When is a Holiday Inn not a Holiday Inn?… when it is outside the US. A Holiday Inn for a work trip would be considered the norm, but we have never previously stayed at a Holiday Inn for personal use. I must say, though, that I have undergone a complete paradigm shift in terms of that hotel chain. Between the amazingly family friendly atmosphere, clean rooms and facilities, and location right on the beach our family will definitely be staying at another Holiday Inn in the future.
Our arrival at the hotel was much much appreciated because the simple 3 hr flight turned into an all day affair (as any travel day can do). It seems like when travel days seem long it’s always compared to what your expectations were coming into it. The long 16 hr flights were not that bad, but this little leg of the trip seemed to go on and on. While boarding the flight, we could see all our bags conveyed onto the plane and all the bags ported back off and inspected. This caused a departure delay while everyone was already on the plane. The flight attendant over the intercom system stated that the bags were being re-inspected because of a “security concern”. Not a great way to start the flight and the “security concern” also added a few hours upon arrival as well.
Once we finally had our bags in hand in Bali, we had an interesting experience with the bag handlers 😉 We found our hotel contact waiting in the crowds of people with a sign with our name on it. He took one of our bags, and four other men presumably working for the hotel took some of our bags as well and proceeded to roll them for the next 5 minutes where we waited for our hotel guy to go get his car and come pick us up. We tipped one of the bag handlers $5 USD and said thank you. He said that it is $5 per baggage handler, so that would be $20. We just looked at them realizing that this was either a scam or a major miscommunication. I’m sure it’s a bit of both: intentional miscommunication, but it was a good lesson nonetheless. (We also found this in Belize City where the baggage handlers take your bags about 100 ft through a door and then charge $1 per bag.) But, not a problem! Lesson learned! And, we eventually made it to the hotel with our new real-flower leis (pronounced “lay”) presented to us by our driver!
It’s hard to know where to start with this leg of the trip… First off, the kids had their own little room with bunk beds. We were still getting over jet lag (we were at day 4 of the trip), and they slept soooo well! They finally slept past 6am. Unfortunately, we were only there two nights as we had to move on to Ubud, but both mornings we were greeted with a great breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It’s nice that we didn’t have to eat a typical (should I just say) Holiday Inn breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, cereal, yogurt. We feasted on made to order eggs and regional cuisine.
If I had to choose my favorite experience from the whole trip and favorite day from the trip they would be the family massage (yes, that was actually a success!) and our first day in Bali. Jessica and I have very different vacation tendencies. I tend to shy away from excursions and enjoy relaxing around the hotel. Jessica aims to get out and about. I recognize that my way is boring, and as a result, we usually end up finding an adventure. Our first adventure in Bali was an outrigger boat ride. While we were enjoying a slow stroll down the sparsely populated beach, a guy approached us and offered his services to boat us around for an hour. We ended up taking him up on the offer, and once we agreed on the price we realized it was only $20USD. That was our first lesson in how affordable Bali is. It was such a pleasant and relaxing boat ride. We got to ride up to the airport and watch a few planes land, which Bash loved. He was already in heaven by being on a boat but seeing planes land was an extra special treat.
The reason why I shy away from excursions is that I assume that it’s going to be expensive and take a long time to get set up and to get back. This guy picked us up right from the beach, was cheap, and dropped us off right back where we came from. This was a good lesson for me to be more open-minded about off site adventures!
The KL-Bali-Singapore trip was full of firsts for our family but day 1 at the Holiday Inn was jam packed with them. In addition to the first outrigger boat ride, we next went into our first family massages! Yes, we signed up for our kids to have massages. There’s a lot that has to go into a toddler massage… namely sitting still, which we highly doubted would happen but we gave it a shot anyway. They both loved the greeting they had for us: a cup of warm, sweet, lemony tea! And the kids have grown quite fond of koi ponds.
After that, it was a rocky start with Bash initially refusing his foot bath (finally easing into it if he and I had our feet in the same bowl of warm water) and initially having to be soothed with some phone games which allowed his masseuse to rub his shoulders while he was sitting up. It was really fascinating to watch as I peeked my head up every few minutes during my massage. I was expecting to hear him throw a fit at some point during the 1 hr experience, but as the minutes went by of him seeming more and more relaxed I also came to enjoy my massage more and more. I first got to see him sitting up on his massage table looking down at the phone while his masseuse rubbed his shoulders. After about 15 min of that, she convinced him to lay on his back, still playing a phone game, while she rubbed his feet and legs. After about 15 min of that, he had fully dropped the phone to the table and was fast asleep while she continued her soothing body rub. After starting with low expectations and getting to fully enjoy my massage while seeing him enjoy his was really an unforgettable experience.
The next “first” for our family was Bash making us go in the pool the moment that we arrived at the hotel. I know that’s a very specific “first”, but to us it marks a new era. It was only two weeks before the trip where he actually was in the water floating in his Puddlejumpers without our help; he hardly had any interest in getting into the water at all. Now, he was begging us to go into the pool, a radical change. Both the kids loved the main pool and the kiddy pool, each having their own advantages 🙂 The main pool had a zero entry feature, which is great for the kids to walk in and out of. The kiddy pool had a lot of room for them to explore on their own.
Our third “first” of the day was renting a bicycle from the hotel that had a kid seat on the back. Bash had never been on a bike, so he was super pumped to jump on. I pushed the stroller while Jess cycled, and Bash had a blast. It is kind of entertaining to watch because when he is “having a blast” he is usually silent and has a serious face on; he goes into a very zen-like place 🙂 The only way you know he enjoyed it is how his face lights up afterwards when he’s talking about it. Although the route was very touristy, we got our first look up close at Balinese Hindu temples. We still have so much to learn about them, but they are really exquisite to look at. We also got to see a lengthy beautiful beach, having both some beautiful, rocky architecture as well as picturesque dark-colored sand. The kids got to go shopping at a miniature “mall” on the way and Ellie found a “baby shark” t-shirt! We stumbled upon the Youtube video months ago and the kids continue to sing it out of the blue. This was a great find!
The last amazing event of this jam-packed day was dining at the hotel restaurant while watching the sun set. Ahhh… We had an exciting day and unwinding with wine, cheese croquette (panko crusted, fried outside with gooey cheese inside… absolutely rich and decadent), fried calamari, rib eye, tenderloin and for dessert: panna cotta, tiramisu and… (drum roll) hot lava cake! Oh, the hot lava cake: directly out of the oven – lovely, chocolatey cake wrapped around a liquid, flowing chocolate center. There are many memorable meals from the trip that are focused on local cuisine. This was memorable due to the quality, presentation and ambience. Absolutely amazing. I can’t even write in sentences it was so good.
Of course, the two night stay flew by. It was sad when we had to leave, but we were comforted only by the fact we were onto another epic Balinese destination: Ubud!
Thanks, Holiday Inn, for an amazing experience that we will never forget!