Beautiful Bali

We just returned from Bali, Indonesia!  This is our last family trip before we head back to the States in less than two weeks.  It is hard to believe our adventures are winding down.

We saw many volcanos on our flight to Bali

We decided to skip the beach and head for central Bali which is known for its rice paddies and temples.

We stayed at the Amandari Resort.  It was absolutely lovely.  Here is a view of the paddies outside our back door.

The Amandai was so peaceful.  The resort decorated villas of honeymooners with special flags and flowers.  We were surrounded by young starry-eyed lovers.  Hopefully our spirited children did not set back their family plans for too long.

Even though the hotel had a quite romantic feel, the staff was quite welcoming to the kids.  Local children daily practiced dance and preformed for the guests.  The hotel actively preserves and encourages  the local culture which is wonderful.

Here Aidan and Sydney try to get into the act.

My kids love the water.  Here are few pictures of the pool.

…and Sydney in her favorite water spot the outdoor bathtub where she can make all the bubble mess she wanted without getting into trouble.

I look forward to sharing more of this magical place.

Dining with Kids in Tokyo: Hot Griddles and Ninjas

Irasshaimasemeans welcome in Japanese and you hear it shouted as you enter almost ever restaurant.  The food is amazing and incredibly diverse.  In Tokyo we ate at some phenomenal restaurants.  Some I highlighted in other posts, but a few favorites I wanted to specifically share.

Inakaya – from the moment you walk into the restaurant it feels like you have entered a party.  Inakaya is a robatayaki type restaurant which grills very fresh and delicious seafood, meat and vegetables – all of which happen to pair beautifully with sake and beer.   Andy had gone there on a previous business trip and he thought the kids would love it.  He was right!

Aidan Very Happy With Grilled Crab Legs

When we placed an order, the wait staff and cooks smiled and shouted excited phrases at each other.  Even the drink delivery system was fun.  Here is my Sapporo!

This place was a hit with kids and adult alike.  It is the Roppongi area if you are in Tokyo be sure to check it out.

2. Ninja Alaska

Ninjas and food!  What more could you want?  As we entered staff dressed as ninjas led us into the restaurant through “training” over a draw bridge with hidden treasure.

The food was presented with “ninja magic”.  Here a tap on the lid by Aidan helps turn a small egg into a fully cooked quail.

These are not “corks” but edible potatoes.

The grapefruit spilled out smoke when the sword was removed.

Best thing of all was the ninja let the kids hold the sword.

The most magical aspect was even with the ninja theatrics the food tasted wonderful.  After a magic show we were led to a “secret exit”.  Here is a shot of the newly minted warrior family.

Japan already had the kids in love at “sushi,” and with these fun places they are now hooked for life.

Kamakura (Part II): Zen Temples, Tempura and Trolleys

Kamakura, Japan has an astounding abundance of lovely sites. We passed so many shrines that it was difficult to stop taking photos and admiring the beauty. There were certainly too many details for one blog post so here is part II…

There are five major shrines in Kamakura, Kencho-ji  was the first and grandest of the city’s zen temples.

Detail of the dragon on the temple ceiling

The beautiful gold decorations on the doors particularly fascinated me.

Meticulous landscaping contributed to the peaceful atmosphere.

Kencho-ji is home to gnarled cypress trees that arose from seeds brought from China by the founding priest 700 years ago.  It is amazing to think these trees were planted before Columbus set sail for America.

No matter how beautiful, man cannot feast his eyes on temples alone, so we found a lovely restaurant. We sat on tatami mats which the children thought was a fun treat.  Aidan loved the tempura and Sydney adored the noodles.

For dessert we tried a local Dorayaki and ice cream treat.

The kids liked the ice cream but were not so convinced that bean-jam tastes as good as chocolate sauce.

Aidan loves Japan and trains are a big part of his fascination. A ride on the trolley was one of his favorite parts of the day trip.

This thrill was only surpassed by the trolley toy we found which runs on  a puzzle track of Kamakura including the famous “Big Buddha”.  Now we have more than just memories to take away with us.  What more could you want in a single day trip?

Kamakura (Part I): Great Buddhas and Sacred Shrines

Kamakura had a brief run of glory from 1192-1333 when Japan’s capital was briefly relocated from Kyoto.  It also happens to be  about an hour train ride from Tokyo where Andy’s work brought us for nine days.  We decided to take a day trip to see the lovely temples, shrines and the most famous sight: the Daibutsu (Great Buddha).

Aidan and the Great Buddha

The children liked the Buddha but they were particularly impressed by his shoes.

Kamakura has a wealth of temples and gardens.  We could only visit a small fraction of what there was to see.  This is the entrance to Hase-dera, a temple around the corner from the Daibutsu which overlooks the bay.

The temple landscaping is beautiful.

Hase-dera is a particularly sacred to mothers as a place to remember miscarried or lost children by placing a jizo statue.

Aidan followed the lead of others and washed the statue.

There was also a small cave that the children felt was a hidden secret tunnel.  They had us walk through there two times.

Ema tablets are placed in Shinto shrines to document wishes and hopes of those who visit.   My hope is that these two stay as happy as they were on this day.

Trains, Tuna and “Two-Tots” in Tokyo

Traveling with children adds many new variables to any journey. Of course there are challenges, but there are also lots of rewards.  Some of my favorite times are when the kids become very excited about the journey.

