There is a tone to my daughter’s voice when she phones me sometimes from the other side of the world that excites and worries me in equal measure. It is a mixture of the tone she will use with me when I am old and batty and the tone she uses when she is closing a sale. Carla is a travel agent and she has lived for the past four years in Perth in Western Australia.
When she emigrated I never thought that my own air miles would increase exponentially the longer she lived abroad. But getting to see her roughly every year has become one of life’s priorities. It rates above getting the bathroom painted to cover the damp patches, replacing the ancient telly and even Christmas presents.
Three years ago she cajoled us into travelling to see her in Perth. She’s a good travel agent and as soon as she got wind of the word that Emirates were launching their then new daily service from Dublin to Dubai with a seat sale, she was on the phone. “Great fares, Ma. And the quickest route to Perth from Dublin. You just HAVE to book it.” I’m a pushover when it comes to travel and so myself, her dad and two sisters had a great holiday in Western Australia – a country I never thought I would visit.
Since then she has been home a few times but I knew one of those exciting/terrifying phone calls was due when she returned to Perth after her visit last summer. And sure enough in late August it came. “Ma, get online and have a look at Malaysian Airlines fares. They are fantastic. Just check it out.”
Malaysian Airlines, you will remember had a very traumatic year in 2014 and clearly their bookings were suffering and so they had indeed reduced their fares. We didn’t take long to decide that the prospect of a flight to Bali for €550 return was just too good to miss and so once again I took the plunge and booked for the four of us.
Initially we thought we would travel from there on to Perth – which is only a hop, skip and a jump of three hours. But after careful consideration we decided to have a complete holiday in Bali.
Unlike Australia, Bali was a place I had long wished to visit. So I was a bit surprised that more than one person said to me “Bali – oh – isn’t that a bit like Magaluf for Australians”. Carla had been to the island a few times and assured me that the Bali I dreamt of did exist.
We flew from Dublin to Paris with Aer Lingus (in the hands of an all female crew – both in the cabin and the cockpit – a fact I know shouldn’t thrill me, but it did), and then onto Kuala Lumper in Malaysia. From there it was just a three hour hop down to the Indonesian island of Bali.
Carla and her boyfriend Paddy had arrived from Perth about a half hour before us and so we had our tearful, noisy reunion in the baggage hall of Denpasar Airport – another first for us who usually blub all over the entrance to the departure area at Dublin airport.
Bali is hot and it is humid. Very humid. We were picked up by a minibus from our hotel. The first thing our driver did before even loading our bags was to produce a tray of frozen face cloths for each of us, followed by a bottle of very cold water. We all nearly hugged him – except it was too hot for any of that kind of thing.
Bali is a green and very lush island. The Legian Beach Hotel makes the most of this fact with beautiful tropical gardens and architecture that sits gently into the landscape. It is perfectly positioned on the beach and has two swimming pools (one of which has a swim up bar), which although not huge, are beautifully designed and provide a perfect way to stay cool.
Legian itself is a continuation of the larger resort of Kuta. It is full of market stalls selling the usual tourist stuff - t shirts, hats, fake designer bags and sunglasses, shorts and dresses. It also has a reasonable selection of bars and cafes which are tailored very much to Australians – which means very informal and casual.
The Legian Beach Hotel was perfect for our first week. We spent most of the time in the pool chatting and savouring all being together again. We also spent a lot of time laughing as we had our feet or hands or hair attended to in one of the local cheap and casual spas. After seven days we had somewhat acclimatised to the temperatures and the humidity. Makeup and hair styling was gleefully abandoned. We were ready to move on.
We left Legian and headed for the island of Nusa Lembongan onboard a catamaran yacht with about 35 other tourists. It was a two hour journey which ended when we dropped anchor in Mushroom Bay.
We then transferred to what looked like mini World War Two landing craft which took us and our luggage right up onto the shore. Flip flops were removed as we jumped in to calf high water and waded onto the beach. The resort was called Bali Hai. Accommodation was in high spec beach huts.
I could write another full article about how gorgeously languid and laid back the next four days were. Travelling with your teenage and adult kids pushes you into doing stuff your normal menopausal self would probably politely decline.
So we snorkelled and paddle=boarded and laughed till we cried. We watched movies on deckchairs under the stars. We drank cocktails as the sun went down. It was damn near perfect. No, it was perfect.
We sailed back to Bali, tanned and insouciant, to spend our last days together in the town of Ubud, the cultural centre located amid the rice paddies and tropical forests. Here we stayed in one of Bali’s oldest hotels, the Hotel Tjampuhan dating from 1928 when it was a Royal Guesthouse. With all the faded glamour of the Raj, the hotel is set along a number of terraces leading down to a river.
In Ubud we did our shopping, visited the Sacred Monkey Forest which is home to some of the crankiest monkeys you are likely to meet and the girls went white-water rafting. Best of all Carla and I had an afternoon to ourselves which we spent having the most bizarre and unique spa session ever.
Having a child living on the other side of the world is not easy. But there are perks. I doubt that we would all still be going on holidays as a family if we lived within an ass’s roar of each other.
When nights are long and she seems too far away we can indulge in the great memories of our days together and wonder where the emigrant might suggest we meet up next time.
Let’s hope our old TV keeps going a while longer and the damp doesn’t cause the bathroom ceiling to fall in.