We had 3 weeks in Bali staying in Kuta, then Ubud and finally Legian. Read all our Bali posts on our Bali Destination page. This post is about how we did Worldschool in Bali.
After a quiet start, we found lots to keep us busy and some new learning experiences. Like our time in Thailand we stayed away from some of the ‘traditional’ tourist entertainment, which can often involve unethical treatment of animals. Instead we looked for activities that gave us a deeper understanding of Balinese culture such as cooking, music and dance shows, and temples. Of course we also did fun holiday stuff too!
Balinese Cooking Class
One of our first activities in Ubud was a cooking lesson. This time we decided that I would go with L, our 9 year old, because we really like cooking classes and the other two aren’t fussed either way. We chose Periuk Bali Cooking Class because they were highly rated on Trip Advisor and they take children.
Local Markets and Hindu Offerings
The class included a visit to a local market in the morning and a quick stop at a rice paddy. The market was genuinely local and less touristy than many markets we’ve visited as part of cooking classes. The rice paddy stop was good too. After all our time in Thailand and Vietnam we had a few questions about growing rice!
Before the class we had a brief demonstration on how coconut oil is made. We also had a demonstration and explanation of the Balinese Hindu offerings that are made every day in Bali and found everywhere. We made our own offering, plaiting the leaf into a square dish and then arranging the flowers and pandan leaf inside.
Then we started cooking! Our favourite dishes were the satay sticks, the Balinese chicken curry, and the delicious coconut pancakes for dessert. But everything we made was tasty.
Unlike other classes we didn’t make each dish completely ourselves. We worked in teams, but we still got to try almost every step. There was a huge amount of vegetables to be prepared and chopped before grinding into a paste.
We met lots of other travelers who were impressed with L’s skills and enthusiasm in the kitchen!
A nice thing about doing something just the two of us, was when we went back to see Paul and S, we all had lots of stories to exchange about our morning. Since we usually do everything together we enjoyed having news to share! They had also had adventures going out for coffee and finding a laundry!
Papermaking in Bali
Paper making in Ubud was a random addition to our plans, we were spending the morning exploring the streets of Ubud, the boutique shops with local crafts. We came across a paper shop and stopped to buy some recycled paper cards as a gift. They were advertising paper making classes, so we signed up for a morning class.
Paper making is a very messy business, we were given big plastic sheets to tie around us like aprons. The price we paid was for 4 people to make 10 sheets of paper each, this meant 40 sheets of paper – it’s a lot of paper! We weren’t sure if we could take all that home, but we were mostly there for the experience.
We were making our paper out of recycled paper, soaked and mixed to a messy pulp. I was a bit disappointed because at the shop they sell paper made from other fibres, including pineapple leaves, and I had wanted to see this process. For the kids, making paper like this was a new experience, so it was fine for a first time.
After making a very fine pulp we put it into shallow tubs with lots of water, used screens to pick up a thin layer of pulp, decorated our sheet with petals and leaves and then flipped them onto pieces of fabric to dry. The sheets were stacked up, with the cloth in between, later they were squeezed with a big press and laid in the sun to dry. We finished our morning with some refreshments and the host bought us some traditional local sweets to try. We picked up the paper the next day.
The paper did make it to England but we had to shake off some of the looser petals and leaves. It probably wouldn’t have made it through NZ customs due to all the plant matter!
Visit Tanah Lot Bali
Tanah Lot is a rock formation on the Bali coastline, it looks like a tiny rock island, with an ancient Hindu pilgrimage temple, Pura Tanah Lot. One of Bali’s most popular tourist attractions it makes a good stop off point from Kuta / Legian / Seminyak area to Ubud. The temple is one of seven sea temples around the Bali coast. Tanah Lot is a special place to watch the sunset and is the most visited destination in Bali.
We enjoyed our visit to this spectacular piece of coastline and the chance to observe the pilgrimage of Hindus to this beautiful temple. At the base of the rock there is a ‘sacred spring’ with freshwater coming out of the rock, considered a miracle because there is sea water all around it. Hindu people going to pray at the temple must come here first to be cleansed with the holy water.
Have a Hindu Blessing at Tanah Lot
Many people line up to be blessed at this holy spring, both Hindus and tourists. The children decided they would like to be blessed so they lined up behind a Hindu family that had brought their little boy for his blessing.
When it was their turn they copied the people before them, first taking some spring water to clean their face. Then holy water was sprinkled on their heads, a flower tucked behind their ear and some rice grains pressed onto their foreheads, all while the blessing was said. Our guide told us that the blessing is said to give prosperity to the receiver. They tried to keep their rice on for as long as possible afterwards!
The temple is said to be protected by sea snakes and you can go into a little cave to see a sea snake. Both the blessing and the sea snake cost a tip / donation. There is also a cost to enter Tanah Lot.
Tanah Lot is busy and very popular with people taking photographs, but still well worth a visit. My advice would be to tag it on to a part of a day trip and be there at sunset if you can, for a great view, however it will be even busier at that time. There are lots of snack places, restaurants and tourist shops, toilets are available and we found some delicious gelato.
Learning about religion in Worldschool
As well as the blessing we learned a lot about Hinduism and Balinese culture from our driver. He told us about the ceremonies that happen during a person’s lifetime, to mark significant stages and some of the traditions around welcoming a new baby. He also talked about the financial cost of the ceremonies and feasts that go with them which can be quite a burden for the family. The whole village is invited but everyone brings a gift to contribute, for example a small sack of rice.
Through our travels in Asia we’ve learnt more about some world religions: Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism in particular. We personally do not practice any religion. But we do believe an understanding of other’s beliefs teaches us to be open minded, tolerant, and encourages our children to be inquisitive learners. Worldschool in Bali was a great opportunity for learning more about religion and culture in this part of the world.
