Kamis, 03 September 2009

Fascinatingly Alluring "Sanur"

"Sanur Village Festival 2009 reinforces the image of Bali as a safe tourist destination for all visitors." Minister of Tourism and Culture Jero Wacik, in his remarks at the official opening of the annual event.

A kite competition on the Mertasari Beach

The swarm of kites came in different shapes, sizes and hues toss, turn and twist in the sky – blue, clean and clear – to take part in an international competition above Mertasari Beach, Sanur, Bali, creating a fascinating scene to spectators.

On the same beach installation art works stand tall, unmistakable proof that Indonesian contemporary artists are no less impressive than their foreign counterparts in terms of creativity and imagination.

Several meters away eight models – attractive, slender and looking fresh – had just finished their task and strut towards the back of the stage. They gave way to yoga dancers who are set to demonstrate their agility with Indian music in the background.

All that is only the tip of the five-day Sanur Village Festival (SVF August 12-16), an annual celebration of the art and culture, sports "and other activities" in an area covering four hectares.

Several huge attractive white-colored tents encircle the stage to help visitors enjoy a food festival that tantalizes their taste buds.

No program item seemed to have been overlooked by the organizers in order to make SVF an unforgettable event to visitors.

An instalation art on the venue of SVFFrom quadrathon, golf tournament (prizes: two cars and Rp 100 million in cash), fishing and kite competitions, art expo to jazz and pop music performances, fashion show, food festival and photo and cartoon competition and mass yoga (with over 2000 participants)—all that were on hand with a high level of turnout, including five countries, namely China, India, Iran, Japan and Turkey.

"Marine Life is the theme for this year's festival as it reflects the cultural identity and daily lives of Sanur's community," says the chairman of the festival, IB Sidharta Putra.
"Marine Life is also in line with our "Visit Indonesia Year 2009" national campaign that promotes marine, cruise dan MICE."

SVF 2009 is the fourth held since 2006 and is a now already a fixture in Sanur Village's annual tourism program. Previous years saw around 20,000 visitors and participants from several foreign countries enjoy the professionally-prepared event.

"The occupancy rate of hotels and villas in Sanur hit the 80 percent mark, with most visitors coming from Europe and have been here before several times," says Fredina Rebecca, a consultant with TravelWorks, a Sanur-based marketing communications firm.

"They are not affected at all by last month's recent bombings in Jakarta."

The organizers predict that 50,000 people would have visted orang, a nearly 300 percent rise over the past years.

The opening night of SVF.

"It is amazing that a village like Sanur could organize a world-class festival," says Joop Ave, the former minister of tourism, post and telecommunication, in his remarks prior to the official opening of SVF by Minister of Tourism and Culture Jero Wacik.

As usual, Joop spoke also in English (and laced it with tasteful humor) to make sure his message gets across to foreign visitors who flocked to the local culture-driven opening night.
In a tribute to former ministers who had dealt with Indonesia's tourism in the past, the organizers invited Abdul Latief, Marzuki Usman and I Gde Ardhika as guests of honor.

The star of the event's first night was harpist Maya Hasan, who showed up with her group and presented eight of her latest compositions—the dexterity of her fingers was only matched by her physical beauty.

The ensuing evenings saw the Balinese world-class guitar virtuoso Balawan and premier Jakarta-based pianist Dwiki Darmawan on stage, fulfilling the pledge of the organizers to turn SVF into a high-caliber n art feast.

Kain kain BatikBut SVF was not merely about celebration. In a nod to today's norm, which is virtually unbridled freedom of expression, the organizers gave six artists grouped under Linkar Bali the chance to present their concerns over the adverse effect of unchecked tourism development in Sanur.

Their concern is manifested in their art installation works and are practical input not only for tourism industry players in Bali but also elsewhere within the entire country.

SVF was organized by the Sanur Development Foundation, which was set up in 1966 as a forum of ideas from all quarters to promote Sanur's social and business life.

"The Sanur Village Festival was designed to make you relax and enjoy the beach. The world will be able to enjoy exotic Indonsia and the warmth of our hospitality," says Rosari Soendjoto, the PR oficer of SVF 2009.

"Make sure that you do not pass this moment and include it in your future holiday plans."
In view of what had taken place for five days at Mertasari Beach last month, it is almost certain that Rosari's hope would become a reality.

Theta Spa

‘It’s a chill out zone with a party vibe and a great place to unwind or rev up as the mood takes you.’

theta spa is a gorgeous oasis of calm in the centre of the tuban-kuta shopping strip and a stunningly designed piece of modern cool - a hip mixture of balmy tropical landscaping, ever so smooth design lines and the magnificent ocean make this the destination for feel good treatments day and night.

Deliciously cool interiors, roof top suites and an amazing treatment room combine to make Theta (Ramada Bintang Bali Resort, Tuban, T: 0361 755 726) a great venue for individual therapies, couples and groups of friends. Their menu twinkles with a sense of fun and the combination of seriously well-trained staff, diverse and harmonious treatments and the ambient energy of the evening bar throw a fresh new twist on spa. It's a chill out zone with a party vibe and a great place to unwind or rev up as the mood takes you.

Located almost next door to the Discovery Shopping Mall and right on the beach in front of Ramada Bintang Bali Resort, Theta is a fun space that indulges your fantasies by providing ingredients like honey and fresh fruits, bananas and sesame seeds. We adored the chocolate treatment; the aroma of the cocoa can make you dreamy while the healing properties are very good for stimulating blood flow, accelerating cleansing and toning the skin.

With a philosophy of healing that embraces the ancient with the new age, Theta therapists are known as healers and work with guests to balance and enhance well- being. Theta acknowledges the power of intent in everything, and, through this awareness, has created a haven of fully integrated wellness treatments that takes a holistic approach. Each guest is treated on an individual basis and treatments can be tailored to suit.

Theta use only the freshest and highest quality ingredients in their products, this ranges from fresh fruit facials to the menu at the bar. Why put something on your face that you couldn't eat or drink? The skin is the body's largest organ and deserves to be treated with only the very best of products and given only the very best attention and care. The reflexology treatment room has one of the best views in Bali. Any time of day you can bask in the natural lighting, relaxed in a deep comfortable chair and indulged by the attentions of your therapist. You literally lie back and stare out into the ocean making Theta an amazing (and super exclusive) place to be for sunset.

Another bubbly aspect to Theta is the party vibe that comes alive once the sun goes down. Lounge jazz music and an extensive cocktail menu create a private party atmosphere. With Discovery Mall open late into the evening, Theta is the destination for post retail-therapy therapy or a little rejuvenation before you hit the Kuta nightlife.

Rites of Passage

a once in a lifetime experience that transformed Ubud into the biggest ceremonial procession ever witnessed in Bali

a member of the royal family checking out the palace bearers before the badé set off to the cremation groundOn the 15th of July, the royal house of Ubud held the climax of its biggest cremation ever. It was by all accounts an exceptional event, which made the nightly news throughout the world. At last Bali was advertised – as it used to be, for its culture, instead of its bomb makers.

For those who did not attend what is to westerners merely a show, one simply has to imagine the pageantry: a huge, colourful 28.5 metre cremation tower, including one for the Ubud prince Cokorde a Sutyasa, carried by hundreds of cheering local youths as the devilish rhythms of a bleganjur gamelan orchestra set the scene. Ahead of the cremation towers, gigantic gilded bulls with golden horns and a long golden dragon (a symbol of wordly attachment) are paraded down the streets carried by shouting villagers and accompanied by no less than sixty eight smaller sarcophagi for villagers intent on following their prince to his journey to the abode of the gods. Add dozens of priests and thousands of spectating tourists and you have a once in a lifetime experience that transformed Ubud into the biggest ceremonial procession ever witnessed in Bali. Yet, if the particulars of this cremation are known, little is usually said of the philosophical background and symbolic purpose of the ceremony.

At the root of the event is the fact that humans are, to the Balinese, considered 'microcosmic' duplicates of the 'macrocosmic world'. The aim of life is for the person involved to blend back upon death into this macrocosm. The rite of cremation in this context very literally and symbolically enacts the process of final release. The body is treated in such a way so as to rejoin the material body of the world, the Panca Maha Bhuta five elementials. Whereas the soul is is taken in parallel with the physical body through a succession of ritual steps, to a journey 'back home' to the 'old country' of the deified ancestors (tanah ane wayah).

the 28.5 metres high badé carrying the coffinThe cremation's purpose (be it the big cremation of the prince laying in state at the palace, or that of the corpses of commoners freshly exhumed on the morning of the event) is to symbolically set off the long process of the separation of the soul from the body. First the corpse is transferred from the 'low' part of the palace (semanggen) or the house, to the 'low' part of the village, (the setra or cemetery). After the corpse is burned, the bones are collected, made into an effigy and released into the sea, the 'lowest' part of the world. In other words the bodily elements blend into the physical world. When the ashes are thrown away into the sea the soul is provisionally entrusted to the god of the sea - Baruna. The body is sent to sea on a miniature boat. This cleansing into the sea is often associated in popular lore with the sojourn into hell, which is said to be located on the east of the ocean horizon. But the separation of body and soul is not yet deemed complete at this stage. After twelve days (referred to as ngorasin) or a variable length of time decided by calendar computations, the soul will be called back (ngulapin) through a small ceremony on the beach. Then will come the big 'post-cremation' or 'purification' ceremony of meligia (a sort of repeat, minus the body, of the cremation) at the end of which the soul will be definitively separated from all earthly bonds. It is precisely this ceremony, meligia punggal, that took place in Ubud on the 27th July. The soul then takes the path to the mountain, through a succession of ceremonies (nyegara gunung and meajar-ajar), which eventually takes it to the temple of origin of the clan (pedharman), located in the temple complex of Besakih, at the foot of Mount Agung - the mythical abode of The Gods. The soul of the dead, is sent to the 'old country' to become a deified ancestor (batara), but the ritual process is not over. The dead soul is prepared a place back home among its living descendants.

Therefore an effigy is prepared, and an ultimate ceremony, the 'ngenteg linggih' enshrines the soul as the newly deified ancestors of the family temple (merajan). From now on, the soul of the deceased has its place among the other ancestors in one of the thatched shrines of the family temple. The ancestor will now be ready to come back to visit during temple festivals, and to protect his/her kin.

