Every time I step off the plane in Denpasar to the welcoming Balinese smiles, I feel warm and fuzzy. I love arriving and having a friendly porter run up with a trolley and grab our ridiculous pile of bags as we dump our toddler Ash on the very top. We exit the airport to meet with our amazing Nanny Oka, hand over baby Liv and go find our driver.
I love Bali life! Yes, I acknowledge we are totally spoilt! People travel to Bali for different reasons, but whatever your budget, Bali is a fabulous place to holiday or live with kids. Bali has so much to offer - the climate, beautiful beaches and lush natural surroundings, friendly people and local culture.
The people and culture make Bali really special. 83.5% of the population is Hindu and you can see this in the architecture/temples, ceremonies and beautiful locals. Bali is a spiritual and sacred place. It’s easy to get caught up in the positive energy and I’ve noticed I have more patience, smile more, have lovely conversations with strangers, and have started a yoga practice with my kids every morning.
When you plan to come to Bali you need to decide which area/s you want to visit or stay - Seminyak / Kuta / Canggu / Ubud or Sanur. Each area offers a slightly different lifestyle and experience.
My husband’s business partner is based in Sanur, so when we decided we needed a more permanent space in Bali, we knew the area well and decided “Sleepy Sanur” was the right speed for us with a one-year-old and three-year-old. With less traffic and crowds, Sanur is the more relaxed option with kids. The beach is safe with shallow waters and no big surf waves, with plenty of areas to plonk the kids down with a bucket and spade. The beach clubs and hotels are easy going and casual. The businesses on the beach don’t constantly push to sell. One of the biggest incentives for me was the wonderful diverse mums group I've met in Sanur, who are all fun, down to earth and incredibly helpful and supportive.
Finding a home in Sanur
We knew exactly what we wanted in a villa and asked all our friends for real estate referrals and started viewing places, as we thought we might have to compromise. But just before we planned to fly back to Sydney, we got a call to look at a property and fell instantly in love with the big closed living space, the lush garden with temples and a pool, the pond with turtles and the second fridge for my husband’s beer! We shook hands on the spot. We got lucky for sure, but I can’t emphasise enough how helpful it is to get good recommendations. Spending time and connecting with other mums and locals, you find they are often giving great tips and great advice. You can waste a lot of time and energy trying to work out stuff on your own but ask around and you can find trustworthy and reliable referrals.
I have to admit that much of the allure of living here as a mum is all the child free time we can afford compared to back home in Sydney. When Liv was a newborn baby, we found Oka the baby whisperer. It was not long before Liv was reaching for the nanny and not me. Oka has become my trusty sidekick and now I can’t imagine life in Indonesia without her, she has become family.
Many mums opt to send their kids to one of the local international day-cares or schools. They are great, cheap and easy, and often allow drop ins or have school holiday programs. Ash has been to a few different day-cares and now loves Little Star. I still send him twice a week and leave Oka with Liv which guarantees me the day free to brunch and spa.
My advice is to look around and try out different options. Find what works for you and your kids’ needs. We found our fantastic nanny Oka through our mums’ group. We find a mix of both nanny and day-care works. We love and totally trust Oka and these days, at least once a week, I am surrounded by our new Indonesian family. Oka and her three kids aged 2,5 and 13(and often a few cousins) will come also to join for an afternoon play and swim.
Slow life in Sanur
When we are out and about there is always more nature, or maybe life in Bali just makes you slow down and become more aware of it. I always tell my toddler to look for animals. Within moments of saying this something will appear: a dog, a cat, a gecko, a crab, a bird, a butterfly, a big insect, a cow (Power of Now Oasis yoga has one).
In Sanur we have the luxury of time; back in Sydney, it's a special occasion if I wash my hair.
And when I can have some time for self-love, it means that the quality time with my partner and kids is so much more enjoyable.
Living the High Life
The cheaper lifestyle means we don't cook as often but dine out or get Go-Jek deliveries from the great international and local food options. We love the convenience and affordable luxury resorts, beach clubs, fine dining, beauty treatments, yoga and healthy lifestyle options.