See a Cultural Show or Fire and Trance Dance
When visiting Ubud there are a number of different culture shows you can see, there is usually one on each night, either at the Palace or the Museum. Starting around 7.30pm you can buy tickets from sellers on the street corners around the palace and the museum from late afternoon / early evening. We saw the Kecak Fire and Trance Dance. These sorts of shows are a great way to keep up with Music and Drama during Worldschool. There are fire dances in a number of villages as well. It is easy to find out information in Ubud about what shows are on.
Tip: Arrive at least half an hour before the show to secure good seats.
The Fair Warung Bale by The Fair Future Foundation
This restaurant in Ubud serves delicious Balinese food with all profits supporting the Fair Future Foundation providing free medical care. They say that one meal funds 2 medical treatments, with money also going towards a new paediatric hospital. The restaurant also provides employment for young people. This experience built on L and S’s lessons about Social Enterprise and Charities in Asia during our travels so far. We ate here twice, both times we didn’t make a booking but arrived early. It is best to book if you can.
Surfing Lesson in Bali
On our last day in Bali, Paul and L decided to make the most of the beautiful weather, cleaner beach, and great surf at Legian Beach, to try a surfing lesson. They looked at some of the surf schools but in the end we just walked up the beach later in the morning, found a smaller place and negotiated a price for a lesson. We ended up getting L for free. There was no fixed time for the lesson, they could surf until they’d had enough. If they didn’t stand up could come back the next day. They also offered free board hire for an hour the next day and free loungers for S and I to watch! Of course being our last day we couldn’t make the most of the all the extras but they still had a great time.
They headed for their lesson and S and I went down to the beach about 20 minutes later thinking they’d only just be getting into it. But there they were, surfing towards us! Amazing! They each had their own coach, someone was with L the whole time which meant Paul could concentrate and not worry about him. We wouldn’t have had that with a larger surf school. The staff greeted us like VIPs and ushered over to front row seats to watch the action and take photographs. After awhile Paul took a break but L was determined to keep going, he was having such a great time.
When the surfing lesson goes wrong!
It all ended rather abruptly when L came into shore, ended up under his surfboard and got hit on the head. He couldn’t get up with the waves and the weight of the board. Luckily people were watching and went to help him, we couldn’t see him and his coach was frantically trying to get to him. The first I knew was when he was picked up and I heard the yelling! I guess the surf school didn’t want us to be upset or any injuries on their hands, they swiftly went into action with L carried to a lounger and ice brought for his head. They were a bit concerned about concussion. All was well and they invited us back to watch the sunset at their bar promising us the best seats!
We may not have gone to the most famous surf school on the beach, but the personal experience, care, and attention, was priceless. I felt that these guys genuinely wanted us all to have a good time, and for Paul and L to have a great first surfing experience. There are loads of surf schools in Bali. You can make bookings, or you can do what we did. Walk up the beach until you find someone you like and make a deal.
Woodcarving in Bali
L & S did a woodcarving workshop in Bali with Backstreet Academy. More about this later.
Hard Rock Hotel – Pool Day Pass
This isn’t worldschool, but it is useful information if you are in Kuta and are looking for something fun to do for the whole family. Spend a day at the Hard Rock Hotel using their pools and slides. If I was on a ‘holiday’ budget then I’d seriously consider staying at the Hard Rock Hotel, it is paradise for kids. We all know entertained kids means peace for parents! But on a traveling budget this sort of accommodation is not realistic, splurging on a day pass is a good compromise.
During our first week in Bali we were based in Kuta and the beach was terrible. Read about it in this blog post. Our hotel pool was good but we were looking for a change of scene and I couldn’t face the waterpark!
I don’t think Hard Rock Hotel offer this in the high season. During the quieter times it can be possible to pay for a day to use their facilities. Most of the payment you receive back in food and beverage credit, so while it cost around $90NZD for the 4 of us, that got us enough credits for our lunch and some cocktails in the afternoon. We could use the pools all day until around 9pm, so you could stay for dinner too. It also includes towels, loungers etc. There are various packages to choose from that include private waterside cabanas, picnics etc. The kids also talked me into hiring them an inflatable tube and they had great fun in the pool all day.
How to buy a Hard Rock Hotel Day Pass?
Probably the easiest way to find out if the Hard Rock Hotel is offering day passes while you are in Bali is to contact the hotel. Or turn up to one of the security booths at the entrance and ask. We saw a sign outside the resort in Kuta and asked the security guard. She told us the details and we came back the next day to buy our tickets from her. It was very easy and the staff were very friendly and helpful.
While this day was more ‘school holidays’ than ‘worldschool’ we did have a learning moment. We were having fun, floating around on our tube. Then I saw a little girl, about 5 years old, going under the water repeatedly. I watched for a moment thinking maybe she was playing with her sister but then I could see a panicked looked on her face. She was looking right at me but not calling for help. Children drown quietly! I decided she needed help but unfortunately I was floating further away on my inflatable tube! I shouted to Paul who passed S to me and quickly swam to the little girl, I followed once S was safe. By this time she was under the water most of the time. He got her to the side of the pool and her Dad appeared.
All was well, but it was scary. I can still see that little girls face and the look in her eyes. This was in a pool with lifeguards. You can never be too careful with children around water.
If you are looking for more ideas of things to do in Bali be sure to read our post A day trip from Ubud. For more ideas of what to do with your kids in Bali or to make bookings, visit Backstreet Academy or Get Your Guide. We use and recommend both of these sites.
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