They are also ready to come back to Bali in a new eventual human guise: the reincarnation. This makes clear that the cremation (or pengabenen) is but one particular moment in a long succession of rites that aim at liberating the soul.

The cremation tower (bade) is the symbol of the macrocosm (Bhwana Agung). Its upper part, with eleven merus, symbolizes the heavenly world (swah), its lower part the earthly/chthonian while the middle part represents the human middle world (bhwah). The corpse is laid to rest in the middle part, because humans are dwellers of the middle world. During the procession, a 'sentana' (heir, usually a son) climbs next to the corpse accompanied by a brahmin holding in his hands a manuk dewata - a bird of paradise, which symbolizes the soon to be delivered soul. The lower part of the cremation tower is decorated with figures from the Hindu-Balinese mythology. At the lowest level is the cosmic tortoise, Bedawang Nala, who is the support of the world. Entwined around her are the two cosmic dragons Anantaboga (the symbol of earth), and Basuki, the symbol of water: they also symbolize the physical needs of Man. Just above is Bhoma's head. Bhoma, who is also represented on temple lintels, is Wisnu's son from his rape of the goddess of earth Pertiwi, and he symbolizes vegetation. The tiered merus, (eleven for royal families) symbolize the level of heaven the deceased's soul is expected to reach. The four wooden pillars on which the meru rest symbolizes the deceased's cosmic brothers (kanda pat), with whom he is going to unite in the after world. On their outer side are leaves symbolizing the human world (bhwah).

The bull (lembu) or other sarcophagi for the non aristocratic dead is the vehicle of the deceased to her heavenly abode. The corpse is burned inside this bull. Under the cow is drawn a representation of Balinese hell/purgatory, where the deceased soul may be tortured and cleansed before an eventual reincarnation. A Naga Banda symbolizes the earthly bonds. It is symbolically killed by an arrow from the bow of a pedanda high-priest, symbolizing, again, the process of release.

The social aspects of the cremation are no less important than the philosophical and religious ones. Thousands of people have been involved for months, including relatives, banjar members and members of related or dependant clans. Fifteen villages are called upon to assist with the preparations and implementation of the puri Ubud cremation. Some prepare offerings while others help with building the implements, such as the cremation towers for carrying the corpse to the cemetery, or the sarcophagi where the body will be burned. Others play ritual music or recite holy manuscripts, each following a tightly defined division of labour and scheduling of activities. A big question hangs over this participation.

Why do they do it? The feudal system has disappeared, and the royals have no power over their former subjects. Two sets of reason can be invoked here. First the princely families still have control over many local temples, in the temple festivals of which commoners are also participating. This gives them a strong, indirect power over the people. And many local people owe their land to a 'gift' made to them by the ancient princes. They got their land against the promise they could be called to contribute to ritual events.

What we, as western observers see, is the vibrant culture of the Balinese brought to life in such ceremonies, the delight of the Hindu religion in the theory of re-incarnation and the rites of passage to the next world.

Bright Lights Little City

it's interesting how, over the years, distinct subcultures have evolved within each of Bali's main tourist centres. The attractions of the unique areas are surprisingly diverse and are further typified by the different types of foreigners that they entice. Take Kuta, for example. Close to the airport, this once sleepy fishing village was 'discovered' in the 1960s. Years of unplanned development turned it into a jumble of closely-packed pubs, cheap 'n cheerful restaurants, raucous nightclubs, souvenir shops, juice bars, dishonest money changers, beauty parlours, surf emporiums, second-hand bookstores, budget hotels and homestays, attracting backpackers, surfers and friendly fun-loving Aussies

kuta clubscene

If you're staying in Kuta, you'll need to be appropriately kitted out; so, for streetwear and surfwear, check out Quiksilver (Jl Legian 138, T: 0361 752 693) and Blue Groove (Jl. Legian, T: 0361 752 693). Manufactured in both Australia and Asia, this apparel meets the needs of everyone. The wide range of high quality Australian designed garments is chic, casual, colourful and fun. From T-shirts and Quikjeans to the simplest of accessories, innovation and practicality are woven into casual style. Next door, Surfer Girl (Jl Legian 138, T: 0361 752 693) is much more than just an all girls' surf store. This dedicated outlet is a one-stop shopping destination where young women can purchase the clothing, sandals, accessories, jewellery and perfume that makes it easier for them to convey the personality and spirit behind their active lifestyles. For a classic feminine look, Uluwatu (Jl Legian, T: 0361 751 933) is famous for its exquisite collections of cool, white, handmade lace resortwear and nightwear for women. Styles are timeless and ethnic. Cutwork motifs are feminine and pretty, featuring flowers and butterflies. Garments include long-sleeved blouses with mandarin collars, sleeveless tops, skirts of all lengths, trousers, dresses, linen shift dresses and blouses. Italian connoisseurs of chic Puravida (Jl Kuta Square, T: 0361 736 563) have recently thrown open their doors signalling the arrival of urban cool to Kuta skate and surf central.

Southern Kuta is known as Tuban, a district defined as 'south of Kuta Square. The main road running through Tuban is called Jl Dewi Sartika but is more commonly known as Jl Kartika Plaza. Presided over by the modern, beachfront Discovery Shopping Mall, the atmosphere here is less frantic with a lot of large family-oriented hotels, of which nearly all have direct access to the beach. The area is therefore popular with families, and boasts children's attractions such as Waterbom Park (Jl. Kartika Plaza, T: 0361 755 676), Bali Slingshot and the Kuta Go-Kart circuit. Additionally, there are a plethora of family restaurants, including Starbucks, Stadium Café (Jl. Kartika Plaza, T: 0361 763 100), Krispy Kreme Doughnuts and Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (Jl. Kartika Plaza, T: 0361 754 028).
North of Kuta you will find the neighbourhood of Legian, but these two villages have merged together and the similarities make it hard to distinguish the boundaries. Interestingly, Legian was initially developed as an upmarket alternative to Kuta, and the now-hip-and-vibrant Seminyak was promoted as the peaceful option! For two decades the market stalls of Kuta and Legian have been selling the same old tasteless trash. Red and white Bintang singlets and baseball caps, 'Jiggy-Jig' T-shirts, extra-large bum bags, knitted hats, crocheted water-bottle carriers, rayon sundresses, batik shorts, tasselled sarong mini-skirts, gem-encrusted sandals, sequined thongs and shell necklaces. On the expansive beach, hawkers peddle toe-rings and Rolex watches, ladies in woolly beanies offer "manicure" and "plait your hair". At the entrance to every narrow 'gang' there is a sign proposing 'temporary tattoos', and at every street corner a timeshare tout will present you with a questionnaire followed by the surprise grand prize of a free holiday!

Nevertheless, this chaotic 'centre of tack' has got a certain charismatic charm, and one of the many things that remains special is the availability of choice. There really is something for everyone in Bali and, in Kuta, backpackers and surfers (after all, they were the ones who started the influx of tourism to Bali in the 1970s and 80s - I should know, I was one of them) have not been forgotten.

sundown over kuta beach

Accommodation in Bali costs anything between US $5 and US$ 50 per night, and at the cheaper end of the market there is a good selection, especially down in the hub of Kuta, around Poppies Lane II—or in one of the little gangs leading off it, where there are scores of homestays, losmen and cottages. There are also heaps of surfer hangouts and very reasonably priced places to eat. 'Warung 96' for example is always full, offfering tasty Indonesian and Western food at remarkably low prices. At every junction you will find a laundry; a tailor; stalls selling T-shirts, shorts, sandals and sarongs; and salons where you can have manicures, cream baths and wonderful massages for a fraction of the price that you would have to pay in the lavish spas. There is also an abundance of travel agents where you can arrange local transport to take you all over the Island, and if you're reading this because you forgot to buy a Lonely Planet guide, the second hand bookshops have all got copies in stock!

When Kuta appeared to be unable to expand, either physically or creatively, in any new direction, an unthinkable act of terrorism struck at its very heart. This led to a shift in strategy, new guidelines and planning; a gentle renaissance is now taking place and Kuta is slowly maturing.

For a sumptuous spa experience, visit DaLa Spa (Jl Legian 123b, T: 0361 756 276). The sexy sensuous décor here is reminiscent of a French boudoir, complete with sparkling chandeliers. Pampering treatments include the detoxifying and energy restoring 'High Tea', the scrumptious 'Tuti Fruity Spa', and the signature, exfoliating 'Royal Wedding Ritual'. Each of the seven treatment rooms presents a different colour theme. Another option is Theta Spa by the Sea (Ramada Bintang Bali Hotel, JI. Kartika Plaza, Tuban, T: 0361 755 726). With its fruity and flavoursome treatments, this sleek outfit offers treatments for inner and outer beauty, derived from ancient Chinese, Indian and Indonesian philosophies. Rituals include the aphrodisiac Chocolate Indulgence and Marine Invigorator, while scrubs incorporate Sumatran coffee and green tea.

Trendy cocktail venues include Eikon (Jl Legian 178, T: 0361 750 701), Kuta's newest and most stylish tapas bar and lounge. At the glowing onyx bar, the flamboyant mixologists create dramatic, must-see, must-try, flaming, fire-dancing cocktails. Expect something different! Every evening, between 6 pm and 10 pm, there is a 50% discount on all wines. One of the most pumping venues in Kuta and a veritable hot spot for a sophisticated cocktail to start your evening around town is Sky Garden (Jl. Legian, T: 0361 755 423). This multi-levelled restaurant and open-air rooftop lounge towers above the street. Here, you can hang easy on comfy sofas and listen to some cool sounds. On the opposite side of the street, Maccaroni (Jl Legian 52, T: 0361 754 662), is a masterpiece in polished grey concrete and tubular metal, flanked by cascading green vines. This restaurant and bar radiates chic Italian style in every form, from its awesome architecture, cool ambience and sophisticated music to its lively vibe, upbeat DJ music and generous 40 ml spirit measures.

Recommendations for dinner include Rosso Vivo (Jl Pantai Kuta, T: 0361 751 951), offering lip smackin' Italian cuisine, great pizzas and an exciting buffet, complemented by a wonderful view over Kuta Beach.

