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Ultimate Romance on the Island of the Gods

- By Raquel Baldelomar

Before I woke, a breeze sprinkled frangipani blossoms onto the still surface of my villa's private plunge pool. I stepped onto the terrace just as the sun was rising in Bali and entered the serene water with a statue of a Hindu god watching over me.

I arrived in Bali curious about the island's spirituality and healing powers and I'm already becoming a believer. For me, this sensual island is love at first sight.

Our first stop on an exploration of Bali is the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, located on a cliff top along the island's southern coast. Here 147 thatched-roof villas exude romance. Bali is all about villas: the privacy, the lush gardens, and spur-of-the moment intimacy. If you can tear yourself away from the heavenly villas, there is also a long, white-sand beach and a spa offering authentic Balinese treatments.

A stay in a villa allows you to enjoy the pleasures of the outdoors privately. Our courtyard was complete with an outdoor sofa and dining room and after an indulgent 90-minute massage at the spa, returning to our outdoor shower overlooking the Indian Ocean was a transcendent experience.

At sunset, we ventured to Uluwatu Temple, one of the most spiritual places on the island. Perched 230 feet above the Indian Ocean, this temple is dedicated to the spirits of the sea. Here we learned our first lesson in local customs: knees must be covered to enter a temple. Ceremonial sarongs were given to anyone with exposed knees. We were here to see the Kecak Dance, a performance featuring fifteen men wearing only loincloths. These rituals make it is easy to see why Bali has a reputation for sensuality.

If the traditional dance at the temple doesn't send sparks flying, then a dinner at Beds on the Beach will certainly do the trick. Private beds with canopies serve as tables for a five-course dinner. Lanterns in the sand glow as the meal begins with a mini-tasting: lobster avocado maki and lemongrass prawn kebab. Flavors sizzled as much as the atmosphere, including a lobster papaya salad with pink champagne ginger sorbet. After the meal, there was no rush back to the villa as we lounged underneath the stars listening to the surf.

People in Bali believe strongly in balance, so to get the total Bali experience, we left the coast behind for the lush jungle interior where you can absorb the island's spirituality. A 45-minute drive connects the two Four Seasons properties in Bali.

We crossed a wooden bridge and a lily pond came into view. This pond sits on the roof of the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, camouflaging it into the jungle. We were welcomed by Balinese staff dressed in traditional clothing with refreshing guava drinks and cool towels.

With 42 villas and 18 suites set among five temple shrines on the sacred Ayung River, this was the first boutique property developed by Four Seasons. Our riverfront villa, surrounded by lush jungle, couldn't have been more soothing.

Bali brings together a tradition of healing with the perfect environment for a spa. Ponds brimming with lilies and courtyards filled with bougainvillea are calming before a treatment even begins. Our couple's experience was called Chakra Dhara, a treatment that works to rebalance the body's chakras, or energy points, by strategically dripping herbal oil on the body. Two therapists massage the back, hands, and feet to complete the healing treatment. Afterwards, we soaked in a bath filled with fragrant frangipani petals while sipping champagne.

The interior of Bali is full of adventure. We hired a driver to bring us to the Elephant Safari Park to satisfy my curiosity about local wildlife. Before I knew it, I was holding a baby monkey and then sitting on the back of a native Sumatra elephant. Next, our driver Nyoman brought us to see Bali's famous active volcanoes. A private picnic lunch on the edge of a cliff overlooking Mount Batur added a romantic touch to our adventurous day. These moments reminded me why so many newlyweds choose Bali as their honeymoon destination.

We enjoyed dinner at Sarong Restaurant, where the scent of the food was intoxicating from the moment we walked in. This glamorous restaurant was founded on the idea of Asian street food, reinvented. I loved the northern Thai spicy tom yum soup with shredded chicken, bamboo, dill, and coriander. Chef Will Meyrick hasn't written a cookbook yet, but when he does I will be sure to buy a copy just for this recipe.

The next day, we set out on a bike tour through the exotic Balinese landscape. We got acquainted with our guide Bagi, before our four hour ride, over an organic breakfast atop of towering Mount Agung with stunning views -- a mighty volcano revered as the seat of the gods. During our ride, we explored several of the exotic temples and observed farmers wearing cone-shaped rice hats and water buffalo in the emerald fields harvesting rice. We learned about local traditions and that ninety percent of the population in Bali are Hindu, the world's third largest religion which is also practiced in India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Mauritius.

Returning to the Four Seasons Sayan, shrouded in a mountain mist, I finished the day with ginger tea and honey before a restful sleep listening to the river flowing. From the moment I left the 'Island of the Gods' I have been longing to return. It is like a love that ended too soon. With a return trip, I am sure that love will be rekindled.


WHEN TO GO: The dry season is from April to September.

