Down Time is Good Time
One thing we cottoned onto early on in the trip was the importance of realising that kids are kids and to therefore ensure that plenty of downtime is built into our itinerary. Like most kids, ours love the water and being around other kids. Whilst staying in a big resort has its downside, it has the massive benefit of ensuring that there are usually lots of other kids and great swimming pools to play in.
Of course, the upside of having kids that are engaged and entertained is it provides a modicum of downtime for us to enjoy ourselves, both with them and on our own.
Part of the decision to go to Indonesia was also to take in the sights of Borobudur which have long been on my bucket list. We booked with Garuda for the hour long flight to Yogyakarta, but probably would've been just as happy with an Air Asia flight which is a lot cheaper.
We'd pre-arranged a driver to take us to the Borobudur Temple, to take out the hassle factor which, despite the short distance, due to the amount of traffic and conditions of road took quite a while. It also required a toilet stop which opened the girls' eyes to the sanitary standards of public toilets. As Emily decided she needed help to go toilet it also meant that I had to help her squat which resulted in a stream of warm “water” running down my arm. Nothing that a bottle of water couldn’t wash away.
We chose to stay in the Manohara Resort which was more expensive than surrounding accommodation but was situated on the actual temple grounds giving unlimited access to the Temple itself. This turned out to be a great decision as it meant that we could go back to the rooms whenever we liked and when the kids got tired, whilst also allowing me plenty of time to go and visit the temple from any number of different points and at differing times of the day.
Borobudur is one of the world’s largest Buddhist temples having been built in the 9th century as a shrine to Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. Due to a number of restoration efforts it has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The first day’s visit was pretty cloudy but it did nothing to detract from the amazing beauty of the temple itself seen from Dagi Hill.
Seen up close the temple is even more amazing with extremely detailed carved relief stones making up the temple, along with the bell shaped stupas and numerous statues of the Buddha. Needless to say the photos simply don’t do it justice.
Also adding to the allure of the temple is its setting among the volcanoes of Java.
Another thing also worth doing is visiting again at sunrise. I didn’t opt for the sunrise package, which allows entry to the temple itself before the other fee paying tourists hoping that I might somehow be able to blag my way up there early. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case and I had to wait for sunrise to be completed before being given access to what was a wonderful morning and some surreal colours in the mist.
As Indonesia’s most visited tourist attraction you shouldn't expect any sense of serenity and this definitely applies to the dawn visit where the monument was crowded with loads of tourists all trying to get that perfect shot. Or in most cases, that perfect selfie. So, should I have gone for the sunrise tour? To be honest, I’m not sure it would’ve made any difference, however, if we hadn’t been staying on the temple environs with immediate access, I would’ve been more swayed to doing so.
I definitely felt two days were required to get a better feel for the place and in our own time. Whilst the kids got a bit bored there were some elephants for them to have a look at and there’s plenty of space to run around on the grounds with no traffic to have to contend with, which was also an added bonus. Despite not having a pool for two days, they still managed to cope with “Mum and Dad’s part of the holiday”.
Postcards From Prambanan
We found Yogyakarta or Jogya as everyone seems to call it a great place to spend a few days. Whilst the traffic was as chaotic and slow moving as anywhere else, it had a great feel to it and with “only” 400,000 inhabitants seemed to retain a soul that can be lacking in much larger cities.
The main reason for visiting Jogya was to visit the 9th century Hindu temple complex of Prambanan. It wasn’t entirely lost on me that the two main sights we came to view in Java, which is part of the much larger Muslim country of Indonesia, were of Buddhist and Hindu origins.
Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), half the family weren’t feeling particularly well, so we decided that I’d visit the temples on my own whilst the rest of the family had some R&R back at the hotel pool. As part of the compromise it also meant I wouldn’t visit during the best viewing time of sunset, but the option of being able to roam the temple grounds on my own for three hours was simply too good to pass up.
The temples really are amazing and well worth visiting. As another UNESCO World Heritage sight, the temples also attract a large number of tourists, and on the day I visited was inundated by hoardes of school children all looking to get photo’s with me. I’m not quite sure why I’d turned into a popstar overnight, and unfortunately due to the limited amount of time I had to turn down what felt like hundreds of requests.
Within easy walking distance (less than a kilometre) of the main temple complex are the almost deserted Sewu and Plaosan temples, which also are well worth visiting even if simply to enjoy a bit of solitude and take the whole experience in.
This is a place where you can easily spend half a day. Everything I've heard suggests that a visit to Prambanan is best done at sunset and then combined with watching the Ramayana Ballet which is held on the open-air stage at Prambanan usually from May to October. I'm not 100% sure on times etc, but I think it starts around 7.30pm and runs for a couple of hours making this not the ideal show for kids (or at least hours). I'm sure there's plenty of tourist shops where you can book.
