Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

When I think of Kuala Lumpur, this picture comes to mind. A beautiful, multi-faceted city with the twin towers as its crown jewel.

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Malaysia was our visa run. We originally came to Indonesia with a free 30-day tourist visa. Due to a slight miscalculation, we realized that it would be more expensive to extend it to 60 days than if we were to fly to Kuala Lumpur and come back into Bali with a new free 30-day visa. Plus, it was an opportunity to visit another southeast asian country.

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The “muddy confluence”

Once we stepped out of the KLIA (Kuala Lumpur International Airport), the difference was night and day from Jakarta’s Soekarno-Hatta airport. It was eerily tranquil, with just a sprinkle of people and a few taxis. (And in Malaysian style, a shopping mall adjoining the airport) Our Uber driver was able to pull right into the pick up area. The drive to our hotel consisted of wide multi-laned highways.

Due to some judicious travel hacking, our stay in KL was surprisingly affordable. Tig financed our hotel stays with Hilton points, so accommodations were taken care of.

As for food, that was also quite affordable. As Hilton Honor Gold members, we had access to the breakfast buffet every morning. It was an amazing spread with Chinese, Western, and Indian foods (I’m under the impression that many of the western hotels in Southeast Asia provide substantial breakfast spreads for free for certain level members). As a family, we tried to fill up our daily calories from there. The kids loved the steamed buns with various fillings like red bean paste and lotus seed paste. Tig and I went for the noodle soups loaded with veggies and rice noodles. There were indian flatbreads and curries to taste, as well as omelettes made to order, waffles, hash browns, pastries, juices, almost anything you can think of… There was a suspicious absence of pork because of a majority Muslim country (although they tried to make up for it with beef brisket, beef bacon, Chinese steamed BBQ chicken buns, etc).

With the big meal of the day out of the way, we were able to explore and eat out for lunch. With three bouts of Bali belly under our belt, we opted for clean-but-cheap mall fare. And it’s not your usual mall fare in the U.S., the food is really good! You can get a pan-Asian menu of items for 15-30 ringgits (RM)…40RM for more spendy foods. At the time, one US dollar was about 4.45RM. There were Malaysian laksas, Korean bento boxes, Chinese dim sum, tofu pots, noodle soups, sushi, and sizzling plates.

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I love seeing the different asian cultures represented in this food court. Here, we are not the minority, we’re all Asian!

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Tig saw people walking around with sizzling platters and yellow caution “tape” and he had to try it. It was every bit as tasty as we thought it would be. One time when we were out, Tig texted me, “I found Chinese food heaven!” It was the basement of another mall, filled with stalls of roast pork, roast duck, dim sum, etc. and even a wing for sushi and Japanese food. Yes, we ate well in Kuala Lumpur.

After a morning of exploring, we would come back to our hotel in the late afternoon with another trick up our sleeve. At check-in Tig always asked nicely for an upgrade to the Executive Lounge. From what I understand, upgrade is granted at the discretion of each locale. At any rate, we were able to go upstairs to the lounge for appetizers and drinks, which gave us a light snack. Afterwards, if we were still hungry, we could supplement for dinner. Tig, ever the engineer, is always looking at travel-hacking from a best value standpoint, instead of fancy luxuries like suite upgrades.

Petronas Twin Towers

A trip to Kuala Lumpur wouldn’t be complete without going up to the Petronas Twin Towers. Even after 20 years, these iconic buildings still look contemporary, if not futuristic.

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Getting tickets was fairly easy. In the morning we went down to the ticket counter in the basement and purchased tickets for the next available tour. First stop was the skybridge.

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Looking down at the KLCC (Kuala Lumpur City Center) Park.

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Next stop, the observation deck.

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We also went up the KL tower and had afternoon tea at the Atmosphere 360 revolving restaurant and lounge.

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The tea was a buffet, with a choice of hot or cold drink. It was a decent value, but we later learned that you can get Groupon tickets, now Fave in Malaysia, for cheaper.

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The restaurant completes a revolution once every hour and a half.

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Afternoon tea desserts, carefully arranged by Tig.

