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Putting your best Flip-Flop forward in Bali

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17th Sep 2008




 Bali

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This absolute gem of the Flores Sea, nestled like a serene diamond against a backdrop of distress, has always beckoned the intrepid traveller. It has always been a bit bohemian, somewhat egalitarian, artsy, slightly anti-establishment.

In the 20s Bali became home to many famous foreign artists like Walter Spies and Antonio Blanco, in the 60s, Bali attracted the wayward surfer. Later, legions of backpackers fuelled an economic boom in the orchid-necklace industry. In the 90s, mass tourism arrived, creating Kuta traffic jams and Australian phone card centres. Then after the Kuta nightclub bombs, Bali changed again. But not in the way you may think…

Bali turned into Asia's million-dollar playground. Private villas and resorts of villas only, accommodation are the way to stay in Bali. Private pool, private chef, and a private driver sums up how you'll experience the abundance of local culture, chic nightspots and delicious fresh food. It’s so beautiful there, it is out of this world. Actually, don't even waste your time reading this article - Put on your flip-flops and just go!?

Bali's new super status is such that you are not really supposed to tell anyone, lest the masses return and destroy the serenity. The fundamentalist targeted bombings in years past scared many from visiting the Island of the Gods, but the loyalists to Bali's serene nature and luxurious pleasures allowed Balinese business owners to concentrate and cater more than ever on the upper echelon of the travel world. As property ownership has privatized, more of the global jet set has bought property and built private homes on Bali, that rowdy surfer ambience has changed.

Over the Sayan River gorge, throughout Tabanan and Gianyar regencies and on the cliffs overlooking the South Indian Ocean, villa after villa has sprung up in lush paradisiacal settings, featuring an infinity of infinity pools overlooking rice paddies and the horizon out to sea. The island moved very upscale very quickly. Behind those gated walls and guarded villas made to look like village temples and Hindu palaces, the global elite is present and lolling in force.

Arrivals

It's a simple affair at the airport – it’s small and chic. Bali Nghurah Rai International Airport is situated 30 minutes south of Seminyak and 20 minutes away from Jimbaran Bay, for the Four SeasonsRitz-CarltonBulgari crowd. Your driver should pick you up and be ready for you at all times. Drivers are not expensive and will save you all sorts of hassle.

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Where to Stay

It's worth picking up a copy of Luxe Bali, a pocketsize guide with everything you need to know about staying in Bali!

If you want to stay right in the mix, stay at the beachfront sleek Legian in Seminyak. Heading up the coast to the east, to Candidasa, if you must stay at a hotel, let it be the Amankila, a tranquil slice of heaven exported to earth with breathtaking terraced views to the beach. Or, better yet, isolate yourself on the Bukit, where Bali is at its best with the best surfing, fantastical temples atop rugged cliffs and close to the pretty beaches of Nusa Dua.

But wait before you book, let us get lush, serene and organic: the Ayung River gorge near Ubud is indisputably the most luxuriant, regal and idyllic part of Bali.

And just when you thought you'd heard it all, we'll spoil you with one more choice: Bali's new secluded destination of choice is designer Diana von Crannagh's Puri Ganesha Villas on the scuba-diving heavenly northwest coast. Did you say beach front pool villas and a gastronomic organic restaurant? Book me in!

Private villas are the way to go. Many of the best can be booked through Elite Havens - the island's best resource for villas. Luxurious four-bedroom villas are offered at Villa Pemutih, which include stunning views, amazing amenities and glorious grounds, with cliff-top views and excellent staff. The villas are located on the Bukit near Uluwatu and offer mesmorizing sunset settings.

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What to Eat

There are many places, but many people have the villa staff prepare their meals. If you place your request in the morning, your heart's delight will await you in the evening. If that's not your style, a few old favourites remain the best. 

There are numerous little restaurants at Jimbaran's Dreamland beach that offer the most amazing seafood, all nestled into the sand and flickering in the evening candlelight. The food is typical beach fare, but nothing beats sand in your toes and a giant grilled 'Bamboo' lobster. La Lucciola offers a stunning setting with even better prices right on the beach.

The final food recommendation has to be Ku De Ta in Seminyak. After your helicopter down from Tejasuara drops you off on their chic beach making a splashing entrance, think Voile Rouge and grab a lounger for sunset after which retreat back to the lawn for a sumptuous dinner and shimmy to a DJ famous for making the night go forever.

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Things to do

Spa’s

There is only once place to spa in Bali. Well, actually every spa in Bali is out of this world, but one really does stand out: Karsa Spa. With both indoor and outdoor rooms, Karsa Spa allows customers to relax and be free to connect with who you really are… The spa offers treatments including a cooling cucumber aloe sunburn soother for those easy burners, a coffee salt scrub and a detox bath and scrub with Epsom salts and essential oils. Not a soul or building in sight, stay for an hour, for lunch or all day in this secluded lush paradise. This is one of 'those' experiences in life...

You might just find yourself within the grounds of a temple, flowers and kind ladies in sarongs and kittens everywhere being led to a bale for one of the best massages of your life. Definitely try out the flower petal bath and treat yourself to a manicure afterward - in a temple setting, it’s really special. All the treatments are affordable – so go do it!

Other FAB spas can easily be found in the nice big hotels, each is as nice as the next.


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Entertainment

Bali, at the end of day, is still a surfer's haven, and even if you're just dipping your toe in the water, a few beaches are a must. Take a sunset run down Seminyak and pop in to Ku D Ta or The Legian for a fresh watermelon juice. Down on the Bukit, Dreamland beach summons the beautiful people and the in-the-know sunbather. The rock bar at the far end of Dreamlands has nice food, and a bottle of wine there at sunset will keep you in smiles for a week.

The huge temple complexes and many Monkey Forests are like the nightclubs and Kuta, to be avoided. Better yet, seek out small more special temples where you might even have the sacred grounds to yourself - much better for photo opps and peace of mind. Recommended for an idyllic stroll: have your driver drive you to Pura Gunung Kawi and Tirta Empul water temples 30 minutes north of Ubud, or the holy Pura Gunung Lebah at the junction of the two rivers just west Ubud before the bridge to Tjampuhan Village. These temples are special and especially sacred for the Balinese venerate water like the Catholics do the Pope.

Off the beaten track culture and a must see destination if you're on your way to the Amankila is artist Nyoman Gunarsa's studio. You should be able to score a real bargain compared to Christie's or Sotheby's prices where his work has traded fopr many years. For other exclusive cultural and performing arts services and productions contact Bali Purnati Centre for the Arts in Batuan, Sukawati. You might get lucky and get to attend a private village Kecak where the dancers go into a trance, there is lots of fire throwing and a hundred men pretend they are the undergrowth's frogs.

Today's Bali is not the island of even a few years ago, and it seems soon only the super-rich will be able to afford it most of it. If you go now bring your blingiest flip-flops to go with your new sarong, but forget about the late-night scene. Spend instead on the Air Bali to your restaurant or invest in some excellent Southeast Asian art. You'll have the best time ever, even if it is just three friends, your driver, your organic chef and your glam footgear.

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