Bali with Family

Mar 8th, 2004, 01:01 PM
  #1  
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Bali with Family

Hello,
We are planning to travel to Bali this summer (early August) for 14 days with our 3 children, ages 14 and twin 11 year olds (well traveled). We prefer high end hotels, and thought that perhaps we would get bargains on the best ones because of recent tourism slide. We are most interested in the Aman hotels (we thought we would try a few nights in each of the 3 hotels) or the Four Seasons (half of the trip in each one). I realize they are incredible hotels and here I would expect to pay the prices they are asking, but somewhat surprised to see them there. So a couple of questions - 1 - is there a place to get these hotel rooms discounted? In one of the travel forums it said never to pay the prices asked by hotels because the web has so many discount places...but who to trust? And are these high end places discounted? 2 - Are these our best choices? Was also looking at the Ritz Carlton which is far more reasonable, but frankly from the website it looks like any other Ritz Carlton and is not as much of a Bali experience. Is that the case? Would love any feedback or itinerary suggestions with that amount of time with our children.
Thanks!
stockexchanger is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 03:01 PM
  #2  
 
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Four Seasons seldom discounts and if you see them listed on discounted hotel websites, it's often a bait and switch maneuver on the part of the booking agency. The website will offer FS rooms at big discounts, but when you try to reserve one, they will tell you there are none available and try to steer you to places where they get bigger commissions.
If you call the FS Bali reservations dept directly and tell them what you are planning, you may be able to do some direct negotiating, especially if they are not busy that week. they have some 2 bdrm villas with private plunge pools that would fit your family nicely.

for some excellent family tours, I would recommend a company called Sobek. We used them for white water rafting and a 4 wheel drive tour to the villages and rice paddies of E. Bali and they did a fantastic job.
Lindsey is offline  
Mar 8th, 2004, 07:31 PM
  #3  
 
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Although tourism is depressed overall in Bali, hotels are all less likely to discount in August as it is one of the peak travel months.

All of the Four Seasons and Aman properties are lovely and exclusive, so please don't interpret my comments as criticisms of your choices.

For the beach experience both the FS and the two Aman resorts have fairly crummy beaches. Although my husband and I could have spent the rest of our lives at our FS villa with plunge pool, our teenaged son found it excruiatingly quiet and claustophobic.

The property that we as a family continue to enjoy is the Legian in Seminyak. Not quite as elite as the FS or Aman, but still a beautifully designed hotel with excellent food and service where one can be either reclusive and active as you like. Their stretch of beach is one of the best in Bali -- you can walk for miles -- and it's within a few meters of Bali's best restaurants.

Inland, the FS is well loved, though personally, I find the architecture intrusive. On the same river valley (same view) are the Alila for a lower priced experience (like the Legian, still high on aesthetic and service) and the Begawan Giri. Begawan is really exclusive, but I understand from the manager that they are willing to talk rates.

The Ritz Carlton is a fine family hotel, but not in the same league as the Aman and FS.

I agree rafting with Sobek is a blast. I would also make sure to take in Balinese dance and temple ceremonies. The hotel guides in the Ubud area will tell you where to go. One of the reasons that I favor the Alila is that they have a well developed program of nature hikes and cultural itineraries throughout the surrounding country side. All of the hotels offer similar experiences, but I found the people at the Alila to be exceptionally accessible.
marmot is online now  
Mar 9th, 2004, 01:55 AM
  #4  
 
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Here is my opinion on the various hotels you have mentioned and some comments on Bali generally:

1. If you are going to Bali for beaches, then pick another place. Bali is a lot of wonderful things, but even its most gorgeous beaches do not compare to other beaches in SE Asia or many places in the Caribbean. Bali is more about other things. The beaches are nice, but not spectacular. In some places there will be hawkers on the beach that can be annoying at times. In other places the current and undertow are quite strong, so make sure you children understand this when swimming. Kuta and Legian have very strong undertows. As far as beach areas, your kids may like the Kuta/Legian area to Nusa Dua or Sanur, as there is a lot of fun shopping and good restaurants, it is much more lively than the Nusa Dua or Sanur areas. One hotel I love to recommend in Kuta is Poppies (see below), a Balinese institution. Not on the beach (but lovely small pool), not luxurious, but really wonderful and a quiet haven in hectic and noisy Kuta. Banana pancakes on your own little cottage terrace is a great way to start the day. You can also walk down about 10 minutes to Kuta beach (best for sunset), although you will find hawkers, massage people etc.

Poppies Cottages
www.poppiesbali.com, and see their webcam of the pool. . .

