Bali is a tropical Indonesian island that up to now had no direct access from Dubai. Not any more, now Emirates flies direct on a convenient day flight making the paradise (and it is still a bit like paradise) island of Bali a mere 9 hours away.
But where do you start to plan your Balinese holiday? I’ve done the hard work for you and put together an honest account of the most luxurious places to eat, stay and enjoy in Bali.
Staying in Bali
While Bali has many luxurious, large private villas that you can find on Air B&B, if it’s your first time and especially if you’re a small group then I would definitely suggest staying at one of the top end resorts in the Seminyak area of Bali. We loved both the Alila in Seminyak and the W hotel, that’s part of the SPG group. In fact if you walk along the beach at the back of the hotels, they are just maybe a ten minute walk away from each other if that. But you need to figure out your holiday style. While the Alila is modern with clean lines and an emphasis on minimalism, the W is bold, full of colour but one of the most modern hotels I’ve stayed at with an extremely efficient and impressive concierge service.
We loved the large ocean view suite rooms at the Alila and it’s 3 inviting swimming pools at different parts of the hotel depending on your mood. Choose a room on an upper floor if you can. The breakfast area is one of the best I’ve ever experienced in terms of food, overall ambience and service. You can select from Asian or Western style breakfasts, but you can also opt for healthy or even from a pastry section that’s split again into Asian or Western! I recommend the gorgeous raw zucchini pad thai made with fresh ginger, sesame oil and soy as well as the raw brownie made from cashew cream, banana and chia seeds, or maybe you’d prefer flax seed toast with almond butter! Don’t worry you’ll still get your bacon and eggs and fresh juice, but the raw dishes show you the hotel breakfast has evolved, I think the Australian influence is definitely at work here…
Whatever your selection, the Bali fruit plate is a must, we tried exotic fruits such as deep purple dragon fruit, snake fruit and the very healthy mangosteens most mornings.
The W hotel is definitely a cool place to spend some time in Bali with it’s zany colour schemes and focus on fun at all times. You may have experienced some carefully arranged rose petals on a bed to welcome you to a hotel room before, not at the W, they have a pattern of green leaves sewn on to your duvet that had me fooled for a minute!
The pool area of the W is set out with the rice paddies of Bali as their model so it’s a tiered, terrace pool that runs all the way round the hotel. Float away on a large bean bag and enjoy the chilled out music while you relax. If music is your thing it’s worth noting that the W has just opened a gorgeous, state of the art recording studio that guests staying at the hotel can hire for 4 hour sessions and have their music curated by local music director and dj Damian Saint at the same time!
The W has some very sought after restaurants in Bali with I think their Fire restaurant is the most impressive to eat at and be in with it’ focus on high quality steaks.
We loved the W’s afternoon tea on the terrace, it’s themed as a Mad T-Party drawing on all the fantasy characters from Alice in Wonderland. Your tea cage again has an impressive selection of both Asian and Western treats that include foie gras samosas and chargrilled ciabatta sandwiches with chicken mayonnaise. It’s also customary to be offered iced tea or iced coffee as well as their hot counterparts in Bali.
A drink at the Woo Bar is a must when at the W, simply to experience the buzzing atmosphere with the very futuristic oversized fan and a great place to watch the iconic Bali sunsets from.
If you prefer your holiday to be much quieter with a focus on mature developed gardens and greenery then head on over to the Oberoi and enjoy a more traditional approach with warm hospitality in a tranquil setting. Again along the beach, the Oberoi is maybe a 20 minute walk away from the W.
The other fabulous thing about being based in Seminyak, and in particular Petittenget, is the list of gourmet restaurants you can try literally within a short taxi ride distance. An insiders tip is to try these places at lunch time as the food is still as spectacular but much more reasonable and service is less frantic than in the evening rush.
I highly recommend Metis for good European food in a garden setting and Merah Puthih for modern, tasty Indonesian food in a green house type setting (this is just next to the W hotel)
Nusa Dua is another option to stay at and do note the beaches here are much more the golden sandy variety than than the muddy grey beaches of Seminyak. I highly recommend the St Regis Bali in Nusa Dua, that’s set right on the beach with amazing beach side service, food and views to match. In fact I’d like to have spent more time here than we did. If you’d like to experience a Balinese massage then this is the place to do it without a doubt! The Remede spa is a sort of magical space that makes you relax the moment you walk in with it’s butterfly theme resonating in all areas. Another very unique aspect of this spa is the Aqua Vitale hydrotherapy area. Experience 11 different stations of salt water massaging different parts of you as
you move along the meandering pool. We experienced this as a family and loved this feature of the St Regis, well worth a try. Our lunch at the Deli Gourmand was excellent and of a very high standard and I have no doubt that the beach side food would be equally good.
The other area in Southern Bali is Jimbaran Bay and further on from there Uluwatu. Both areas are well worth a visit and I recommend staying at the recently refurbished Four Seasons resort in Jimbaran Bay. This is a special resort with a focus on hidden, secret pools, breathtaking views and the ultimate in luxury. We loved the vibe at the Sundara beach club, which at 37 meters has the longest pool in Bali! Stay a while, have lunch and again the sand here is more of a golden colour. The area is also well known for the barbecues to be had at the Fishermans’s Huts area of Jimbaran with it’s simple, tasty food focusing on fresh fish and giant prawns.
It’s worth going on to Uluwatu from here just to experience another aspect of Bali and I recommend you have tea at the stunning Alila Uluwatu villas. There was a Chinese couple getting married in the area we would have had tea at, but we were content to watch and absorb the surreal atmosphere of the wedding with the live violinist and singer. This really is a special place to stay at. It is worth noting that the beach isn’t easily accessible, it’s 600 steps down to the beach from this cliff top resort.
No trip to Bali would be complete without a trip to Ubud, the green heart of Bali with it’s history of artists, culture and yoga. If you’d like to be in the real heart of Ubud town, close to the Monkey forest, the Ubud market and the top restaurants, then I ‘d recommend staying at one of the hotels in the Bisma area, so either the Komaneka at Bisma, the new Goya or Bisma 8. But if I had my time again in Ubud I’d choose to stay the Four Seasons in Sayan, where we had lunch. This very special hotel is just 20 minutes or so outside central Ubud but seems like a world away inside with incredible spaces at every turn. The approach to the lobby over a large bridge that crosses impossibly beautiful water lilies is the just the start to your experience at this hotel.
Must try restaurants in Ubud are Hujan Local and Locavore which recently made it into the top 50 Asian restaurant list, we liked the 3 Monkeys for a quick lunch while shopping.
But wherever you go in Bali, take some time to absorb the atmosphere, the greenery and general pace of life. A more detailed report on Bali as a destination appears in the author’s blog www.doindubai.com
By Monica Kapila