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Monkeys, elephants and Ubud: Review of Villa San

Who: Rachel & Steve with kids (Austin 2.4 and Stella 5mths), Rachel’s parents & nanny
Where: Villa San, Ubud, Bali
When: 26th Dec – 2nd Jan 2013 (it was wet season so we had rain every day although lots of sun too.  With preschoolers happy for it to be overcast so long as it’s warm, which it was)

Villa Booking
Through Marketing Villas in July (via the villa website www.villasanbali.com)

Flight Booking
Booked direct with Cathay Pacific.  I like the flight because it leaves HK at 10am and gets into Bali at 3pm, so you arrive at the Villa at a reasonable time to get the kids fed and in bed.  On the way back you get the whole morning at the villa before you head to the airport.  Garuda are much cheaper but land very late.

I recommend using the VIP service at Bali airport as the immigration queues can be very very long and the airport has no aircon.  The VIP service is US$30 per head, on top of US$25/head visa fee but I think it’s worth it to guarantee getting through in around 40mins vs. 2hrs.

Regardless of what the guidebooks say, it will take at least 90 mins to get from the airport to Ubud and probably closer to 2 hours.  The traffic is very heavy and very slow going up through Kuta.

Villa Cost
Villa San is a fully staffed villa including chef, butler, driver and car for 8 hours per day.  Airport transfers were included.  Food is charged at cost plus a small charge for petrol.  You discuss the menu with the chef each morning and they then go and buy the food and cook it when you want.  Take your own wine and spirits as these are very expensive.  They can easily get beers and soft drinks though.  We drank bottled water.

We paid US$10k for the week.  It’s worth it if you have a big group, as we’d have needed at least 4 hotel rooms, and with the weather being mixed, we were very glad to have the additional space that a villa provides as well as the flexibility around mealtime etc.  It was nice to have Austin (2yo) just flop in the media room and watch a DVD if he was fed up of pool time, whilst we could still be out by the pool.

About Villa San
Villa San has 6 bedrooms, all with fans and air con.  The bathrooms were huge with good water pressure and plenty of hot water.  The dining and main sitting area are outside but there is also a large media/sitting room inside and the master suite also has its own sitting room.  The staff are very friendly.  The level of English could have been slightly better – in cases you had to find the butler or the manager who could translate, but not really an issue.

Villa FacilitiesVilla San
These were fantastic; a lovely 20m lap pool, great media room and playroom.  The villa is all on one level with minimal steps and only one access point which seems rare in Bali and Thailand.  There was quite a large lawn.  The villa had a small air-conditioned playroom next to the pool which was perfect for my daughter (5mths).  Bali Villa San Pool 2The pool has a small, shallow ‘shelf’ for toddlers to play/splash about on, albeit no baby pool.  There is a small gym with treadmill, bike, TRX strap, free weights and swiss balls.

What made Villa San stand out?
The playroom was a big plus given that we had a baby who couldn’t be out in the sun much.

The layout of the master suite was great in that it was 2 bedrooms with a sitting room in the middle, so perfect if you want the kids close to you but in a different bedroom.

As the villa is quite compact and all on one level, I felt secure leaving the children sleeping in the bedroom whilst we had dinner.  In some villas, which have direct beach access close to the bedrooms, I haven’t felt as comfortable as there is little to stop random people wandering onto the property.

On the downside…
If you had more than one family group, the other bedrooms (arranged as 2 and 2) didn’t have adjoining doors, so you might be reluctant to have the children in the next room with the door leading to outside.  However, security was pretty good.  To leave the villa they’d have to get past the 24hr security post.

Local Activities
Bali Elephants 2Austin loved the Taro Elephant Park where kids can feed and pet the elephants, and take a ride if they want to (we didn’t) – warning: make sure you go to this one, as there are several and this is the only one with good standards of animal care (the elephants are rescued from Sumatran logging camps).

Bali MonkeyThe monkey forest is worth a look but DO NOT take food with you as the monkeys will jump on you and there were small children who got very freaked out by how aggressive they were in trying to get food.  If you don’t have food, they pretty much ignore you so long as you don’t badger them.  Best to go early in the day before they get overexcited (monkeys and the kids).

Avoid the Bird and Reptile Park – bad conditions and the bird park takes the absolute piss in terms of pricing.

If it pours down and you’re desperate, there is actually a really good soft play (tonnes of bouncy castles/inflatables) at KidsWorld (20 mins drive from Ubud).  Austin was a bit young but kids aged 4-10 would LOVE it.

Restaurants
Terazo and Bridges are great for a child free night out (and Bridges has a useful wine shop).  Most restaurants welcome children – we went to Siam Sally and they were great.  A lot of the nicer restaurants were out of town so having a driver is useful.

In conclusion…
I would give Villa San a 4 / 5 family friendly rating.  The one downside is the traffic in Ubud (which is not specific to the villa but is worth mentioning).  I find that with my kids, I can’t stay in the villa all day even if the weather is good  we need a trip out somewhere and the traffic could really put you off, as it is crawling all the way around the one way system which is unavoidable.  Ubud is a town that has totally outgrown its infrastructure (in fact, arguably hte whole of Bali has).  That was the downside of having a villa in town.  The upside was that it was nice to be able to just walk into town, although the constant traffic jams didn’t make for a relaxing wander.

Also, families should be aware that over the new year period, it’s traditional to set off fire crackers, so if you’re in town, you could have a bit of a sleepless night on New Year’s Eve.

1 comment

  1. gabriel

    Good information. delighted to read your posts. You explain with detail and very well. this time we desperately need information about resorts and hotels in Bali. our plans, the next few months will make a visit to Bali. And one of the destination place are Ubud. I often hear that in these places provide a lot of good accommodation for tourists. so we desperately need this kind of information. nice share.

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