This is it — my inaugural post on Alvinology. A big hello to everyone and hope you will enjoy my posts.
Thrilled as I am with the opportunity to contribute to his blog, when Alvin asked me what I wanted to write for my first entry, I was stumped.
I was hard pressed for a topic to write on because y’know it’s really hard to have a clear mind to think of one when 1) it has been ages since you blogged; 2) juggling a business while caring for a three-month old 3) you’re bogged down by sniffles caused by lack of sleep. So, I copped out and suggested to Alvin, “Can I write about my Bali trip which I took over Easter weekend?” He did not disagree.
Just when I thought I’ve lost my adventurous streak since I became a mom three months ago, I proved myself wrong.
On a whim (and by that, I mean in less than a week or so), my husband and I along with 2 other couplings decide to scoot over to Bali for a few days, with our kids. The wives, but of course, planned everything for the trip via a whatsapp group chat.
Bali seemed like a natural choice for us for many reasons. But here are the four big ones:
1) All 3 couples have been to Bali at least once (before we became parents). My husband and I were there 4 years ago to take our pre-wedding photographs. It helps, especially when you are taking the young ‘uns with you that you are headed to somewhere you are more or less familiar with. It’s hard enough to contend with the needs of the kids, much less a strange place. So minimize uncertainty as much as you can.
2) Bali has changed a lot since I last been there. For one, the traffic has become pretty bad (not as bad as Jakarta yet of course, thank God). But what used to take only 45 minutes to an hour max to get from Kuta to Ubud, we discovered during this trip that it now takes 2 hours. Better go now, than later; before the zen-ness of Bali fades and the busy-ness worsens when Bali becomes the next Silicon Valley.
3) It takes only 2.5 hours to get there by plane. With kids below 2 in tow, keep flight radius within 3 hours if possible (we flew via Tiger). Especially when it’s the first time traveling with someone as young as 3 months old.
4) Bali remains one of the few places where you can get around without much of a hassle with a personal driver. Ours (his name is Ari) is very well acquainted with the area (he takes you to where the locals go instead of the tourist traps), is a safe driver (important when you have little passengers) and speaks fluent Mandarin. Our 10-seater set us back only S$80 a day, with fuel included.
At the end of the 4 days and 3 nights, we (the parents) were all knackered. I’m not gonna lie and make you look through my rose-tinted Raybans.
As Zhihao aptly put it on the second night, “We need a holiday to get over this holiday.” The rest of us just nodded along. But all of us agreed it was fun nonetheless and we not only “leveled up” as parents but we discovered our little ones are more tenacious and hardy than we give them credit for. The kids not only survived the flight (by that, I mean they didn’t throw a hissy fit throughout the flight to get us thrown out of the plane), they made it through the queue that seemed to go on forever at the immigration counters in Bali airport, the traffic jams and the heat. Together, we proved our naysayers (“Hah, so young bring go holiday? Cannot la!”) wrong.
Other than pooping twice on the plane within the time it took for us to get to Bali, my 3-month-old was a trooper!
With this experience, I think I’ve earned myself a wee bit of credit to dispense advice on traveling with little children. So here goes:
#1. Start near. Don’t be too garang. Especially when you’re traveling for the first time with babies. A 3 hour flight radius will be sane enough. What it means is that even if your baby decides to have a meltdown, you will only have to tolerate it (and death stares and insults by fellow passengers) for those couple of hours. I believe that’s the threshold of any new parent, at least for me. Going somewhere nearby also means packing is not a b*itch. Let me elaborate in point #2.
#2. Packing for babies. It’s Bali. It’s humid and hot and it’s the rainy season.
Onesies that close with a snap were our number one choice. We catered one (short-sleeved) for each day for daytime wear and one sleeping suit a night. And in case of spit-ups or messy poos, we packed 2 more sets of clothings, just in case. Diapers – about 5 pieces a day (at least that’s how much Keri uses on a normal basis), plus 5 spares. And did I mention rainy season means mozzies galore? Especially when you’re staying in a villa where there’s vegetation all round. In a nutshell, here’s a list of what we brought for 4D3N:
– 5 onesies
– 4 sleeping suits
– 4 pairs of mittens (extra protection from mozzies)
– 25 pieces of diapers
– 1 full pack of baby wipes + 2 travel-sized ones to put in the diaper bag when traveling around in the day time
– Baby toiletries (travel-sized) i.e. top-to-toe wash, lotion, diaper rash cream, Mopiko, baby massage oil (ideally with citronella to ward off mosquitoes), washing liquid for the bottles, laundry detergent (because spit-ups on baby clothes not rinsed off immediately will turn rancid by the time you bring them home)
– 1x baby sunnies (with UV protection)
– Sunblock with at least SPF30 (we use the brand, MILK which is great for kids 3 months and older)
– 1 tin of milk powder (Keri consumes at a rate of 1-900g tin a week so we weren’t going to risk bringing the mini version)
– 4 milk bottles
– 1 thermos flask
– 1 milk powder dispenser
– Some of her favorite (smaller) toys for distraction
– Lots and lots of mosquito patches (look for brands that indicate ‘safe for children and infants’)
– Fever patch (in case of fever and generally it can be used when the weather gets too hot and risks baby overheating)
– 2-3 pieces of swaddles (which we used to double up as a blanket and a cot mattress protector)
– A few washcloths for bath time
All this took up a 55cm/30-litre luggage while the husband and I shared one bowling bag-sized overnighter for all our belongings.
