Balian beach with a baby
Written by: Mama Bea , 26 Jun 2018
Balian beach is a small surfing village situated on the west coast of Bali, it's only a 2-hour drive from the airport yet feels a million miles away from the bustling Kuta region in the south. We chose Balian partially because we were looking for somewhere to chill for a few days before leaving Bali, but also because we had found an amazing jungle treehouse property on air bnb, which looked incredible! We visited when Roscoe was 15 months old and it was our third destination in Bali. Our time there was mainly spent either swimming, drinking coconuts, wandering around the palm groves or rice paddies and having dinner whilst watching the surfers. We loved it so much that I'm totally on the fence in regards to writing about Balian, on the one hand I can't quite believe somewhere so magical is so unheard of, everyone needs to experience the unique beauty of this place! Yet on the other hand, I don't want to shout about it too much and contribute to putting it on the mainstream tourist map. I feel Balian's undiscovered tranquility is a key part of what makes it so special. However I am clearly going to talk about it here, the post can always be removed at a later date if reader numbers suddenly start shooting up!
We arrived in Balian following a chaotic 2-hour drive from Ubud with our friendly taxi driver, Gusti. Some of the roads in Bali are notoriously hazardous and watching him navigate around other vehicles was as fascinating as it was terrifying. As such I was very glad when he finally pulled off the 'main' road to drive down a meandering palm tree-lined path towards the coast. Upon reaching the beach we subsequently turned a sharp left onto a dirt track. We passed a couple of inviting, little cafes and a smattering of surfers carrying their boards before the track began to climb steeply upwards into the jungle. Dense greenery partially obscured any view so only the gates of a few dwellings were visible. Then all of a sudden the engine stopped and Gusti excitedly announced we had arrived. We eagerly clambered out of the car and almost fell over each other to catch the first glimpse of our new home for the next few days. Our eyes followed a neat little path, lined with humongous leaves and tropical flowers, which transcended another incline to meet a hole in the protruding foliage. Out of which poked a view of the treehouse.
The treehouse boasted two floors which could sleep up to 5 people, a covered kitchen area, outdoor shower, beautiful pool and the most magical balcony. Upon which I would drink my afternoon smoothie, do a bit of yoga or just generally channel my childhood obsession with the Swiss Family Robinson. Admittedly, I would say it's not completely ideal for young kids - there was nothing stopping Roscoe toddling right off the edge and into the tropical bushes below. We made sure to keep all doors locked when he was playing inside and primarily enjoyed the balcony when he was asleep.
We spent so much time just lounging by the pool whilst we were there. Roscoe's water confidence was improving everyday, by the time we left he had learnt to hold onto the side by himself and would even go underwater for a few seconds. One of the greatest benefits of family travel in my view is being able to spend such quality time together. Not to mention how much more fun swimming lessons become when we're surrounded by such beautiful landscape.
Balian is not your typical tourist beach, the sand is black volcanic and the sea looks treacherous. The sea here is very well known for it's surf, though the waves are certainly not of the beginners kind. If you would like to give it a go there are a number of shacks around the beach renting boards and offering lessons. I consider myself a fairly strong swimmer, yet just looking at the violent surges of water was enough to prevent me from swimming in Balian, and that was before I heard that a surfer had been attacked by a bullshark here a few years ago! The local river estuary drains into the sea at Balian beach and as such can pollute the water following heavy rainfall. Lots of debris means lots of small fish, which in turn means the occasional lurking shark! In sharp contrast to the fiery black waves crashing against the dark shore, the cliffs are covered in lush greenery, with long, draping branches partially concealing ominous caves. The beach feels wild and dramatic and beautiful. Although it is not really somewhere people go to swim or sunbathe, it is very large in size and was mostly devoid of people whilst we were there, allowing some incredible evening walks before dinner. We played with the black sand, skimmed rocks across the estuary and had an amazing time exploring the caves. Overall, not the beach you would think of as ideal with young children. I would say the current is too strong for swimming and those waves are not messing about, yet it is possibly one of the most memorable coastlines I have ever been lucky enough to visit. Plus Roscoe seemed to enjoy playing with black sand just as much as sand of any other colour!
Food & Drink
There are only a handful of restaurants in Balian and during our week there we managed to get to know a lot of the people who ran them. Our favourite, without a doubt, was a cafe named Tekor Bali. Situated only a 5 minute walk from our treehouse, down the dirt track surrounded by alluring trees and past a couple of rice paddies. We had a 3-course Indonesian breakfast with coffee and juice here everyday, for less than £2 each. There is something so special about drinking a fresh juice whilst sat admiring the very tree from which it was picked. It is these small, simple things which make Balian so charming.
An excellent sushi restaurant sits right on the beach in Balian, at which we had dinner a couple of nights following our evening walks. I am no sushi connoisseur but we found the food to be amazing and very reasonbly priced. The restaurant also offers stunning views over the beach, a perfect place to watch the sunset. It was here where Roscoe ate his first sushi and we learnt he had a particular fascination with edamame. Situated next to the sushi restaurant is a hotel which offers yoga sessions twice daily. It also has an impressive pool next to the beach where surfers tended to conglomerate in the evenings with a few beers.
As mentioned previously, there are not many establishments within Balian beach itself so in order to find fresh fruit or baby supplies we had to head back to the main road. An outdoor food market was situated next to the sign for Balian where we could find as much fruit as we wanted, alongside disposable nappies and wipes when necessary (we didn't use reusables on this trip). The vendors would more often than not insist on giving us extra bunches of bananas 'for the baby' and would stubbornly refuse any payment. Roscoe also grew to love dragonfruit, so we ended up buying fresh ones everyday. They were the perfect texture for him to spoonfeed himself and were great at adding bulk to our smoothies.
To say we only thought about visiting Balian not long before we left for Bali, the place completely captured our hearts. It was basically just a random village we picked out upon staring at a map. It is said that visiting relatively unknown places off the beaten path tend to give more authentic travel experiences. I do agree with this, but I also believe they give the most special memories. Beautiful memories of afternoons spent in our remote jungle treehouse, sipping fresh coconuts, watching Roscoe splash around with his dragonfruit-tinged hands and hearing the occasional chirp of a gecko against the roar of dark waves crashing against that black shore. All that overthinking, all those what-ifs associated with taking a baby to the other side of the world, in the end those blissful afternoons made me feel more alive than I ever have before.
Thanks for reading,