Seminyak, Bali (and a new home)


A bathtub overlooking the sitting area in Ranadi Villas in Seminyak Bali.
A Women and toddler in Ranadi Villas in Seminyak
Entrace way to a Ranadi Villa
Ranadi Villas sitting area and pool

For the last leg of our month in Bali, we stayed four nights at Ranadi Villas in Seminyak. After a very bumpy boat ride across the sea, returning to Bali from Gili Trawagnan, we were quite happy to set down our bags in this beautiful place. I’d found us a good price through the discounter, Agoda Online, so I was especially surprised to learn that we had been upgraded to a two-room villa.

But then they told us they’d only like us to use one of the rooms. (A bit odd.) Still, both rooms were unlocked so we set up Hudson’s crib in the other one and did our best to leave no extra work for housekeeping.

Ranadi Villas porch in Seminyak Bali
Ranadi Villas porch in Seminyak Bali

The hotel was off the main stretch of Seminyak—which extends north from the Kuta and Legion areas in sort of a seamless string of beaches—but the hotel offered shuttle service (when the car was free) to the beach or to restaurants. We didn’t mind and, save for the heat, still found it easy to get around—often on foot.

Seminyak was often described to us as being a bit like “Kuta without the crowds” and that seemed like something we’d like. For sure, Seminyak is no longer a sleepy suburb of Kuta, and we found it’s ample supply of restaurants and shops to be just right.

I believe Renadi Villas is primarily aiming to be a time-share destination, so I didn’t find them to be quite as helpful as a true hotel may be, with directions and such, but everything was lovely and everyone very friendly.

Bedroom and dining area at Ranadi Villas
Bathtub at Ranadi Villas

After ooh-ing and ash-ing a while at everything around the hotel grounds, we set off to explore and have dinner at enormous Made’s Warung.

We were excited to be back in Bali, in no small part because of the way religious and cultural ceremony would permeate each day. And sure enough, the minute we stepped onto the road we found ourselves surrounded by offerings, music, and hundreds of people in temple attire.

Various religious objects in seminyak
Oriental door in Seminyak Bali
People in the streets at Seminyak Bali
People in the streets at Seminyak
Religious headdress in Seminyak
Galungan in Seminyak
 Galungan in Seminyak Bali
Mopeds in Seminyak Bali

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To do around Ubud: birds, ridge walks, and music


We looked into various guided bike rides and treks in advance of our trip, but ultimately decided to wing it once we arrived—not being one hundred percent sure of how easy or difficult each day with Hudson may be. In general, we tended to try and be more carefree about when and where he napped than we would be at home and that worked out really well. He might fall asleep a bit later, or sleep for a shorter time, but he got to be pretty good at napping on the go.

One day, following a description of the Campuhan Ridge walk we found in our Rough Guide, we asked Nyoman to drop us at the Ibah hotel near Campuhan bridge and then pick us up where the path rejoined the road. A man was waiting near the top, beside the hotel, looking for guide-work. At first we were going to decline, it sounded easy enough, but he convinced us that the trail could be a bit tricky and we got a good feeling about his character. We negotiated a rate (still hoping we weren’t being mislead) and started down an incredibly steep path toward the Agung river.


I was so glad that Aron felt comfortable carrying Hudson on his back for the walk, and even he admitted that it was incredibly nerve-wracking at times. Ultimately, we were so glad we had a guide, even if just because there was someone else to occasionally lend me a hand when Aron needed both of his.  He was also so kind as to take our bag for the descent.



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Excursion from Ubud: Tampaksiring and the Water Temple


Water Temple Bath
Drive to Tampaksiring
Gunung Kawi

One morning, we started out early to see the eleventh-century carved site of Gunung Kawi in Tampaksiring. Though it is just 11km outside of Ubud, we were happy to find that we arrived first that day, as I hear it can get crowded as time passes.

The village of Tampaksiring was virtually silent as we entered—roosters’ crows were of course a constant soundtrack as they are throughout the island. A few men were gathered, working to make coconut shavings, and the street was shrouded in a light fog.


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Cremation and Ceremony in Ubud, Bali



We were fortunate to witness a cremation ceremony while we were in Ubud. Rather, I should say “part of a cremation” as the ceremony itself is spread over a period of time. Balinese believe that the body is returned to the five elements after death, merely a carrier for the soul. Cremation ideally would happen immediately, but it’s too costly for most families to hold the elaborate event on their own, so cremations are joined to share expenses.

The body is purified and buried until cremation can take place, often for years, and then brought home to be prepared for the ceremony. We saw the remains being brought to the cremation site in a loud procession, wherein they (now placed within a sparkling tower) were spun around to confuse the soul. Much attention was given to the sarcophagi (large bulls and other animals) by members of the family and community, before it is closed and set ablaze.