Monkey Magic in Ubud
After our Temple Run to Java we headed back to the island of Bali and up to Ubud which took us close to an hour and a half from the airport.
One of the things which we were keen to check out was the Mandala Wisata Wenara Wana, better known as the Ubud Monkey Forest.
This is a great place for the kids that has plenty of shade being under the "forest" canopy and which also has plenty of statues to look at as you walk around the forest.
And of course, the place is teeming with monkeys! As you'd expect the monkeys are very used to tourists and extremely demanding if you have anything which slightly resembles food. They're also not shy about hitching free rides as you walk past as Annabelle found out when one jumped up onto her backpack sitting up top for a couple of minutes before getting bored and jumping off again. It goes without saying that you should make sure you're careful around what you carry that the monkeys might take an interest in and feel the need to liberate from you!
This is definitely worth doing with the kids at least once when you're in Ubud and the following link provides more information https://www.water-sports-bali.com/monkey-forest-ubud-entrance-fee/.
Campuhan Ridge Walking
Situated just off one of the main roads that runs through Ubud, Jl Raya Ubud, is the start of the Campuahan Ridge Walk. This can be a bit tricky to find, but seek out the sign for Warwick Ibah Luxury Villas and you should hopefully find it.
The walk itself has a few hills but more importantly has some really nice views. It's also a good opportunity for some much needed exercise away from the crowds.
Day Trippin Up North
Within reach of Ubud (by car) are a number of great temples and the world famous Tegalalang Rice Terraces. We negotiated for a taxi tour and first up visited the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan Temple which is a beautiful Hindu temple set on Lake Bratan.
There's also plenty of other things for the kids to look, including a not-so-modern playground, which they still seemed to love.
No trip to Bali would be complete without viewing the rice terraces which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. There are a few choices, most notably between Jatiluwih and Tegalalang, both of which are close to Ubud.
We visited the Tegalalang rice terraces and loved being able to walk around the place. Unfortunately, due to a downpour we only managed a short walk but there were quite a few longer walks which it would have been nice to do if the weather had been a bit better.
At any rate, try and get there as early as possible to avoid the swarms of tourists that quite rightly visit this place for the beautiful views.
Seminyak Sea Living
Looking to finish off our holiday with some time by the sea, we opted for Seminyak as a slightly less hectic version of Legian and Kuta. Seminyak is still mass touristed but was a nice place to chill out for the remainder of the holiday.
The waves in Seminyak, like the other beaches, are pretty big, so this definitely is a place where you want to keep a really good eye on your kids,
And of course, no self-respecting girl who has gone to Bali should even think about going home without having their hair braided. A service done down at the beach while parents can happily sip away on an ice cold Bintang.
Waterbom is Water Fun
Ranked as the Number 1 Waterpark in Asia by Trip Advisor (not quite sure how these ranking systems work), Waterbom Bali is another outing that your kids are sure to love.
You'll need a full day to take in everything on offer and this is something that both adults and kids can enjoy in equal measure. After the relatively inexpensive nature of most things in Bali, the cost of the whole day is a bit of a shock, but that shouldn't put you off enjoying a fabulous day out.
If you want to find out more, check out the following link: http://waterbom-bali.com/.
There's a Lot to See in Tanah Lot
Further north up the coast from Seminyak and the main Bali beaches is one the most famous Bali Temples, Tanah Lot. Despite the short distance, once again traffic makes this a 45 minute plus taxi ride but this is definitely worth it.
The offshore setting of the temple makes for great sunset photos, but be prepared to be swamped by tourists as this not to be missed temple is extremely popular.
There's plenty else to see in and around the temple environs, including this (not so) little beauty.
There's also the usual gamut of hawkers but I found them very friendly, especially this colourful gentleman, who was giving out blessings.
All Good Things Come to An End
After two weeks, we felt like we'd had enough time to have a reasonably good look around. No one was happy to be leaving as we'd had a great time, but we felt like we'd taken that first wee step into giving the girls a proper travelling experience.
Judging by our Facebook posts our entire time was like this:
The reality, however, was probably a bit more like this!
Bali and Java are extremely kid friendly and there is so much to do that involves the whole family, that it is easy to see why so many people regularly travel here. At times, it felt a bit too touristy for my liking, but the people are extremely lovely. I'm also very glad we included Java in the trip as this part of Indonesia has a completely different vibe than Bali and is much less frequented by tourists. To anybody thinking about coming over to this way and wondering whether it is an appropriate destination to bring your kids, I'd unreservedly say yes.