THE WORLD WAS SHOCKED BY THE RECENT TSUNAMI THAT DEVASTATED MUCH OF THE INDIAN OCEAN AREA. BUT LUCKILY BALI, SHELTERED BY THE OTHER ISLANDS IN THE INDONESIAN CHAIN, WAS SO UNAFFECTED THAT HOLIDAY-MAKERS THERE DID NOT KNOW OF THE EARTHQUAKES AND TSUNAMI UNTIL THEY SAW IT ON TELEVISION. NOW IS A WONDERFUL TIME TO HOLIDAY ON THE ‘ISLAND OF THE GODS’, AND ANYONE GOING TO BALI WILL ALSO BE HELPING THE INDONESIAN TOURIST INDUSTRY WHICH NEEDS ALL THE SUPPORT IT CAN GET AT THIS TIME.
Sipping a tropical cocktail by the pool at a luxury resort in Bali must be about as close to paradise as you can get on earth. Here, overlooking views of the sparkling blue ocean, I am rubbing shoulders with the world’s elite – popstars, top executives, doctors, lawyers, affluent honeymooners, entrepreneurs, politicians and royalty are ‘regulars’ on the guest lists at some of this island’s most exclusive getaways.
Hidden away in Bali’s secluded beach and mountainside locations, you will find these select, small, elegant and very private resorts which cater to those who demand the very best. They are designed for the world’s most discerning travellers who want the most luxurious accommodation and best service – and are prepared to pay for it. Though the Bali bombings and terror alerts saw occupancy rates drop as low as 10 per cent at its lowest point, the industry has since recovered and the world’s ‘Rich and Famous’ are now flocking back to their favourite hideaways in Bali.
Bali has long held a magnetic attraction to the creative community who find it hard to resist the pull of its unique culture and lifestyle. And there are many ways to really immerse yourself in the arts and culture of Bali. Visit the village of Peliatan to listen to the gamelan orchestra which is accompanied by traditional dancing. See Bali’s famed woodcarvers at work in the village of Mas. Or you might like to view a traditional wayang kulit (shadow puppet) performance – but be warned, the epic plays can often last throughout the night.
All these arts and handicrafts have been influenced by the prevailing Hindu religion in Bali, as has much of day-to-day life here. The paintings, masks, silverware, woodcarvings and other hand-made souvenirs are all offered in various stalls, markets and boutiques. Shop around and haggle with the seller – it is expected and customary to do so unless prices are marked as being fixed – and you will acquire some real treasures.
If this is not enough to whet your appetite for a visit to Bali then perhaps some of the other sights and activities on offer here will have you on the phone to your travel agent. For the active traveller a hike in the West Bali National Park or a climb to Pura Besakih, the closest spot to the 3000 metre Mt. Agung, will yield some spectacular scenery. The unspoiled beaches have also held a long-running attraction for surfers and the more adventurous may want to catch a wave with them.
What makes the whole experience even more serendipitous is that it is all set amongst a background of smouldering volcanoes, lush green terraced rice fields, ancient carved stone-temples, glistening ocean views, and villages where the people live a community-based lifestyle little changed from that of their ancestors.
Choosing what to see is only half the battle. It is also important to select the right place to stay. And away from the large-scale resorts that most tourists see is another group that caters exclusively to the elite and discerning traveller.Here are just some of these very special hideaways.
On The MountainUbud is the artistic heart of Bali. Situated halfway between the mountains and the sea it is the perfect place to experience the Balinese culture. Here you will find the Four Seasons Ubud, a brilliant mountain-side retreat.
FOUR SEASONS AT SAYAN. The Four Seasons group has a great reputation, and the resort at Sayan certainly lives up to this. A semi-circular main building – which is home to 18 suites and public rooms – is augmented by 42 villas that are ‘as good as it gets’. All overlook the fast-flowing Ayung River that gurgles right past this resort’s Riverside Café with its open-air seating and wood-fired pizza oven that turns out taste-tingling pizzas (if you are not ordering the fish and pasta dishes so popular with guests). Sit, relax and enjoy a light meal here to the sound of the cool river rushing by your feet. Or enjoy a more formal gourmet meal of Balinese, Asian or European dishes at the Ayung Terrace, the resort’s main restaurant. The villas and suites are spectacular, lavish and in perfect taste, with each bedroom featuring a private balcony with river view. Being built on a relatively steep mountainside, motorized buggies with drivers can be requested at a moment’s notice, as can taxis for the short ride to the village of Ubud. But if you have a serious physical disability, you may prefer the beach locations of the resorts that follow.
