On a recent family holiday to Bali, playwright Roger
Hall fell for island life.
Relaxing at Club Med Bali are (from left) wife Dianne,
grandchildren Tamai (8), Billie (10), son-in-law Pete and
daughter Pip. Photos by Roger Hall.
Bali had long been on my wish-list. The tipping point came
last year when Air New Zealand announced direct flights
The plan was to take our grandchildren, Billie and Tamai (10
and 8) for a family holiday while they were still willing to
be seen with grandparents.
Our daughter Pip and husband Pete came too, and Club Med was
certainly the ideal place for a family holiday.
A great climate, lots to do, and many activities for
One of the big appeals of Club Med is that once you have
written a fairly hefty cheque, all meals and drinks are paid
Thus there is never any worry about the amount you are
charging to your room account.
You can have as many beers, scotches or cocktails (with or
without alcohol) as you want, and there is no need to urge
the children to hold back on the menu. No tipping either,
another boon to those who worry about these things (all of
In short, it was to be a luxurious wallow, a cruise on land.
As on a cruise, food plays a big part in the daily routine.
Here it was very good - a huge buffet for every meal with
cuisine from many countries: Indonesian, Korean, Japanese,
French, Italian, or Unhealthy (Western).
Delicate soups; smoked fish entrees, marinated fish and
meats, choices of roasts, grills, pastas; desserts of fruit
tarts, panna cotta and bavarois plus a chocolate fountain; a
range of French and Italian cheeses, and a selection of
breads including, yes, white chocolate. And lots and lots of
In the dining area it's like a Barnes dance, people heading
in all directions holding their plates, and weaving their way
from buffet to buffet. But there is also a dining-room option
in which you can receive table service with choices from a
menu. (And it's much quieter.)There is a lot to do for those
times when you are not actually eating or drinking. A
six-hole par-three golf course, several tennis courts, two
squash courts (Pip and Pete learned to play here); badminton,
archery, volleyball, petanque, table tennis, soccer and a
gym. In addition there is free coaching in snorkelling, golf,
The social hub of the area is the large pool (where the daily
fun session of aquafitness was held) and the large outdoor
bar close by; an infants' pool and a delightful quiet pool
(no-one under 18 allowed) where one was allowed to speak only
in whispers, and charming attendants brought one soft drinks.
There was a spa, too, but their services were extra.
The staff was excellent. A team of GOs (Gentils
Organisateurs) would say a cheerful "Hello" to almost
anything that moved. They were charming, funny, and excellent
with children. This is why so many people bring their
families. And you should be warned that a big percentage of
guests are family groups (so at meals occasionally you have
to avoid the highchairs as you go to your table laden with
food, and put up with the occasional piercing wail).
Considering it is a family resort, it's surprising that
smoking is allowed in many areas of Club Med, particularly
around the open-air bar, but generally it was easy to avoid
So, after a leisurely breakfast, time to find a lounger by
the pool. (Despite the absence of Germans, competition for
the best loungers is fierce, so a towel and bag placed at
your favourite spot early in the day is a good idea.)Our
grandchildren adapted to the lounger lifestyle as to the
manner born, but after the first couple of days they went to
the Club Med groups for children and enjoyed numerous
activities including archery, and a bungy jump, and making
But while there are numerous activities during the day, for
adults, there is little to do at night. There is a show every
evening, put on by the GOs and while these are pleasant
enough, it is amateur stuff. What I had hoped for was a place
where one could meet others to play cards (bridge
Late in our stay, I suggested this to the manager and to do
him credit, he did put up a notice (though not where many
people would read it) but we got one name only (we needed
The grounds are lovely: bougainvilleas and palm trees
everywhere, lawns down to the beach (which, be warned, is
very tidal). Pools with water lilies, goldfish and frogs, and
where large water monitors (like iguanas) sunbathed and
fought each other. At dusk, bats swooped in the evening sky.
Within the grounds are a couple of small temples, which were
still used for services.