Happy Hour is from 5 til 7pm for Sunset Grill and Cocktail, or you might want to sample the the 'Volcano Pizza', pumped up with air until it resembles a football with a blue flame emanating from its core.. For local cuisine you should pay a visit to Kafe Batan Waru (Jl Kartika Plaza Tuban, T: 0361 766 303), featuring a fine selection of Indonesian dishes from around the archipelago, including legendary desserts. The specialties are created from traditional recipes that have been handed down through the generations of a Balinese family. Check out the delectable 'Ayam Rica Rica': grilled chicken in Manadonese chilli and shiitake mushroom sauce. Meanwhile, another old favourite is Ryoshi (Jl Melasti Legian, T: 0361 761 852), serving authentic Japanese food, sushi, sashimi and sake at prices that won't hurt your wallet. Dishes include attractively presented sashimi sets, sushi sets and miso soup. The cheese age is made from gooey mozzarella, there is also a delicious hot mixed mushroom salad, vegetable and seafood tempura and ebi fry, plus hot or cold house sake.

Finally, to round off the night, the Kuta nightscene is mainly focused around Jl Legian and Jl Pantai—the beach road. M-Bar-Go (Jl Legian, T: 0361 754 687), covers two floors, with an urban chic industrial theme, minimal lighting, dark décor and an underground vibe. Glass doors at the front open into a vast, air-conditioned interior space where resident and guest DJs play booming house music. Alternatively, cross the road to the more sophisticated Hook, which is part of the same empire. Other options in Jl Legian include Paddys, while on the beach road you will find live music performed by slick local bands at The Wave, Hard Rock Café, and Centerstage at Hard Rock Hotel (Jl. Pantai Kuta, T: 0361 761 869). Finally, Ocean Beach Club (Jl. Pantai Kuta, T: 0361 780 5193, 780 5192) is Kuta's newest, biggest and funkiest beach venue comprising a restaurant and grill, sports lounge, swimming pool, bar and night club. Nightly dinner shows feature acrobats, fire dancers and show girls. It's all in a night's work for Bali's most commercial tourist district, leave your inhibitions at the door and come on down...

Spa in the Hills

After a quick inspection of the spa menu and some helpful guidance from the spa manager we settled on the Lalur Scrub followed by the Rejuvenating Facial, the perfect way to freshen up and soothe away all the rough spots.

Our treatments were in the Siulan Pavilion, named for the flowers that are set around it at one of three new private pavilions recently built to accommodate the increasing demand from hotel guests and day-trippers like us who want to enjoy all the Maya has to offer. The room is simply fantastic, set above the river with natural waterfalls trickling into the room; one can imagine living this way all the time.

Our treatment began with the body scrub; there are three options for this treatment including tangerine and frangipani for sensitive skin, Pandan (a Balinese herb for dry and rough skin) and Lulur.

We both chose the Lulur, a traditional Javanese concoction that gives your skin a tingling sensation and a deep cleansing scrub. This is followed by a soothing yogurt rub and finally washed away with a shower for two and a romantic flower bath with an orange and rose scent.

Feeling completely blissed out and our skin feeling baby soft, our discreet and lovely staff gave us some yummy treats and left us for a bit to contemplate how lucky we were to be in this paradise. We retired to the bale overlooking the pristine river view we agreed that this, our day in paradise must be repeated, and often.

maya ubud spa Before we knew it Swarni and Prila were back and its was time for our facials. There were two choices for facials at Maya, the Maya facial using natural ingredients like orange, avocado, cucumber and yogurt, and the rejuvenating facial with Biokos products containing a bio-seaweed extract.

We decided on the rejuvenating facial. This one-hour treatment is total bliss! My friend seemed to enjoy it so much he fell asleep. I however was able to resist the temptation to drift off and savor every minute of it

Our treatments done, we headed off to the River Café to have lunch. Somehow, getting pampered always makes me ravenously hungry and on that day we were in luck because the River Café has a menu that leaves nothing to be desired, in fact we had quite a hard time choosing.

The River Café menu is made to compliment the spa's philosophy of healthy, restorative treatments and offers a delicious selection complete with fresh juices and tonics as well as many naughty treats, just in case you have a sweet tooth.

After a wonderful lunch and a beautiful day it was time to head back to the hustle and bustle of our busy lives feeling totally refreshed.

The Maya Ubud is a very special place indeed, with a seemingly endless list of activities from meditation and yoga classes to mountain biking, tennis and guided trekking; there is never a shortage of things to do.

This complimented by a Spa that's won 9 awards including spa of the year, most beautiful wellness resort worldwide, best spa design and best spa experience makes it's safe to say that a day at the Maya Ubud will not disappoint.

T:0361 977 888

Navigator Spa

ALILA, MANGGIS The brand new spa at Alila Manggis is set in a former coconut plantation with green lawns and the soft sound of the sea beyond. Treatments can be enjoyed in airconditioned comfort or in an open sided pavilion by the sea. Both are lovely. Besides traditional spa treatments, Alila can organize you a theraputic treatment with a local balian who can cure many ills. Enjoy the gorgeous new range of spa products and luxury emollients designed to make you feel good. T: (0363) 410 111.

FOUR SEASONS RESORT SAYAN Authentic ayurvedic is just one of the treatments to be experienced here. When I had a treatment recently, my brain turned to jelly in under five minutes – a sure sign that something is working well. Two hours later I emerged, all signs of stress dissolved and the world looked wonderfully rosy. Highly recommended.
T:977 577.

M’SPA @ PAUL’S PLACE This all male therapist spa is found on centrally located Jalan Laksmana behind Paul’s Place restaurant and boutique. This is a small but charming spa, with several treatment rooms, complete with either shower or bath. You can choose from several treatments; a long, languid traditional massage, or an invigorating ‘MengMassage’ with four hands. There is also reflexology, body masks and scrubs, as well as skin and nail care.
Jl. Laksmana 4A, Seminyak.
Ph: 736 715. T:736 715.

PRANA SPA @THE VILLAS This ersatz Indian fortress in the heart of Seminyak houses some of Bali’s best spa treatments. Their huge menu holds something for everybody and the décor is extraordinary. Treatments are excellently executed. T:730 840

SPA AT THE MAYA RESORT Looking out over the gurgling Petanu River the award winning Spa at the Maya is well worth a visit. Choose form a variety of treatments and enjoy the beautifully manicured natural surroundings.T: 977 888.

SPA HATI Gorgeous Japanese styled spa looking across the ricefields to Mt Batur. Treatments are excellent, price is right. Enjoy a Jacuzzi and steam room after your massage and spend time relaxing at the pale blue and cream stone pool – wunderbar!
T: 977 578.

THE SPA AT THE CONRAD Smoothly operated with individual treatment rooms and a huge menu of delectable treatments in ambient surroundings. Winners of the Crystal Spa Award for 2007.

TUGU WAROENG JAMU SPA Authentic treatments in gorgeous surroundings. Choose a scented room to suit your mood. They are all different and all extraordinary. Javanese classic as well as innovative newer treatments are there to be enjoyed. The mantra massage especially soothing and they are all good. Canggu.
T: 731 701.

RITZ CARLTON Professional atmosphere, divine location with sunset views over the Indian Ocean. Enjoy a massage or more from a vast menu of treatments that include facials, anti-ageing and theraputic as well as pampering - all in air conditioned comfort and don’t forget to spend at least an hour in the amazing aquatonic jet pools where you can dissolve stress while firming your body. Then try the Jacuzzi while enjoying the sunset…. Heaven.
T: 702 222.

Tirtagangga A Taste Of The Rajah’s Life In Rural Bali

Nestled in the rice paddies of eastern Bali, on the site of a sacred spring, the last Rajah of the Karangasem Regency built his weekend retreat, an elaborate Water Palace with a view of the ocean to the east and Mount Agung to the north. He called it Tirta Gangga meaning "holy water" from the Ganges, the sacred river in India.

tirtaganggaDescendants of this royal family still live and work on site, up-keeping the traditions that their forefathers started many years ago.

Tirta Gangga is a truly amazing location, the visual stimulus is breathtaking, an experience that will stay with you for the rest of your life. It's the historic, cultural hub of the island, this is the real Bali at its best. Many visitors are inspired to take picturesque walks or photograph the fabulous scenery and artists love to paint the beautiful landscapes that surround Tirta Gangga.

Eight months ago Julie Crampton, previously Marketing Director of the Watergarden Hotel in Candidasa became an investor and Managing Director of Tirta Ayu Hotel and Restaurant, which is located within this fabulous Water Palace. She has, with the help of her trusted manager, Haryo Sugih Arso (who works very closely with the East Bali Tourist Authority and Hotel & Restaurant Association) managed to transform the villas and restaurant into a magnificent place to dine and stay.

Tirta Ayu's chefs are all highly experienced; their menus are simply delicious, cooked to perfection and the presentation is out of this world, they also have an extensive wine list which includes a good Burgundy and Claret, wines can be bought by the bottle or by the glass as can ice cold beers and sizzling cocktails.

Weddings at this spectacular location will make your perfect day in paradise a reality, not just a dream with memories you will treasure for the rest of your life.
The restaurant can cater for group bookings of up to 150 with a superb buffet style menu, they also provide outside catering for private parties. Tirta Ayu can make your special occasion an event that will be remembered for eternity.

The Cooking School has an almost magical atmosphere about it with a trip to the local market to buy some of the ingredients for Balinese cooking at its very best using traditional methods and finally sitting in a relaxed setting with a magnificent view, eating your lunch or dinner.

Tirta Ayu's rooms have been decorated and furnished in true Balinese style; whilst luxurious they still retain the charm and mystique of the Balinese culture. Their slogan is "Built for a king now a royal treat for visitors".

Tirta Ayu Hotel & Restaurant, Tirtagangga Water Palace, East Bali
T/ F: (0363) 22503

E: tirtagangga@dps.centrin.net.id

High Living in Lombok Part 2


horizontalStill standing tall (betraying its rather relaxed namesake) is downtown Trawangan's only real upmarket bar-come-club come-restaurant still going strong with the more 'well-heeled' visitors to the island.

