For the last leg of our month in Bali, we stayed four nights at Ranadi Villas in Seminyak. After a very bumpy boat ride across the sea, returning to Bali from Gili Trawagnan, we were quite happy to set down our bags in this beautiful place. I’d found us a good price through the discounter, Agoda Online, so I was especially surprised to learn that we had been upgraded to a two-room villa.
But then they told us they’d only like us to use one of the rooms. (A bit odd.) Still, both rooms were unlocked so we set up Hudson’s crib in the other one and did our best to leave no extra work for housekeeping.
The hotel was off the main stretch of Seminyak—which extends north from the Kuta and Legion areas in sort of a seamless string of beaches—but the hotel offered shuttle service (when the car was free) to the beach or to restaurants. We didn’t mind and, save for the heat, still found it easy to get around—often on foot.
Seminyak was often described to us as being a bit like “Kuta without the crowds” and that seemed like something we’d like. For sure, Seminyak is no longer a sleepy suburb of Kuta, and we found it’s ample supply of restaurants and shops to be just right.
I believe Renadi Villas is primarily aiming to be a time-share destination, so I didn’t find them to be quite as helpful as a true hotel may be, with directions and such, but everything was lovely and everyone very friendly.
After ooh-ing and ash-ing a while at everything around the hotel grounds, we set off to explore and have dinner at enormous Made’s Warung.
We were excited to be back in Bali, in no small part because of the way religious and cultural ceremony would permeate each day. And sure enough, the minute we stepped onto the road we found ourselves surrounded by offerings, music, and hundreds of people in temple attire.
As I mentioned, our visit fell at the start of Galungan, a ten day festival that occurs once in every 210 days and marks the beginning of one of the most important religious ceremonies in Bali. We began to see tall bamboo poles called “penjor” sprouting up all over, and preparations being made for the holiday. We arrived on the 26th; the start of the festival was the 29th.
There’s a small market—best visited early in the day—near the corner of Jalan Raya Kerobokan and Jalan Gunung Tangkuban Perahu, and thanks to Hudson’s charm, we got to sample many varieties of fruit.
The Balinese seem to have quite a sweet tooth, and I especially fell prey to the appeal of the popular Indonesian drink, Teh Botol, a sweetened Jasmine tea (it’s delicious cold).
We were especially excited about the shopping opportunities in Seminyak. We had done our best to show restraint (lest we have to carry more stuff) throughout the first three weeks of travel (with one very, very large exception) and nowing we would be returning to a new, unfurnished home meant that we could actually get serious about it! It took us a little while to figure out what we were looking for and where to find it—I’d been making a mental list as we traveled of all the things we loved about the places we stayed (after all, those furnishings were all made locally), but it wasn’t immediately clear how to find the makers versus the stores who were simply suppliers.
Our first stop, Warisan, offered a great overview of traditional Balinese furnishings, and offered custom-orders (they supply to many hotel chains), but we didn’t find exactly what we were looking for and instead just took the chance to enjoy their courtyard restaurant for lunch. It turned out to be a nice place to stop with Hudson, as there was a large lawn with a fish pond for him to explore.
If furniture weren’t one’s aim, there’s no shortage of amazing boutiques (I recall liking one called Lulu Yasmine). One day, Aron took Hudson back for his nap while I stayed out and went clothes-shopping. I mostly ended up browsing, but I thought the selection was awesome. Those typical “tourist-trap” t-shirt vendors were definitely the exception rather than the rule, as they tend to be in beach resort towns.
But even while browsing clothing racks, I kept my eye on the furniture. I’d ask shop owners if they could tell me who made that reclaimed teak table…
or those Tom-Dixon-esque copper light fixtures. (I found them, by the way! In a shop across from Kerobokan prison. Here they are in our kitchen!) One of my favorite stops was a place called Selected. It was a curated selection, so a bit more expensive, but we found so many great things there. Like nearly everyone else, they too took custom orders.
One of our best finds was Christy Furniture and Art Gallery on Jl. Raya Kerobokan, a large wood-furniture shop where we had nearly all of our backyard furniture custom-made and then grouped into a freight shipment. In fact, we had any other large purchases brought to Christy and added to that shipment. They sent us photos for approval once the items were finished and everything arrived roughly three months later.
That included large baskets, a teak ladder, and the coffee table and the chairs we now have in our living room…
But not a faux-antique bed—though you would be in luck if you were in the market for such a thing!
While we didn’t spend too much time on the beach, we couldn’t possibly leave Seminyak without a visit! We got a ride from the hotel and strolled up and down the shore in the late afternoon sun before sitting down at Gado Gado, a popular restaurant right on the beach (you should make reservations but we got lucky as we ate early).
The surf would have been harder to enjoy with Hudson, so I was glad that we had given ourself plenty of time at the beach on Gili T, but it was beautiful there.
And the fusion-fare at Gado Gado was delicious! One of the best meals of the trip.
On the morning of Galungan, we walked to a nearby temple and watched women balance giant towers of offerings atop their heads. It was clear that each was very proud of the beautiful display, and I felt really fortunate to be there to see it.
When it came time to cross the busy road, we did what any self-respecting adults would do and stood behind these three small girls, following their lead. (Seriously, crossing the street could be crazy!)
From there we made our way back to the beach, to Pura Petitenget, a temple just beside the shore, before walking along the sand beside the upmarket hotels and turning in at Ku De Ta. From there we caught a taxi back home.
As we were leaving, I took note of the gorgeous beachside restaurant at the Oberoi and decided we would return that evening.
It turned out that dinner service started a bit late for us, so we actually ended up getting small bites in their bar, but it looked like a fantastic (if pricey) place for a nice dinner out.
Actually, my other favorite meal in Seminyak was in a small strip mall just behind the Oberoi. Saté Bali gives cooking lessons, which can often be a good sign. I took note and ordered my usual favorite—bits of everything—Nasi Campur.
In the morning, we would have breakfast at the hotel. In the tradition of being completely kid-friendly, they had an entire toy closet just off the lobby from where Hudson would often borrow something with wheels and run around on the grass amongst de-spined cacti.
Oh, Bali… you were so good to us! It was really hard to leave. I’m incredibly envious of you Aussies for whom Southeast Asia is your easy island getaway. What an incredible place to be able to reach so easily! I loved the people, the culture, dramatic landscapes, the ease of travel, the affordable luxuries, the way my son was accommodated, and (almost all of) the food!
It was, thank goodness, well worth the over 40 hours of travel to get there.
Actually, if you ever find yourself flying from Bali to SF, I loved our routing (even though it sounded like hell before we did it). We first stopped in Bangkok–where you can slip into pajamas and get an hour’s massage at a spa for $20. I got to take that turn, while Aron sat in a massage chair with Hudson, drinking fresh coconut juice.
Then, after a second 5-1/2 hour flight that was essentially a red-eye for us (Hudson slept the whole time), we had a full-day in the airport in Seoul. We checked into the transit hotel (pay by the hour), showered, borrowed a crib for a nap, and explored the airport before returning to the gate roughly 11 hours later.
There was a cultural center, an enormous food court, and there were plenty of children’s play zones; Aron took his turn at a spa (though Seoul is much more expensive than Bangkok), and I heard rumors that there’s an in-airport golf course.
Just enough to wear everyone out for a final 11-hour red-eye flight to our new home.
The end! (See the entire One Month in Bali travelogue.)