We tag along with yoga teacher Annique Rousseau as she taps into a side of Bali that many families frequenting the typical beach resorts miss out on – exploring the beating green cultural heart of Bali.
The most famous of Bali’s ‘upland’ destinations? Ubud, which draws visitors from around the globe thanks to its dreamy landscapes, thriving arts and craft scene and spiritual leanings – all the fodder that catapulted the area into ‘must see’ bucket lists once the novel Eat, Pray, Love hit the international spotlight. Just one hour’s drive north of Denpasar International Airport and the bustling resorts of southern Bali, Ubud is a hub for traditional crafts and dance and is surrounded by the photogenic combination of rainforest, terraced rice paddies and Hindu temples and shrines. But Ubud doesn’t have a monopoly on gorgeous scenery or cultural experiences – Annique also takes us to a couple of alternate locations for families seeking to connect with a more serene and green side of Bali.
Name: Annique Rousseau, Yoga Teacher
Kid’s ages: 8 & 11 years
Q: Who did you fly with (and more importantly would you fly with them again?):
A: Jetstar, if there was another option other than Virgin I would have taken it, but there wasn’t. The flights are basically shuttles running to Australia from Bali and the flights are at the worst times, but you just deal with it!
Q: Where did you stay?
A: We were there 6 1/2 weeks and stayed mainly in Tabanan, Canggu, and Ubud.
At Tabanan we stayed at Bali Eco Stay (Mount Batukaru, Central Bali). They have sustainable bungalows surrounded by a tropical food forest, mountain fed streams and waterfalls, and views over the rice fields to the ocean. They serve freshly farmed Baliness cuisine and offer cooking, craft and cultural workshops.
We also stayed at Green Camp, set in the campus of Bali’s Green School in Sibang Kaja. It offers experiences that aim to cultivate understanding and appreciation of nature, community, and self through learning ‘adventures’. Programs operate year-round, with day and overnight camp programs ranging from half-day visits to intensive week-long residential experiences for families.
The kids loved all the accommodation we stayed in for different reasons; the Green School had yurts, Bali Eco Stay had open air villas that opened onto the river, and we rented a villa with a pool in Ubud.
Q: Had you been to Bali before (and if so, did you previously have kids in tow)?
A: I have been to Bali before, but this was the first time with kids. I was planning to do a month-long yoga teacher training with High Vibe Yoga at Yoga Barn in Ubud, so it made sense to bring the kids with me. I stayed for 6 1/2 weeks because I wanted to settle them in before my study commenced.
Q: What was the kid’s highlight of the trip?
A: The Green Camp was the highlight for the kids. We did thing like walking through the rice paddies, swimming in the river, night walks, family games, made eco paper, cooked chocolate, and met really cool families from all over the world – including one girl whose mom was the producer of Diary of a Whimpy Kid (our favourite).
Q: Anywhere you’d recommend to other travelling families?
A: I would recommend both the Green School and Bali Eco Stay. Bali Eco Stay is up in the Tabanan countryside, a great place for kids to run around. The hotel pool is the waterfall on the property.
Q: Top picks for kid-friendly eateries:
A: Eating out in Ubud with kids is easy as there’s lots of options that are relatively family-friendly; Warung Sopa had a nice garden for kids to hang out in; Pizza Bagus had good pizza; Taco Casa had good tacos, Element had western food if you’re craving it; Wayan’s Organic Coconut Juice Bar had good juices and Jungle Fish is an experience in itself, as they have a swimming pool surrounded by ‘jungle’ and their eating options include a kid’s menu. Elsewhere we stayed, Bali Eco Stay had a restaurant (which was good) and at Green Camp they feed you in house.
Q: Any problems with water/food/airborne illnesses?
A: Unfortunately the water in Bali is so dirty. We had gastro and ear infections. I recommend taking ear putty and any swimming the kids do make sure they wear ear plugs. You can get local medicine from the chemist which works well with gastro. Stay in a place with air con; it is hot and can be really challenging if you are sick and there is no aircon. Just be cautious with water; buy lots of bottled clean water so you don’t get caught without it.
Q: Any other pitfalls families should avoid?
A: Use the ATMs that are attached to the banks or bring cash; I have previously had problems with money being taken from my account at ATMs in tourist locations. You can keep cash in hotel safes until you can get to the money changer.
Q: And lastly, what did your kids take away from their travels about Balinese culture?
A: The kids loved Bali. They learned a lot about the culture; when I was busy with yoga training I got a local babysitter and she took them out to places often, explaining things along the way. Balinese people really love kids, so they were welcomed and treated well everywhere they went. Because they felt so loved, they were really comfortable with being there and felt right at home.