The menu carries the usual favourites but does an exceptionally mean steak and if you're lucky the odd Sunday roast might hover into view.

The menu rotates once a week to accommodate a variety of cuisines from around the world from Indonesia to Thailand and so on but the real reason you're likely to visit Horizontal are for the wild parties that kick off on almost a nightly basis.

Expect to see a bevy of tanned European beauties table dancing til dawn with the music policy a straight-up house/garage vibe.

It's all good fun until the morning after where you'll most likely bump into some of the culprits from the previous night's activities and be on the potently spicy bloody marys in no time.

Wikipedia says it best, 'it's the only place in the Gilis that wouldn't look out of place in Seminyak.' And who are we to argue?


scallywagsTapas is really proving itself popular of late both on Bali and now on Trawangan where one can tuck into olives, calamari, sardines and all manner of marinated goodness to the north and south of the island.

If you're not in the north of the island around the Karma Kayak restaurant then head south to the brand spanking new Scallywags restaurant to indulge in chef Asier's classic combinations of Mediterranean fare.

Asier was the man behind the original La Sal plan in Bali so you can bet that the menu at Scallywags will be top notch, and it is.

We sat down to a late dinner after a couple of cocktails at the bar and got stuck straight into an excellent selection of Tapas dishes before moving onto a healthy serving of pork chops and spicy apple blue cheese before sampling the lightly pan-seared fillet of coral trout and chorizo puffs with aoili and sesame seeds.

A very relaxing environment with proper comfy chairs, great drinks, a fresh Spanish-inspired menu at discreet prices and not a scally in sight. Also open for light lunches.

Below the Surface...
Castaway... Gili meno shack 58

Shack 58

No matter how far you run from the party scene on Gili Trawangan there's no escaping the crowds during the peak holiday months. After a couple of days of non-stop hell raising the need to totally detach from society and go Robinson Crusoe may take grip. Look up from the beach in Trawangan and over the channel and there lies a whole different island almost completely undisturbed by tourism, Gili Meno. Stock up on essentials (beer - check, suntan lotion - check, company - optional) and island hop for 5 minutes to Meno and the harmonious lodging of Shack 58 villa.

Rustic is a word that springs to mind as you troop through tiny villages in the pony trap. There are only a handful of buildings taller than one storey, hardly any bars or restaurants (except down by the harbour area) and no distractions apart from the sound of nature permeating the clip-clop of the pony's hooves.

Shack 58 occupies the beach to the north east of Meno. It's simple but tastefully furnished with two bedrooms, one facing out towards the ocean so you can sleep to the sound of the surf only yards away.

Shack 58 Two outdoor bathrooms, a well-equipped kitchen (the barbequed seafood here is some of the best I've encountered in Indonesia), no television and excellent service from the shack boys make this a very firm favourite when you really need to escape from the world in general.

Get up early in the morning for a sunrise over Mt. Rinjani then go back to bed, beachcomb or just hang out on the shack decking surveying your own private island beach.

US $45 per night.

Bookings through Island Promotions T: 753 241

There's an abundance of dive schools on Trawangan, Blue Marlin, Manta and Big Bubble being the three most popular with visiting divers. You're guaranteed modern equipment, well-trained local and western dive masters and fantastic ocean adventures regardless of whom you dive with. There are numerous dive locations scattered around the three Gili islands but we wanted something different this trip, we wanted a night dive.

Totally unlike any other experience the night dive disorientates, inspires and rewards those that have no compassion for daylight diving. Dropping in backwards over the side of the boat as the sun sets over Trawangan island and descending the first ten metres as the golden hues of the setting sun illuminate the shadowy waters is a very unique experience. Traversing Meno Wall at night, being swept along with the current, lighting your path with a flashlight and trying to dodge your dive buddies as bright red crustaceans poke their heads out of every nook and cranny is one real kick. Get lucky and you'll spot a Spanish Dancer or two, some napping turtles (don't wake them) and a whole heap of crabs, moray eels and other critters that take to the twilight stage when the ocean lights dim.

Manta Dive

T: (0370) 643 649

Getting there and back...

Shack 58 The now very popular way to get to the islands is with the Mahi-Mahi fast boat, running a daily service direct to Trawangan and leaving from Serangan harbour (20mins from Kuta) at 07.30am (boarding is 30 mins before at 07.00am). Return times are boarding at 10.30 and departure is at 11.00am. Journey time is between 2 and 2 ½ hours, Rp550,000 each way.

Contact Mahi-Mahi, bookings on 081 805 305 632

Island Promotions can also arrange helicopter transfers to either Oberoi Lombok (50 mins $1810) or Kelapa Villas (50 mins $1960) both routes max 4 passengers, both prices include hotel transfer to the airport.

There are regular flights every day (5 or 6 total) from Denpassar to Mataram, with Indonesia Air Transport, Merpati and Trans Nusa. Flight time is only 20 mins. Cost Rp345,000 – Rp385,000. All transport and inclusive airport transfers can be booked through Island Promotions on Poppies Gang One, Kuta.

T: 753 241
E: info@gili-paradise.com

High Living in Lombok

Luxury Lombok. Two words that, until I started perusing the Internet, I wouldn't necessarily have put immediately next to each other. There's no question that in the next few years there will be an upsurge in visitors to Bali's rustic neighbouring cousin with the building of a new international airport that will dwarf that of Bali, not to mention our friends from Dubai recently investing 600 million dollars into developing an Emirates palace style resort.

So, before it all gets right out of hand in Lombok we scooted over to the island to take a very early glance at the luxury end of the accommodation sector and experience the warmth, curiosity and hospitality of the Lombok people. Did I mention the jaw dropping unspoilt landscape, awe-inspiring sunsets (yes, they're even better than on Bali) or the fact that this is the place to escape the marauding crowds of peak season Bali when all you're really after is a deserted beach and a feeling of really travelling the tropics?

Grab a martini, pack a map and hit the shores of Lombok in style with hello bali and treat yourself to a break in a brave new world.

First stop Senggigi, mainland Lombok and a couple of nights in Villa Quisia.

Villa Qusia

Staying in very top end private villas in Bali can leave an infinite dent on the wallet if you're anything less than super wealthy, so it comes as a surprise to learn that the villa rate for the extremely gorgeous Qusia starts at only US $650 ++ a night in peak season and dips to only $425 ++ in the low season months. Compare the size, scope and facilities of Qusia to that of a similar breed of villa in Bali and you'll be looking at saving around $1,500 bucks a night.

villa qusia

Sure, you may not have the luxury of hopping into a taxi and hot-footing it down to some world class Seminyak restaurant or partying all night with the jet-set elite of Bali but you'll be nearly two grand richer and that equates to a few crates of Dom Perignon by the 25 metre infinity pool as your personal chef whips up an ocean fresh barbeque whilst the sun slinks down over a distant Bali.

With three master bedrooms, an entertainment room with state of the art flat screens (don't forget to pack those DVDs you bought in Bali), a private study and library (with Internet connectivity), brand spanking new gym room and lush garden overlooking Mt Agung on the horizon, Qusia is a top end retreat from the world - quite literally an affordable slice of decadent living.

Bali based Dutch architect Joost Van Grieken has tastefully composed an artistic and refined atmosphere taking full advantage of the mountain location to make you feel as though you simply drift between the main villa, pool and outside dining areas. Distinctive teakwood tree trunks and Suar wood dining table are flanked by tasteful Balinese wood sculptures and inviting sofas gaze out over your own private ocean view.

Perfect for couples seeking a romantic interlude, for families wanting to spend some quality time together but even better as a party venue where you can book out neighbouring Villa Qunang, crank up the sound system, crack open the bubbly and keep it going all day and night without having to worry about anyone next door complaining.

Should you manage to drag yourself away from the villa for any length of time your personal butler will arrange any number of activities and excursions into the cultural heartland of Lombok or simply whisk you off down the mountain to a private beach all of your own.

T: (0370) 693 800 thequinci

Tee total

golfFancy 18 holes with hardly anyone else out on the course?

The Kosaido Golf Club is to be found to the north west of Lombok set in a coconut plantation overlooking the azure ocean out to the Gilis.

The emphasis is on relaxation rather than any serious, strenuous activity but the course can be fairly challenging on a number of holes.

Arrange for transport from any one of the Senggigi hotels or the nearby Oberoi – even better is to charter a speedboat from neighboring Gilis and arrive in style on the beach at hole four.

T: (0362) 226 46

Kelapa Villas, Gili Trawangan

There was once a time when the best one could hope for in the way of accommodation on Gili Trawangan might be a hammock and a bottle of mosquito repellent for company. It's true that there are some parts of Gili's Air and Meno that are still like that but more later on the rustic charms of Meno as we lift the lid on that island's best accommodation option. For now we're in the thick of the action on Trawangan, it's hot (way hotter than Bali), heaving with backpacker types on the main thoroughfare and it's about time to flag down one of the passing cidomos (horse carts) and make tracks up to the Kelapa compound of luxury villas way away from the hustle of the busy main street.

Kelapa Villas, Gili Trawangan

Kelapa (being Indonesian for coconut) is perhaps unsurprisingly located in the middle of a plantation of palms towards the northern shores of Trawangan and because of the lack of development in the general vicinity is as completely conducive to peaceful relaxation as one could wish on this the busiest of the three Gilis.

The open design of the villas invites the outside world right into your bedroom with views of the pool, berugas (Sasak interpretation of the gazebo) and outdoor garden streaming into your own private hideaway. You have the choice of 1, 2, 3 and 4 bedroom villas but with only ten units available to rent booking in advance will be absolutely necessary in the busier months. Five of the ten villas are 3 bedroom costing between US $345 and $390 per night whilst the single 1 bedroom unit is $185 stretching right up to $620 for the flagship 4 bedroom Villa Cinta (prices are subject to 21% government tax and a US $40 surcharge during the peak months).

Of course, being on the party island of the Gilis you'll want to be out an about so mobility is an issue resolved with one of the easy rider bikes (single gear but mercifully no real inclines to deal with on the island) on loan from Kelapa. It's a ten minute ride down to the nearest bars and restaurants on the main part of Trawangan or if you head to the north shore round the back of Kelapa you'll find the charming Karma Kayak restaurant serving Tapas as the sun sets majestically over the islands.

