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Bali – island of the gods

There’s plenty for the whole family to enjoy in beautiful Bali
By Lisa Mc Namara

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Those in the know don’t recommend visiting Bali in January – it’s hot and humid, it rains and many Asians and Australians are on holiday, so resorts and beaches can be crowded. However, I was invited to attend a work function in Nusa Dua, South Bali and managed to convince my husband and youngest that a three-day visit to a country we had never been to would be worth the very long flight. Robyn, who is nine and an intrepid traveller, took little convincing but my husband required some work. The joy of landing on a not-yet-visited continent and experiencing vastly different landscapes, people, food and culture proved to be worth every minute of the round trip. 
 
My travel book, Bali and Lombok (DK Eyewitness Travel) sets the scene: “Hilltops and mountain gods are both prominent in Balinese legend. The landscape of the islands has deeply influenced their cultural, political and economic life for thousands of years. Old traditions have persisted remarkably, despite the successive impacts of colonialism, political strife and the travel industry”. Most of the Balinese are Hindu and we were in awe of their religious fervour. From offerings to processions – there seemed to be a ceremony on every street, every day. On the subject of streets: driving in Bali is scary. Not only are there hundreds of motorbikes on every street corner, but there are sometimes as many as four or five passengers – often with groceries and even a caged white rabbit – perched atop.
 
We escaped the mayhem of the roads for the sanctuary of the Club Med resort in Nusa Dua where we were to be hosted. To be honest, Club Med Bali is not a resort; it’s more of a world on its own and offers the perfect holiday for families with award-winning children’s facilities. They know that parents want time to relax and they understand that young children and teenagers have very different holiday expectations. Qualified and enthusiastic G.Os® (“gentil organisers”) look after the children. Club Med would not be complete without its G.Os®, described as young, enthusiastic and child-loving. Your children, provided with entertainment, naps, specially prepared meals and everyday comforts, play happily and safely while you relax at the pool or beach.
 
For the older, somewhat fearless children who want to try out everything, the Mini Club offers amazing activities and adventures. Robyn took to snorkelling and the trapeze with some trepidation, but much enthusiasm, thoroughly enjoying them both. But she was just as happy swimming in the sea or the huge swimming pool. While I visited the spa for its signature Four Hands treatment, my husband read on his lounger, knowing that Robyn’s safety was taken care of by two vigilant lifeguards, one at either end of the pool. When I saw the Australian moms going off to lunch leaving their children swimming in the pool (with their “rashies” on), I knew the lifeguards had to be good!
 
I was sad that Julian wasn’t along for the ride as Club Med offers teenagers freedom and excitement in a safe environment. There is no lifting to parties or worrying about alcohol, as the resort has shows and discos every night and a strict no under 18 drinking rule. They also have everything you need for land and aqua sports and teens are able to have a dream holiday with their own group of new friends from all over the world.
 
Sadly, our three days flew by. Robyn took part in a number of Mini Club events, and particularly enjoyed the traditional Balinese fashion show, the Michael Jackson extravaganza and the Circus Show put on by the amazingly talented and energetic G.Os®. South Bali is a good base for further exploration, so on our last day we ventured into the country and spent a hot and humid morning visiting the Temple of Tanah Lot and the surrounding rice fields. The scenery and rich cultural sites deserve a month or two to really take them in and I dream of going back, this time for an extended stay.
 
When to go
 
Bali is just a few degrees south of the equator and the average temperature hovers around the 30°C mark. The rain season is between October and March, although it mostly rains in the evenings giving you balmy, sunny days. The best time to go, however, is during their dry season from April to September.
 
Health checks
 
Vaccines It’s strongly suggested that you get vaccines for hepatitis A and typhoid fever. Older people and people with a compromised immune system should also get a flu vaccine. If you are planning on staying in Bali for an extended holiday, you might also want to talk to your health care practitioner about shots for hepatitis B, Japanese encephalitis and rabies (transmitted from monkey bites.)
 
Malaria The tourist areas in Bali are generally risk-free, but if you plan on visiting the rural areas it’s wise to take precaution. Ask your health care practitioner for the best medical option. Use insect repellent daily and wear lightweight, long-sleeved clothing.
 
Water “Bali belly” has a reputation of monumental proportions. Stay on the safe side and drink only bottled water and use it to brush your teeth.
 
What to wear
 
Wearing too little clothing outside hotels and well-defined tourist spots might cause offence. Here are some tips:
 
  • Light-weight natural fabrics
  • When visiting sacred sites, dress accordingly
  • Wear long-sleeved, light-weight clothing to avoid mosquito bites
  • Sarongs are a winner to cover up beach wear
 
How to get there
 
We flew courtesy of Air Malaysia and found their staff, service and planes to be first-class. Visit malaysiaairlines.com.
 
Where to stay
 
We stayed at the recently refurbished, four-trident rated Club Med Bali. The resort is surrounded by the Java Sea and Indian Ocean and a 30-minute transfer is available from Denpasar Airport. For more info, contact 011 840 2600.
 
Family fun in Bali
 
Go shopping, make a traditional offering, watch a traditional Balinese show and play at Kuta Beach. Other sights include the Sacred Monkey Forest, the Bali Elephant Park and Turtle Island.
 
Special note
 

It is advisable to do research on the country you are planning to visit and to learn more about that country’s political climate. Especially remote destinations should be well researched. The Australian government has posted advice on their website for Aussies planning on travelling to this part of Asia. For more info, visit Smartraveller.

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