It’s been four years since my last trip to Bali with the girls and an overriding impression on our recent six day retreat (there were four of us) was that the popular holiday spot, which attracts more than 1m Australians a year, seems to have grown up.
By saying “grown up” I mean it has further developed an added touch of sophistication and comfort to go with its fast-paced hotel and bar culture.
Comforts that more and more tourists crave, such as the simple delights from home like great coffee, wine and restaurants.
With such a huge expat population and a steady flow of visitors, Bali is chaotic unless you escape to your villa or resort, which we did.
The villa was lovely, made even better by the equally lovely Kamong who cleaned up after us and cooked breakfast each morning as well as arranging our transport.
The only problem was we were much more isolated than intended and being unfamiliar with the area we were very hesitant to wander off on our own.
This made our trip a little less spontaneous than we would have wished, but we still managed to do a lot outside, like lying by the villa’s swimming pool.
To cut down on travel time eating into our days we decided on day trips.
We had many tips from our Australian pals and we pretty much took all of them with the first stop being Finns Recreation Centre and Beach Club which was a 10 minute walk from our villa.
We soaked up the comforts and prestige that a club like this offers and enjoyed a beautiful lunch with a local brand of wine called Plaga (Bali grapes processed and bottled in Australia). This was the moment we realised that the wine in Bali was more palatable and quaffable than we expected.
After lunch and a massage, we made our way from the Recreation Centre to their Beach Club five minutes down the road on a complementary open bus.
It was spectacular, but unfortunately the average age of those enjoying themselves there was 30ish.
This was the party place with DJ’s, pool cocktail bars and beautiful bodies everywhere. We stayed for a couple of drinks and people-watching then swiftly exited stage left with a promise to return.
As it turned out we didn’t go back, not because of our age but because we couldn’t find the time.
Dinner that night was at a local restaurant called Milu which had a very lush Hamptons feel to it with the sweet sounds of running water.
The next day was spent in Seminyak. I didn’t recall from my last visit how large the shopping area was and was surprised and also nervous dodging the mopeds.
There were endless boutiques which overshadowed the markets that offered the low cost options we were used to.
Nevertheless, I still managed to make the big mistake of buying outfits that I would only been seen wearing in Bali, including three pairs of fisherman pants with a hefty of $75 AUS price tag. I still have no idea how to put them on.
That purchase tipped me over and my day of shopping ended abruptly with a foot massage and a Bintang beer in hand.
That night we made our way to The Lawn in Canngu for Jazz Night.
With a minimum spend of $200 AUS we chose a day bed for four people. Cocktails, jazz, seafront and tapas made for a very enjoyable evening. We were so impressed we agreed to later in the week spend a whole day by the infinity pool overlooking the ocean with cocktails in hand.
Next stop was Ubud for the monkeys, yoga and lunch surrounded by rice paddies. We arranged a driver for the day, which was $50 AUS between 4 people. Very affordable.
The drive from our villa was an hour and a half and was an opportunity to take in all the craziness of Kuta and the calm of the small villages. There was also the dog spotting which we did throughout the trip.
Our research found us at The Yoga Barn in Ubud for a 9.30am beginners session. The setting was magical and peaceful even though we were in a crowded class of 30 people.
After many “Om’s”, we finished with namaste and a 1km wander through the paddies to Sari Organik for lunch.
The best dinner we were to have on our trip was to be at The Savage Kitchen and we were fortunate enough to have arrived the night they were offering 2 for 1 cocktails.
This restaurant was as good as any you’d find in Australia and after we all had entrees, mains and shared dessert, plus many cocktails, we walked away paying $40 per person. We, of course, gave a generous tip as we thought we had won the Bali lotto.
We were very busy, as you can see, but we didn’t entirely ignore our villa and between our adventures we did manage some pool time to read our books and cool off from the sticky Bali weather.
Our last day was a quick trip to Kuta. One of the touring party had never been to Bali so we wanted to show her the memorial and Poppy Lane.
We ended up spending too much time in Poppy Lane buying things we didn’t need but we were very entertained by our friend Emma who was a gun at bartering and negotiating more than a 50% price reduction on many items.
Because we were all on a roll of trying new experiences, our last afternoon was spent doing anti-gravity yoga. “For beginners”, we were told. I don’t think so. You just have to look at the pictures to know it was a struggle that ended with headaches and nausea.
Final dinner was at Bambu in Seminyak, a restaurant listed in the top 10 places to eat.
The atmosphere was serene and the Balanese cuisine was beautifully traditional with a modern twist.
The only tip was that you were required to dress well and not smoke, the latter being a surprise request considering the amount of people smoking in Bali (a lot).
Between the laughs and the reminiscing, we all sat back and agreed on one thing about our trip…. Next time we will stay in a resort centrally. The villa was lovely but was too isolated and made it difficult to wander off and discover spontaneously.
Among the many things we learned from the trip was that you can enjoy great food, wine and coffee with no risk of being struck down with Bali belly. Wash your teeth with bottled water, though!
Sari Organik – Address: Jl. Subak Sok Wayah, Tjampuhan, Ubud, Gianyar, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali 80571, Indonesia