Religious chanting plus gamelan music took place while many
of the worshippers sat in cross-legged silence and checked
But once you leave the compound, you realise how sheltered
life is within. Outside, there is rubbish and dirt
I'm sure many people are happy never to leave the Club.
But 100m away, there is a tawdry art market, a money changer
and (on the beach) places where you can get a massage. Pip
and I had a one-hour massage, Billie got her hair braided,
and Tamai got a temporary tattoo (becoming "The Boy with the
Dragon Tattoo"). The whole lot cost about $NZ75.
Further afield there are numerous trips on offer. The others
had a delightful morning going to the elephant rides, which
they all enjoyed, but after an hour of being jolted around on
the lumbering pachyderms, they were a bit sore and bruised.
Dianne and I negotiated with a driver and hired him for eight
hours for 500,000 rupiah (down from 700,000) - about $NZ65.
(By the way, don't be tempted to hire a motorbike to drive
yourself around. Our driver told us six people a day are
killed on bikes in Bali, he himself was seriously injured
along with his wife and child; and during our day with him we
saw a woman on her bike hit by a car.) With more than two
million motorbikes on Bali, you're in a shoal of them all the
Our driver took us to the excellent Bali Bird Park. It has
250 species of birds from Bali, Java, Borneo and Africa, plus
an area of reptiles (komodo dragon, iguanas and snakes). Most
of the birds were brilliantly coloured and some would eagerly
perch on your arm. Every half-hour or so there is a live
show. We saw the birds of prey swooping and pouncing on
titbits thrown by the keepers. The park costs $US25 each and
I highly recommend it.
From there, passing lots of villages with a few paddy fields
in between, we went to Ubud, that slightly strange
conurbation of 14 villages, each with its specialty product
(wood products, stone carvings, silversmiths etc). We visited
just one silversmith but nothing there appealed.
Dianne and Pip found the dealer who comes to Club Med on
Fridays had a better range of goods and was flexible with his
Pip got three items for less than his original asking price
for one of them and was delighted with what she got. (Dianne,
too.) Then to one of the temples and the Royal Palace (both
rather similar). Most visitors rave about Ubud but to us it
seemed jammed with tourists and it didn't appeal to us very
much. We passed on the monkey forest, perhaps a mistake.
But I was feeling tired and sore.
Sore, dear reader, because I had fallen for Bali from the
moment of arrival. At about 1am at Bali airport, despite
being sober, I had fallen into an unmarked metre-deep
concrete drain (dry). I was lucky not to have broken
anything, but got bruises and cuts and ended up with an
infected leg. Club Med's infirmary regularly changed the
dressing and prescribed antibiotics. The worst thing was that
I wasn't allowed to go swimming. I was supposed to keep my
leg up, and for a few days no alcohol. (But I'd paid for it!)
But if you do have to spend time sulking on a lounger, there
are worse places to do so, and I did rebel every now and then
and sneak an early round of par-3 golf before the day warmed
up. For the last three days, I joined in at aquafitness and
loved it; oh how supple my body would have been had I done it
The weather was just about perfect. This was the end of
August/early September and we got no rain, temperatures in
high 20s, and not much humidity, which I'm told occurs about
a month later. Pollution shelters you from much of the sun's
harmful effects. Across the bay is a mountain as dominant as
Mount Taranaki; in 11 days there, we saw it only once.
But would we go again?
Definitely. (Though some bridge players would be nice.)
• Playwright and writer Roger Hall lives in Auckland. His
latest book for children is The Three Little
Pigs, published by Scholastic, told both as a story
and as a play for children to perform.
If you go
• Air New Zealand has announced a second season of Auckland
to Bali services next year. Fares start from $599 one way for
an economy class "seat" fare, or $1499 one way for business
class. The 2013 season for Air New Zealand flights to Bali
runs from June 1 to October 15.
• For more information on Club Med Bali go to www.clubmed.co.nz.