Ni Putu Putri Diantari, one of the two teachers at Sanggar Yayasan Peduli Tunas Bangsa centre, asks the class to sing a song. A little shy at first, they gauge our reaction as they start before throttling into full volume.
An enthusiastic boy screeches mid-verse and then chuckles, glancing around to see if his friends are in on the joke. I quickly work out that he's the class clown when he repeats the same move, but a tad louder this time. A few accomplices decide to join in and by the end of the song half the class is yelping, some of the smaller kids straining their little bodies so hard they have to pause every few seconds to catch their breath.
It's hard not to laugh, but I keep it in as I watch the children sing their hearts out. Bali's beautiful beaches and lush rainforests attract the masses, but sometimes it's these unexpected experiences that create the most memorable moments.
These days we are fortunate to have the ability to travel far and to travel often. We can cross oceans, immerse ourselves in UNESCO sights, wander around towns that date back to the medieval ages, and explore forests and deserts and volcanoes and lakes ... all within days (if not hours) of each other. One of the highlights of such diverse travel is the people we meet along the way – like these raucous youngsters today.
The learning centre, in Candikuning Village in Bedugul Bali, is Accor Hotels' second schooling project in Indonesia. The first school – Sanggar Cipinang – was opened in Jakarta in 2001; Sanggar Bedugal (the shortened name locals have become accustomed too) was opened at the start of 2016 in Bali. Both schools are a part of Accor Hotels' A Tree for A Child (ATFAC) project – a program that works to help develop education, healthcare, nutrition and reforestation in Indonesia.
The learning centre can accommodate 70 children, but today there are 40 little ones (although if you were to listening to their singing you might think otherwise), with one teacher – the calm and collected Puti.
Puti explains that although the children share a classroom, they follow different programs depending on their age and skill sets.
Some children attending the school are here on scholarship. Awarded to children between the ages of six and eight and designed to fund studies until graduation, the scholarships give families of all backgrounds an opportunity that could otherwise be inaccessible. Classes are free, books are paid for and school uniforms are provided. All the kids have to do is turn up.
"When we have the space local kids can come to classes too," Puti explains. "Today, for example, some of the village children have joined us."
Although the children are a little shy at first, they quickly get used to our presence and begin to relax. A small girl shows me her scribble-filled exercise book; two giggling boys quarrel over a pencil they've found on the floor; the class clown has a surge of energy and begins to sing again ... that is until Puti calmly tells him that it is our turn.
I'm here with a few other Australians and once we recover from being put on the spot we decide that "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" is an ideal song choice. We begin a little warily, but as the kids begin to mimic our moves we amp up the volume. Soon we're all chanting together as we clumsily perform the accompanying dance.
That evening a few of us head to La Plancha beach bar on Mesari Beach for sunset drinks, where we order bright-coloured cocktails and sink into even brighter-coloured beanbags. A masseuse gives me the most divine head massage; a henna artist begins work on a friend; someone in the group orders another round of cocktails.
It's our last night in Bali and as we watch the passing parade we chat about our unforgettable week. We've strolled along pretty beaches, shopped daily, explored lush rainforests and even traversed white water rapids. But we all agree that the highlight of the trip was singing "Head, shoulders, knees and toes" to a group of kids. Now if only my kindergarten teacher could hear me saying that.
Tigerair Australia flies to Denpasar daily from Melbourne and Perth and five times a week from Adelaide with rates starting at $159 one way from Perth; see tigerair.com.au
The four-star Mercure Bali Legian has 321 rooms and two pools and is conveniently located among shops and restaurants and within short walking distance to the beach. If you're looking for a luxe stay away from Bali's hustle and bustle, Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua is a tropical paradise comprising 415 elegant rooms and suites.
Guests who want to find out more about the school can speak to Accor Hotels staff in Bali about the project, long-term goals and fundraising opportunities. Sometimes school visits can be organised.
Tatyana Leonov was a guest of Accor Hotels and Tigerair Australia.