Adventures and learning experiences await as you reconnect with your loved ones, writes Helen van Berkel
We get it: Bali is about surfing, suds and studs (of both genders in this PC world). It's where you went as a newly fledged young Kiwi on your first real solo experience without mama there to tell you it's bedtime. But you're a grown-up now. You have a partner and children you want to show off the world to. So here is how to enjoy the hedonistic paradise of your youth when you have a partner and child in tow.
1. As gloriously luxuriant as it is to unpack those suitcases someone else brought to the room, try on the hotel slippers and then decamp to the pool, Bali is a world apart from downtown Gisborne or Timaru and needs exploring. It's a place where a different language is spoken, where the different culture is evident in the temples and the scented roadside offerings to the gods. The child you see bathing in a plastic bucket on the roadside will grow up with an entirely different world view to your precious and his or her tennis and piano lessons. Not only are you enjoying a tropical holiday, but you are also expanding your children's minds and introducing them to difference. You are winning as a parent.
2. So your child only eats chips and tomato sauce. A week in Bali is an enforced gastronomic expansion and a few days of refusing to "just try" nasi goreng will ultimately result in a child who recognises the difference between kecap manis and soy sauce. But never fear: if your child is hunger-strike level determined to have chips and tomato sauce, they serve them too. Take the chance to educate the little 'un about food miles and local cuisines while you are here.
3. Having children doesn't mean you become a monk or, worse, a wowser. You are in a country that has a different attitude to alcohol than New Zealand's "drink-until-you-fall-down" culture, but Bali knows what the planeloads of Kiwis and Aussies want when they touch down in Denpasar and is happy to cater for you. Drink in reputable bars or buy a "drinks inclusive" package from your resort. My specifically coloured wristband at Club Med meant I could enjoy a cocktail or three but the minor could only choose from the mocktail list.
4. Choose your accommodation carefully. Club Med is top of the tree when it comes to catering for children. Anyone who has tried to blag their way through excess baggage with a pushchair will appreciate the relief of knowing a safe and sturdy pushchair is available at the other end.
Sometimes all you want is to reconnect as a family and simply stay in the resort grounds. Club Med is the pioneer of kids' clubs if you want to drop off the offspring and enjoy some couple time. But I like to actively holiday with my daughter and spend quality time with her. This is about making memories you will recall well into the days they come back to Bali with their own kids. Club Med's Awesome Families programme lets you all be kids and actively reconnect as a family through giant board games such as Twister, kite making and flying or inflatable soccer.
5. Ubud is a rushed and harried village of monkeys and elbow-to-elbow tourists in the rainforest and hillside paddy fields. Book a tour that gives you an encounter with a Komodo dragon, a prehistoric relic that has survived through millennia or visit Pura Desa Batuan, one of the best-preserved Balinese Hindu temples on Bali. Such temples abound — we found three in the Club Med grounds alone — and most are heritage protected. The intricacy of the design and creativity that goes into these temples in the aeons before computers could do the donkey work will flummox you. How did they actually build these?
6. Or leave the madding crowds to the monkeys and venture up Agung, Bali's active volcano. Don't make your way up here alone though because by active, we mean blew its top as recently as this month, albeit in a minor fashion. It's a three-to-four-hour easily doable walk from Pasar Agung Temple to the summit of the Taranaki-esque peak, which is visible from much of Bali. Your hotel pool will never have looked as inviting on your return.
7. Live volcanoes and free-ranging monkeys a little beyond your comfort zone? Bali's Waterbom is a waterslide heaven of rivers, rides and wet-play areas. Slides with names such as Fast 'n' Fierce, Climax, Twin Racers and Smashdown give you a hint as to what you are in for but there are also lazy rivers to cruise quietly down and swim-up bars when your nerves need soothing.
8. Take care of your sarong and beaded bracelet needs with a visit to Kuta. The beach is a bustling cacophony of street sellers and surf lessons. Merely wander at first to drink in the sights and sounds and get some idea of what the prices are. Be prepared to haggle and count yourself successful if you get below half of the original offer. It might feel uncomfortable at first but the street hawkers of Bali know more about you than you know about them. Take the process in good humour, bargain hard, bargain well but don't bargain mean. One New Zealand dollar is worth about 9000 Indonesian rupiah and $500 a month is considered a good income in Bali. More stalls and small stores line the streets back from the beach, and air-conditioned malls offering fixed prices are within walking distance. Take a taxi if the humidity gets too much. We ended up frequent visitors at the Bali Collection, near our resort in Nusa Dua, where designer labels and sportswear seemed to be permanently on sale and you could pick up such marvellous bargains as "Buy One, Get One".
Emirates and Air New Zealand fly from Auckland to Bali.
ACCOMMODATION: For information and prices for Club Med Bali, go to clubmed.co.nz