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We also visited the National Textiles Museum and Chinatown.

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All-in-all, KL is an efficient and Westerner-friendly city. Luckily, a few words translated well from Bahasa Indonesian to Bahasa Malaysian like selamat pagi, jalan, and makan. Many people speak some sort of English. There are free bus lines and a very efficient subway system. Uber and Grab are plentiful (and not plagued by “local mafia” like in Bali). There is also a high-speed train that goes to the airport, which was nice (Of course O wanted to ride it).

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Subway tokens look like funny money.

For our last night in KL, Tig booked another Hilton, just for this:

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It was a short week, too short. We really enjoyed Kuala Lumpur, it’s multiculturalism, it’s acceptance of different religions, the delicious food and efficient public transportation. We hope to come back someday.

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Jakarta, the Capitol

Well we survived a two-week rental car in Bali. We started in Kuta and made a cut up the middle of the island, then circled around the west side, to Ubud, then back to Kuta. I hesitated to put it out there until we made it through alive and well. The experience of driving in Bali is too involved, it will need its own post someday.

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After our car tour, we hopped on a plane to visit my dear friends Jona and Matthew in Jakarta.

Leaving on a jet plane

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At the Bali airport. This was around the time of the Lunar New Year.

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The experience of arriving in Jakarta’s Soekarno airport was unreal.  As much as we have a foot each in two different cultures, most of our lives has been lived in the U.S. We’re not used to hoards of people pushing and shoving and shouting at each other in a different language. But first we had to find our Uber driver amongst the chaos.

As we exited the airport, we headed for the parking lot where Uber drivers pick up (I was given this tip by an Indonesian acquaintance who lives in Jakarta). The kids and I thought Tig was joking when he announced that the license plate we were looking for was AB 1234 TIG (I made up the first handful of digits). But it really was serendipity that the last three digits really were TIG.

Once we arrived at our friends’ apartment, we began to experience expat life. A lot of it revolved around malls. (Outdoor green spaces and playgrounds are limited, and even if they existed, traffic and road conditions made it difficult for kids to get there.) I jokingly called it leaving the Districts and playing around in the Capitol.

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One of the places we visited was KidZania, a fictional world where kids get to perform jobs mimicking the “real world” and earn fictional money. You get there by going to the ticket counter, which resembles an airline ticketing station.

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First stop is at the bank to get some money. Then you’re dropped into a miniature city. It was certainly an interesting if not deafening experience. It would have been more enjoyable if there wasn’t loud music, honking cars and a marching band all going at it simultaneously.

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The kids got to fly an airplane, participate in secret agent training, and work at a car shop…

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and climb buildings–is that a rescue mission?

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There’s Houbii, the urban adventure park with a ninja-warrior-esque course.

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Some of the indoor spaces were a bit absurd, such as this garden installation in the mall. But, as it was explained to me, outdoor green spaces are rare in the city.

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Because our main goal was to spend time with friends–and one of us was down a good portion of time with Bali belly– we didn’t get to explore Kota Tua (Old City) Jakarta. We simply had a different agenda for this leg of the trip. Our kids had a great time socializing with the kids: Spoony, Dot and Kiwi (not their real names). We experienced a slice of what it was like to have a cook, driver and nanny. It’s a far cry from our simple existence in Maine, but I didn’t mind sampling the well-staffed life once.

First day of school

On a side note, since we arrived, Dot had been campaigning to have V and O come to school with her. Ever the little munchkin mayor, she even cleared it with her principal (and was confirmed by her dad). While we are happy with our homeschooling, both Tig and I wanted the kids to have an opportunity to try different things. Dot attended a very sweet and small Montessori school, so we gently encouraged them to give it a try. Both agreed, however, O developed a slight fever the night before, so only V ended up attending.

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V and Dot, ready for the day.

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First day of school.

I asked V what she thought of school later. She shrugged and said it was okay, but there was a lot of sitting and she preferred homeschooling.

