BALI: ISLAND OF THE GODS

BATD ON Feb 02, 2014 AT 10:05 am

by Anna Mason

It’s easy to see why Bali is called the Island Of the Gods – it’s an Indonesian tropical paradise rich in culture and beauty where two worlds collide – one of temples and demonic statues, the other of boutiques and spas.

A sixteen hour flight with Thai Airways transports you to another world. Temple processions break out onto the street bringing everything to a complete halt and tiny square trays of woven coconut leaf containing flowers and food can be found everywhere. These ‘Canang Sari’ are offerings to appease the gods and are not only placed in temples and shrines but outside homes, work places and shops, even taxi drivers have one on their dashboards! The sweet smelling frangipani flower (not wanting to be left out it would appear), makes it’s own offering by falling from trees to adorn pavements and roads.

Nusa Dua

In the south of the island is Nusa Dua, which has become a hotbed of luxury beachside resorts.  The location has become a magnet for five star magnificence with hotels including The Conrad, The Laguna and The Grand Hyatt.

A stroll along the beach takes you from one extravagant resort to the next, each with their own identities. The majority of restaurants are attached to the hotels but you can dine there if you’re not hotel guests. Bali is a taste sensation and the food is delicious. Independent restaurants are few and far between but we discovered a beachside gem – Kendi Kuning. Run by a lovely Australian lady called Anne Marie and her Balinese husband, the food here is outstanding and the service from waiter Kutut is impeccable.

Conrad Hotel

If you’re guests at the Conrad, the ultimate romantic experience is to dine in your own private beach bale. Overlooking the ocean, this open sided pavilion is decorated with white drapes and frangipani. The table is surrounded by candlelight and scattered with rose petals. It’s simply breath-taking. Plus your own waiter is on hand to tend to all your needs.

Spas are part of Balinese culture and there are so many to choose from.  A gem in Nusa Dua is Carla Spa. This place comes highly recommended, even by employees of hotel spas! They deliver fantastic treatments at incredible prices. An hour long massage is 6 US Dollars and we both had manicures and pedicures for under £10 in total.

Nusa Dua is a great place to base yourself, it’s away from the hustle and bustle but close enough to reach Kuta, Seminyak and Jimbaran Bay cheaply. Taxis are really inexpensive in Bali. It will cost you the equivalent of a few pounds to get to Kuta for example and you can hire a taxi driver for the entire day for £40 to take you to as many locations as you wish.

Tourism in Bali began in Kuta. Tragically bombed back in 2002, security is now really tight on the island.  Kuta is lively, buzzy and brimming full of shops and restaurants. If you want to escape to an oasis of calm, Poppies restaurant has an ambience as unique as it’s hanging gardens. Opened in 1973, it’s one of the oldest restaurants in Bali and so integral to Kuta that the street where it originally opened it’s doors has been named after it!  The shared rice table platter will not disappoint with a magnificent feast of traditional and diverse Indonesian dishes.

Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Conservation

Another experience not to be missed in Kuta is releasing newly hatched turtles into the sea. This takes place at Kuta beach (at the main gate, next to the giant turtle statue) between May and September and is run by the Bali Sea Turtle Society (BSTA) on behalf of Kuta Beach Sea Turtle Conservation. It’s a fantastic experience for children and adults alike and anywhere up to 100 Olive Ridley turtles can be released, usually around 5pm, sometimes daily. There’s no fee to take part but you can donate to the programme and help the great conservation work they are doing.

Kuta’s upmarket neighbour, Seminyak, is Bali’s capital of glitz filled with stylish boutiques and restaurants. Make a sweeping entrance into the W hotel lit by fire torches and take advantage of the spectacular views of the Seminyak shore. Also not to be missed is Ku De Ta retaining it’s crown as Bali’s trendiest bar/restaurant with it’s distinct Hed Kandi feel. Lounge the day away, drinking cocktails and eating delicious food whilst watching the sunset and listening to chilled out tunes. The music has become so popular at Ku De Ta that you can buy the album!

Ku De Ta

Close to both Kuta and Seminyak is Jimbaran Bay, transformed from a quiet fishing village into a bustling hub of beachfront restaurants which serves fresh, world-class seafood, priced by weight. Dining makes for a romantic evening as you sit on the beach and watch the sunset. This stunning location is now attracting hotels including The Four Seasons.

If you want to immerse yourself in Balinese culture, swap the beach for tropical, lush greenery and head to Ubud.  Featured in Julia Robert’s film Eat, Pray, Love, Ubud is brimming with galleries, art and dance.  Some of the ancient dances take a lifetime to perfect and involve multiple levels of articulations in the face, eyes, hands, arms, hips, and feet.

Whilst in Ubud, visit the Monkey temple which resembles something out of an Indiana Jones movie. Hundreds of monkeys roam free so make sure you watch your sunglasses and belongings!

Tanah Lot

There are many spectacular temples in Bali, worth visiting are the sea temple Tanah Lot, Uluwatu perched on a cliff edge and Besakih, known as ‘Mother Temple’ because it’s the largest consisting of  23 separate temples.

Thai Airways International (THAI) is the national carrier of Thailand and a member of Star Alliance. Founded in 1960, THAI flies twice daily to Bangkok leading to over 70 countries across five continents. A return flight to Bali starts from £894. THAI constantly has special promotions so check out the website for the latest deals. Further information: www.thaiairways.co.uk;0844 561 0911

 www.kendikuning.com

 www.carlaspabali.com

www.poppiesbali.com

www.baliseaturtle.org

 

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