With its colourful tropical flowers, spiritual temples, white sandy beaches, warm turquoise waters, smiling people and luxurious resorts, Bali is the perfect dream holiday destination
From the moment you touch down at this magical, mystical Indonesian island, you will simply feel your stress just melt away. Bali has many sides, some more obvious, but it is abundant with hidden treasures. Whether your goal is to explore hidden culture in bohemian Ubud, mingle with the Balinese in buzzing Denpasar, surf and party in Kuta, or simply relax on a beach, Bali has something to offer everyone. For me it's all about the beautiful beaches.
Near perfect Nusa Dua
Almost separated from the main island, Nusa Dua is an ideal paradise hideaway for a getaway from it all break. Crystal clear waters gently roll onto beautiful endless stretches of white sandy beaches. Although it’s a purpose built resort with luxurious 5-star hotels and resorts vying for attention, you still get that ‘shipwrecked feeling’ as most of the hotels have been carefully constructed to blend in with the natural lush landscape, and cannot be seen from the beaches.
The mystical temple of Uluwatu is a spectacular sight and well worth the trek through the windy road that makes its way through misty hills above Southern Bali. Perched precariously on the edge of a steep cliff, this divine temple towers above the infamous surf known to this part of the island. The views from the temple are breathtaking. Come for the sunset, it left me speechless. You may be lucky enough to see a performance of the Kecak dance. Like other temples on the island, this structure also has a purpose – to protect this part of Bali from the evil spirits of the sea. Nusa Dua has a few quiet bars and restaurants dotted along the beach, but other than that nightlife is mostly confined to the luxury hotels. We just loved the chilled-out tranquil atmosphere of this piece of paradise.
Just a stone's throw down the coast from Nusa Dua, Sanur sits on the south coast of Bali and is simply stunning. Even though it is a popular tourist spot, its origins as a traditional fishing village are still very much alive and in evidence. The impressive rich golden sandy beach stretches for almost 5km, and is ideal for surfers, swimmers and divers due to the natural barrier reef just off its shoreline. Stroll along the sea-front stopping along the way for a drink along the way in one of the many beach bars. Jl. Danau Tamblingan has a good selection of bars, restaurants and shops and is considered to be the heart of this resort.
Sanur is not just a pretty resort. It’s steeped in history, culture, and proud tradition. Just behind the luxury hotels and restaurants, ancient temples stand proudly as they have done for centuries.
The tiny temple at Prasasti Blanjong contains the oldest recorded stone carvings in Bali dating back to early 10th century. Don’t expect much in the way of nightlife. Laidback and relaxing, spend your evening in one of the chilled-out local bars and traditional restaurants swapping travel tales with fellow travellers or getting to know the locals. Benno's (Sindhu beach) does the best gado gado while Apa Kabar (JL Danau Tamblingan) has a cosy atmosphere and delicious food (try the grilled prawns with chilli). Sanur Beach Cafe is an elegant beach spot for lunch in the shade of the coconut trees.
A side trip to Denpasar is a must. Busy, noisy, hectic best sums it up. Mopeds buzz past shabby buildings which line dusty streets, some with impossibly balanced loads, and even whole families of children piled precariously high on the back! I strongly questioned road safety! While it does not have the sophistication of the resorts, or the charm of the villages, it is certainly worth a visit. Immerse yourself in local culture; gain an understanding of the Balinese way of life, customs and traditions by exploring the Bali National Museum (Jalan Wisnu, near Puputan Square). Set in a crumbling palatial building, this takes you on a journey through the religious customs, Balinese faith and is unforgettable.
Where to stay
We stayed at the Grand Hyatt Bali in Nusa Dua, a wondrous haven right on the beach. There are many new modern resorts springing up every year, but we keep coming back to this glorious resort for its relaxed charm, tantalising food and gorgeous rooms. Imagine waking up to a tropical breakfast listening to the sounds of swishing tropical trees in the gentle sea breeze, while you gaze across amazing uninterrupted views of the sparkling Indian Ocean. A feast for all the senses.
Low-rise in style, it is laid out in a rich landscaped garden of lush palms and fragrant tropical flowers. Right on a quiet stretch of Nusa Dua beach, it feels totally private yet not deserted. Order a cocktail right to your lounger, so you don't even have to move a muscle. Bliss! The lobby is simply spectacular where the absence of walls add to the feeling that the hotel is nestled right in the middle of lush tropical jungle. The melodic sound of the traditional gamelan being played by Balinese musicians signatures a typical Balinese welcome. Attention to detail just enhances the experience - they have staff to do everything from straightening cushions to replenishing still water in the mini bar. They have other staff to replace the sparkling water!
Ok, so do the food options match up to the surroundings? Well, no complaints here either. From succulent duck and mouth-watering nasi goreng in the Garden Café, or pancakes topped with fresh tropical fruit for breakfast at the Watercourt Café. Don’t miss the Pasar Senggol, a night market, which takes place most evenings in the balmy air. You can feast on many Balinese culinary delights, and sample spicy (some very) specialities while you are enthralled by a performance of the traditional Monkey Dance.
If you are still not chilled out, and if pampering is your thing, you cannot miss experiencing an eastern ritualistic massage at the exotic Kriya Spa. This tranquil spot is perfect way to chill out and to de-stress. Ask for one of the outdoor treatment rooms to enhance your experience. Pure heaven.
Rooms are spacious, opulent, decorated in shades of cream and polished teak with touches of Balinese style. Grand king room rates start from $180. They even offer two secluded villas with private pools and butler service. If your budget cannot stretch to a villa, try to get a room with an ocean view. Priceless.
There's never been a better time to go.