Shopping for essentials in Sanur
And for groceries, local shopping centres are much cheaper. Tiara Dewata, and Pande Putri are where I go for bigger shops and its great and super cheap to get seasonal fruit and vegetables in a local market. Popular Markets and Hardy’s are located in Sanur and great for convenience and western products. Carrefour is a great option for a big shop, it’s a little further away and also not as cheap as the local supermarkets (cheaper than Popular and Hardy’s) but they have a huge variety of groceries, local and western, and good quality meats, fruit and vegetables.
Goemerot restaurant deserves a mention, although not in Sanur, it’s a 30 minute drive out of Sanur in the area of Jln Tukad Gangga. The food is always great and if I go shopping with the kids in Denpasar, this is where I stop because they have a great kids play area. Great local prices also.
Make the most of it
Moving to Sanur with kids I learnt that life is both easier with all the available help and sometimes more challenging. Every day I find myself learning more (still learning!) about the Indonesian culture and how to navigate life here. Living in Bali has its frustrations, you learn pretty quickly that the smiles are lovely, but a smiling ‘yes’ can also mean “I'm too polite to say no” or maybe it just means “I’m smiling and nodding because I have no idea what you are saying”.
You will come up against many trivial daily nuisances e.g. the formula you bought regularly at the local supermarket is no longer in stock(for a very long time), you’ve run out of water and the water delivery guy has gone home for a 3 day ceremony, the kids are feral and hungry and the Go-Jek driver is very lost and does not speak English… and I have learnt just to breathe, embrace a bit of slow living and assume everything takes longer, and with a bit of lateral thinking in Bali, anything is easy. It’s the pay-off for a great lifestyle and more time to yourself.
Being a mum with young kids in Sanur is an amazing experience for me and my kids, there is so much to do, you just need to learn to go with the flow, respect local culture, especially what you don’t understand and then in my experience you get the most from the wonderful lifestyle on offer
Here’s my top ten things to do in Sanur with the kids
1. Artotel Beach club - Hire a lounge by the pool and spend a day drinking cocktails, eating and swimming, and if your kids will nap anywhere they can sleep on the lounge.
2. Go-Jek - Restaurant meals delivered to your home. It’s often cheaper than cooking.
3. Prama hotel - Beach front and has a little waterslide park and great kids swim area where you can pay for a membership or a single visit.
4. Day-cares there are 4 English speaking ones that I know of- Little Star, Cheeky Monkey, Rumah Cecil, Skoebi Do.
5. Genius Cafe for healthy food and they have a great beach front for kids to play in.
6. Nelayan - Beach Front cafe with a little kids play area
7. Peekaboo - Big indoor air-conditioned play centre. Great for really a hot day.
8. Mums group - Say hi to other mums. There are amazing communities and mums’ groups catering to kids of all different age groups. 9. Massimo- a winner! Pizza and pasta is always good and the best ice-cream is out the front. Look for the line!
10. Kuu Japanese at the Maya Hotel- My kids love Japanese, it's a bit pricier but a good healthy option
And My Top 10 list of things to do I do when I’m kid-free!
1. Weni Peni- for mani/pedi, massage, wax and hair. This place is fantastic, but I recommend you book ahead as they have great prices and all the treatments are fantastic.
2. Koa Shala for yoga and massage.
3. Drink with a friend at the Artotel beach club.
4. Healthy Lunch and a Jamu Jamu (Balinese herbal tonic) at Bali Buda.
5. Going to a local tailor to make clothing for myself and the kids. I often bring my own fabric.
6. Shopping for a nice outfit at Biasa Boutique. Classy Designs - all cotton and linen, my go-to place for outfits for special events in Indonesia.
7. A massage or facial at the Fairmont for an extra special treat but expect to pay 5-star prices.
8. Power of Now Oasis beachfront yoga in a 2-storey open bamboo building.
9. Surfing at Rip Curl at the Prama - a hidden secret is that the surf breaks off shore from Sanur are perfect for the beginner or intermediate surfer.
10. Drink at the Hyatt on the beachfront reading a book.
Written by Chrissy Hammond