The last 10%

As for me, I got to spend some quality time with my old college friend J. We went to a spa for a massage, shopped for batik fabric, ate yummy food, and just talked and talked. Given that we’ve long graduated college and live on the opposite sides of the earth now, I’m deeply cognizant that this is probably the last 10% of our time together, which makes it all that much more precious.

 

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West Bali National Park

West Bali National Park (Taman Nasional Bali Barat) is a ferry ride away from Labuan Lalang. We left our rental car there at the mercy of the long-tailed macaques, and boarded the boat.

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We stayed at the Nusa Bay resort within the National Park. It was quite spendy for us, but we really wanted to see some of the wildlife there. The first night, there was only one other guest. The second night, we were the only ones there (except the staff). It felt like our own private jungle. The staff were very friendly, they were hoping that we would sign up for “activities.” But we just wanted to snorkel and walk around.

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Unfortunately, our hiking range was limited. Still, we got to see the wild deer (javan rusa in Indonesian or menjangan in Balinese), some long-tailed macaques, and the ebony langur.

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Budding nature photographer

During this whole trip, V has been diligently clicking away with her own camera (an old Nikon Coolpix we got a a garage sale a few years ago). We thought this would be a great time to show off some of her pics.

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See the bird on the deer’s head?

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Ebony langur troop.

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Just hanging out.

Thank you to V for sharing her pictures. We enjoyed our two nights, then it was time to go.

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But what about socialization? (Sarcasm ahead)

It’s clear that these homeschooled kids don’t know how to relate to other children.

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Especially children from other cultures. How are they going to make it in this global world?

Where are they going to learn inter-personal skills?

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And how are they going to learn mature behavior if they’re not hanging out with kids of their own exact age?

Alright, done with the snarkiness; back to our regular programming…

I told V today, “Some people think that kids can only learn how to make friends in school.” She gave me this look as if I had sprouted two heads and told me that was ridiculous. I don’t want to give the wrong impression that our children are super outgoing social butterflies. The truth is, they are a bit shy. And yes, they are a little quirky (most of us are). But they are open to forming friendships with other children, which leads us to…

So we met this other traveling family

In Pemuteran one morning, Tig and O went for a walk to get a few things. When they came back, Tig reported that he had seen a girl doing homework at a cafe in the homestay across the street from us. “I think they might be long-term travelers,” he said. Later, we decided to walk over and introduce ourselves.

It turns out, this family is from Europe (I won’t disclose where to protect their privacy). They have three children, a teen, and two pre-teens. They’ve been semi-nomads for over a decade–they spend half a year in their home country and half a year traveling.

We invited their two younger kids over to our homestay for a swim in the pool. It was a lot of fun for our kids and they got along well. So we did what ex-cruisers do, we offered to take them to the turtle rehabilitation center down the road. Amazingly enough, their mom agreed! At that point, we felt like we had met kindred spirits.

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The kids got a chance to feed the turtles, and learn about the project.

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Later we had dinner together. The kiddos got their own table, and the adults got a chance to have a conversation. We learned about their Amazon FBA business and how they make it work as digital nomads. For a moment, we felt like cruisers again.

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And the kids got to socialize.

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Homeschooling while traveling

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I was talking to a Taiwanese-Australian mom at the pool recently. When she heard how long we were in Bali, she asked what we did for school. The topic of homeschooling is far too weighty a topic to discuss casually—and I find it even more challenging to address the issues around being an Asian-American family that homeschools (try Googling it, the interwebs is very thin in that department). I’ll save that for another day.

Every family is different

When we’re traveling, homeschooling looks like ~80% life learning and ~20% structured learning. I know some families do more, and some others do less. After talking to many homeschool families, reading homeschool blogs and books, this is what I know:

  • There is no “right” way to homeschool
  • Every family need to figure out what works best for their children
  • It’s important part that both partners are on the same page (in families where there are two caregivers)

The Epic Education Podcast is a wealth of resources, including interviews with many different families on how they deal with education while traveling, whether by boat, RV or backpacking. Behan Gifford at Sailing Totem recently put together a blogroll of cruisers and their boatschooling perspectives.

