Christmas in Bali, with the inlaws
After seven months of travelling what could be nicer than Christmas in Bali with the in laws, stop laughing, no really stop laughing, ok don’t whatever! Two weeks with people you have known a lifetime can be hard enough, but two weeks with people you’ve only met a handful of times, eek!
Long before we left on our travels much research led us to Villa Sisi Pantai on the quiet north coast of Bali, a villa large enough to comfortably accommodate twelve with ensuite bathrooms and its own grounds and pool. The perfect location for our Christmas celebrations.
Our arrival was a little less wonderful than the years build up of anticipation had led us to believe, despite making the plans so many months in advance, the car sent to collect half our party from their hotel at the airport was too small so two were left behind for a further two and a half hours with no clear communication to them or the rest of us as to what was happening. Awesome, just what I need when trying to impress the mother in law. I was reduced to pleading calls asking ‘WHERE IS MY MOTHER’ the in-law bit wasn’t translating so well. At one point I was told I could call the police and they would find her, ok I’m not sure I needed to find her that badly but you get the idea. None of the contact phone numbers we were given for the drivers seemed to be to anyone who spoke good enough English to communicate by phone or who was coming to get us. Calls to the helpdesk went unanswered. A rather unfortunate start to our family Christmas getaway and my attempts to impress the MIL. Nevertheless, somewhat later and more separate than expected we were all reunited at Villa Sisi Pantai itself, greeted by the wonderfully warm smiles of Jeru, the housekeeper, and Iluh, the chef
The Villa is quite lovely, large and airy, the garden beautifully maintained with wonderful uninterrupted views of the sea. Stone floors throughout, open air bathrooms. Made, the helpdesk, delivered us a lovely cake by way of apology, while telling us in very passive aggressive unIndonesian fashion why she’d been unable to answer her phone all day, alrighty then.
The huge communal living/dining room is lined with ceiling height glass doors that are left open throughout the day to make the most of any breeze as there are no fans or air conditioning in the communal areas. Swarms of flies were ever present and with no fans or net food covers we had to constantly swat them away which was tiresome after one meal and utterly frustrating after two weeks making eating inside pretty unbearable. Why would you even want to eat inside you ask? Well it’s a gorgeous room and pretty much just covered by a roof with all doors and windows open, that’s why. When the breeze blows it is delightful and yes I know we all need to be more eco friendly but even a ceiling fan would have made a huge difference. It was so hot some evenings that with all the doors and windows open, there was little alternative but to sweat it out and be bombarded by mosquitos, giant magnificently clumsy beetles and who knows what else, or retreat to our own rooms and wait for the A/C to kick in. Some rooms were luckier than others in this regard, the rooms have very high ceilings and very weak a/c units. We used coils, plug ins and sprays in our room to combat the swarms of mosquitos, and still every morning would wake to a cloud of them. Four have lost their lives around me during the last paragraph. They seem to particularly like the wardrobes in the rooms but short of fumigating I don’t think there is any more we could have done to eradicate them bar coming during the dry season, yes yes it is Bali in the wet season 😉 Open air showers with the glorious sun beating down on me were one of the pure joys of the villa, I didn’t use the huge stone bathtub but I am sure it would have been heavenly. Cold showers after the hot water stopped working were not one of the highlights, even with the heat.
The Villas bedrooms on either side border the neighbouring properties who could be heard well into the early hours on several occasions, but we were also kept awake most nights by the near constant dog barking, cocks crowing and trucks passing by on the main Island ring road which is maybe 100 metres away but the sound carries surprisingly clearly. On mainly Hindu Bali we were also only a short distance from one of the islands few Mosques which we had not seen mentioned in any of the other reviews, eek ooh er so were woken at 5am each day by a loud and booming call to prayer. Having travelled extensively in Malaysia and elsewhere in predominantly Muslim Indonesia this is of course something we have frequently experienced and are as used to it as we can be, here was one of the loudest and longest by far, triple UGH. As a Muslim friend once said to me why can’t they get a watch and set an alarm for goodness sake ahahahaha anyway you get the point, it was noisy.
On Christmas Eve just as we were beginning our celebrations (sitting chatting and drinking) the power went out, no worries, this is Asia, it happens a lot, so ever the boy scouts we went to check the breaker and could see the meter flashing 00.00 ah so not a breaker issue, they had not topped up the credit and it had run out! We were told this happens on a fairly regular basis and they have had several very angry customers as a result. We weren’t angry per se, just frustrated, once again calls to the in quotes “helpdesk” went unanswered. Luckily Ngurah the wonderful driver did respond to our calls and used the emergency credit he had just for such occasions saving the evening.