2. I agree with Marmot that the beaches in the Nusa Dua area where the FS and Ritz-Carlton are located are nothing special. In fact, you have to take a little bus to get to the beach for the Ritz, as the hotel itself is located on a cliff. However, the Ritz has a really nice series of large pools, including a rock slide from one pool to another and a waterfall, which I think you kids would like. I don't think you would find the Ritz in Bali to be like any other Ritz, the public areas are a series of pavilions in Balinese style and the room décor is not typical Ritz. While all the hotels you mention are nice, I don't think any of them give more of a Balinese feel than any other; to get that you might want to go to a home stay or loseman and meet a Balinese family.

3. I am not sure which of the two beach Amans Marmot is referring to. If the Amanusa, I agree about the beach, it has the same problems as the FS and the Ritz. I think the Amanusa is really more for golfers, as it has its own course. However, I think the beach at the Amankila is beautiful and the hotel is stunning. The beach is small, but the water color is lovely and there is some good snorkeling in the area. I would choose the Candidasa area and the Amankila over the FS or the Ritz in Nusa Dua. The area is less touristed and you can rent jeeps or hire a driver for some interesting day trips. Other less-expensive hotels in the Candidasa area which I could recommend would be:

BALINA BEACH Resort
Pantai Buitan, Manggis
Phone: 0363/41002
Fax: 0363/41001
(can't find a website, maybe try asiahotels.com)

FAJAR CANDIDASA BEACH BUNGALOWS
Jl. Raya, Candidasa
Phone: 0363/41539
Fax: 0366/41538
http://www.fajarcandidasa.com

4. In Ubud, the Aman in Ubud and the FS are both beautiful. The pool area at the Aman is much better than the FS, IMO, as it is at the top of the property and has an infinity pool looking out over the rice paddies. The FS pool is at the bottom on the property near the river. To be perfectly honest, my one concern about the FS with children is that the lobby, bar and restaurant are in a striking modern building that literally hangs in the sky with no railing or wall at the edges, and without trying to alarm you, kids could fall off into the ravine below. In Ubud, I think I would choose the Aman over the FS. Other less expensive hotels in the Ubud area which I could recommend would be as follows, these are not in the same class as the FS or Aman but might give you a more "Balinese" experience (to the extent that is possible in a hotel):

ANANDA COTTAGES
Jl. Campuhan, Ubud
Phone: 0361/975376
Fax: 0361/975375
http://ananda-cottages.com

In open rice fields.

TJAMPUHAN
Jl. Campuhan, Ubud
Phone: 0361/975368
Fax: 0361/975137
http://www.tjampuhan.com

Overlooking a narrow ravine.

5. As mentioned above, it is usually not possible to find discounts on FS or Aman, and to be honest after 10 years of living in SE Asia, I would not trust a website booking agency, as you really don't know who they are or what you are getting. Priceline and Hotwire are not really in Asia yet, and even Expedia can't get deals on the FS and Amans, so you are relegated to what I think are less than reputable services. However, if you can't get a good deal from Aman or FS directly, there are many hotel choices in Bali, in all price ranges. A lot of expat families in SE Asia like the Grand Hyatt because of all the pools and it seems to lend itself to family vacations. I have seen the public areas of the Alia in Ubud before it became part of the chain (it used to be a Chedi hotel) and thought it was a nice hotel, but at that time was not in the same class as the FS or Aman. I have not seen it since it was taken over and I believe redone, but it looks nice in the website, which is www.alilahotels.com. They have other hotels, including one of the Mangiss/Candidasa area.

6. There are lots of activities for the kids. The whitewater rafting mentioned above (very safe, not really whitewater, although you can find this if you want it) is a lot of fun. Rapids are class II to III but may rise to class IV in the wet season (eg Nov). In the beach areas, You can take day trips for snorkelling, esp in the Mangiss area to Menjangan Island which has excellent snorkelling and diving, probably the best in Bali. I have used Soebek mentioned above several times for various outings by bike and boat, and always been pleased with their active outings. I have not yet been able to find a website for them, perhaps others on this site have had more success. I first started using them more than 10 years ago, before there were websites. . .

You can also bike and hike in the Ubud area. There is a map called the "Bali Pathfinder" which you can find in tourist shops in Ubud that shows good walking trails through the rice fields and villages. You can walk for a few hours or the better part of a day. Great for bringing a picnic, or some of the trails have restaurants along the way. There is a White Heron reserve just outside Bali. The map also shows main roads which you can use for biking. One caveat on biking: none of the roads seem to connect, so you basically can turn around when you have gone far enough and then go back. My favourite is the road to the village of Batuan, as it is mostly flat and takes you through small villages full of painters, woodcarvers and basket makers.