The 80/20

V and O are 8 and 6 respectively; that translates to Grades 2 and Kindergarten. At home we have a bit more structured homeschooling, but when we travel, it’s mostly about the school of life. In fact, since we’ve had kids, Tig has had an unstoppable desire to show them the world. He is the driving force behind our travels and a big proponent of life learning.

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Map work

Our 80% consists of learning about Bali geography, speaking a little bit of Bahasa Indonesian, tasting new foods, seeing animals and wildlife (monkeys, geckos, chickens, frogs, toads). We brought field guides for Southeast Asian birds and animals. We visit temples, learn about the culture, clothing, and offerings. They swim an awful lot. They watch us bargain. They study the currency and do some basic math adding things up. We look for geocaches. Together, we learn how to make decisions together as a family and try to meet each other’s needs.

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Watching woodcarvers.

Okay, so what do we do?

For the 20% structured learning, we use an eclectic, secular Charlotte-Mason inspired approach. Tig is allergic to labels, but that’s the best way I would describe it. Here are some of the things we do:

Reading practice. V did a ton of work on reading before she left, so this trip, we’ve downloaded a bunch of e-books to our Kindle and let her choose when and where to read. V sometimes reads to O at bedtime.

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A few math problems to keep their muscles warmed up. We use a math workbook that sv Serenade gave us in the Bahamas. It’s called SchoolZone Addition and Subtraction Grades 1-2.  Prior to leaving for our trip, we (V and I) had worked through Life of Fred elementary books Apples, Butterflies, and Cats. For O we read through Level 1 of the MathStart picture books and half of the Level 2 books–mostly to introduce mathematical concepts. So we’re mostly in maintenance mode for math.

We have a Sodoku app that the kids like, mostly to keep them playing with numbers. They also like to play chess on the iPad, and we have a set of tanagrams.

Story of the World Volume 1 Audio (Ancient History). I chose this resource because V is really interested in history and Jim Weiss does a wonderful job of storytelling. I supplement SOTW with Jim Weiss’ audio stories like Egyptian Treasures and Greek Myths. I often ask the kids to narrate back what they’ve heard, which is a Charlotte Mason Method.

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Read-alouds classics. I love children’s literature, and homeschooling has given me the opportunity to re-visit old classics that I loved as a kid, and explore new ones I never got to read. We (I) usually read aloud during breakfast or at bedtime. So far we’ve read through the Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland. We’re now finishing up The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We also have many audio stories on the iPad for long car rides and flights.

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Copy work to work on writing skills, punctuation, and spelling. I usually pick a sentence from our read-alouds, something that delights her. V has expressed interest in learning cursive writing, so we’ll be working on that, too.

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O doesn’t really do much, he’s only six, and we’re firmly against the earlier! faster! more! tiger-mom-approach. I did bring some easy math worksheets from The BrainQuest Grade 1 workbook to keep him busy while V’s working. He listens to the same audio and read-alouds and joins in the narration.

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Doodling

That’s it. If our trip were longer, I’d plan some more things to do. For now, I think the minimum effective dose works great for younger ages. As they grow older, we will probably add more to their structured learning. V so far enjoys her work, she’s interested and engaged. That’s all I could ask for.

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Tabanan and Balian Beach

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Observing wildlife amongst the lily pads.

Tabanan

After Tanah Lot, we wound our way through more hair-raising roads north. The Tabanan area has many rice fields, the landscape is sculpted with terraces and irrigated through a network of canals. In order to get the our villa we drove through a tiny one-lane road, where tarps of rice were drying in the sun (one was blocking the entrance to a hotel villa–we were told to just drive over it). We looked into two hotels and settled on one.

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Bali is an island of artisans. Historically, artists, craftsman and performers were, and still are, highly esteemed. I’m so enamored with the beautifully carved doors to our villa.

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The villa grounds.

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Open air bathrooms and showers.


And of course, a swimming pool.

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Posing for a Lunar New Year picture. Welcome Year of the Rooster!

Balian Beach

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I was surprised to see black sand on the shores of Balian. It reminded me of Molokai, Hawaii, but without the towering cliffs.

