Last year, for my 35th birthday, we decided to go to Bali. Since it’s a semi-milestone birthday for me, mid of the big 3-0 and big 4-0, I wanted to celebrate it in a new destination. I wanted to go somewhere we haven’t been to. So Bali it is. We’ve always wanted to go there but never got the chance to make it happen until last year.
The best thing about booking in advance (6-8 months before leaving) is that you get to score good deals. I got super low rates for both our hotel accommodations that doubled already nearing the date. Also very thankful to Air Asia that we can now fly direct to Denpasar from Manila. As before, you first have to fly to Singapore and catch a flight from there to Bali. Air Asia rates are pretty cheap but I wish they have more flight schedules during the day as the one going to Bali only flies out at night. In fact, our return flight home was at midnight and it even got more delayed so it can get really tiring especially for kids. But overall, we had a pretty much good experience and I’ll take it anytime since it means being able to go back to Bali with reasonable rates.
When I was planning our trip, I couldn’t decide if we’ll stay in Seminyak or Ubud and just do day trips around but since Bali is also quite big and it can get traffic going around, I decided to split our trip to 2-nights each. It turned out to be the perfect idea because we had 2 unique experiences from both places and got to maximize our time. We stayed 2 nights first in Seminyak in The Haven and we love its location. It’s smack right in the center of the main shopping street. You can easily go around the strip of shops and restaurants by foot from the hotel. When we arrived in The Haven it was already around 9pm. We were pleasantly surprised to find out we got upgraded to a 1-bedroom suite with a pool view. Elian loved it. Our bedroom was huge, we had a kitchenette, dining area and living room area and an outdoor day bed. If only we could have spent more time in our room but since The Haven had a beautiful outdoor pool surrounded by lush trees and greenery that’s really where we spent our time. Every morning after breakfast, we’ll be out there in the pool before we went out to explore. I love that their pool makes you feel like you’re swimming somewhere exotic like deep in the jungle. All the trees and the greenery in the Haven makes your stay just so relaxing. Elian also loved the fish ponds. We would definitely stay there again. Plus, I love the birthday surprise they gave me. On the morning of my birthday, they surprised me with cake and balloons in our room. With the staff even singing! Thank you so much for a fun and memorable stay, The Haven!
On our first full day in Seminyak which was my birthday, we had lunch at Sardine, a charming restaurant overlooking rice paddies. I’m a sucker for lovely alfresco restaurants and Sardine was the perfect setting to celebrate my birthday. It was relaxing, cozy and just very chill. What’s even more perfect is Elian fell asleep on our ride to the restaurant after a morning of swimming in our hotel. So my husband and I got to enjoy an impromptu lunch date undisturbed. It was the best! Since we’ve always been hands-on parents with Elian who has no yaya and we bring him with us on all our travels, those moments he’ll suddenly take a nap has been my favorite moments because it gives me and my husband peace and quality time lol. So we enjoyed our lunch and I got another surprise cake and singing, this time from the Sardine staff. I swear this has been my most special birthday hahaha! When Elian woke up, he enjoyed running around exploring the rice paddies and visited the ducks in the fields.
We spent the afternoon going around the local mall and the shops in the area. Then for dinner, we went to Potato Head Beach Club to catch the Bali sunset and have early dinner. It was the perfect ending to my birthday. 🙂
The next day, we checked out at The Haven, then went and did a side trip to Gianyar for the Bali Safari Park. One thing to do when in Bali is to rent a car with a local driver/tour guide so you can easily go around. This is what we did from the time we arrived, our driver Nata picked us up in the airport and the next day brought us to Sardine, Potato Head Beach Club and then to Bali Safari Park before heading to Ubud for our next hotel. You can definitely do and see more with a driver.