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Markets of Ubud



One of my favorite things to do in any new city is to visit a local market. From the greenmarkets of Manhattan to the bazaars of Bombay, they often give you such a colorful perspective of local culture.



Much of what was for sale at any of the markets we visited was material useful for making offerings, a small canang filled with flower petals and incense and usually some sort of nourishment, like rice. It was interesting to see the motorbikes line the entrances early in the morning, as local workers would pick up the materials (and sometimes premade packages) before heading off to work.

In fact, one of our guidebooks noted that the average household spends at least half its income on offerings. At the same time, much of what is offered is often later consumed in the household’s meals. Offerings may be to ask for blessings, to give thanks, or to ward off demons, and they can only be used once.

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Central Ubud



Virtually every guidebook will describe Ubud as Bali’s cultural center. And virtually every person we spoke to who had previously been to the island recalled the town as their favorite stop. We will join the ranks.

Indeed, this popularity means congested roads as the city has experienced a huge growth in tourism (and commercialism) over the past decade, but away from the main roads we were still able to find quiet on lush, terraced paddies. We, frankly, enjoyed the mix of easily accessible shops and restaurants and serene vistas.




One of Ubud’s best known attractions is its Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We passed through on a couple of occasions—it sits about 15 minutes down the road from Palace.


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Welcome to Ubud



Last August, between moving from New York to California, we stopped for a month in Indonesia with our then 13-month-old. The movers came to pack up our apartment on the first of the month, and we boarded a plane on the fourth. We thought the promise of flying around the world to a beautiful place might dull the sting of leaving New York—and it did, especially the part where we slept on an air mattress in an empty apartment for three nights.

If you ever need a little extra encouragement to start a multi-leg, forty-hour stint of air travel with a toddler, just move everything practical out of your apartment for a few days.


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Travelogue: One month in Bali (August 2012)



I’ve been wanting to share a true, extensive (over-the-top, in typical fashion) travelogue from our month in Bali for, oh, almost a year now. And I think it’s time! Here’s the plan: I have multiple posts on where we stayed, what we saw, where we shopped and ate, for each of our destinations. There was just too much to tell for me to put everything into one long post this time.

I’ll spend the next week or so sharing different aspects of our trip, give each the tag “Bali Travelogue,” and you can see them all grouped once I’m done. I’ll start with Ubud next week, and then pause for a while to finish up posts on Permuteran, the Gilis, and Seminyak (see updated list below).

Those of you who have written me asking questions about traveling to Bali, often with young children: I’m sorry it took me so long! The rest of you with no plans to go there anytime soon: Um, sorry? Indulge me? And start saving your miles for a ticket! It was amazing!

First up, the 40-hour journey and arriving at our first destination, Ubud.

Updated posts list: 
Welcome to Ubud
Central Ubud
Markets of Ubud
Cremation and Ceremony in Ubud
Excursions from Ubud
North to Permuteran
Amed & Gili Trawagnan (Lombok)

[photo of our first home, Harvest Moon Villa]

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Copper pendant lights


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We actually brought back a lot of furnishings from Bali–so sharing finds from there may become a recurring theme–but one of the first things we did upon moving into our new home was to install the copper light fixtures that we hand-carried back in our suitcases into our kitchen.

It was the first of the many home projects we’ve started tackling that seemed like it should be so simple–but wasn’t at all. And I wish I could tell you that we resolved it with DIY skills, but we brought in an electrician (or two).

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First, we needed to rewire the lights to attach cords that could be used to hang the lights (the lights had been wired alongside chain). We fitted new sockets and then ordered attractive fabric-wrapped black cord. And then threw it out when it couldn’t be used to bear weight.

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Then we had an electrician come in to install lightboxes or transformers where the lights would be hung. The previous fixture (shown on move-in day) had a single lightbox, with wire running along the ceiling. Many holes were drilled. And then they drilled some more once we realized that the first three weren’t evenly spaced (argh).

Next, someone came in to re-drywall and cover the holes. Then that had to be textured. And then it had to be painted (but the of course drywall guy doesn’t paint).

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And then, finally, Aron made about five trips to various grocery stores to test out different lightbulbs and try and find the best combination of light quality and energy efficiency to pair with the orange-copper. Phew!

So simple, right?

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By the way, the rest of the room is still a work in progress. I think we’re currently trying out chair/couch pairing number three or four?

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P.S. Our headboard from Bali. And my interiors board on Pinterest.