In Ubud there is a troupe of children gamelan players and dancers which are pretty incredible, I think your children would enjoy that experience as well as the adult dances at eh palace most nights. They perform on Thursday evenings at a temple off the main Ubud road. (From the Palace on the main street, keeping the Palace on your left, go down the main road (Jalan Ubud Raya) take the third right, the temple is about 3.4 of a mile on your right. (I have not seen them in several years so hope they are still there).


Cicerone is offline  
Mar 9th, 2004, 03:00 PM
  #5  
 
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All good advice you have received above. Just one comment I would add...
I would NOT take kids to the Begawan Giri. It is quite remote (20 min drive from Ubud) and while the individually decorated villas are spectacular, they are more suited for honeymooners or couples looking for seclusion and privacy, than for kids. You can do some rice paddy trekking close by, but if you even want to try a different restaurant, you have at least 20 min drive into Ubud.

Lindsey is offline  
Mar 9th, 2004, 03:31 PM
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Unfortunately, there are no deals to be had at either the Four Seasons or Aman properties other than what they post on their own Web sites. They just don't have to deal.....people are willing to pay.

I can't rave enough about the Amans! My husband and I are Aman Junkies and we plan trips to far reaches of the world just to experience their resorts.

Amankila's beach is divine....personally, I think it is one of the best on the island...black sand.

We stayed at the Four Seasons properties there as well, and they were lovely, but you don't get the same intimate experience as you do at the Amans.

Ericka is offline  
Mar 10th, 2004, 01:15 PM
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The Amans don't discount -- they don't need to. They are wonderful, though. However, I think it is a moot point for your family anyway as I believe Amans do not accept children as guests of the resort. So, you will need to focus elsewhere anyway.

The 4S are great hotels -- might have a bit of luck calling them directly trying to get a better rate but I doubt it. We have stayed at the one in Sayan.

We stayed at the Ritz in Jimbaron and really enjoyed it. It isn't QUITE as nice as an Aman or 4S but I don't know that they were necessarily $500/night better either. For the money, the Ritz can't be beat.

I agree with the other posters, however. If you are going for a beach vacation -- go to Thailand or somewhere else in Asia. Bali isn't the place to go for beaches.

Have fun
taitai is offline  
Mar 10th, 2004, 03:28 PM
  #8  
 
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Amans DO accept children, but they don't publicly bill themselves that way because they don't want to invite the screaming-tantrum-types. Each property has their own rules about kids. Most will design different activities that the family can enjoy...especially knowing that yours are mature and well mannered. You can email each property for specific information. They always reply with wonderfully detailed personal messages.
Ericka is offline  
Mar 12th, 2004, 02:42 PM
  #9  
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You are all so terrific!! These messages were all a huge help. Is the company you all refer to, "Sobek", related to the old Mountain-Sobek Travel? I thought they merged with Wilderness Travel so it may be a different company. Loved all of the ideas. Also we learned to surf last summer on the Pacific Coast of Vancouver Island, so thought we could do some surfing in Bali as well. I especially appreciate the comment about the Four Seasons where kids could fall off the edge. Thank you for pointing that out, definitely eliminated that choice!! The Aman hotels definitely do take children, but you need to get rooms next to each other (they don't adjoin). They sent me, as mentioned, pages of fabulous ideas of activies, including everything from picnics in rice paddies to elephant treks and white water rafting or canoing to see a water palace.
Although I mentioned the beaches, I realizes the reason to go to Bali is for the fabulous culture....plus I am a real Asia-phile (is that a word?)and this is one country I have not visited.
Thanks also for the additional hotel suggestions! I am looking into all of them. One more question though. Regarding safety. We always get connecting (not separate) rooms although they are hold enough with my older son to handle it.....but is there any crime to worry about in these areas? Is it safe to not have my kids in eyeshot?
Thanks again, you guys have all been incredible.
stockexchanger is offline  
Mar 12th, 2004, 02:44 PM
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One more question.
My husband is a herpetologist (that means he is into reptiles - although he is actually a family doctor) and is most interested in the nature and animal experiences. He is friendly with the person who owns Bali Animal Park....is there anything else we shouldn't miss that has to do with reptiles??
stockexchanger is offline  
Mar 12th, 2004, 03:40 PM
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The Amans are generally in quiet, remote areas....Amankila especially. So security (burglary etc.) is not a concern. Maybe if, in the case of Amankila, you approach them about being willing to pay for two ocean view units, they would consider upgrading you to a two bedroom unit. You should have this conversation with each property, though, not the general reservations staff.
Ericka is offline  
Mar 13th, 2004, 03:53 AM
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Surfing off Uluwatu on the very tip of the southern part of Bali is supposed to be the best on the island (from what I see and from what the Australians say). This is about a 20 minute drive from Kuta and is very close to Nusa Dua and not too far from Sanur. There is a very strong undertow. There is a wonderful temple high on the cliff that is a marvellous place to see the sunset. I believe the surfing off Kuta and Nusa Dua areas is also pretty good. Again, there is a very strong undertow in Kuta.