Americans are eligible for a visa on arrival for a stay of up to 30 days. These cost $25 per person and your passport must be valid for at least six months after arrival.


Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay Jimbaran, Bali, Indonesia.

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan Ubud, Bali, Indonesia.


Sarong - Drawing inspiration from the street food of Southeast Asia, Sarong is a local favorite.
Ku De Ta - This buzzing bar is the place to see and be seen for pre-dinner drinks in Seminyak.
Mozaic - French cuisine laced with Indonesian flavors.
Beds on the Beach It's all in the name.

Bali is a shoppers paradise -- Local art, handmade mosaic glass, and fine jewelry will all be mementos of your travels to Bali. For upscale shopping, check out the following shops in Seminyak:

Maru - Be tempted by jewels from Indonesia at this shop.
Paul Ropp - Unique clothing with an ethnic touch.
Quarzia - Handpainted silk separates in this shop are works of art.

Raquel Baldelomar has been a contributing writer for Luxury Travel Magazine since 2008. She provides readers with unique, insider information about destinations, hotels and travel experiences.


Bali: Paradise Regained


Horrific as it was, the terrorist attack in Bali stemmed a surge of tourism restoring its rightful tag as a more blissful blissful getaway.

“Although I hate to say it, the bomb in some ways did a lot of good for Bali,” says clothing designer and Bali resident Nick Morley, my unofficial guide. “What it did was put a lot of brawling, beer-drinking piss heads off coming here.”

Take the fashionable beachside restaurant/bar Ku De Ta, situated in the popular Seminyak. Here you can laze on a lounger and watch the sunset over the ocean while sipping a chocolate Martini. Down the road at Wasabi – a sleek, state of the art sushi bar-you’ll taste a Japanese meal as good as anywhere– while at Made’s Warung you’ll sample the finest Indonesian meal on God’s earth for just £3. This is precisely the beauty of Seminyak – where the cheap and traditional and the expensively chic are back-to-back.

Kuta, with its Holiday Inn, Hard Rock Café and McDonalds, is just a short hop from Seminyak, but it couldn’t be more different. It’s one of those sad developments that has attracted big bucks and lost its soul, drawing drunken Aussies, forlorn prostitutes and even a gang of transvestites known as the ‘sucky sucky girls.’

Kuta’s only plus is its surf, which, for the novice, is perfect. Having never surfed before, and with the help of the local teacher at the Hard Rock Surf School, I was up on the board after only one day, “hanging two and a half” replete with cut knees, bruised elbows and about half the ocean inside me. Spurred on by such success I decided that my next mission was to learn to scuba at the dive capital of Amed in East Bali. The five-hour taxi journey from Seminyak will set you back the equivalent of £50, but it beats the hell out of the ten-hour mini bus. On the way, stop for lunch at the beautiful coastal town of Candi Dasa and swim in the monumental Tirtagangga Water Palace, constructed by one of Bali’s last kings, Anak Agung Anglurah Ketut in 1947 – probably the world’s most extravagant swimming pool.

At Amed we stayed at the Coral View Hotel, which, at $50 for a double private bungalow, was little short of heaven. My proviso was that we could walk out onto the beach in less than a minute – here we could do it in about 15 seconds.

From Amed, snorkelling in Jemeluk provided not only the best array of fish I have ever encountered with mask only, but also – due to my lack of t-shirt – delivered a crackling lobster-red back that any roast suckling pig worth his salt would have been proud of. After suffering the inevitable jibes for at least 48 long hours, I was ready to scuba and settled for Eco Dive, who offered a day of training in the morning and a guaranteed dive in the afternoon for the meagre sum of $75.

“Although I hate to say it, the bomb did a lot of good for Bali. It put a lot of brawling, beer-drinking piss heads off coming here.”

After going through the necessary rigmarole of learning what everything strapped about your person actually does, we hit the shallows for a few practise runs. Cue claustrophobia, breathing difficulties and the sneaking suspicion that carrying loads of heavy stuff on your back isn’t the best method of floating. But, blind panic over, I finally arrived at The Liberty, an abandoned WWII American shipwreck that, at just 50 metres offshore and 50 feet deep, is yet another perfect environment for the petrified neophyte.

The best site on dry land is inarguably the sunrise from the Gunung Agung mountain (considered by the Balinese to be the ‘navel of the world’) – one has simply to drive to Pura Pasar Agung, locate a guide and then climb the perilous mountain for three hours to arrive at the summit by 6am. After roaring up the hill like the Sherpa Tensing twins we were rewarded by a sunrise so glorious it almost made me take up religion.

After my six-hour walk, I felt a slice of Rn’R was needed, so we made our way to the Panchoren Retreat in Ubud, the central Balinese city renowned as a centre for the arts but resembling little more than a shopping centre. But, first appearances aside, numerous exquisite restaurants, performances of traditional Balinese theatre, Gamelan and puppetry reveal themselves.