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Fresh bed, fresh start


It was a bit of a push, but we began the New Year in crisp, fresh sheets and a brand-new bed. Aron’s parents watched Hudson for a few hours while Aron disasembled and reassembled our old bed in a guest room for our friends, and I ran off to Macy’s to splurge on sheets* for our new one.

It’s been a long-time coming… starting with that headboard we picked out in Bali.

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Family Travel: What to pack for a toddler


I’m starting to work on our Bali travelogue, and thought I might start with some posts about packing.


We brought way more than we needed for Hudson on our month-long trip. No surprise there: it feels like it’s impossible not to overpack with a baby (and now, a toddler) in tow. We would basically just pack the entire contents of our apartment everytime we went somewhere, as if we were being air-dropped onto a deserted island.
But there are a few things we really used.
First, the essentials:
GoGo Babyz Kidz Travelmate (with our Combi Cocorro Car Seat):  If you’re bringing a carseat on a trip with you, the GoGo Babyz can convert almost any carseat into a stroller. We opted to leave our stroller at home and it was so nice to still be able to wheel Hudson (or the empty carseat with our bags stacked atop) through the airport. And on a side note, our smaller- and lighter-than-average carseat is awfully nice for traveling. I’ve seen some travelers struggle to install their carseats on the plane, and it was never a problem fitting this into the row.


We were so glad we brought a Totseat with us. High Chairs were available about 50% of the time, but we never worried because he could use this with any chair.


An Ergo Baby Carrier (or any sling or carrier) is my number one travel essential. Hudson had lots of practice with being worn on the sidewalks of New York, so he would even nap in the Ergo while we crossed rice fields or walked around town. I appreciate that it has a hood for shade and that it doesn’t take up too much space.


BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light (with jury-rigged mosquito net): Many of the places we stayed were willing to furnish us a crib, but I’m so glad we had our own. We knew it was safe, and Hudson knew it as a constant and familiar bedtime spot even as the rest of his surroundings were changing. My only caveat is that I wish it were smaller. Also notable: sometimes airlines will count this as a piece of checked baggage; other times they’ll let it go since it’s for a baby. It’s worth asking ahead of time and bringing the email reply with you when you check-in if you get a “yes.”


And a few other favorite items:
“Baby Catch-all” bibs (aka Tommee Tippee bibs): These roll up and wipe down easily (no laundering required) and catch those few precious bites that you were counting on for a few more minutes of distraction on the plane.


Dye-free Infant Acetomeniphen: You’ll likely be packing a medicine cabinet’s worth of first aid supplies (bacitracin, teething relief, ibuprofen, tylenol, etc.). Somehow they always end up staining things, which is especially annoying when you have fewer changes of clothes. Look for the oddly elusive dye-free options. (NB. Be sure you’ve tried them before using them on a trip and have checked dosage guidelines with your child’s doctor).


Headphones specifically for kids (with a splitter): Hudson hasn’t had much practice watching television, so he was not too interested in watching cartoons when we really wanted him to on the plane or while up for hours and getting over jet lag in the middle of the night. But it helped that he had his own over-the-ear headphones, and that I could listen along and react. (I’ve also heard good things about these.)


BabyConnect App: Aron and I love this app and recommend it to all new parents for tracking sleep and feedings or anything else. We’re a little crazy for still using it, but I personally found it really nice to be able to look back over Hudson’s usual sleep patterns when deciding how to adjust him to the twelve-hour time difference. And then to track his sleep when it was completely erratic and we needed to judge whether he was sleeping too long during the day.


Baby monitor: If you and your partner are lucky enough to get your own room, you’ll be happy you brought along a monitor.

Leakproof thermos by Foogo: if your toddler can use a straw, this is a nice (insulated) option. And it won’t leak in your bag. (This leakproof feature doesn’t apply during ascension in the plane, however, when the pressure builds.)

And don’t forget finger snacks, a new toy or two (think 99-cent store), a change of clothes, and more diapers than you think you need for the plane.

Happy traveling!


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Bali and back


We landed in San Francisco, and made our way to our new home in Davis, just over a week ago. And yet it already feels like ages since we were in Bali. I really want to take a day to write down all that I can about the trip–before those aromas of frangipani and burning incense fade from memory–but I can’t say there has been much downtime since we arrived (save for an impromptu Breaking Bad marathon two nights ago that prevented me from getting this post up yesterday and which still elevates my heart rate when I think about it).

