By Teri Johnson
The Indonesian island of Bali is home to an extraordinary culture, luxurious resorts and locals who have mastered the art of living well. Bali is physically breathtaking with its artfully constructed, emerald green rice fields and stunning temples. Equally beautiful are the vibrant religious expressions in ethnological ceremony, dance and other art forms. The richness is inescapable and worth the 24-hour journey from the US. Whether traveling for a honeymoon, vacation or spontaneous adventure, Bali is a destination for exceptional and unforgettable experiences.
SEMINYAK Begin the Balinese escapade by checking into a one-room villa complete with private pool at the W Retreat & Spa Bali in Seminyak. This beautifully styled beachfront playground is a twenty-five minute drive from the international airport. Tip: Take advantage of the hotel’s Whatever/ Whenever® philosophy, with a private, romantic dinner for two on the beach.
Each morning, indulge in the Pan Asian breakfast feasts offered at either of the two restaurants located on the property. After relaxing in your pool, or in one of the three overlooking the Indian Ocean, visit the ancient ocean temple of Tanah Lot, which is a short twenty minutes away. For a captivating day’s end, consider taking a sunset stroll along the beach or enjoy a cocktail at the W Hotel’s ultra cool WooBar lounge.
For a little culture, enjoy a casual dinner at Made Warung, as traditional Balinese performers artistically express religion through a dance-drama. Pay special attention to the rhythmicity of their fingers, hands and eyes. A stint in Seminyak would be incomplete without going to KU DE TA, a beachfront restaurant and lounge. The jet set clientele resemble a trendy South Beach crowd, but the accents floating about will pleasantly remind you that you are halfway around the world.
UBUD After enjoying la dolce vita in Seminyak, reinvigorate your life, love, or both in Ubud, Bali’s cultural and artistic capital. Vastly different than Seminyak, Ubud is surrounded by scenic rice fields, quaint villages, artesian communities and rivers.
Upon arrival into Ubud, check into a villa at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, which is nestled in a tropical paradise along the Ayung River. The serenity of your rice terrace view will take your breath away.Ubud has boundless activities and experiences to embrace. Arrange a guided tour of the vividly green, coconut tree covered Tegalalang rice fields north of Ubud. If you have more time to explore, trek to the grandiose Jatiluwih rice fields that unfold down the mountainside, covering a vast 1500 acres. You may also arrange a visit to a holy temple, for a firsthand experience of Balinese Hinduism.
Treat yourself to a ‘must-have’ spa experience at Fivelements, a healing and wellness retreat. Book the Balinese Boreh and be pampered by a deep tissue massage, an ancient Balinese herbal scrub and an outdoor flower and ginger bath while serenaded by the peaceful sounds of the river.
There are plenty of shopping opportunities throughout the city, but the Ubud Market is the best place to find authentic Balinese crafts, cloths and keepsakes. For woodcarvings, go to Mas Village for high quality, one-of-akind works of art.
Dining options are abundant. Try a traditional Indonesian meal at Warung Pulau Kelapa, which is situated in an old Javanese teak house. For amazing views of the green valley, go to Indus for lunch or a romantic dinner and order anything wrapped in a banana leaf. For a gastronomic experience, eat the six-course tasting menu at Mozaic with dishes including foie gras and baby lamb.
It is impossible to experience everything in Bali during one trip. Fortunately, the beauty and energy of this island will likely evoke plans for a quick return.
Photo credits: The W Retreat & Spa Bali in Seminyak; Royal Palace: Teri Johnson; Ginger bath: Courtesy of Fivelements; All other photos: Courtesy of Four Seasons Bali at Sayan