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The local scene had a California beach vibe to it, there were more westerners here.

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Our hotel was beautiful, open air, and without air conditioning. Lush gardens made it feel like paradise.

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The mosquito netting was pretty and romantic, but we were kept up by the heat and no-see-ums.

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Though it was pretty, we decided to move on to Seririt.

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Tanah Lot and Alas Kedaton

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Tanah Lot is one of the most visited temples in Bali, as the small temple can only be accessed at low tide. Tourists poured through the narrow streets lined with a maze of vendor stalls selling everything from carved wood decorations to sarongs. Since our hotel was within the complex, we had to drive through a herd of people.

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Many came to see the sunset over the water at the temple, but that day the sky was overcast.

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The best time to visit the temple was at sunrise; Tig got some solitude and picture taking time the next morning.

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Our hotel at Tanah Lot.

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We also visited Alas Kedaton (a monkey forest) near Tabanan. About a 1,000 monkeys—five separate troops—reside here in the forest. Right next to it is a complex of, you guessed it, vendor shops.

Once we parked a lady in a pink uniform approached us and offered to be our guide. The tour didn’t cost any money, however, she asked us to stop off at her “boss’s” store after the tour and take a look. We declined to buy anything, but gave her a tip as she was very pleasant and informative.

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The monkeys are fed some rice but you can also buy peanuts to feed them. We opted not to, since we didn’t want monkeys climbing on our kids (bites can occur). These long-tailed macaques are much tamer than the ones at Uluwatu. Our guide told us that they might have been fed bananas and that makes monkey “aggressive”. We did see many banana peels at Uluwatu, which leads us to believe that it is true. (And we’ve seen plenty of Youtube videos of mischievous monkeys in Ubud’s monkey forest being fed bananas.)

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In the end, we enjoyed looking at them, and that was enough.

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Getting around Bali, initial thoughts

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Kuta horse statues

Balinese people love to ask where you are from–they get so many visitors, it’s an understandable question. And being Asian-Americans, we are often a peculiarity. Many think we’re Japanese or Chinese, until they hear us speak English. Then they are puzzled. Maybe from Singapore?

After our first night at the hotel in Tuban, we wandered into the bustling back dining room for breakfast. Unbeknownst to us, it was a breakfast for a Taiwanese tour group. We checked in at the front table, but the hotel staff was quickly alerted by Tig’s fluent English. He asked to see our key card and re-directed us to the buffet dining area (which, I must admit, had a nicer spread). I guess we weren’t Taiwanese enough, haha.

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Check out this buffet spread.

Getting by

When out and about, we try to speak a few phrases of Bahasa Indonesian. Just knowing the basic greetings and thank you goes a long way, especially in the city. For language aids we downloaded the Google Translate app with offline language packs in Indonesian, Chinese, and Malay. When we have cell data or wifi, we can play the audio, which is helpful for getting the accent right.

I bought phrasebooks in Balinese and Indonesian, but we’ve found that Indonesian is much simpler and works well enough. I got the Tuttle Instant Indonesian, but I feel neutral about it. Luckily, Bahasa Indonesian uses the Roman alphabet, which is much easier than pictogram languages such as Chinese or Korean.

Getting Around

For transportation, we found these blog posts to be very helpful in giving an overview of Bali taxis:

http://www.escapingexpectations.com/the-first-timers-guide-to-bali-part-1/

http://goseasia.about.com/od/Bali_Transportation/a/How-To-Ride-A-Taxi-In-Bali-Indonesia.htm

I will only add a few comments, as those posts cover pretty much what you need to know as a visitor. So far, we’ve found Uber to be cheapest. Our Uber experiences have been generally good except for one. I don’t want to go into it but I will only say that stopping at a gas station and texting while driving should have been warning signs. Almost every Uber driver has a side business (they hire out as driver for the day) and they communicate mostly through WhatsApp. There’s even Uber services for scooter rides called Uber Motor. A driver will pick you up in a scooter and get your to your destination. Uber Trip is a car hire with driver services it’s 60,000 rupiah per hour with a five-hour minimum.