Away from the madding throng
THE Bali Oberoi belongs to the Small Luxury Hotels of the World group, an international association of individual luxury resorts such as The Mansion on Turtle Creek and Jamaica's Little Dix Bay. Some fifteen minutes by car past the hustle bustle of Kuta Beach, the traffic thins out and a narrow road runs past the ricefields and to the Oberoi. Constructed in the 1970's as a luxury beach-front hideaway and refurbished in 1995, its reputation continues as one of the most popular luxury venues in Bali. proof of this is that it has an enormous percentage of repeat clients.
As with all the other luxury hideaways, accommodation consists of Balinese style villas – in this case 60 comfortable units that range from one to three bedrooms, and 15 substantially larger walled villas – all set in 33 tranquil acres of tropical gardens. The resort's wide beach has superb white sand (some Bali beaches have volcanic black sand). Cuisine here is delicious, the grounds enchantingly tropical in vegetation and dotted with Balinese statues, and privacy is such that one can relax without being hounded by the paparazzi. The swimming pool is large enough for an energetic swim and the pool-side open-air cafe that adjoins it serves some of the best food in Bali.
The Four Seasons Resort, JIMBARAN BAY. You will find it difficult to talk to anyone who has enjoyed a stay there without hearing repeated accolades about this 147-suite resort, located at Jimbaran Bay. From here one can overlook the coastline as far as the busy airport at Denpasar. At the Four Seasons, every suite is a villa and the complex is laid out like a Balinese village. Each villa is made up of three thatched pavilions – a princely bedroom, a vast, magnificent bathroom with its own garden and plunge pool, a king‑sized lounge/sitting room and, adding to the luxury, a complete CD sound system. As the grounds are comparatively large, some people may prefer to get around by calling up the resort's transport system. All one has to do is touch 1 on any of the resort's telephones, and a golf cart will come and whisk you to wherever you wish to go.
People like Whitney Houston, Sylvester Stallone and Asian tycoon-investor, Lim Kay Tong come here to be pampered - and pampered they are, to the point where a Conde Nast Traveler's survey voted this the number one resort in the world. Maybe the staff-to-guest ratio of four smiling Balinese to every villa has something to do with that.
Like all the other hideaways mentioned here, Bali's natural building materials of wood, stone, palm leaf thatch are used. Paintings, artefacts and fabrics by local craftsmen accentuate the atmosphere and authenticity of the brilliant accommodation. There are four restaurants including a seaside dining room, and one of the most elegant gift shops imaginable, which stocks the most exquisite handicrafts – from hand printed or hand-woven fabrics to hand made jewellery and wonderful wood carvings from the best artisans in Bali. And this resort has one other feature that makes it especially popular with women. It has made a name for itself for the best facials, massage and aromatherapy in Bali, and has been so successful at this that the beauty treatment section of this hideaway has now been considerably enlarged.
RITZ CARLTON. For those who know the world-wide Ritz Carlton standard the excellence of this resort will come as no surprise. It is a favourite for high-powered guests who like a larger but still very exclusive seaside luxury resort where one may never want to leave the grounds because the facilities offered are so sensational and multi-faceted. 375 guestrooms, suites and villas have the sort of dazzling views and amenities that only a secluded luxury resort can make perfect.
Golf? No problem, there is a special 18-hole putting course fronted by a spectacular private beach. Temples and cultural sites are nearby, but dancers regularly visit the resort for never-to-be-forgotten performances. Accommodation? The ocean view cliff villas with their private plunge pools and splendid luxury layouts will make you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. Cuisine? You can select from light dishes at the Spa Café, Japanese specialties at the Honzen Restaurant, and there is yet more. A Thai restaurant, an Italian regional bistro, a theatre-restaurant that is a cross between a village market, a place to dine on local specialties and which offers regular cultural dance performances, and a seafood restaurant give you unlimited options for great cuisine. And the large Spa complex with its 650 square metre sea-water therapy pool is particularly popular with female guests. No wonder Ritz Carlton look on this as one of their benchmark resorts.
All of these venues cater for the select few who have deep enough pockets to pay for the luxury they provide. But for those who can afford it, these are certainly among the very best and most exclusive places to stay while exploring and absorbing the magic of Bali.
Four Seasons Resort, Bali at Sayan
Sayan, Ubud, Gianyar,
Bali, INDONESIA 80571
Ph.62 (361) 977577
Fax.62 (361) 977588
The Oberoi, Bali
P.O.Box 3351 Denpasar 80033
Ph: 62 361 73 0361
Fax: 62 361 73 0791
Four Seasons Resort, Bali at Jimbaran Bay
Bali, INDONESIA 80361
Ph.62 (361) 701010
Fax.62 (361) 701020
The Ritz Carlton, Bali Resort and Spa
Jalan Karang Mas SejahteraJimbaran,
Ph: (62) (361) 702 222
Fax: (62) (361) 701 555
Note: This information was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the businesses in question before making your plans.