If you simply can't bring yourself to leave Kelapa then rest assured that private catering can be arranged with the services of a personal chef once you've selected what you want to order from the shopping list, or simply order from the in-house menu. Kelapa is a fuss free option for those with a family in tow and babysitting facilities can be provided on request as can masseuses should the stresses of such tranquil surroundings become too much for you.

T: 081 237 56003

Bali Golfing with The Gods

golf in baliGolf in Bali? Where in the world could be better? Beautiful award winning courses lie beside amazing seascapes, others look over holy temples or tropical rainforest and another lies high in the cool mountains of Bedugal within the caldera of an ancient extinct volcano. Bali's holy mountain, Gunung Agung, watches beniegnly over you as you play. Wow! With all this natural beauty and spiritual energy around, how can your game do anything but improve?

The variety is endless and Bali has three top 18 hole championship courses. The only problem is where to start. Of course for guests staying in Nusa Dua, the place to start would be Nusa Dua at the Bali Golf and Country Club, recommended by Fortune Magazine- USA as one of Asia's 5 Best Golf Courses No mean feat in a part of the world where beautiful golf courses are as common as pearls.

Most of the golf courses also come with fabulous accommodation so that golfers can just fall out of bed and onto the course. In the case of the Bali Handara Kosaido Country Club don't forget to bring a sweater, it can be chilly in those mountains!

Bali Golf and Country Club, Nusa Dua
. This world class 18 hole championship course was named one of Asia's 5 Best Golf Courses by Fortune Magazine, USA. The seaside setting provides spectacular beach views, with lakes set amidst coconut groves and other views over the luxury Nusa Dua tourist enclave. The new Wantilan luxury golf villas located in and around the course have three and four bedrooms- perfect for family groups or friendly groups of golfers. They are great as corporate retreats, company holidays or just for fun. Villas come with swimming pool, jacuzzi and 24 hour housekeeping staff and guests are provided with access to the exclusive Amannusa Beach Club on one of Bali's most beautiful beaches. Full scale facilities are all available.BaliGolfandCountryClub

Bali Handara Golf and Country Club. Located at 1142 metres above sea level, near the mountain resort of Bedugal, this 18 hole,72 par, championship course is listed as one of the 50 greatest courses in the world. The challenging course is popular for its difficulty and playing the course can be very satisfying for a talented player. The cool 16-20C temperatures make a perfect temperature for playing and nights in the hotel and suite rooms are heated. Tennis courts and Fitness centre are available as well as Japanese bath and sauna, and meetings facilities for up to 100 people.

Bali Beach Golf Course, located in Sanur this well established course of mature trees has been given a face lift recently with the addition of lakes, mounding and other features including newly constructed greens with a good putting surface. The bunkers can be particularly challenging. Sometimes the windy Sanur afternoons can provide extra challenge but generally it is a pleasant medium challenge course.

Le Meridien Nirwana Golf &Spa Resort, arguably one of the most beautiful courses around looks over the holy Tanah Lot Temple, and the verdant rice fields of Tabanan. The 72 par course is an award winning Greg Norman designed signature course and was voted 'Best Golf Course in Asia', 'Best Golf Course in Indonesia' and 'Best Golf Resort in Asia' in the Asian Golf Monthly Annual Awards. Carts and female caddies are a mandatory part of the game! It lies adjacent to Le Meridien Resort and Spa.

Two Worlds

"Art is the permanent and sublime expression of the creative power inherent in a nation's character."
–Rudolf Bonnet, 1936

August 2009 witnessed the opening of two important exhibitions - 'Archetypes' by I Made Wianta, the doyen of contemporary Balinese art, and a retrospective of the work of I Nyoman Mandra, the greatest living proponent of Balinese classical painting of the Kamasan School. While at first glance their work may appear diametrically opposed both artists are in fact bound by intriguing threads that question the meaning and direction of Balinese art and culture, albeit from opposite directions.

As implied in the rhetorical question "Who is Made Wianta?", posed during the boisterous opening at Ganesha Gallery, Four Seasons Resort Bali, no introduction is necessary for this prolific artist. It is interesting to note that at this point in his 30 year career, Wianta felt the need "to return to my roots" in a series of canvasses featuring mature variations of the cubic, linear and rectangular compositions that propelled him to fame in the 1980s. "These forms" he proclaims, "are the elemental building blocks that distinguish man from nature." His success can be measured by the glowing praise lavished by the well-known German abstract artist Peter Dittmar (who is also currently exhibiting his newest work at Gaya Fusion of Senses, Sayan) who feigned jealousy as he remarked that the recent work of both artists unwittingly appears in many ways to be moving in the same creative direction. In particular he declared the small but elegant black on black acrylic, 'Intersecting', a masterpiece.

pengembaran rahwana by i nyoman mandra

One of the most iconic of Wianta's new works is 'Four Monuments' featuring four cubic shapes floating about against a mottled green pastel background that looks like an organic farmer's vision of fun in outer space. The cubic forms, unlike the enigmatic and opaque black monolith of Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film, Space Odyssey: 2001, are neither solid (rather their sides seem to be windows into Mondrian paintings or oil on water light shows from the Fillmore West) nor prove of the existence of intelligent life beyond earth. Instead they exude Wianta's characteristic mirth. Bordering the mysterious, they mirror the mischievous inner workings of the post-Industrial Balinese mind.

In contrast the work of Nyoman Mandra at the Griya Santrian Gallery in Sanur, is decidedly archaic. As described by Australian scholar and author, Adrian Vickers, who expertly curated the show (with the aid of mounting übermensch Thomas U. Freitag), Mandra is the greatest living adherent to a school of painting that traces its roots back to the 16th century Gelgel Dynasty. In comparison to the Wianta opening, attendees included a high percentage of antique, scholarly types normally only seen in Ubud. Wianta came, too, in deference to his main adversary for the crown of Bali's premier senior artist, Nyoman Gunarsa, who opened the show. The best dressed among an otherwise scruffy crowd goes to Bali's one and only smoking Legong, Made Wijaya who engaged in polite chitchat with fellow dancer Wayan Dibia. The evening was pleasant although elegies mourning Bali's lost legacies and the whispers of cultural philistines who dissed Kamasan paintings as passé added a schizophrenic air to the whole. Obviously they have not yet realized that by definition all art belongs to the age in which it was made.

four monuments, oil, acrylic on canvas, 90 X 90cm by i made wiantaIf they had looked closer they would have noticed that although Mandra's art is a direct descendent of an old tradition, it is distinct and imbued with his own modern aesthetic. This is immediately evident by comparing his softer pastel palette and facial expressions of the mythological heroes with the dense energy of a 19th century work, painted by his grandfather, Kaki Rambug in a large work from the Malat Cycle (Langse Detail1). Other highlights include the Pelindon calendar (Pelindon) and magical black white paintings.

At a time when everyone gives lip service to the preservation of Balinese culture with little knowledge of what it is they want to protect, it is ironic to note the general lack of knowledge and appreciation of the traditional arts and their modern heirs. One of the best examples is the erroneous but often repeated claim that the Ubud painting school is traditional when it was in fact directly stimulated by tourism in the 1930s. This type of garbage is the creation of the same addled minds that often liken Galungan to Christmas. Cultural disinformation has a long history in Bali with no end in sight. Ironically the first foreign artist who came to Bali (W.O.J. Nieuwenkamp in 1904) did so to study traditional Balinese painting because he felt it offered a model of freedom that had been lost in European art. More than a century later Balinese artists both traditional and modern still continue to inspire western minds and souls.

Ganesha Gallery , Four Seasons Resort Jimbaran
T: 0361 701 010
Kamasan School
Near Kamasan Village, KlungKung

Food for The Soul

Indeed it's a "Wellness Corner" menu that Brandon has most recently introduced, and his passion for organically-grown and locally-sourced food is what he's known for. "We always had a spa menu but it was only for the spa and in-room dining, so it was the one thing I hadn't put my stamp on," says the accomplished chef. "I wanted to do something special so I spent quite a bit of time researching it, and I've incorporated it on the lunch and dinner menu as well," he explains, noting that the complete nutritional value of each dish is listed on the menu, something people who are carefully watching their cholesterol, for instance, will welcome. "It was a little painstaking to get that information," he confesses.

The light, summery dishes – think rice paper ravioli, think golden gazpacho – are a complete departure from the cream-laden cuisine Brandon was trained classically to produce in Paris. "Pretty much anyone who goes to school, you get a foundation in that. You don't really go to culinary school and learn how to do vegan cuisine. So I took it upon myself and just researched it."

So first up we split two dishes from the Wellness Corner menu. The organic quinoa salad with nashi pear, papaya relish, toasted almonds and curry vinaigrette is light, yet flavoursome, the curry flavour a startling but delicious collision with the crispy greens from the mountains of Bedugul. The dish is subtly sweetened by the pear and given substance by the delicate spirals of quinoa. Orange edible flowers flecked with black lift the presentation well beyond the ordinary.

spiced rare tuna served with enoki mushrooms, pea shoots, citrus vinaigrette and caramelised pomelo gasttrique with red radish sprouts garnish"I guess my philosophy would be to look at what's in season, what's organic, what's grown by the local farmers and then form my menu and recipes from that," Brandon says, adding that only when he can't find an ingredient at the quality he demands will he then use an imported product. Beef, for instance, is sourced from abroad, but all the fish is locally sourced, including the spiced rare tuna, our second selected dish. Served with enoki mushrooms, pea shoots, citrus vinaigrette and caramelised pomelo gastrique, it's a riot of freshness, and the tuna melts in the mouth. Red radish sprouts from Australia garnish the plate, adding more colour to an already vibrant presentation.

These concoctions are also set to feature at a second restaurant The Balé will manage from August. Bamboo, at The Amala in Seminyak, will be limited to just four or five tables with a similar health-inspired theme. "The focus is on wellness and the holistic, so we're going to basically take what we have here, shrink it and put it over there," Brandon enthuses.

He looks forward to shuttling between the two properties. He and his wife, a pastry chef, spent time in Bhutan managing the food in four lodges, so he's used to being on the prowl. "When you're in the same place for a few weeks at a time you kind of get in a rut. But when you can go to a new property, you see things again with fresh eyes. It stops it becoming stale."