After Uber, Bluebird is our next choice. They are a little bit more expensive, but the company is known for honest metering and fair prices. They are also ubiquitous in cities and easy to spot. There are other taxi services such as GrabTaxi and Go-Jek that we haven’t tried yet. Grabcar is a Singaporean company with prices on the lower end of Uber. Go-jek is an Indonesian company, we have not tried their app because it is in Indonesian.

Watch out for “local mafia transport”

One caveat, most parts of Bali outside Kuta and Denpasar do not allow these taxi services, because they compete with higher-priced local transport drivers. We didn’t realize it until we called for an Uber in Pura Uluwatu (temple). The driver gave us anxiety-inducing instructions like this:

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It took us a while to realize what was going on. We later saw the signs around Pura Uluwatu and Pura Tanah Lot that looked a lot like this.

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Unfortunately, this anti-marketing campaign only alerted us to their competitors. We wouldn’t have known about Go-Jek and GrabTaxi if it weren’t for this sign. While I understand they are trying to protect local interests, I’m not sure how long they can hold out against the tide.

We’ve only scratched the surface in the first week here, so I’m sure we’ll have more to say about getting around in Bali.

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Selamat pagi!

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Good morning from Bali, Indonesia!

We have been planning this trip since we got back from our cruise. For the last eight months, Tig learning about travel hacking; maybe someday he’ll chime in with a post with some tips.

It started back in April, with Wildie safe and on the hard. We set our sights on Southeast Asia for our next adventure, this time by plane. Bali has been on our list for a while, for various reasons:

:: My college housemate works for USAID and it’s her last year being stationed in Jakarta, Indonesia.

:: The warm tropical island archipelago is a great place spend while we shave off two months of Maine winter

:: Exposure to different religions—Hinduism in Bali and Islam in Jakarta—especially for the kids

: A different culture than the ones we’ve grown up with (I’ve been to Hong Kong, China and Taiwan, but we wanted something a little different).

:: Also, exposure to a different language for the kids; in this case, Bahasa Indonesian.

So far, Bali has delivered. The challenge was to do it on a tight budget.

Getting to Bali

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We had a 16 hour non-stop flight from NY to Taipei through China Airlines followed by a three hour layover, then another four-hour flight to Denpasar, Bali. The kids were great sports.

A few things I wanted to share on our long flight with kids:

We sprung for the “family couch” option. More information here. Basically, you buy all three seats in a row, and the foot rests pull up to form  a very small bed. Our flight was at 12:20am so the kids really needed to sleep. We placed them side-by-side with their heads on opposite sides. I must admit, they squabbled a bit before falling asleep, but that was because they were over-tired by then, having stayed up past midnight. Once they fell asleep, everything was gravy. They slept in 3-4 hour chunks, with some movie watching and meals in between. The second time we put them down for a nap, there was squabbling again, but once asleep there was quiet.

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Mealtime and cartoons.

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Family couch in action.

The family couch upgrade was definitely a splurge. Basically you’re buying another seat, but it was so worth it. The kids are still growing and they really need their rest so that they don’t become total cranky pants (that would make the long flight exponentially harder). Only the kids got the upgrade, though. Tig and I sucked it up and got bad sleep with the rest of the passengers…parenting is sacrifice.

We also bought noise cancelling headsets. Each kid got a pair. Bose makes really good ones, but we went a couple notch lower and got the Naztech/NoiseHush headphones. They work much better than the disposable freebies on the plane. The kids cackled over Tom and Jerry cartoons when they weren’t sleeping and eating.

We checked in one small duffel bag. Without kids we could manage carry-on only, but we really wanted to bring snorkel suits and gear, gifts for hosts, as well as weapons (dive knife) and liquids (permethrin).

We arranged with our hotel for transport from the airport. That eliminated a lot of hassle dealing with transport vendors. But first, we hit the ATM and got local currency.

Tig booked our first few nights at a hotel near DPS Airport. The Hilton Garden Inn was our landing pad for rest and recuperation. All of us were super jet-lagged and one of the kiddos was starting to get cranky after the second flight.