The last week of the trip was as good as any. A bumpy (and slightly white-knuckled) ride from the Gili Islands back to Bali, where we spent our final days in Seminyak–shopping, observing Galungan celebrations, and shopping some more–before the 40-odd hours of travel home. Those plane flights went so well and we’re still sort of amazed at how everything just came together perfectly. Most of my photos of Hudson are of him sleeping (since that’s mostly what he did!) and our layovers couldn’t have been much better: I had an hour massage for $20–pjs and all–in Bangkok and we all took showers and naps in a transit hotel during our 11-hour layover in Seoul. The hardest part may have actually been sitting in traffic over the Bay Bridge at the end of it all. Or that there was an end at all.

Aron went back to work yesterday. Just a half day, but both Hudson and I missed him. It has been the most incredible two months. I think it has only just been hitting me what a rare opportunity we had, and how lucky we all were to be together–especially during these months when Hudson is so dynamic. That’s something I don’t think I’ll ever forget.

P.S.  These are just a few–ha!–photos from our last week in Bali from my iPhone/Instagram; full travelogue to come… someday. In the meantime, some of you have asked about lodging. Here are the (wonderful) places we stayed:

Ubud (Lodtunduh): 10 nights at Harvest Moon in Desa Bulan–which we were invited to thanks to Kate, a fellow blogger (who has a beautiful home in Bali as well)!  An amazing villa with stunning views of rice fields.

Permuteran: 4 nights at Taman Selini–a charming and small hotel with a great restaurant. We had a bungalow with a day bed  set back from the black sand beach.

Amed (Banyuning): 1 night at Baliku–a steep property just across the road from a sunken Japanese wreck that’s good for snorkeling and diving.

Gili Trawangan, Lombok: 6 nights at Kokomo (and yes we did hear that song quite a few time), a quieter and more upscale option (i.e. pricier) than most would seek (or need) on this island popular with backpackers, but awfully nice with a toddler.

Seminyak: 4 nights at the Ranadi Villas–where we got lucky and were upgraded to a 2-bedroom place. Beautiful!

Transit hotel in Seoul Incheon Airport: 8 hours

Update: Our carseat travel setup is the GoGo Babyz Kidz Travelmate. So handy! 


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Week three from Bali



Oops… it’s Friday already? And it’s Labor day weekend? Somehow that week completely escaped me (and this month is flying by). But here are some shots from week three in Bali–our one day on the Amed coast and some of our week on Gili T in Lombok.

Thank you so much for all of the nice comments on our last two posts. We haven’t been logging on to send very many replies, but they do show up in my email and it’s been exciting to share our travels and hear from you. Again, a travelogue to come at some point, but for now: Instagram shots (@AshleyMuirBruhn)… and one more week!

If you’re off for Labor Day, have a nice long weekend!


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From the road… Week two in Bali


Some favorite photos from our second week. And these are just iPhone photos. I can’t even tell you how many we’ve taken with the SLR. Everything is so beautiful. I’d still like to put together a travelogue (or travelogues?) at some point in the future, but it seemed nice to keep sharing some shots from the road in the meantime–especially as the more extensive option is oh-so daunting!

After leaving Ubud–where we spent our first 10 days–we headed into the Central Mountains and across to the black sand beaches of Permuteran in the Northwest corner of the Island.

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Hello, Bali!



I composed about ten different long goodbye-New-York posts in my head, but after saying goodbye for so long… goodbye to the city, farewell to our little apartment, and “we’ll miss you” to beloved friends, it feels like it’s time to start saying hello.

First up: Hello, Bali!

It was a long 37 hours of travel but we’re finally here. And though the word barely describes this view from our back porch, it’s beautiful.

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Drumroll… Bali!


We’ve chosen our destination for August: Bali! We decided we wanted to take advantage of the long travel time for a long-haul flight (I’m not sure when the next time I’ll be willing to travel 24+ hours to only stay a week or so will be, so as we have the entire month of August free this might be a rare chance to travel somewhere distant), we wanted to go somewhere favorable for the dollar, and somewhere warm. We looked in the direction of S.E. Asia and found that the best weather to be had there in the month of August is in Bali (the only downside then being that it’s peak-time for travelers). We’ll be there almost 4 weeks, but I’ve been reading lots of two-week itineraries because I find that–with baby Hudson–we can do about 25-50% of what we might have otherwise done in a day. Fortunately, Bali is a small island, so we should be able to see and do a lot. And the end of our trip will overlap with the major festival of Galungan.

It is a LONG trip, but we used miles to purchase three tickets even though Hudson qualifies to be a lap infant. I’m so glad to know that he’ll have his own seat to wiggle around in.

We’re so excited! A little daunted by planning, but really excited. We hope those of you who have been will weigh in with suggestions, favorite (and not-so-favorite) stops, etc.

[Images: Rice Fields, Tanah Lot, Galungan, Tanah Lot, Gili Amben Beach, & our new book collection]

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