On Day 15 in Bali, my mom (Nan) arrived, and the girls were ecstatic to show her around Ubud and visit the Monkey Forest, which we were saving for her arrival. We were sad to leave Villa Ole but looked forward to Villa Gajah, which was on the opposite side of town and promised four bedrooms with spectacular rice field views. We would be there for Christmas, and my mom had booked the place six months ago, so we were all waiting to see it in person.
Villa Gajah was magical but would not be suitable for everyone. It is right in the middle of a rice field (200 metres by foot from the road). Although the bedrooms are properly enclosed with walls, doors and A/Cs, the common areas have no such borders. In the middle of jungle-like Ubud, no walls can make for an interesting menagerie of guests. My fear of rodents was tested when one ran through the living room on Christmas Eve, and frogs all over the floor became commonplace. The girls loved feeding the fish in the fish pond (which, of course, was in the dining room).
The best part of Villa Gajah was the rice field hike outside our door. It was a good 30-minute walk into town on a path through the rice fields, with motorbikes passing every few minutes. On the walk, you’d meet artists selling paintings, farmers selling vanilla beans, cafe owners serving drinks and everything else in between. Michael did the walk every day and made friends along the way. He and I even bought ourselves “travel wedding rings” from the Silversmith on the route. For those who did not want to do the 30-minute hike, the villa also came with a staff who could drive us into town. Wayan and Suri were the caretakers who managed the villa and made us breakfast each morning – we’ll definitely remember the tropical fruit and pancakes. Being us, we supplemented the breakfast with treats like Nutella and imported cheese and I think those delicious breakfasts may be something I look fondly upon as we move into deeper parts of Asia (without the gourmet ex-pat grocery stores).
Our time with Nan started with the obligatory Monkey Forest Visit. We were careful not to bring any food or anything the monkeys could steal and we did not encounter any aggressive or scary ones – phew! To be completely transparent, one did jump on me, but she was using me for a bridge between two trees, so I stayed calm and she promptly jumped off (glad she chose to jump on me and not a kid).
We also had a visit from Sayo (the daughter of family friends from Canada) and her daughter Mia. They live in Bali full-time and came to Ubud for a visit. This utterly thrilled the girls who finally had someone else to play with. We visited a waterfall together and Sayo taught us a little more about life in Bali. It was great to see them and we were thankful for their visit.
We (mom, Nan and the girls) did a cooking class (letting dad have the morning to himself). Initially, they had only set us up with one stove (thinking that the girls were more spectators). The cooking teacher soon learned that Julie and Isabella did not intend to be spectators and they were given their own gas stoves to cook. Julie remains convinced she will be a “chef teacher” when she grows up and this experience only solidified her plan.
On week two at Villa Gajah, we welcomed my brother Leif and his partner Kate who came for Christmas too. We only had three days of monsoon-like torrential rain during a month in Bali. Unfortunately, all three days happened in the week that Leif and Kate were there. Nonetheless, they were busy on the days without rain visiting rice terraces, temples and the centre of town. Leif also treated us to a great meal at Nusantara, where Mike broke his Vegetarianism to try Bali’s version of escargot and mom discovered a love for Ginger Flower salad. It was so nice to get to see them and we were so grateful that they visited from so far away.
Initially, we had planned to downplay the Christmas thing since 30 degrees in a tropical jungle was so different from the regular traditions. But two sad little girls a few days before Christmas made us realize that we had to do a little more than planned. The tissue paper tree and makeshift decorations were created and Christmas youtube playlists were streamed. We also organized a special floating breakfast (which did not happen as it rained that morning). Nonetheless, the girls were spoiled with gifts as Mike and I puzzled as to how they would fit into our luggage (we ended up sending a suitcase back with my brother – thanks Leif). On Christmas Day, Isabella built her Harry Potter Lego and Julie played with the Templetina LOL (yes Aunt Kate, the name has stuck).
We said goodbye to Leif and Kate a few days later as they headed to Taiwan. Luckily Nan was coming with us to Singapore so we avoided that goodbye for a few more days. A month in Bali is what you imagine – beautiful, restful, healthful and quirky. So long Bali, we will definitely miss you.
Where we stayed:
- Villa Gajah: Ricefield views, Wildlife and Wayan
By the numbers:
- Number of Suri’s Breakfast Crepes we ate: At least 40
- Number of Sound Therapy Sessions we did at the Pyramids of Chi next door: 0, Paige has a regret
- Number of times Mike ate the local Warung (restaurant): 4
- Number of nights it took before we finally went to the Balinese dance for Nan: 13
Wildlife Spotted inside our House (yep inside!):
- Croak the Toad: he visited us every night
- Whiskers the Christmas Rat: unfortunately he visited us on Christmas eve
- Hiss the Boxing Day snake: a rice field snake who met an unfortunate end
- Boris the Bat: he crashed into the fishpond and hung out on a reed to recover
- Countless frogs jumping through the kitchen
- Twenty four tadpoles: Julie counted them with me one night
- Geckos galore: One went into my toiletry bag for a visit
- The loudest frog ever: he gave us at least 2 terrible night sleeps (just click on the link, crank the volume and try to fall asleep to that)
- All the fish in the fishpond
- An unidentified animal Kate and Leif heard on the roof each night: they said it had to be quite large
- 44 trillion ants: they were absolutely everywhere and meant that everything had to stay in the fridge