Our health kick is over
Next up from the standard Faces menu comes our chorizo flatbread, its heady aroma heralding its arrival. It's a meat-lover's nirvana, slathered in sliced chorizo, chunks of pork belly, salty bacon, arugula, dabs of blue cheese and a sprinkling of chilli flakes. "Kind of like going to McDonalds and getting your Big Mac and Diet Coke," Brandon quips.

It seems doubtful that this American would be frequenting fast food joints very often and he admits that he eats well at home. ("You'd be surprised! I offset it with the Bintang," he says with remorse, patting some very negligible padding.) He cooks four or five times a week at home, dining with his wife and their 13-month-old son. The couple met at culinary school in France. Brandon was following a passion for food he developed while working in the industry to support himself at college, where he studied business management. His wife, who has a degree in environmental engineering and had been working for GE for a few years, had decided she wanted to open a pastry shop, so she dropped everything to follow her dream. And they've worked together ever since.

spiced rare tuna served with enoki mushrooms, pea shoots, citrus vinaigrette and caramelised pomelo gasttrique with red radish sprouts garnishWhile he's cautious about eating out – there aren't too many places in Nusa Dua to begin with and he's wary of hygiene, MSG and the amount and kind of oil restaurants use – Brandon admits to enjoying regular Sunday forays to the Nusa Dua Beach Grill, a local warung and a local Japanese restaurant. And now he's spending more time in Seminyak, he's tried more restaurants there, with Warung Italia and Mannekepis getting his stamp of approval. I'm curious as to whether the meat-eater has tried Ibu Oka's legendary babi guling (suckling pig) in Ubud. He has – but a take-out version his manager brought to him. "I can't go to Ubud without going past Naughty Nuri's," he confesses that he has to have a plate of their famed succulent barbecue ribs when he's nearby. And while he's sussed out that the sauce is based on Indonesia's kecap manis, there's a mystery ingredient he hasn't been able to put his finger on, he says with some disappointment.

Guests invited round to the Huismans' for meals are typically treated to a joint effort, a grill with maybe some steaks, barbecue ribs and chicken wings, along with home-made pizzas and salad. A wood-fired pizza oven is in fact currently under construction at their house, along with a home-made barbecue grill made with a 50-gallon drum. What would he whip up for a vegetarian popping over? "Ah, they wouldn't be invited!" he laughs, before conceding that if he had to, he'd probably do a platter of grilled vegetables, particularly of local asparagus if it was in season. And if he really wanted to impress, I imagine he could probably pull a few strings and get some Faces take out.

The Balé
Jl. Raya Nusa Dua Selatan
Nusa Dua, Bali, T: 0361 775 111

The Water Palace and The Memory of The Great Karangasem Empire

Many Balinese people refer to The Great Water Palace as Taman Sukasada, but over time it has begun to be known as Taman Ujung Karangasem. The park is a beautiful place to find peace and relax in East Bali and an incredible place to catch a glimpse of the Lombok Straight, but behind this parks' simple beauty lies a past steeped in creativity, power and understanding.

As the name suggests, Taman Ujung is located in the Ujung countryside at Tumbu Village in Karangasem about five kilometers from the city of Amlapura. In the year 1909, The Great Water Palace located at Taman Ujung was created by a man named I Gusti Bagus Jelantik, he was not just any man, he was educated, he was a statesman, and he was an architect. I Gusti Bagus Jelantik was a man of two names and he was a man of title. Known as Anak Agung Angkurah Ketut Karangasem, I Gusti Bagus Jelantik was the King of this regency known as Karangasem.

At one stage, this park spread across four hundred hectares of land, but slowly that once large number has decreased to approximately ten hectares in size. It is thought that the design for the palace was the result of a vision, that I Gusti Bagus Jelantik dreamt of designing a beautiful house surrounded by water, and that once he had this idea, he set to work gathering together a collection of architects including a Chinese architect named Loto Ang and the Dutch architect Van Den Hentz, along with many other Balinese architects or Undagis to help him develop the concept of his vision.

Taman Ujung lies between the mountains and the sea. Mount Lempuyang is on the north-east side, Mount Agung is on the west side and the Lombok Strait is directly east. This is an important factor that is respected not only within Bali but also across the whole of Indonesia. From the main gate it is possible to see how the pools dominate the palace and how the bridges connect the palace to every side of the pool. This design concept surrounds the idea that our life on the land revolves around water and that it is because the land meets with the sea that the luxurious life that we lead on earth was created. Through the design of Taman Ujung and The Great Water Palace, I Gusti Bagus Jelantik has shown respect and understanding of this by realising this concept within the design of the four pools in Taman Ujung.

The empire is famous for respecting the creation of art and culture within the regency, which is reflected in both the sculptures that are carved around the building and each and every statue that surrounds the park. This artistic contribution remains an invaluable tribute to the history of Karangasem.

But there is more to the history of this park than just the architectural design of the Water Palace. Somewhere toward the north side of the park exists a pool that was considered very secret. It was known as Di Dirah and was utilised during the period of King I Gusti Gede Putu and his brother who was called I Gede Oka. The round pool functioned as a place of exile for a man who was alleged to run the world of Black Magic within the empire.

During the time before 1908, this Karangasem Regency was a territorial empire. During the 17th Century the Bali Kuna authority was granted permission by the Klungkung Empire to establish themselves in Karangasem, and thus the mighty Empire was born under the governance of I Dewa Karangamla. The Karangamla dynasty didn't survive all that long and the Batanjeruk Dynasty soon took over the Karangasem Empire's governance.

I Dewa Karangamla moved his chess board pieces forward, by taking the widow of Patih Agung Batanjeruk as his wife when her husband failed to pursue the journey that was necessary to be taken by a king of the Gelgel Empire called Dalem Waturenggong. I Dewa Karangamla made a promise to the widow of Patih Agung Batanjeruk that he would givie over his authority to his step child whose name was I Gusti Oka. When finally I Dewa Karangamla died, as promised, the authority over the empire moved back into the hands of the Batanjeruk Dynasty which was led by I Gusti Oka as its king.

This location was developed as if it were a summerhouse or recreation palace, for the royal family to spend time relaxing and enjoying themselves. However, the time eventually came for the park to be opened to the public as part of an agreement between the descendants of the Karangasem Kingdom, the government and the International Monetary Fund who loaned money to Indonesia to help with restoration and ongoing maintenance of Taman Ujung some ten or fifteen years ago. The property rights was never transferred and to this day, the park ownership continues to remain in the hands of the desandants of the Karangasem ruling family.

Although the concept of the Water Palace and recreation park had been finalised by the year 1921, the project was not completed in full until August 6th, 1937. The Great Water Palace was the first of several ventures of similar style undertaken by this talented king. Two such parks, known as Mayura and also Narmada park were built in West Lombok and have come to be a symbol of brotherhood, a historical connection between the regency of Karangasem and the area of Western Lombok where the two parks were developed.

If you are looking for an interesting destination to explore when travelling through East Bali, then Taman Ujung is an incredible place to discover. It is a park steeped in history, a place where you can wander around and find peace within yourself, and it is a place where you can stare in awe at the creative inspiration that was the vision of the great king of Karangasem.

Ancient Healing Practices and The Village Pharmacy

The small villages that lay above the Ayung River on the Sayan ridge just outside of Ubud offer guests the chance to heal their minds, care for their bodies, and soothe their soul.

As soon as you step out of the car and onto the bridge at Four Seasons Sayan, you know you are somewhere special. The wooden bridge allows you to walk over the jungle and paths below, before leading you past the awe inspiring fishpond that appears as a giant bowl suspended in the air, down two flights of stairs and into the spa reception. From here, you are led through a corridor where water runs beside the path, exquisite Balinese art hangs on the walls, and the blue green of the water filled bird baths catches the eye and soothes the mind. Then wander past the rice paddies planted by guests as they learn about the day-to-day lives of Balinese rice farmers. As you walk, you can't help but be calmed by the lush, green, natural environment around you, which encourages a feeling of peace that seeps deep down into a person's soul.

The Spa Villas at Four Seasons Sayan offer friends, couples or individuals the perfect opportunity to unwind from the pressures of the day-to-day life and to take a minute to free oneself from the rush of modern society. Secluded from the main resort buildings and immersed in the natural surroundings of the valley, the villas seemingly float on a large lotus-filled pond, providing an idyllic setting for a luxurious treatment.

The spa offers one particular unique treatment, perfect for healing the body and the soul, known as ‘The Fountain of Youth'. The two and a half hour treatment is based around neem, a tree that has been revered in India for over 4,000 years and is a major herbal ingredient in Ayurvedic preparations.

From almost the very beginning of recorded human history, people have taken advantage of the remarkable neem tree. They use its branches, fruit and leaves to cure a surprising list of illnesses, some of which are considered to this day to be incurable by western medicine. Its medicinal qualities are outlined in early Sanskrit writings and its uses in Hindu medicine date back to very remote times. Even today, rural Indians refer to the neem tree as their "village pharmacy".

The Fountain of Youth begins with a foot soak followed by a coarse scrub made with neem and date seed, which when applied, alongside the strength of the therapist, leaves the skin renewed and the body ready to face the world anew. A quick shower follows, before a massage with neem oil and the application of a green tea and neem body mask, a cool lemon and frangipani bath, and a final application of neem body lotion.

An alternative treatment available at Four Seasons Sayan is the Tiger Grass Cooler. Based around tiger grass, or gotu kola to give it its local name, this treatment promises to tighten and tone skin naturally, while its hydrating properties leave skin positively radiant with health. A gotu kola and walnut body polish exfoliates skin, leaving it silky smooth, before the therapist performs an Abhyanga massage using warm oil. The long, looping strokes of this particular massage are extraordinarily relaxing, and prepare the mood for the subsequent tiger grass and oat mask wrap, designed to firm and moisturise the skin. After a scalp, neck and face massage, a frangipani and pandanus leaf bath awaits in the shady garden bathroom. Tiger grass and kukui nut body lotion provides a soothing end to the treatment and leaves skin feeling soft for hours after.