At Bali Safari Park, Ken and I were surprised how big it is and how it actually gives you a close-to-authentic safari experience. Of course it’s not like the African safari which is the real deal, but it’s a good start. Like a primer for when you cannot afford to go to Africa yet lol. What I love about it is it’s definitely not the typical zoo. This one gives you close encounters and lets you see them in their natural habitat. You can see the zebras running around, the giraffes walking amidst the zebras, elephants bathing, lions and tigers roaming. It’s an exciting experience for both adults and kids. We rode the safari jeep first which takes you to where the animals are then for lunch we ate at Tsavo Lion Restaurant which also gives you a unique experience of being surrounded by the lions. The restaurant has full-length viewing glass panels that allows you to watch the lions roam right there outside. Even at the loo, it’s funny because they can actually see you and go to you. Ken was changing Elian’s diaper there and they were surprised when a lioness walked up to them and watched. It’s just the glass panels separating you. Overall, this one is highly recommended for both adults and kids. It’s one of our best animal experience and our first safari experience as a family. So happy we got to do this! 🙂
After our time at the Bali Safari Park, we then went to Ubud where we will be staying 2-nights at Desa Visesa Ubud. This resort is just AMAZING! And i’m so so so happy I found them at Agoda. I’m just so happy I decided to book there because our experience at their resort exceeded our expectations so much. Of course, you can see from the photos at Agoda that their resort is amidst fields and greens which I like. But I totally didn’t expect to experience Balinese lifestyle and to just totally get immersed and LOVE it! We all loved it there! It’s definitely at the top of best resort experiences ever. How do I even begin to list down everything? Lol!
Okay so when we arrived, we found out we’re staying in a villa, set deep within a jungle. The room is huge like we have to go down 2-flights of steps to get to our room door and when you see it it’s like really big that can fit like a family of 10 when it’s just us three. There’s a dining area, a big canopy king-size bed, a double bed, a baby cot which Elian loved because it made him feel like a baby again. And there’s still so much space in the room. And the bathroom is huge too. And at the balcony, there’s an outdoor sofa and table where Elian loved playing, a big bath tub we all loved and what’s great about this is, it’s all overlooking the jungle! You can play and take a bath and enjoy lounging in the tub while overlooking the forest and hearing the river below. It’s actually so beautiful and a bit scary at the same time hahaha. But what I also love about Desa Visesa is everything gives you the experience of the Balinese culture – the whole resort, the grounds, the villas, the staff, the program, just everything! The moment we got there, we were welcomed by introducing us to their Balinese Hinduism culture. They sat us on these King & Queen thrones by the altar in the lobby and they rinsed our hands in water, rice grains were placed on our foreheads, flowers were tucked in our ears and we were given a friendship bracelet and a yummy welcome drink. We were also given a tour around the huge grounds of rice paddies. There’s an organic farm to table restaurant at the fields. There are horses you can ride. There are Balinese dancers performing at sunset. It was just the best way to experience Bali especially for us first-timers. They also have free shuttle going to Ubud center where you can go to Ubud markets, Monkey Forest, etc. etc. Staying at Desa Visesa really made our trip memorable and we really really loved that. And to top it all off, they offer guests free family photography! FREE photography of 30-mins around the resort for you and your whole family or if you’re a couple, you can make this shoot as your pre-nup shoot or honeymoon shoot. Can you believe it. This is the only time I’ve stayed in a resort with a photographer who will do it for you for free. They just really think of everything. Everything at Desa Visesa is just love. Thank you, thank you for the most memorable trip ever!
Overall, Bali just really took us by surprise. We’ve heard many people say it’s amazing that’s why we’ve always wanted to go. But to actually experience it on your own is just something else. I thought it would be hard to enjoy it with your toddler in tow but no, Bali is perfect for kids and families as much as it’s perfect for couples. I’d love to go back here with Ken just us two. There’s so many places to see and so much more to do, you’ll definitely have to keep coming back. And the best thing about Bali for me is it’s healing vibe. There’s a certain calmness and spirituality that you feel just being there that allows you to just let go, relax and recover. Which is exactly what we needed for this trip. And so thank you, Bali. You’ve been nothing but amazing. I’m glad I spent my 35th birthday with you. Til we meet again! For now, I end this long overdue post with our Bali family trip video. 🙂