Settling in Kuta/Tuban

The hotel was really nice. Friendly staff, a gorgeous pool and amazing breakfast spread every morning. Luckily, we paid for it with hotel points. We slowly found our rhythm over the next few days. Breakfast was the biggest meal. After homeschooling, we’d go an explore and have lunch out.

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In the afternoon, we came back and swam in the pool. Our kids, who still have the Bahamas cruise fresh in their mind, donned wet suits (for buoyancy) and snorkel masks. O found that with those two items, he could swim well enough to keep up with his sister. They were a funny sight in the pool.

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Denpasar

We visited Jalan Sulawesi in Denpasar, where shops sell bolts of cloth and clothing.

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V got a Balinese skirt, top and sash, and O got this cute button down shirt with embroidery and ikat detailing . Bargaining is a part of life here, so we had to work on our rusty skills. For pricing comparison, the skirt, shirt and sash was 200,0000 rupiah (about $15) and O’s shirt was 100,000 rupiah (about $7.50).

Denpasar-ClothAlley

Pura Uluwatu

Pura Uluwatu was the first temple we visited. It rained the whole time. We were told that the monkeys were very aggressive there. Caps, sunglasses, phones need to be secured or a mischievous primate might take off with them.

PuraUluatu

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Pura Uluwatu in their new clothes

PedangPedang

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Padang Padang beach.

Bali Belly

Unfortunately, Tig came down with “Bali belly” within the first three days. We had been fairly conservative with food and water, opting for bottled water and cooked or steaming hot foods, but there was one weak moment with pre-fried banana fritters. We all ate it, but only Tig got sick so we’re not exactly sure if that was what did him in. It was a rough 24 hours, but he pulled through like a champ.

ScooterWarung

Scooter warung 

NoodleWarung

After five nights, the hotel was beginning to feel like the Land of the Lotus Eaters. It was too comfortable, and we wanted to see more of Bali, so we decided to head out for some hair-raising adventures with a rental car.

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Welcome 2017!

solsticetree
We hope our friends and family enjoyed their holiday season, whatever your persuasion. We enjoyed having our Solstice tree.
woodstovefull
Our wood stove has been working hard to keep us warm.

pyy-xmasparty

bill-and-o
There are gatherings to attend.

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Time alone.

newproject
New projects to start.

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A kitchen to dream and plan.

polarplunge
A New Year’s polar plunge to spectate (we haven’t gotten up the nerve to do it ourselves quite yet, but bravo to all who did!)

sledding
A white crisp sheet of snow awaits us, like the fresh New Year.

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Baby faces to savor, they won’t stay young forever.

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And we’re off! Welcome 2017.

::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::   ::

Every December/January, I spend some time doing my year-end review. I wrote a little about its evolution here. I’m a little late this year in starting, but I did my  “three-quarter’s-year” review back in September, so some of the heavy lifting has already been done.

This year, there are no workbooks to be filled. Instead, I’m doing a post-game analysis à la Tim Ferriss (his podcast episode explains his review in detail). Here’s my version of it:

:: Accomplishments in 2016

:: 80/20 Analysis

The “20 percent of activities, experiences, or people who produced 80 percent or more of my most positive emotions and outcomes.”

Conversely, the “20 percent of activities, experiences, or people who produced 80 percent or more of my most negative emotions and outcomes.”

:: Taking the 80/20 Analysis, come up with

Activities, experiences or people that I want more of in 2017

Activities, experiences or people that I want less of in 2017

:: Spending wisely to increase our family’s health/well-being/happiness

$100/$500/$1000 levels

:: Experiments to try

:: 10X (vs 10%) thought experiment

Here’s to a fruitful 2017*.

*Although January 1st is an arbitrary start date for the year–it’s not tied to any celestial event, solar or lunar–I go with the flow and start my year with the rest of North America.

 

 

 

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Tweets

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Taiwan's public transit is so awesome! Bullet trains, commuter rail, subway, even lots of buses. #TaiwanRocks

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Nomnomnoming our way through Taipei so far.