‘Paradise’ gets casually thrown around quite often to describe many a tropical destination, but Bali has to come close to perfectly fitting the bill. Sure, the Indonesian island has changed a lot over the years but two important things remain the same; the heart and soul of the island which is unique in all the world, and its warm, friendly people. The local Balinese smile often, not just with their mouth; it pours out of their eyes from deep within their souls and is highly contagious. These are extremely relaxed and friendly people, appreciative that the world comes to visit, and of course bring a little more prosperity to their tiny island.
Bali offers so many things, luxury and indulgence, special family time or that magical beach chair facing the dark blue ocean. With a few of the best diving spots in the world, water sports and bargain shopping galore, and some of the most pleasurable dining experiences, you’ll never feel that you’ve had enough time to explore this little piece of paradise.
Kuta, where Bali’s tourism industry first developed many years ago, is the island’s most famous spot, and it throbs with energy and holiday atmosphere. Countless shops, restaurants, bars with gorgeous cocktails brimming with tropical fruits and an overwhelming variety of accommodation all beside a very long surf beach make up the consummate Bali brand. Kuta is easy, everything is geared to the visitor and every local you meet is keen to help you out with transport, DVD’s, massages or manicures. It’s all part of the charm even if you get a little tired of saying ‘no thank you’ to the persistent, but friendly Balinese.
Many like to base themselves in Kuta and explore other parts of the island on day trips or an overnight stay elsewhere. It’s all about the beach though that regularly pounds with an impressive and beautiful sea, along with the magnificent sunsets that dazzle at the end of a day of swimming, eating and shopping.
For those on a budget there’s so many options from local style rooms, clean and comfortable, to sweet boutique hotels, but most who stay in this area don’t spend a great deal of time inside their hotel room.
A little north and Kuta has seemingly overflowed and extended to the more up market areas of Legian, Oberoi and Seminyak, although the borders are slightly blurred. Jalan Laksmana, set back a little from the beach, has emerged as a trendy version of Kuta, away from the noisy t-shirt and cheap jewelery stores, instead you’ll find unique shops offering originally designed clothes, shoes and accessories and fine dining restaurants.
On the beachside there’s more breathtaking ways to enjoy Seminyak’s magnetic appeal with arguably the island’s best five star attractions.
Recently there’s been an explosion of luxury resorts that capture the essence and beauty of Bali in every way one might dream the island to be. The key words here are pure indulgence, with the majority of high end resorts situated on the south west of the island, offering compelling dining options, amazing views, award winning villa designs and in particular, spa experiences that have made Bali number one in the world for two years running.
Spa menus, as their referred to, can range from an exquisite four hand massage, wine therapies (treatment, not dinner accompaniment) aqua therapies, extensive massage styles from Thailand, India, and of course Bali, heated river stones and even dedicated massages for mothers-to-be. Bali has gained the reputation globally of having the best therapists on the planet and regularly wins international spa awards.
Beachfront or cliff top options are attractive, but Bali’s hinterland in lush and cultural Ubud is another popular choice.
Considered the artistic heart of Bali, Ubud, is in the midst of picturesque and lush stepped rice fields dotted with tall coconut palms, and centre of the ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ phenomenon. Ubud is quite often the centre of festivals, like the increasingly popular Ubud Writer’s and Readers festival where the world’s greatest authors and poets gather in a week long celebration of great writing.
The small town has a very eclectic feel, relaxed and very bohemian. The ambience is reflected in its small café’s with book lined walls, and unusual artworks. Bali has developed a very talented silversmith industry and you’ll be encouraged by some enterprising locals to visit large silver wholesalers, but take a look into some of the small shops on Monkey Forest Road first. Selections are vast and treasures are plentiful, besides its way more fun to explore these little stores instead of those with the tour buses lined up out front.
A selection of divine Balinese style bungalows sit on the small lane ways and side streets all at very reasonable rates. Within walking distance of shops and restaurants there’s plenty of time to explore it all, but if you’re looking for complete serenity a number of resorts in Ubud dish it up with all the trimmings.
Ubud’s magical stillness has seen many come here for health and wellness, a place to surrender your busy lifestyle for some inner reflection and many accommodation options are also wellness centres, with their own spas, yoga classes, some even offer cosmetic surgery.
Nusa Dua at the pointy end of the island’s southern peninsula is a dedicated beach resort world. All the big hotel chains such as Conrad, Grand Hyatt and many more base themselves on the sprawling white sand coastline. This is the Bali that exists in the minds of those wanting the perfect beach kabana, with beach chair drink service, expansive swimming pools and loads of activities for the kids.
The Island of the Gods is so named because the local Hindu’s have been coming here for centuries revering them with ancient temples that teem with legends, and historic temples can be found all over the island. More popular temples at Tanah Lot, Uluwatu and a multitude in Ubud give the island its historic authenticity, kept alive by local dedication to their spiritual heart.
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