I can't believe the summer is over! It is Labor Day and I realized I haven't blogged since the beginning of July (the kimono picture of Evelyn was taken right before the going away party for Patrick's ortho partner and his family which was July 9)! It has been a whirlwind of fun and exciting adventures - all culminating to our much anticipated vacation to BALI!
We decided to take a trip to a tropical locale where deciding 'beach or pool' was our toughest activity of the day. A lot of people from Yokota go to Thailand - which we definitely want to do at some point - but I had this inner draw to go to Bali. I blame it on Eat, Pray, Love. Regardless, all of Indonesia used to be off-limits, but now some areas (including Bali) are ok. Everyone told us it would be easy....just 'hop' to Singapore (on free flights offered three times a week for us) and book super cheap airfare from there. I researched the best areas of Bali for families (Nusa Dua was the top choice by a lot), and then the best resort (kids club was a major factor for us). We ended up choosing the Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa.
It was somewhat difficult to plan since Indonesia is such a poor country and even their best hotels lack in internet capability and ease of booking a hotel. It wasn't hard....but it was different. They had forms to print out and fill in and rescan to send back to them (What?!?!? No online bookings?). It was a little unnerving. Even the airlines were different than I am used to. Not very consumer friendly with TONS of options (like paying for baggage prior to boarding and guessing how much your suitcases will weigh - but not realizing you get the baggage for ALL in your party - not just the one you want to pay for, etc).
There were some other MAJOR factors that came into play also. Sometimes, the 'hop' breaks down, or doesn't fly out on the day it is supposed to. We needed to fly to Singapore on Thursday so we could fly from there to Bali on Friday morning. But if the hop was late or not running properly, then we will miss our flight from SIngapore to Bali. Also, the weekend after we were to leave was the Friendship Festival on base. Tens of thousands of Japanese locals are invited on base so the flightline was being prepared for that...which meant there was a good chance our flight wouldn't happen. Also, all medical staff were rumored to be on hand for emergencies. But luckily, Patrick had all the appropriate papers signed and done through the proper chains - so he was cleared to go. It all worked out fine in the end - but the stress getting ready for the vacation was the worst part!
When Thursday came, we grabbed our 2 suitcases, 1 backpack, and food bag and headed to the terminal on base. It actually went very smoothly and there were only 11 people on our flight! The plane is to take supplies to the Singapore base but has 32 seats they can use for passengers. It was like a regular flight with attendants, movies and meals! I slept the whole way and the kids played games and watched movies. They were perfect! It took about 6 hours to get there. We didn't know much about Singapore - or expect much - but it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Our hotel was 5 star - the Intercontinental - with an amazing pool and breakfast buffet! We dropped off our bags and grabbed a bite to eat (McDonalds for Gavin) and headed to the night safari. This was something everyone had told us to do - and the kids really enjoyed it. I was spoiled by the Columbus zoo so I thought is was OK, at best. We crashed and slept like babies!
The next morning we ate, went swimming and headed to the airport. The ride to the airport was amazing - as every inch of space was landscaped and manicured! Even the airport was beautiful! We had a quick and smooth 2.5 hour flight to Bali where we were picked up by the hotel and taken there (about 20 mins). I didn't realize how poor of a country Bali is - definitely 3rd world. But all of a sudden, we came upon a HUGE gate with layers of security...the Nusa Dua area. They had cameras under the car, bombs sniffing dogs, metal detectors - the works. Past the gates we drove to the hotel and had another set of security. It was exactly as promised on the website and I knew we were in for a treat.
The staff knew us by name instantly (and would remember though our whole stay) and gave us the royal treatment. They let the kids feed the fish, the carried the luggage to our rooms, helped us exchange money and a tour. Our room was a family suite with a king bed and a set of bunks and private bath and balcony overlooking the gardens in one direction and the pool/beach in the other. We got in around 4 pm - so we took a stroll on the beach and grabbed a bite to eat. We were still pretty tuckered out from all the traveling so we went to bed early and got about 11 hours of sleep!!! It was great!
Every morning we would wake up around 8 or 8:30, get dressed and head down to the breakfast buffet. We would sit next to the koi pond, reading the newspaper and enjoy each other's company. It was almost disgustingly picture perfect :-) The first day, we decided to stay close and just spend ALL day at the beach and pool. Perfect weather + well behaved kids = relaxing first day of vacation. Dinner at the hotel on the beach and early bedtime for all!
