is fresh seafood and hamburgers (the kids) and tasty.
26 March: Water Bom park is closed for maintenance, so a full day at our haven in Seminyak. Everyone gets sunburned. We’re exhausted.
27 March: Water Bom still closed. I get data for the phone sorted, some groceries. Jean and the kids scout a better location for the beach. The kids make short work of the diminuitive pool at the hotel. We take a break in the room and the girls’ imaginations with their toys run wild.
We apply sunblock liberally and take a short afternoon beach run before dining out again.
28 March: our ride shows up at 9:00 and we make for the inner-island area of Ubud to meet up with my parents…

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