The Panchoren itself is a stunningly beautiful settlement, comprised of a number of exquisitely designed individual bungalows constructed almost entirely from bamboo. Its Irish owner and designer Linda Garland offers the finest respite money can buy. “Just about everyone who’s anyone that comes to Bali stays there,” says Morley. “ Even though she’s got the helipad to whisk the rich and famous in and out without being seen, I met Bono when he stayed there, Jagger spent his honeymoon there – you name them, they’ve been.”

When it eventually became time to leave the A-list dream life behind, we returned thoroughly rested and once again returned to South Bali, taking in en route the traditional Kecak Fire Dance, the magisterial floating palace of Tanah Lot, eating freshly caught seafood by candlelight at Jambaran and staying out far too late at the Double Six Beach Club in Seminyak. But nothing impresses more about the island than the Balinese themselves, whose quiet, gentle dignity is a lesson to those who spend just a few days in their company – and the reason why Bali’s reputation can only continue to thrive.


11 Essential Bali Travel Tips

by Anastasia Fiatmita

I live in england and im trying to contact my dad in indonesia, but i dont no how, can you help?This are helpful tips, thank u.What I want to know is what if you drop her of from a first date and she kisses u in ur cheek?should I kiss her back on the cheek?Pls can you help with question- guide to investment portfolio management and associated riskI'm trying to reach Pat Hunter, my former travel agent. I haven't booked a trip in quite a while, but could use her expert help.
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11 Bali Travel Tips for a Bali holiday:

1.Seasonal and weather change actually makes little difference so any period of the year is a perfect time to visit Bali, although it’s useful to check out the public holidays in Indonesia. On the month of Ramadan - Muslim fasting period, Bali gets busy and crowded as locals from neigbouring cities, fill resorts up and prices for accomodations escalate.

2.Bali can be really cheap with superb value, especially for budget accommodation and budget flights. Do book in advance to get a great deal for your accomodation and flights. Air Asia is well-known to provide cheap flights to Bali if you book early in advance. Do search through all the online travel agents for the best hotel prices before you book your accomodation online. For example, you can compare the prices of Bali Hotels here - Cheapest Bali Hotel Rates & Reviews of Bali Hotels

3. If you’re planning to surf, do check out Bali Surfing Report. It has useful information on surf camps, cheap boat charters, and surfers package deals to remote beaches in Bali with great waves such as Nusa Lembongan.

4.Treat your tastebuds for something different and try eating in a warung (small traditional roadside eateries). Although they may look unhygiene, trust me, they are safe to eat. They are REALLY cheap, no-frills hangouts all serving unique and different foods. The food is often displayed in glass cabinets out in front. Grab a seat, make a selection and get the real flavour of Bali and Balinese food real cheap.

5.To understand Balinese culture and life, visit Murni’s in Ubud, which have everything regarding Bali and Balinese, from explanations of Balinese names to what one wears to a ceremony.

6.If you're staying in luxury hotels, do consider staying in a Homestay where native Balinese families host you. It'll really make your trip more enjoyable and eye-awakening.

7.A little knowledge of Bahasa Indonesia will definitely take you a long way. "Selamat pagi" - good morning -, "tolong" -help or please-, and terima kasih -thank you-, for starters. Also, try memorising, "way say" which means toilet, "mana" means where, and "gimana caranya" which refers to "how to". For a fun introduction to the language, check out Bahasa Indonesia in 7 Days.

8.The best way to see Bali and travel around is with your own transport. Get a map or GPS and drive, hire a guide driver or rent a Bike.

9.Getting tired of hawkers bugging you to buy something? Do you know that there is an invisible line on the beach of Kuta that hawkers are not allowed to cross? Be a lil' bit cheeky and park yourself closer to the sea. You won’t be hassled anymore.

10.Bargaining while shopping is a MUST. It is part of the whole shopping experience so don't be shy and BARGAIN. Get into the swing of things and test your "Bargaining Art". However don’t get too carried away until you've made a fool of yourself. If you do so, suddenly you'll find out that you've spent the past 10 minutes quibbling over 50 cents. Use your instincts and logic.

11.To really ensure that you enjoy your holiday, do read "Bali Travel Guide For First-Timers" which is really useful and essential.

Do comment if you have any ideas to contribute or if you have any questions.. Happy Bali-ing!

Under Creative Commons License: Attribution

Anastasia Fiatmita - About the Author:
Anastasia Fiatmita was crowned Miss Bali 2003 and Miss Indonesia Tourism 2004. Born and bred in Bali, she now blogs regularly at Bali Holiday where she gives free guides and insights on Bali for tourists and travelers. She also gives unbiased reviews of hotels in Bali at Bali Hotel Reviews.