Christmas Day coincided with a Balinese holy day, of which there are many, It was wonderful to witness everyone in their finery making offerings to the two temples on the Villa grounds, a bit bizarre that people we didn’t know were wandering all around our supposedly private home during our Christmas celebrations but mostly lovely and they very generously shared some fragrant suckling pig with us. That was the upside the celebrations which also involved two days of near constant chanting and bell ringing at the temple some 20 metres away, one night this went from 9pm to 6am solidly, awesome that we chose to stay on the ‘quiet’ side of the island. By now it’s pretty clear I will never be entrusted with booking the family holidays again, although thinking about it I am not sure if that is such a bad thing. I really am not that sociable and was beginning to fray around the edges by now. One local neighbour played extremely loud music from the wee hours until 7.30am or 8am each day, for reals! Dudes shush it! needless to say none of us slept particularly well the entire time which didn’t help the frayed nerves.
There were a few other niggles along the way; The property is about five years old and it has come to the time things need replacing. When we arrived we were bit peeved to notice the majority of the sun lounger covers were torn, and the sofa and bean bag covers were stained and dirty, thankfully it turned out they were waiting for new ones which arrived the next day, and most were replaced leaving only a few with stains, rips and bulging seams. A heads up to this would have saved any initial disappointment we experienced but communication doesn’t seem such a priority for the French owner. The poolside umbrellas are mostly broken, we helped repair them with our handy travel kit of cable ties but new ones are needed before someone gets seriously injured. The freezer stopped working defrosting entirely on a few occasions and the outside beer fridge seal is questionable meaning we had warm beer on several occasions, not the end of the world obviously but on the other hand…warm beer! ugh. No hot water for half of the rooms was another issue. There was a very lovely and reasonably priced restaurant a good ten minutes walk down the busy unlit road, which we ended up at for dinner most nights as our cook finished a little earlier than we liked to eat dinner (5pm) although she was happy to prepare food for you to heat up later should you so wish, which we, mostly, did not, fussy buggers.
Now it was not all issues and tissues, we spent long lovely quiet days poolside, lounging and chatting and enjoying each other’s company and the incredible view. The pool was a great size and well maintained and I began my PADI divemaster skills practising, I have to swim 400m and snorkel 800m within a certain time limit, the snorkelling will be a breeze but I rarely swim without fins anymore so 400m definitely requires some practice. The loungers are plentiful and comfortable although here again wear and tear was showing and a few were broken and the newly covered beanbags made comfy chairs for everything including stargazing at the incredible star filled night sky. The sea at the bottom of the garden is cool and refreshing , easy to walk into with a mostly sandy and pebbly volcanic sand beach, not a sighting of anything alive unless the tide came from the east bringing grossy gross jelly fish with it (yes that is a technical diving term). Day time really was our most favourite time at the Villa. When not lounging by the pool Ngurah drove the others to places of interest, near and far, a wonderful driver and guide. I lounged by the pool shunning all trips, we are nearby here for three months next year and the next few months of travel are pretty non stop so I’ve been enjoying as much relaxation as I can stand, which as it turns out is quite a lot.
Towards the end of our stay, we spent two days in Ubud, decamping to a Villa there for the night so we could take everyone to two of our favourite eateries, Bata Bata and Glove and Stove and also to have a special meal at Mozaic, you can read about our previous visit HERE. The food was just as spectacular this time and our taste buds went on a culinary adventure over the course of the evening.
The next day dawned bright and hot and after a delicious breakfast the boys headed to The Monkey Forest to see their cousins and J, the MIL and I headed off for a spot of shopping, which turned into going into every shop along the way. Not getting very far I headed off alone to Sol & Luna my favourite shop in Ubud to stock up on their fantastic lightweight , pretty clothing, ideal for the fashion conscious traveller. Ok fine stop laughing, ideal for me who is not remotely fashion conscious but knows what I like.
The journey to and from Ubud is pretty hellish, there are no highways to the North although there are rumours that by 2019 there will be several new toll roads. Two to three hours of narrow mostly one lane roads twisting and turning up and over the mountains before descending the other side. It is a journey I would happily never repeat although there is some spectacular scenery along the way and on our final trip to the airport we went along an entirely new to us road which was so much better than any of the other roads we had travelled on I have no idea why they didn’t always take it.
We’ve all travelled in Asia extensively as well as having spent the last seven months solely in South East Asia travelling in Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. Of course things are done differently here. Unfortunately the owners response to our concerns was less than ideal ‘the services offered on AirBnb may be different to the extent that customers want to pay as little as possible’. We paid full asking price for our stay and ‘remember you are in a country different from ours, with a culture religion, needs…which you have to adapt to them’ No really? I would hate to think how a real emergency would be responded to.
Many of the previous reviews did not mention any difficulties, the Mosque or Temples or other noise, had they done so we would have been better informed to make decisions about where to stay when we were collectively looking for two weeks of peace and relaxation. All the staff were lovely catering to our group wonderfully; Inviting us to play football with them when they’d finished work, taking members of our group to pick fresh rambutan and cacao, picking coconuts from the trees in the garden for us to drink, all the staff do great credit to the owner, notably Jero and Ngurah with their ever present smiles and wonderful work ethic. The Villa itself is a beautiful building set in a stunning if surprisingly noisy location.
We were with loved ones, teasing was rife, bickering was minimal and I am pretty sure we all had a wonderful holiday in spite/despite of our differences and any lack of sleep and other difficulties. That said, let’s wait a few years before the next one yeah Xx