There's nothing quite like nature to soothe and rejuvenate the soul and senses and the treatments and environs of Four Seasons Sayan take advantage of only the best natural elements to induce total serenity.

Four Seasons Bali at Sayan
Sayan, Ubud, Gianyar 80571
T: +0361 977 577


Moyo Island: A Peaceful Forest by The Sea

This is the start of an adventure that leads along jungle tracks into the heart of the forest, venturing under the sea to swim with turtles and all the strange creatures of the deep. It is a walking, boating, diving and swimming weekend to the unspoiled Amanwana Bay, site of a luxury nature retreat on Moyo Island. Most of all, this journey to Amanwana is a chance to get back to nature and enjoy the simplicity of a peaceful life.

To reach Moyo, the journey begins at Denpasar airport on the Trivana Air Cessna Caravan, otherwise known as a floatplane. The plane flies past the peak of Mount Agung, then passes over Lombok's houses, farms and trees, before we find ourselves staring into the open crater of Mount Rinjani, filled with a mouthful of thick muddy emerald-coloured water. In the middle of this extraordinary lake, not far from the tallest peak of the crater, the small peak of baby Rinjani puffs a constant stream of cloudy smoke through a hole in its side.

the charming interior of the aman tentIt is 11 o'clock in the morning when we land at Amanwana, the intimate Aman retreat at the Moyo Island Nature Reserve, fifteen kilometres northeast of Sumbawa at the western end of Indonesia's secluded Nusa Tenggara Islands. The air is filled with the salty smell of the sea and the sandy heat of Moyo, the water beneath our feet is crystal clear and next to the jetty is a school of fish, including the beautiful purple and blue parrotfish, which are all watching us as we watch them.

From the jetty, I am led along a trail past the ocean and jungle tents, luxurious 58 square metre living spaces with solid wall foundations roofed by a soaring waterproof exterior and an interior covering of canvas, and into number 18, the ocean tent which is to be mine for the next three days.

Inside offers a charming Aman room that is air-conditioned, with hard wood floors, a ceiling fan for those who would prefer to turn the AC off, a king-size bed draped in netting, wheat-coloured divans, a writing desk, large bathroom with twin vanities, traditional Indonesian artwork from neighbouring islands and banks of windows that allow for a premium view of the natural surroundings.
My first adventure begins at the Amanwana beach boy area where I have planned to jump off the end of the jetty for a spot of snorkelling. Flippers and goggles in hand, I jump, carefully avoiding the school of fish, and swim straight into the red and white stripes of a huge lionfish. Splashing to an immediate halt I try desperately to swim backwards before his poisonous fins can touch my skin.

Somewhat in awe, and somewhat stressed, I change direction and swim off in the direction of Turtle Street in the hope of swimming with a green turtle instead.
After snorkelling, I wander along the stretch of sand known as Amanwana Bay, past the Jungle Cove Spa, and onto a small sandy road that promises to lead me toward Crocodile Head. Canvas map in hand, I follow the directions until I find two chairs and what is possibly the most perfect view of the sunset that can be imagined. As I sit, lost in the panoramic view of the Flores Sea as it turns to a light golden glitter next to the pink orange hues that fill the wide blue sky, the realisation dawns on me that I am a long way from camp. On the way back to camp, a set of very strange rustling noises catch my attention, my steps become quicker and I tell myself it is just a macaque monkey, or a bird rustling in the dry leaves, but I soon come to terms with the reality that I am being escorted home by a group of wild boar who have decided to block the path in front of me and grunt, snort and carry on until I decide to exit stage left.

the spring-fed waterfalls and limestone plunge poolsThe early morning turns Amanwana bay into a breakfast hunting ground. I rise early and wander toward the beach chairs to catch a glimpse of the spectacle. Before me, not even a metre past the edge of the sand, a dark cloud of fish smack the water, and I notice three black-tipped reef sharks coming towards them.

After a delicious breakfast of my own, a morning adventure into the heart of the island on a jungle excursion starts with a boat ride to the local town of Lapuan Aji, where I am taken on a tour of the local primary school, recently built by Amanwana, who plan to help educate the children on environmental awareness whilst they are learning their day to day education. Waving goodbye to the smiling faces and jumping on a restored Japanese Army Jeep, we venture past the cashew farms and grazing goats, and into a jungle that is dry but thick with palms and wild fig trees, torch-ginger blooms and shooting vines. A trail leads to a series of spring-fed waterfalls and limestone plunge pools, where bullfrogs call out as they jump through the inviting water, and I too, tempted by the chance to refresh in the beautiful watering hole, lower myself slowly into the cool deep waters.

The previous night I was feeling brave, and having met Sayaka, the very friendly and assuring PADI dive instructor based at Amanwana, I was convinced that I was in one of the most beautiful places in the world to try diving. The surrounding reefs teem with colourful fish, giant sponges, staghorn coral and gorgonian fans. Hawksbill and green turtles, moray eels, blue-spotted and eagle rays, lobster and other sea life are abundant, and in the protected waters of Amanwana Bay, there is not nearly as much to worry about as I had thought. So, I signed myself up for the beginners' lesson.

Upon returning to camp, I set off to suit up and jump face first into the land of fish. I have to say that the scariest thing about diving is the air tank. I had a preconceived idea that it would be back-breakingly heavy and that, weak with the weight, I would sink to the bottom of the ocean. It turns out that it is nothing like this at all. Sitting on the edge of the jetty, Sayaka already in the water, it's my turn to fall face first into the water. No time to back out now, so feeling like an alien invader, I fall face forward into the water. Over the next half an hour, I begin to understand the call of the underwater world, why divers think that it is so much nicer to swim with the fish, rather than over the top of them. I swim past the moving reefs next to a single giant tuna, close to adult turtles, find myself surrounded by a school of hundreds of fish, I stare at the tiny luminescent fish that live close to the coral, reluctantly touch a rare sea slug and watch as Sayaka smiles and stares in wonder at the world she loves so much, a world that I have seen from above, but until Amanwana, have never experienced from below.

There are many secret hideaway places to enjoy a meal around the camp, but the main open-air dining room, with its Sumbawa ipil wood floor, soaring bamboo roof and pillars of solid coconut, is the nicest. At night, when you sit on the lawn at the front of the restaurant, the view of the stars is exquisite. The staff are friendly and offer impeccable and attentive service. No matter where you choose to eat, there is a blackboard menu offering a selection of entrée, main and dessert options that changes with each meal time. The Amanwana kitchen likes to offer a combination of fresh Asian and Western dishes and each of the meals are made with organic vegetables and herbs picked fresh from the Chef's garden, combined with locally sourced produce and high quality imported items. If you are feeling adventurous a romantic beach barbeque is also an option, where sitting at a table in the sand you are served a freshly caught selection of lobster, prawns, squid and fish.

the brang sedo villageOn my final day at Amanwana, I decide to start the morning early with a three-hour bat cave trek. Due to the length and difficulty of this trek, it is only available when accompanied by a guide. So, I made an appointment with Mr Samiun, who hails from Moyo Island and is said to have wandered the trails of Moyo since he was a young boy. The track is a continuation of the Brang Sedo Village path and leads to a cavernous hole within the forests of Moyo. The cave is inhabited by seven species of bat, that when disturbed, begin to fly in circles around the cave. Unperturbed, Samiun encourages me to venture further into the cave, until we find ourselves crouched on our knees, torch in hand, bats flapping past our faces, staring into the several caverns that lay beyond reach. As we head for the exit, a python slithers down from a rock opening high above our heads, and flicks his tongue at us in annoyance.

The best thing for the body after a long walk is, of course, a massage, followed by a juice and a relaxing swim in the pool. At Amanwana there are two spa areas. The first is an outdoor jungle cove spa, where you can truly relax within nature whilst you stare out at the ocean, and the second is a spa tent where you can enjoy the peaceful sounds of the forest from within the quiet, private air conditioned space of a tent.

The treatments at the Amanwana spa are based on the Aman signature menu, with the addition of a selection of Amanwana extras such as the Amanwana fruit facial made with local fruits and Moyo honey to refresh your skin after an adventurous day of sun and sand.

The starlight cinema is my final activity for the day, a special screening of Myths Magic and Monsters, the more recent series created by Dr. Lawrence Blair, famed for his Ring of Fire adventures in his youth. After this thorough education on the myths of the Green Sea Goddess is over, I return to my tent and the welcome of sleep, three days of land and sea finally catching up with me.
Set in one of the world's most untouched wilderness and marine environments, Amanwana comprises an open invitation to explore nature and indulge the senses in a landscape largely untouched by time. Amanwana helped me connect to the yearning for simplicity that I didn't realise I was calling out for.

Moyo Island, West Sumbawa,
T: 0371 22 233


Enchating Ubud

Walk along with Meliana Salim, as she shares with you a treasured collection of the moments and hidden secrets that make Ubud one of the most loved places in Bali.

Jacques Yves Cousteau once said that "when one man, for whatever reason, has the opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, he has no right to keep it to himself". Having spent two wonderful years in the heart of Ubud, I've had my fair share of defining moments, people, and places that make everyday living here truly extraordinary. Ubud is a constant magnet of incredibly fascinating and multifarious globetrotters. This is a compilation of 'Ubud Moments' lovingly put together with the generous recommendations from residents whose lives have been touched by our enchanting and enigmatic town: such is the magic of Ubud.
I believe when Bali was dubbed 'The Morning of the Earth' they were referring to the mornings in Ubud. The best way to experience the blissful dawns is by foot.

Book a guided three-hour herbal walk with Ni Wayan Lilir and I Made Westi baliherbalwalk. This is complemented by an introductory knowledge to Bali's living pharmacy and herbal remedies growing by the wayside, and an insight on rice cultivation methods used by farmers. Lilir and Westi come from a family of healers and farmers who are keen to use their skills as guides to help preserve Bali's unique indigenous heritage.

Greet the morning sun with a pleasant trek up the Campuhan Ridge. Begin at the turn-off to Ibah Resort near the Campuhan Bridge and follow the signs that lead to a temple dating back to the eighth century, Pura Gunung Lebah. Walk along a hillside of elephant grass until you reach Bangkiang Sidem Village (which literally translates to 'the back of the black ant'). The beautiful walk is approximately three kilometres long and passes through rice paddies and deep ravines before winding back to the main road.

