(by Tanja) ..
It must have been the early nineties, the last time I visited Bali. Enigmatic Bali. Home to beautiful temples, lush rice fields, hot summer rains, lazy beach days and sultry nights. It left me with some magical memories. Time to revisit and find out if the magic is still there. The tranquil spots to enjoy nature, beach and Asian lifestyle far away from the maddening crowd. Let’s find out why some of my good friends (and frequent Bali travellers) still call Bali their favourite place. Ready to discover and take a trip down memory lane while we’re at it.
Canggu for starter
The Hindu enclave has long attracted foreigners, from artists and writers in the 19th century till surfers 20th century. And now – how should I say it – pretty much everyone, from the budget-conscious backpacker to the well-heeled global luxury traveller, found their way to the island. Not only the stunning scenery but also the excellent weather is a huge attraction to all. Nowadays Bali plays host to 10 million (!) visitors and is therefore the jewel in the – bamboo – crown of Indonesian tourism. As a result, it can be hard to find your own slice of paradise. We have a challenge to meet!
If you look far enough past Kuta and the southern area, you’re bound to find some beautiful places without too many tourists. We decided to kick off our journey quiet in a little beach community called Canggu. It’s 20km north of Seminyak and it actually refers to an 8 km coastal stretch spanning a few beach side towns across North Kuta. The perfect place for us to get adjusted to climate, culture and time difference. Hello, jetlag-after-a-16-hour-flight-from-Amsterdam.
The New Ubud (kept his beauty)
After 5 days of easy adjusting to the island vibes we anticipated a real culture shock when we moved on to Ubud. In my memory it was a friendly little creative village, in the middle of Bali, surrounded by the green carpet of the sawa’s. But let’s not get romantically overboard here, of course I recall the already clear signs of tourism at that time.
But now, this place really exploded! Although I realised I was high season, it was too much for me. The small town still has a really friendly and beautiful vibe but was obviously never designed for this amount of people.
Best way to find your way around this town is by foot, because traffic equals the M1 around London: stuck most of the time. Easy shopping as well as Bali’s best restaurants are located here. I was happy that we booked a lovely little hotel just outside Ubud, in the midst of the green jungle and with the calming sound of a small river flowing.
I also found a peace-haven in the most wonderful yoga lesson I took in The Four Seasons Hotel just outside Ubud in Sayan, a true magical place. We – my 17-year-old daughter and I – decided to sign in for the Sunset Class, which was also accessible for non-guests.
Lucky us that only two other Chinese guests attended the lesson as well. We enjoyed the maximum spiritual experience of just being in the moment, overlooking the most beautiful garden just before the day changed into night. If you’re into yoga and in Bali, this place in Ubud is a must do. Ohm, shanti.
The traditional Village of Amed
After four days in The New Ubud we travelled to the village of Amed. This charming coastal region has steep headlands and small beach-lined coves and is situated on Bali’s far northeast coast. The area has many traditional fishing and farming villages. In the mid 1980s only a few low-key resorts choose this region. Since then, small boutique resorts have slowly but surely arrived.
Fortunately, the resorts all blend into Amed’s traditional villages rather than taking over. This place still looks, feels and acts like a region of traditional Balinese villages.
Amed is best suited for relaxing and enjoying nature. After two days of doing nothing at all and catching up with friends, it was time for some action and most of all: for some physical exercise!
Why not a cycling tour of 5 hours? After an early rise the next morning we started the day with a rather bumpy ride uphill. To finish in the middle of nowhere or so it seemed for a moment. But no such thing, a well prepared team of cycling-guides awaited us with brand new mountain bikes! And off we went downhill. It was such an exciting way to see Bali off the beaten tourist track. A good way to explore the people, the land and the Balinese way of life which is obviously still there. This cycling tour throughout the countryside of the eastern coast was one of my favourite things about our entire time in Bali. Next destination: Lombok.
From Bali to Lombok
Overshadowed by its popular neighbour the island of Lombok catches the eye of travellers who are looking for something different. Blessed with white-sand beaches, epic surf, inland forests and hiking trails through the rice fields, Lombok is not to be underestimated as a holiday destination. Signature of the island is the volcano in the middle.
At the very end of Mangsit Beach is Jeeva Klui Resort. This place is close to perfection. This is a beach house scene par excellence, an incredibly well thought out concept combining a casual feel with well-crafted detail.
Located in an idyllic bay, this stylish and homey resort is built of local wood and other natural materials from Lombok, Bali and Java. Such as the cool-on-the-feet Lombok-made terracotta floors, bamboo fences and chill-out furniture on large wooden deck on the beach – just below a traditionally built, multi-level spa facility. The best spot for stunning sunsets.
There’s a pool by the restaurant , lounge seating and library with a wall of books, marine telescope, comfy furniture, board games and Imac for all to use.
A visit to The Spa is a definite must. This traditional Indonesian Spa offers both Asian and Western therapies and presents a spa experience that is more than just luxurious; it’s truly a restorative journey. If I close my eyes I can still recall the essential oils.
Add superb food and utterly friendly staff to get the full Jeeva Klui Resort picture.
Ultimately, after 3 weeks of Bali and Lombok I can confidently say I’ve made a new series of magical memories. Just go in the opposite direction of mainstream tourism and you will find your slice of paradise. Let’s not wait 25 years to check up on Bali and Lombok again.