Last stop on my six week trip was the island of Bali. We flew from Singapore to Denpasar to KLM (top tip – we only paid £40 more per person to go Business class compared to an Air Asia low cost economy ticket! KLM stop off in Singapore on their way to Bali from Amsterdam and must need to fill the seats so it’s a super cheap option and gives access to the lounge). Arriving in the evening we headed straight to the resort of Sanur, our first of three stops. The first thing you notice as you get out onto the highway is the traffic – there must be a system to it otherwise there would be accidents every five minutes but between cars switching lane with no warning, the hundreds of mopeds (most with two or more occupants) weaving through impossible gaps, and the general chaos, I would consider driving in Bali to be an extreme sport. We made it to our hotel in around half an hour and were relieved to find our hotel along a quiet driveway. Another note about Bali: security is extremely high everywhere. All the hotels we stayed at have a barrier before the entrance and do a vehicle check on all cars that pull in – even if they are the hotel’s own.
The Fairmont Sanur is fairly new, only two years old, and is an all suite hotel. We had an Oceanview suite but the best views were from the resort pool (see above). For breakfast aficionados, Fairmont offer the best of both worlds: an extensive a la carte menu plus buffet. For anyone on a diet or healthy eating regime, Bali is perfect for you. Everywhere we went offered myriad low-carb, gluten-free, etc options (which I ignored) but there is something for everyone. Sanur itself is pretty large – the resort is based along its lengthy beach with plenty of restaurants and bars. There’s no noisy nightlife here so the town caters mainly to families and older couples. Beaches in Bali are definitely not of the white sand category – as you go further north the beaches turn to volcanic black – but Sanur is the better side for those who like calmer waters. The busier Kuta/Seminyak coast boasts great surfing waves which bring in the flocks of Aussies.
We stayed two nights in Sanur, mainly relaxing by the pool, and then headed up to the centre of the island. Ubud is known as the cultural heart of Bali. Think arts and crafts, rice fields, yoga and spa. Getting there took ninety minutes, mainly due to traffic. The Maya Ubud Resort and Spa is only ten minutes drive from the town centre (there are hotels right in town but the views from the resorts on the outskirts tend to be much superior) and they run a shuttle bus throughout the day (FOC). We stayed in a plunge pool villa which was stunning, and we even had a monkey visitor one day. Again, if you stay in town closer to the Monkey Forest you may see more but they are crafty creatures so I was happy to only see the one!
The town itself is quite sprawling, with little lanes and alleyways running off the main road. Monkey Forest Road is a main thoroughfare lined with shops, bars, restaurants at the top, changing into hotel driveways further down. There is a huge mix of people here from backpackers to young families, and accommodation to match. You can find cocktail 2 for 1 deals from 1pm right up until 11pm if you want to bar crawl, and we couldn’t find a bad restaurant. Local cuisine includes nasi goreng (fried rice, usually with chicken or shrimp) and we also tried mie goreng (noodles rather than rice) and kari ayam (chicken curry).
Another ninety minute took us back, further past Sanur and to the extremely popular resort of Seminyak. A favourite with Aussies for many a year, Seminyak is at the northern end of the tourist strip that starts at Kuta (think cheap beer, buckets of cocktails and crazy nightlife), runs into Legian (busy but family friendly) and then up to our final destination. We stayed at the Double Six Luxury, another new hotel just across the road from the beach. This is a modern hotel, again offering all suites, and again we had a plunge pool room. The views at sunset from the rooftop nightclub are incredible, and we never heard music from the club in our room which had been a concern. For more traditional types the hotel also have a prohibition style bar attached to their upmarket Plantation Grill which has enough varities of gin on offer to keep any connoisseur happy.
Whilst in Seminyak we booked a tour with Bali Urban Adventures. The VW Kombi Cocktail tour takes guests on a tour of the coastal region, stopping at several beach bars (suitable for everyone – despite the name, since no drinks are included in the price you can still enjoy the sights and drink whatever you wish) and a local temple. Above are some photos showing the view out from a bar at Batubelig and also the Pura Batu Ngaus, a fertility temple near Canggu, just north of the Seminyak area. Off the tourist track, it was an authentic look at the local culture. The tour finished at Ku De Ta, a well known restaurant and bar overlooking the beach in the heart of Seminyak. At around £9 each and not a drink offer in sight, this was the most expensive place we visited all week but it was worth it – they make their dark and stormys with homemade ginger beer that I’d very much like to find the recipe for!
And that is it – the end of my six week trip. I had a great time but am happy to be home and moving on to my next challenge – an MA in Creative Writing! I am going to spend the rest of my sabbatical reading and exploring some new spots around London so will update with these asap.