Stop by Kakiang Café on Jl. Raya Pengosekan for the best croissants, pastries, and chocolate truffles in town. This inconspicuous Japanese-owned bakery also serves the elusive Maccha Latte – a green tea latte packed with antioxidants. Regulars include a grumpy elderly gentleman with his faithful novel and breakfast guests from the nearby Kakiang Bungalows.

bali buddha café and bakeryPack a picnic breakfast from Ubud's beloved health café and bakery, Bali Buddha (balibuddha) and head to the Ubud Botanical Gardens in Kutuh Kaja. Meet German-born author and developer Stefan Reisner and "come to a standstill after thousands of miles of noisy travel" in five hectares of tropical beauty: trespass into nature, meander through a natural ravine, get lost in a maze and gaze at your reflections in lily and lotus ponds.

Indulge in a truly one-of-a-kind luxury treat: The Royal High Tea Picnic. Exquisitely planned by the lovely long-term Ubudian Anneke van Waesberghe, take a short walk into another world designed by Esprite Nomade, a luxury lifestyle concept company catering to the high-end hospitality industry. Step into a lavish Safari-style tent with floating silken panels, pop the champagne, and enjoy the footbath and massage in the midst of the jungle. It is luxury redefined. For reservations call 08123849924.

There's a never-ending array of lunch spots in town and it takes countless disappointing meals to finally narrow them down to a few worthy of mentioning.

bali buddha café and bakeryForget what you read and know and head to Laka-Leke Restaurant (lakaleke) in the quaint woodcarving village of Nyuh Kuning for the best crispy duck in Ubud. It is a true hideaway in every sense: dine in tree-shaded pavilions amongst lush gardens, lily ponds, and rice fields. A local favourite, Warung Mina, on the road leading to Maya Ubud Resort, offers fresh grilled gurame served with traditional sambals. Warung Nasi Ayam Kedewatan Ibu Mangku is dominated mostly by out-of-towners and domestic tourists. There's no need to ask for the menu as they serve only one dish: chicken rice. This is almost like a chicken version of the famed Ibu Oka's babi guling. Ask for mild spices if you don't want your makeup melting down your face. Another local hotspot is Warung Makan Teges located outside of Peliatan, in Teges Village. This traditional roadside warung serves both chicken and pork rice.

The Smile Shop (senyumbali) in Banjar Taman is Bali's first charity shop and is run by volunteers and staff of the Smile Foundation of Bali, a non-profit, independent organisation founded by Mary Northmore, with the mission of bringing health care to people with craniofacial disabilities. All items for sale at the shop are donated brand new or good-as-new. To volunteer your time in the Shop call Mary on 0811 295 963. To donate money or drop off goods, call Carrie on 0813 3848 7498. All proceeds go towards bringing health care to people with craniofacial disabilities.

Shop with a conscience at Threads of Life (threadsoflife) on Jl. Kajeng, a fair trade business dedicated to sustaining Indonesia's traditional textile arts. Founders Jean Howe and William Ingram aim to alleviate poverty in rural Indonesia through culture and conservation. Enroll in introductory workshops on the history and traditional use of Indonesian textiles, weaving and dyeing techniques, and the ancient art of batik and dyeing with fresh indigo.

Immerse yourself in arts and culture and explore your creativity with Suzan Kohlik from her charming Sari Api Studio on Jl Suweta. Choose from various ceramic workshops or custom-designed classes and learn to work with clay, by hand building, or wheel-throwing. Email Suzan at sariapi@indo.net.id or telephone her on 0361 977 917. Life model painting sessions are all the hype every Wednesday and Saturday at Pranoto's Art Gallery on Jl. Raya Ubud (www.age.jp/~pranoto/).

Run by the artist couple Pranoto and his Australian wife Kerry Pendergrast, this lively gallery hosts exhibitions and a large collection of paintings by Indonesian and international artists.

A recommended detour from Ubud is a visit to Horizon Glassworks Studio and Gallery at Jl. Raya Kengetan (horizonglassworks). Witness the passionate hot glass artist, Ron Seivertson, express his glassblowing, painting, and sculpting talents through this sensitive, beautiful medium.

Pay a visit to the magnificent studios of Bali's most famous sculptor I Wayan Winten at his studios in Teges Village. Winten is a highly respected cement artist whose claims to fame include the statue of Bima Dewa Ruci on Simpang Siur roundabout near Kuta and the forty metre tall Pandawa head in Solo's water park. His high-profile clients range from President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Martha Tilaar. If you're lucky he might just invite you to his nearby home to say hello to his lollipop-loving pet bat.

bustling jalan monkey forest Take a pause from your travels and hop into Ubud's charming independent booksellers. Meet friendly Thierry, the French owner of Rendezvous Doux on Jl. Raya Ubud, an international library and café boasting a collection of rare books and a daily screening of 1930s black-and-white movies of classic Bali. Trade your book in for a new read or donate it to Books for Bali Project at Ganesha Bookshop (ganeshabooksbali), an initiative that supports literacy and learning in the Balinese community. Located off the football field on Monkey Forest Road, Pondok Pekak Library is a classic oasis for more than 10,000 books and a creative, nurturing space for learning Bahasa Indonesia, Balinese dance, music and other art forms for children and the young-at-hearts.

A trip to Ubud is not complete without a visit to a spa. Nourish your body and soul at Spa (www.spahati.com), a blissful haven on Jl. Raya Andong whose operations help to generate income for Bali Hati Foundation (balihati.org) – a non-profit organisation that implements educational and social programmes in the Balinese community. If you are serious about your wellbeing, avoid the hyped-up, overbooked celebrity healers and start your personal wellness or healing programme with Dr. Sujatha Kekada at Amrtha Siddhi (amrthasiddhi), a no-nonsense Ayurvedic and yoga health centre. Dr. Kekada specialises in customised treatment and personalised yoga tuition as part of an overall treatment plan and healing progress of her patients.

For an intimate dining venue with an unpretentious atmosphere and superb modern Southeast Asian cuisine, head to the 'Kemiri' at Uma Ubud (uma.ubud.como.bz). Raw food genius Chris Miller, the Australian-born Chef, spoils guests with a refined, healthy gourmet menu featuring seasonal organically grown local ingredients in the Ikebuchi-designed, open-air space. Customise your own menu for private dinners-to-impress. The fabulous poolside bar has a cult-like following of young expatriates in Ubud. It is the place to see and be seen on New Year's Eve in the hills.

A true Ubudian would know that Thursday is tuna night at Ubud's favourite expatriate hangout, Naughty Nuri's Warung. Skip the ribs and order a tuna-themed dinner: tuna steak, tuna sashimi, and tuna satay. Come early and beat the busloads of tourists as dinner reservations are almost impossible on Thursdays. If you can't squeeze onto the bench, head down to nearby Nacho Mama's, Nuri's sister warung for the same great menu plus a selection of Mexican fare. Work off those Storm beer calories by signing up for a Saturday afternoon Bali Hash House Harriers run (balihashone).

Amandari (amanresorts) turns 20 this year. Its recent appointment of talented Executive Chef Christian Hinckley has brought an influx of foodies to the unassuming resort. Prior to Bali, Chef Christian has worked as a Sous Chef alongside the legendary "Chef of the Century" Joël Robuchon at The Mansion, a three Michelin star restaurant in Las Vegas. Keep an open mind and allow Chef Christian to entice you with his impeccable modern bistro cuisine and refreshing philosophy of "surprise and delight" at The Restaurant.

Gaya Gelato opened to rave reviews last July and has since gained a fast reputation for serving the best gelato on the island. This delightful gelateria is the brainchild of Massimo Boccedi: each scoop is lovingly prepared using the finest, freshest ingredients to stay true to its authentic Italian roots. A much-welcome addition to the Gaya Fusion family (gayafusion), it'll be almost impossible to decide on one flavour, so try them all. Don't miss Gaya's delectable Sunday Brunch and free art programme for children taught by top artists.

Spend a thought-provoking night out in the company of controversial documentaries and movies every alternate Monday at The Yoga Barn on Jl. Pengosekan. A notable mention is Gaya's screening of Tuesday evening art films in their spacious, minimalist gallery. Alternatively, challenge your brain on quiz night every Friday at Fly Café on Jl. Raya Sanggingan. Come well-prepared as they take it very, very seriously.

Learn to salsa every Monday and Friday night at eight pm at Indus Restaurant in Campuhan, where expatriates can be found dancing the night away to Latino music by Buenna Terra. There's also Open Mic Night at Flava Lounge on Jl. Pengosekan every Wednesday starting from eight pm. Participate in a lively jam session with an eclectic mix of local musicians, travellers, and the odd celebrity like Michael Franti thrown in for good measure.

woodcarvers at bedulu villageLate-night owls and glitterati rejoice at the addition of Mozaic Lounge (mozaic-bali) – its upscale art deco chic a little piece of Seminyak in this tranquil town. Tantalising tapas style teasers are accompanied by signature cocktails, cool lounge tunes, and sophisticated live jazz music every weekend.
A favourite pastime to start a lazy Saturday is visiting Ubud's own Farmer's market on the verandah of Pizza Bagus on Jl. Pengosekan. The market is held from nine-thirty until two o'clock every Saturday. Show your support for Bali's chemical-free farmers and small businesses by buying their organic produce.

There are endless tales of travellers falling in love with Bali on their first visit and consequently moving to Ubud. If you find yourself in this soul-searching and home-hunting situation, enjoy the ride and check out the postings on the local notice boards for inspiration. Some of the best in town are Kafé on Jl. Hanoman, Bali Buddha, Pizza Bagus (best place for free wi-fi), and Juice Ja Café on Jl. Dewi Sita (exchange your old DVDs while you are there).

What is it about Ubud that makes dreamers, thinkers, and wanderers from all over the world fall head over heels in love and call it home? The name 'Ubud' originates from an ancient Javanese word 'Ubad' which literally means 'medicine'. Ubud is indeed the medicine to life: it is a place to eat, pray, love, and heal. Open your heart and mind and immerse yourself in everything that Ubud has to offer.


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