Marie-Helene(MH) from Chic and I left Singapore to take the short 2-hour flight to Bali.
I am a regular to the island and seem to spend most of my days in this part of the world. MH visited Bali for the first time last year and liked it so much she wanted to see more.
Our first night was up in Ubud at the Chedi Club, to celebrate the hotel’s 25th anniversary at an exclusive party. It was then announced that from 01 January 2020 the hotel would be renamed as Tanah Ganga (Place of Elephants). Same management but with the owners taking more control. Lovely property and we both saw it uniquely by taking a hot air balloon high over the resort for incredible views.
Seminyak is the foodie capital of Bali with so many good restaurants and chilled beach bars. It is busy but in a stylish way, and if you want to party hard you can always go down the beach for 2 miles to Kuta for a very different scene.
Whilst I was at the show, MH used her time to visit some of the Chic favourite hotels in the area, such as The Samaya’ and The Legian and generally rediscovered the area, including the fast-emerging resort of Canggu, which is just a few miles north and is particularly popular with surfers or those who just want to be away from the pace. Quite a few expat long term residents now live in this area .
After that, we travelled well away from the crowds. Driving along the west coast, past the famous Tanah Lot water temple, you soon see more ducks than people. Bali really is unique in that it combines traditional cultures with advanced tourism. The people genuinely want you to know more about their customs and beliefs. Virtually everyone wears traditional costume, not because it makes a great picture but its how they dress every day.
Our first stop was up on the North coast at Lovina. A 4-hour drive from Seminyak, 6 hours if I am involved as I make frequent detours to see something of possible interest. So on the way, you have small villages, temple lakes, winding roads through the misty mountains and rather impressive waterfalls. Our hotel was Damai Lovina which uses the phrase “Hard to find, harder to leave“. I had seen before, MH first time and it’s fair to say it gradually grew on her. So much so that by the end of the 2nd day she rated it as one of her best experiences. Combination of great staff and highly personalised attention, superb food and an incredible massage! Total bliss.
The hotel is located in the low mountains, 10 minutes drive inland from the beach. The little village of Lovina has a few restaurants and beach bars, sea excursions including dolphin watching, whilst on land, you can do gentle treks plus there are some impressive temples.
Next, it was driving along the North Coast for two hours to reach The Spa Village at Tembok. As the name implies, a spa focused resort and the emphasis is on calm and tranquillity. MH took a while to adjust to the wi-fi only in the lobby and signal will be weak and no TV in the rooms. Once you straddle that hurdle it really is a delightfully slow pace place. Again total chill time with the call to prayers from the adjacent mosque, the chirping of the Geckoes and the crowing of the cockerels competing for your attention. And of course, the massages were good.
Then it was down the east coast to Manggis, but of course, I wanted a detour to see the Wapa Di Ume hotel in Sideman. And sometimes I get it right. Amazing new resort. It reminded me of Ubud 35 years ago and I am one of the few who can truly make that comparison.
And finally, we arrived at Alila Manggis. Another boutique hotel oozing with charm. As I told MH, the rooms are OK but the gardens, the pool and the amazing smiles are what it is all about. And to conclude our little adventure, we had a wonderful Balinese dinner by the beach under the stars. As MH is beginning to appreciate, travelling with me can be an adventure, but you also get to sample many experiences. It also helps to have many friends in the area who go out of their way.
MH said, “Last year I travelled all around the resort areas on the south, saw so much. This time I wanted to see what is called the “real Bali“ areas where tourism is still in its infancy. These area are not for everyone , that is part of the appeal . You need to enjoy simplicity and nature as part of the luxury, although the sleep comfort was good. It is a very different experience with scenery, traditions, and is wonderfully authentic. I would recommend to many of our clients a combination of 6 nights at one of the developed resorts in the south followed by a tour of the lesser-known north. That would be just perfect.“
And a final word on the weather. It should have been overcast with showers. For 9 days it was brilliant sunshine, very hot, not a cloud in the sky and no hint of rain. Singapore made up for that in the afternoon of day 10!
DK & MH