The World’s Most Researched Vacation: Foiled by a Volcano

One of the reasons we moved to SE Asia is because of cheap travel and Air Asia.

After six years of living in Saudi, and paying $1500+ for 4 tickets out of the Middle East (besides Dubai), we couldn’t wait for our first holiday: Bali baby!

In 2009 we traveled to Bali for the first time, and already knew that it is a somewhat hit or miss place. These were pre-kid days, so we were footloose and fancy-free, and could show up and decide what to do. We booked 3 days in Ubud, and after that, by chance, found a Late Stays deal in Candidasa. We scored a brand-new, beach-front, ocean-wall villa with breakfast for the grand total of $50 a night. Amazing.

We had booked the last part of our holiday in Sanur, and after our luxurious stay in Candidasa showed up in Sanur, took one look around, and for some reason or another thought oh hells no.  In retrospect, this was because of the accommodation we chose in Sanur (think old, Indian-themed, watery-egg breakfast, dark, smokey, ugh), and because of the bar being set at our lovely, quiet Candidasa paradise. We spent one night and headed back to our paradise for the remaining of our holiday.

Fast-forward 9 years…

So we know to avoid Kuta and the crazy of Bali. We know that after moving, we need a good holiday. We research, and look at countless Airbnbs, and settle on a ocean-front villa in Amed, a sleepy fishing village in the east. We book our $400 (for all 4 of us) Air Asia tickets, and we’re all-in for $1000. Perfect.

And then, we started to hear about the volcano….

Very close to Amed, Mt. Agung was showing signs of imminent eruption.

Mt agung nyt.jpg
CreditMade Nagi/European Pressphoto Agency

While feeling sorry for the 150,000 people who were advised to evacuate their homes and land, we also selfishly worried about our vacay, as did millions of Aussies.

Should we risk it? Go somewhere else? Do a staycation?

The re-book research begins…

We researched and researched and researched. We made alternate plans without ever booking and then something or other would happen and we’d make an alternate theoretical plan. One plan involved medical tourism in Bangkok. Another involved a nearby small island until we found out it is jellyfish season, and swimming is not recommended.

Finally, we decided to still go to Bali, but stay further away from the volcano, near the airport (I don’t know why we thought that was important).

We ended up in Seminyak. Colleagues had led us to believe that it was the “nicer” area of Bali, with lots to do. And bonus–because of the volcano, we paid $750 for our Airbnb instead of $1100.

Turns out, maybe we are picky, but I don’t know. Seminyak ended up being dirty (think diapers in the ocean), crowded (think one major street with unmoving traffic and nonstop honking). The Airbnb itself was quite nice. There were plenty of great restaurants, but that is only one small part of your day during a week-long holiday. After asking around, we found that Sanur is the place recommended for families. The same Sanur we shunned 9 years ago. We decided to give it a go and took a taxi to the other side of the island.

We found a lovely beach, minimal trash, a beach walk, and restaurants on the beach. So, what was the problem, Haggard Lyon of 9 years ago? Were we so spoiled by living in Phuket at that point that anything less wouldn’t cut it? Was Sanur way worse back then? Was it because we didn’t have kids? We tried to answer these questions, but our past perception remains a mystery.

And get this: we liked Sanur so much, we left our already paid for villa in Seminyak and paid for two rooms at a resort on the beach in Sanur.

A resort with a Kids’ Club.

So–cheap vacay? All things considered, still yes, even with our double accommodation. We also are still comparing everything to Saudi, where it cost so much for all of us to fly anywhere from Riyadh. Regardless, we decided it was worth it to spend a few extra hundred dollars to enhance the quality of our vacation, and were glad we did.

In the end, we were happy that we got to know different parts of Bali, and know what to expect now. We will most certainly be back….in March, actually, to Amed.

Even the most researched vacation will probably turn out differently than planned. Sometimes the planning itself is more exciting than the actual vacation. Is it the thought of the living the dream that is actually more exciting than the dream itself? We are also starting to wonder the same with money–is the dream of financial freedom better than the freedom itself?

Oh, and the volcano did not blow–not then, at least…ashes have been spewing the past few weeks, but it’s settled down some now. We’ll see what happens in March….

–The Lyon





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