If you’re planning on getting shipwrecked any time soon, we suggest you paddle for Bali. In a nutshell, it’s your ultimate tropical paradise island. If you still need convincing then we’re pretty sure the soft sandy beaches, warm turquoise seas, lush rice-paddies, imposing volcanic mountains and majestic temples will do the trick.
Never fear though, you will have more than Man Friday to keep you company. Bali is home to trendy eateries, boutique shopping and truly luxurious hotels. It’s known as the island of the gods, but we hear that they will let you in as long as you’re wearing Auree.
WHERE TO STAY
This has to be one of the island’s most hippylicious boutique hideaways. Overlooking the Ayung River and surrounded by panoramic views of mountains, hills and rice-paddies the chic bungalows are made from fully restored antique Javanese bridal homes. Take morning yoga classes in the traditional Minang house. No TV’s or radios are in the rooms so you can disconnect from modern life for a while (and local television isn’t the Beeb).
Definitely Marmite, you’ll either love it or hate it. And perhaps a little out or the Bali beat but this poptastic hotel offers something different. If Austin Powers were going to Bali this would be his number one choice, although they may have something to say about his teeth. Award-winning, ultra-modern and located in the fashionable Seminyak area.
For affordable luxury you won’t find much better than De Sapphire Cliff Villa. With a charming Balinese feel, opt for a villa with separate living area. Expect a warm welcome. The staff are so friendly that you’ll probably end up making them godparents.
WHERE TO EAT
For the ultimate romantic dinner date head to this fairytale restaurant in a quieter part of Seminyak. The glasshouse setting surrounded by magical gardens will have you searching for Tinker Bell between courses. Make sure you leave room for dessert as they’re ridiculously delicious.
If you’re feeling a little more Point Break, then get yourself down to Single Fin – they even have a small surf shop to pick up some gear, just make sure you do that earlier in the evening for obvious reasons. Perched over impressive cliff-tops, it’s the ideal place to watch the spectacular Uluwatu sunset with a cocktail in hand. Sunday nights are the most lively, rock up for their weekly party with DJ’s and acoustic bands. Dress code: strictly flip flops.
At the edge of Sayan’s cliffs this restaurant dishes up contemporary Asian cuisine. It boasts being the very first Japanese-Latin fusion restaurant in Bali, which might sound a bit pretentious but will surely have you instagramming pictures of your food nonetheless. We think you’ll definitely be won over by the intimate setting and panoramic views.
WHAT TO DO
Eat, Pray and Love in Ubud
Ubud has a totally different feel to the rest of Bali and is a far cry from beach life. In the centre of the island, and surrounded by rolling hills and rice-paddies, it’s seen as the arts and crafts hub. Get in touch with your creative side through the art courses, cooking classes and cultural performances on offer. You can take something home for Auntie Hilda. This area was made famous by the Julia Roberts film, Eat Pray Love. You can cut corners and miss out Italy and India – as luck would have it, it’s easy to get all three ticked off right here in Ubud. As a food Mecca, there’s an abundance of tasty healthy vegan, vegetarian, raw food and macrobiotic restaurants. Ubud is popular with the yummy yogis thanks to it’s spirituality and a collection of impressive temples. Even if romance isn’t on the cards, we’re convinced that at the very least, you’ll start a long-lasting love affair with Ubud.
Climb Mount Batur at sunrise
In the interest of full disclosure we’ll fess up from the start, this one is going to involve some effort. Mount Batur is an active volcano standing at 1717m. Start the two hour hike to the top around 4am and reach the summit for sunrise. Be warned, if you are picturing a romantic and intimate affair with just you, Mr Auree and the crisp morning air then you may be disappointed. This is a popular activity and you’ll need to be prepared to share the experience with other holidaymakers and their Selfie Sticks. Having said that, we think it’s worth it when you stand and watch an explosion of colours rising from the horizon with views across the island and beyond.
Be a beach bum
Bali is home to plenty of beautiful beaches. Head east if you want to avoid the crowds and have a better chance of finding your own private oasis. Although not exactly deserted, the beaches along this side of the island are far less occupied than those on the increasingly built up west coast. Virgin Beach, sometimes known as White Sand Beach, is a few miles north of Candidasa. It’s what we would call a half secret. Sadly it’s just not the 1970’s anymore and very few places remain truly secret. Not too many tourists venture out here though, it’s only accessible by a ten minute boat ride from Candidasa or a long dirt track road.
The spirituality of Bali is one of the reasons why it is so special. Whilst there are literally hundreds of pretty temples everywhere you turn, there are none quite as impressive as those surrounded by rocky cliffs and a background of crashing waves. Often guarded by cheeky monkeys (which is better than a crusty old janitor) they provide the perfect place to pretend you’re in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Tanah Lot is the most popular, and with good reason, it’s just more photogenic than Brad. Be careful, you may do that unthinkable and start updating your Facebook cover picture. Uluwatu Temple, located on the south-west coast, is equally as impressive and you can often see cultural performances here in the special amphitheatre. Some of the lesser known sea temples include Gede Perancak Temple, The Rambut Siwi Temple and Mas Suka Temple.
For those who like an adrenaline rush, the traffic in Bali can be scary as hell. That said, at some point you’re going to want to bite the bullet and get some wheels to reach those otherwise inaccessible hidden gems. Just remember, keeping your eyes open is better than keeping them shut….
The once dreaded ‘Bali Beli’ is pretty much a thing of the past thanks to hygiene standards rising dramatically. Don’t be afraid to experiment and try the street food and little warungs – no frills but a whole helping of flavour.
Bali has an issue with stray pooches, often in a pretty poor state. Some organisations are trying to help our canine friends – if it pulls on your heart strings be a leader of the pack and consider making a donation. Happy endings do exist.
Contributors: Traveller Louise Jackson
Image credits: pcwallart.com; bambuindah.com; luna2.com; desapphire.com; facebook.com/gardinbali; facebook.com/Single-Fin-Bali; baligo.co; ultimatebali.com; blog.icbali.com; citynomads.com; rosewoodhotels.com