There is a large nature reserve (Bali Barat National Park) in western Bali, which is not at all on the main tourist path. Your husband may want to look into a trip here. I have not been to that part of the island in many, many years and can't really give any helpful tourist info, but his friend should have better info, and Soebek may run a day trip as well. (Still can't find a website, your hotel may have info on their various offerings.) You need a permit and a guide to enter the park as far as I recall.

I am not familiar with the Bali Animal Park, so I ran a search on the web, and found that there are several animal parks in the Gianyar area, which is around Ubud. You could do these as a day trip from Ubud quite easily. There is a reptile park, which I imagine is right up your husband's alley:

RIMBA REPTILE PARK http://www.herpafauna.com/park.html

Bali Zoo Park http://www.balizoopark.com/

Another place you might consider is to go across to Lombok island and stay at the Aman resort there, the Amanwana. This is really for wildlife lovers. You stay in tents (not like a tent in any way except they have canvas awnings.) The beach is nice there as well, and you can do jungle treks as well as excursions by boat.

With regard to safety, in all the Amans you are you are considering you will be in individual villas, so unless you have a suite or a single unit which is large enough to hold all of you, you may be separated. I would request adjacent villas if you can't all fit into one unit. However, I can't believe the villas aren't large enough to hold 5 of you. If the villas are 50 square meters or larger (which I believe even the smallest is larger than that), then you should fit, albeit a little cramped. Do ask about room size or get a one-bedroom villa and the kids can sleep in the living areas. To be perfectly honest, I think the kids could sleep in the lanai/bale areas on futons and would be very comfortable. At the Amandari, they have duplex villas that I think would work well. Places like the Grand Hyatt Bali and the Ritz ?Carlton have multi-story blocks of buildings with individual rooms which do have connecting rooms, and are more like a hotel as you may be used to. All in all, however, I would not worry about safety. Bali is really very safe, there is some petty crime like pick pocketing, but in general is very safe. Things like muggings or physical violence are really rare.

Cicerone is offline  
Mar 13th, 2004, 04:35 AM
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Cicerone....good thinking of you to bring up Amanawana just across the way.

Stockexchanger....your husband would LOVE the cruises that Amanwana offers to neighboring Komodo island. But yes, there is also the Bali reptile park which is supposed to be very nice.
Ericka is offline  
Mar 15th, 2004, 09:52 PM
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A few comments:
1. Amanwana is indeed a wonderful experience, but unfortunately it is on Moyo island not Lombok and is a bit of a ordeal to get to.
2. Surfing at Uluwatu is only for the experienced and brave! But there are lots of intermediate options in the Kuta area.
3. Bali abounds in small reptiles (lizards and snakes) plus frogs galore if you want to add amphibians. Sound like you and your family will really like just walking or bicycling around in the Ubud area. There are many trails, best with a guide, but even on your own you can't really get lost.
4. Bali is generally safe. In the Kuta area, however, you can get some undesirable elements related to drugs, prostitution. During the day it's fine. The whole Kuta experience is not for me, but the teenagers seem to like shopping and hanging out there.
5. If I were you I'd go for a week at the Amandari in Ubud to soak up the culture and a week at the Legian in Seminyak. Having traveled to Bali many, many times with teenagers, I can wholeheartedly endorse a few days spent on a lively beach. All of my son's friends choose the Legian as their favorite. You could get a two bedroom suite (or one of the villas). Even on beach you are not separated from what makes Bali special. It's quite common to see charming processions making laying offerings in the sea.
6. Our favorite dance is the Barong in Batubulan. Every morning at 9:30.
Wherever you end up I'm sure you'll love Bali. I don't know any place on earth where you can the same combination of natural beauty and cultural depth. And then there's the rest of Indonesia . . .
marmot is online now  

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