On Sunday, we split up a little! Patrick ended up taking surf lessons, I booked a 4 hand massage and facial, and the kids played at the kids club. We felt a little guilty about spending time individually - but it turned out to be great! The kids had sooooo much fun (kids club was their favorite part of the vacation), I was pampered for 3 hours, and Patrick officially caught his first tube wave (and can brag to his friends that he learned to surf in Bali). We met up at 2 and went on our first adventure off the resort. We took a glass bottom boat out to a coral reef (to see some fishies) and continued on to Turtle Island. This was kind of a creepy, dirty place - but still very cool (if that makes sense). Here we were able to hold all sorts of reptiles and animals - including turtles, bats and SNAKES! They threw a python around Evelyn's neck - but she was too little so Gavin had to help carry it! We got up close and personal with many creatures - but I was a little nervous about the safety, etc (no hand washing, animals getting out of cages, etc). But it turned out fine, the kids had a blast and we have pictures of them holding a 10 foot snake. Pretty cool. Not your average adventure! Sunday night we were able to enjoy a Balinese Ritual - the Kecak Dance. We had dinner which was a buffet of salads and appetizers followed by a plate of the most amazing seafood and meat dishes!
On Monday, I had booked a Dolphin experience. This was by far the best thing we did all vacation! The driver picked us up and we drove for about 20-30 mins to the Dolphin Lodge. This was much nicer accomodations - even though it was in a not so nice part of town :-). We waited for the whole group to get there, put on some safety jackets and took a tiny little boat out to an enclosure in the water. The 4 of us were assigned to Jasmine, one of the Mommy Dolphins they have. Jasmine is missing an eye but is otherwise very healthy. We climbed down into her cage and the instructor started her off with some simple tricks. We were able to pet her, feed her, call out commands, etc. She kissed us (on the cheeks), clapped her tailfin, jumped over sticks, pushed a ball around with her nose, sang, etc. It was really an amazing experience! She was so much softer than I envisioned (I was thinking sticky and rubbery). And one of her babies was next to us and also would do tricks for us in her cage! Evelyn was a little afraid to be in the water (because of the other fish swimming around) but warmed up and totally fell in love with dolphins. I think she has asked for us to buy her one every day since we have been back.
On Tuesday, we dropped the kids off at the kids club again and Patrick and I went golfing at the Bali Country Club. This was the one thing Patrick really wanted to do, so I was happy we were able to! It was only about 5 minutes from our resort so we were able to leave the kids and go. Upon arrival, we found out that part of the cost (very expensive cost if you ask me) was to each get a caddy too. This turned out to be great for us - because my caddy really ended up helping me and I shot 4 or 5 PARS!!! Patrick was so happy that I was doing well and having a good time. Unfortunately, he had a rough start - so he didn't shoot in the 70's like he wanted - but pulled it together and had a great back 9. There were holes that you could see out onto the ocean and the weather was again...PERFECT. We were gone for about 4.5 hours and when we got back to the resort, the kids didn't want to leave the kids club! So Patrick and I laid out by the pool together and grabbed some drinks KID-FREE! We finally rounded them up, played in the pool and ocean with them for 2 hours, then got showered and cleaned up for the evening. It ended up being Dinner and Movie night at the kids club, so we dropped them off AGAIN and we went off resort to dinner by ourselves! It was a great day :-)
Our last full day was Wednesday. We let the kids decide what to do - and they wanted to go to a water park. We were a little hesitant since we can go to a water park anytime...but we were so glad we went! We were the only ones there! Seriously - a brand new awesome water park all to ourselves! After about 2 hours a few more people came...but it was non-stop fun. We had a personal driver who took us, and on the way home we stopped at McDonalds for lunch and then he took us to find our "Cat Poop Coffee". We had heard about this special coffee (a special cat with an amazing sense of smell eats the perfectly ripe coffee beans, digests it and poops out the bean. It is supposedly the best coffee on earth since the bitterness is totally gone) and wanted to buy some while there. We ended up in the craziest back alley, shady neighborhood spot, where there was this nice little factory. The employees inside were literally cleaning beans in front of you and there were special tasting rooms. It was, again, one of the strangest experiences I have had! But - we got our coffee and then some!!!
Our flight on Thursday wasn't until later in the evening so we were able to get extended check out and enjoy lunch and more swimming. The flight back to Singapore was easy (except that Patrick ended up getting salmonella from the airline food - but that is another story) and we stayed at the Intercontinental again. Friday we had to get up early to check in for the hop home, but our friends the Currys were also on the flight - so it gave the kids some other people to play with. It was a bumpy flight - but we got home around 6pm on Friday night. We were happy to be home - but sad that our vacation was over. It truly was a trip of a lifetime!!!