I never wanted to go to Bali. I steered clear of the ‘Island of the Gods’ because I always thought it was more like ‘Island of the Yobs’. I imagined Bali to be full of seriously inebriated Aussies in Bintang singlets drinking buckets of iridescent cocktails in the Fair Dinkum Bonza Koala Bar. Okay, that pretty well sums up the crowd at Kuta Beach, but I’ve been to Bali three times in the past 18 months and become totally intoxicated by the place (and that intoxication had nothing to do with iridescent cocktails). And, if it wasn’t for my new book that I am writing (re-tracing the original Lonely Planet South East Asia on a Shoestring), then I may not have gone to Bali at all. Not only is the island itself so incredibly beautiful (lush green mountains, terraced rice fields, stunning beaches etc etc), but the people are the warmest, kindest most gentle folk I have met in all my travels. Then there is the food, and the culture, and the temples… and, of course, the cheap iridescent cocktails!
I got back yesterday from another magical trip to Bali. Last year when I won Travel Book of the Year I also ‘won’ a bunch of nights at any one of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and I chose to stay at the The Viceroy in Ubud and the The Bale in Nusa Dua (plus we threw in a few nights on the Gili Islands in between). Both hotels (I’d call them hotels rather than resorts although they have all the resort facilities) were luxurious beyond words (or any words I can think of at least).
We (my girlfriend Beth and I) began our extraordinarily extravagant escape at The Viceroy in Ubud. Our villa (there are only 11 very private villas at the Viceroy) overlooked a deep ravine thick with jungle (and monkeys). It was all those little ‘touches’ that made it extraordinary, though. There were the usual luxurious touches like monogrammed bathrobes, chocolates on the pillow, fluffy towels and slippers, but there was also indoor and outdoor showers that could fit four or five people, a private (heated) swimming pool, personal driver and a telephone in the toilet. Oh, and there is a helicopter pad next to reception (pity my helicopter was in for repair last week).
Oh, I did forget one tiny detail. I proposed to Beth at the wonderful Cascades Restaurant at the Viceroy. And she said yes.
Next we scummed it in the Gili Islands (our room didn’t come with a ‘turn down service’). But, it was just as magical with breakfast served in a little hut right over the water and we rode bikes around the Island, swam in the crystal clear waters, went snorkelling, ate great fresh seafood and got offered to buy magic mushrooms a lot.
We ended our tropical treat at the The Bale in Nusa Dua. I knew we were in for some serious luxury when our chauffeur picked us up from the port. First he handed us a flower scented wet towel followed by ice cold water and a bowl of gourmet nuts served on a silver tray. Our ‘pavillion’ was seriously bigger that my apartment – even our private pool was bigger than my apartment! Our ‘deluxe pavillion’ even included a 24-hour butler. A butler! We did feel a bit strange calling on our butler, though (we could shine our own shoes). I could go on and on, but it will just make you jealous when I tell you about our free massages, breakfast and dinner in our private villa, beach club with sunbed service, personal driver and, best of all, a cookie jar that was replenished twice a day.
So, it’s a bit depressing now – we’re back to cold wintry Melbourne and the next time we travel it will back to cheap guesthouses with no slippers… or cookie jars.
And here’s a few pics of our salubrious digs…
Our own private pool and ‘breakfast hut’ – The Viceroy, Ubud
The main pool – The Viceroy, Ubud
Lunch with a view – outside of Ubud
The lunch – Nasi Campur
Another lunch in Ubud – we didn’t eat the head, though.
The boat to the Gili Islands arrives ’some day’
Our ‘breakfast hut’ – Coral Beach 1, Gili Trawangan
The view from our ‘breakfast hut’
Horse & buggy and bicycle are the only ‘modes’ of transport on the Gili Islands.
Gili Air (there are three ‘Gili’ Islands in the group – Gili Trawangan, Gili Air and Gili Meno)
Lombok (a fleeting visit)
Our room at The Balé, Nusa Dua
Our own private garden and pool at The Balé
Breakfast served in our private garden (yes, what an indulgence!)
Dinner in our own private garden (yes, that’s just way too much indulgence!)