#3: Opt for a villa. If possible. There are many to choose from in Bali– depending on your desired location to the number of bedders. Travelling in a group for us, it was no-brainer we chose a villa. The 3-bedroom we got at Serene Villas (along Jalan Drupadi) was great for 3 families.
We each had our own bedroom (ours was large enough to accommodate a walk-in closet and a baby cot for Keri) with ensuite open-air bathrooms. There’s a bathtub that you can bathe baby in; but we found it too huge so we improv-ed and bathed Keri in the sink instead as she’s still small enough to fit into it.
Baby cots were available for rent for USD$10 a night and it came with a mosquito net. I would suggest bringing swaddles or your own mattress protector to line the mattress and you can double it up as a cot bumper.
In between the bedrooms was a fully-equipped kitchen (including pots, pans, cups and cutlery), a private pool, a dining area and living area with television and space large enough to put a 3mx3m playmat.
Having a kitchen is tres important especially when you have bottles to sterilise and in the case of the Huangs, solid foods to prepare for Tyler. Because Keri still wakes up in the middle of the night for a feed, the Ohs chose the bedroom closest to the kitchen. If you have toddlers who are capable of running amok, like Ian, you can request for a pool fence at a rate of USD$10 a night to rent — not too large a sum to pay for a peace of mind.
Breakfast was also made (you order from a menu the night before) on the spot by the villa’s butler. Plus, when we’ve all put the kiddos to bed, the living area’s great for the mums and paps to gather for a chat over a few pints of Bintang and Jim Beam with honey on the rocks.
Overall, this villa is very family and baby friendly.
#4: Always err on the side of caution. Especially when it involves food preparation for the babies. The villa did provide mineral water which can be dispensed in hot or cold format. We weren’t aware of this till we got to the villa so enroute from the airport, we stopped by a local supermarket and bought a carton of mineral water (12 x 1.5l only cost SGD$5!), which was used to make formulas and sterilize the bottles. Note that Bali’s tap water is not suitable for drinking. Before we made the trip, I took Keri to the paedetrician (PD) just to get an examination to make sure there’s nothing major. She wasn’t due for her 3-month vaccinations till next month and it was a risk we took to take her to Bali without her jabs. We also got from the PD some essential medications just in case — nasal spray, fever meds and probiotics.
#5: Forget the itinerary (ha!). Not with babies; you can forget about doing the sightseeing and making frequent stops. We had to throw away our plans in the end to visit Uluwatu (it was too out of the way) and Tanah Lot. The trip ended up being one that was about eating and minor shopping — for toothpaste and baby wipes, no less, at Carrefour!
#6: Travel with like-minded fellow parents. Honestly, we couldn’t have done it without our friends; we suffered together (ha!). We had each other’s backs. For one, we doubled up as one another’s nannies to our kids just so the parents could take a break or run some errands (i.e. take a bath or eat a meal proper).
For example, while the mummies were sent away for their well-deserved massage and pedicures, the daddies stepped up to look after the babies.
And when your kid is having the most unimaginable of hissyfits, all you need to do is look around and when you realize you’re not alone in this, it makes everything a whole lot better. Oh yes, slings or baby carriers are preferred to strollers (Bali’s roadside pavements are too narrow and potholes-filled to push a stroller without giving the baby a helluva bumpy ride). But the latter is helpful when you want to lay the baby down for a nap while you’re at a restaurant.
We were due to catch our 7pm flight on our last day so we spent most of the afternoon strolling down Oberoi Road (where I found a cute little kids store called Kidsagogo and couldn’t resist buying a coupla sundresses for Keri), had the mandatory lunch at Ku De Ta and chanced upon a hole-in-the-wall cafe called Revolver.
Would I do this again, you ask me? Hell to the yeah! In fact, the husband and I are planning to take Keri to New Zealand in September. Now that will be another ballgame altogether.