Aidan has loved the thought of traveling to Japan for months.  He adores sushi and trains.  Japan happens to be famous for both and that is enough for him to consider it the “promised land”!  Andy and I were actually anxious about having the country live up to his high expectations.   Where to begin the adventure?  We chose to head to the place where most sushi starts-the Tsukiji Central Fish Market.

If it lives in the sea it is probably for sale here.

Scallops

Shrimp

Sea Cucumbers

Tuna

They actually don’t just sell tuna sell a multitude of cuts and grades.

The main warehouse market is lively and chaotic.  About 2000 tons of fish and seafood, worth US$18.5 million is sold here daily which amounts to US $5 Billion annually.  There are vehicles buzzing about moving heavy tanks so it is potentially a dangerous place.  Young children in strollers are not allowed so Sydney and I waited outside while Andy and Aidan took a quick look.   Fortunately there is plenty to see in the area surrounding the busier main market.

Baskets of small dried shrimp and krill

Wasabi

We even saw a small parade with beautifully dress women in kimonos…

And the most adorable fisherwoman ever.  She made a nice catch.

All of the touring made us hungry.  We of course had to sample the wares.

After the market tour, we took a train to nearby Ginza.  The subway was exciting in and of itself but when we exited the Sony building there was a surprise which could not have been more perfect for a train-obsessed preschooler.

A whole area of Thomas trains!  We honestly had no idea this was here and there was no better ending for a first morning in Tokyo for Aidan.

He literally jumped up and down and shouted “I Love Japan!”  Yes these are the times that make traveling with children truly special.

An Afternoon in Jogja: Sultan (Who?) Kraton (What?) Surprises All Around

Indonesia’s heart maybe Jakarta but Yogyakarta possesses its soul.  Yogyakarta or “Jogja” as it is more commonly called has many universities and is a cultural center of dance and arts. It is the second most visited area by tourists in the country after Bali.   It is also a district that continues to be governed by a Sultan.  Who knew?

Lovely Detail from the Kraton Grounds

We visited the Sultan’s Kraton which is a busy palace complex where many people  still live and work.  Here is the bustling street as we approached the entrance.

Th sultan and his family now live in private apartments on the complex grounds.

A View Towards the Sultan’s Private Residence

We had a lovely local guide who showed us around.  We were able to see many gifts the sultans had been given from various countries at the time of his coronation.  She was quick to point out the America had not sent a gift.  Hmmm… I may have to talk to Barry about that one.  He studied in Jakarta and should be more clued in.

The current sultan’s father allowed the nascent Indonesian government to lead their rebellion against the Dutch from the palace grounds.  He was apparently very popular.  He also had four main concubines that bore him many children.

The current sultan has tried to bring the monarchy into the modern age by eliminating polygamy. His single wife bore him five children but they are all girls which apparently eliminates them from royal contention. Well baby steps is still some progress I suppose for women rights.  Plus being the male heir has some drawbacks… Our guide pointed out the current sultan’s picture on the day of his circumcision at age 12!

A view of one of the hall’s. It is not clear if this is where above mentioned “snipping” occurred

One of the highlights of the Kraton tour was a performance of traditional Javanese dancer.  There were many drums involved.

The dancers wore beautiful costumes

The children were very captivated by the performance.  Maybe some day you will visit the Kraton and see a talented drummer who stands out just a bit with blue eyes.

Now that would be surprising.

Borobudur: An Ancient Monument to Buddha at a Lively Time

Borobudur-The name sounds mystical, like something taken straight out of a Tolkien book, and when you gaze upon it you can easily imagine the massive structure in a magical world.

Borobudur was completed in the 9th century is claimed to be the world’s largest Buddhist structure.  We hired a guide and driver to explore the temple located about 90 minute drive from Yogyakarta.

Carvings tell of the life of Buddha

An Elegant Waterspout

The monument has become a place of pilgrimage.  The journey for devotees begins at the base and continues through a winding path to the top.  There are ten terraces which represent the life stages one must go through to reach enlightenment. The stairs are steep because as our guide pointed out nirvana is not meant easy to achieve.

The most important occasion observed at Borobudur is Vesak Day, which is sometimes informally called “Buddha’s Birthday,” but actually represents more.  The holiday commemorates the day the religious leader was born, achieved enlightenment and  passed away.  We happened to visit Borobudur the day before Vesak and the monument was abuzz with preparations and travelers.

As one of the few foreign tourists, we once again became photo props.   The children, who were the youngest blonde-hair blue-eyed ones around, had their photo taken with different groups of travelers around almost ever corner we turned.  They handled the attention gracefully but after a while when Sydney tired of the paparazzi she held out the palm of her hand and said a firm “enough”.  Fortunately she is easily bribed and in this one Sydney poses with a “Chupa-Chup” her favorite candy.  I particularly love the woman’s gentle smile.

Aidan appears very content with the beautiful ladies.  I fear he is going it be a handful in his teenage years, even at five he can never say no to a lovely woman’s request.

During a playful moment, Sydney shows off the traditional Batik cloth we were given to wear.  

Aidan smiles as he is attacked by a stone lion.

It is amazing to recall all the wonderful monuments we have visited over the past five months and I marvel at what the children have learned.   A few days ago when Aidan was playing with his trains I overheard him say in his firm Sir Topham Hatt’s voice “No Thomas you cannot do that yet.  You know Christmas is after Buddha’s Birthday.”  I think Borobudur has had a lasting effect on us all.