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Southeast asia / August 2016

The Best of

editor’s note


August 2016

f r o m l e f t: t h a n a k o r n c h o m n awa n g ; C h r i s t o p h e r k u c way

the more things change in bali, the more the island’s allure remains. As everyone knows, this is not and never has been your typical resort getaway. Bali remains a one-of-a-kind destination, a continually evolving gem in the middle of Indonesia, one with popular beaches; tiered, emerald-green rice terraces; a culture as rich as found anywhere in Asia; and a distinct flair when it comes to food. Our aim in this e-guide is to capture a glimpse of all of these traits, encouraging you to visit, whether it’s for the first time or the tenth. We have stories on resorts like you’ve never seen on this island that already boasts some of the best addresses in the world. We’ve also got the inside scoop when it comes to the fashion and design sense that runs throughout Bali, something that is evident through the work of the Balinese craftsmen and the community of visitors who make the island their home. In “Brand Name Bali” (page 18), explore a side of the island where thoughtfully designed hotels coexist with thriving local life. Here, are postcard scenes where floral offerings litter the sidewalks each morning. For a break from our daily lives, “Transcendence” (page 26) takes us to a side of Bali that proves the island’s best days are not over. At this handful of resorts, calm is the order of the day, reclaiming control of your life the aim. What a goal for your next break.


From My Travels

There are few better ways to the heart of a traveler in Asia than through his or her stomach. The variety and caliber of cuisine available on Bali underlines that. On a weekend stay at Uma Ubud, I was fortunate enough to order the resort’s healthy version of mee goreng and immediately fell in love with this version of the dish. I ordered it again the next day, while on my final day, the waiter simply looked at me and knew what would power me on my drive to the airport. Like Bali itself, when you’ve got a good thing going, there’s no need to change the menu.

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Whether you prefer a beachside dinner for two, a baking class for the whole family or a tropical villa party, these resorts will deliver the Bali experience of your dream.


St. Regis Bali Resort When it comes to culinary crafts, there’s nothing short of exceptional at this beachfront resort in Nusa Dua, and this offer packs foodies’-favorite experiences into one allinclusive package. Breakfast and buffet dinner at Boneka feature highlights like lobsteregg omelets and Valrhona chocolate fountain, while your daily afternoon tea for two at King Cole Bar pairs Europeaninspired tea selections with delicacies like lobster pie, scones with clotted cream, and homemade praline and ice cream. The Deal Gourmet Pass: two nights in a St. Regis suite, from Rp14,704,000 for two, through December 31. Save 20%.


The Laguna, a Luxury Collection Resort & Spa Built around a complex of seven lagoons and pools, this Nusa Dua resort is the place to laze and linger. Start at Lagoon Spa where two of you each receive 60 minutes of relaxing reflexology session, then head over to Arwana Terrace for a romantic dinner for two. The royal treatment progresses with in-suite daily continental breakfast and a lunch of two dishes from the in-room dining menu. Anything else you need, just ask the butler, who’s on-call every minute of the day. The Deal Inspired Tropical Living: three nights in an Executive suite, from Rp14,400,000 for two, through December 31. Save 20%.

Private pool with a view at St. Regis Bali.

SUPER SAVER Padma Resort Ubud This 149-room resort spans 11 hectares across a river valley. Your stay includes a dinner for two, a 60-minute massage for two, afternoon tea and return airport transfers. The Deal Grand Opening: three nights in a Premier room, from Rp8,293,320 for two, through March 31, 2017. Save 40%.


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Sheraton Bali Kuta Resort Situated in Kuta, Bali’s famed surf and party district, the high-end resort prides itself on being the only five-star property in the ’hood. Each of its 203 guest rooms and suits features a commodious balcony where you can lounge and indulge in scenic ocean views. A 60-minute Balinese >>

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massage for two at awardwinning Shine spa is included in the package and should relieve you of any soreness after a day of shopping at Beachwalk mall next door. The Deal Refresh with Shine Spa: two nights in a Deluxe room, from Rp4,560,000 for two, through December 31. Save 30%. sheratonbalikuta. com.


Montigo Resorts, Seminyak Sitting right next to the famed Potato Head Beach Club, Seminyak’s new familyfriendly resort has something for everyone. Children can

have fun at Olo Kids Club, whose access is complimentary starting September, while the whole family can take part in a complimentary baking class per stay. The Deal Montigo Playscape: two nights in an Executive suite, from US$258 for two adults and two children, through December 20. Save 45%. montigoresorts. com. Ayodya Resort Bali If you’re traveling with children, Camp Ananda, the resort’s own children’s club, has a playground, rope jungle and fish pond ready to excite

the little ones and is set right by the beach. This will leave you a whole lot of time to try all the treatments at Ayodya Spa by Mandara, an earthy sanctuary that embraces the four elements of fire, earth, wind and water to help you rebalance and rejuvenate. The Deal Asia Leisure promotion: a night in a Deluxe room, from US$120 for two; book by September 30. Save 25%.


Kayumanis Treat the love of your life to a memorable getaway at one of Kayumanis’s many

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay.

magnificent villa retreats, set in diverse landscapes from the rice terraces of Ubud to the beach of Nusa Dua. Together, the two of you will be relaxing through a 60-minute massage and indulging with an in-villa candlelit dinner. “Standard” amenities here aren’t typical perks: a welcome massage, a daily high tea and a 24-hour butler service to make sure your dream of an intimate escape is flawlessly fulfilled. The Deal Romantic package: two nights in a one-bedroom villa, from US$955 for two, through March 31. Save 20%. Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay Each of the 147 luxe villas here is inspired by traditional Balinese architecture featuring thatched roofs and a stone-walled courtyard. With intimate features like a private 20-square-meter plunge pool, a sun terrace, an oversized soaking tub and an outdoor garden shower, you might want to extend your stay an extra day, or perhaps week. The Deal Stay Longer: four nights in a one-bedroom villa, from US$1,947 for two, ongoing. Save 25%. W Retreat & Spa Bali Seminyak Whether it’s relaxing, partying or working remotely, the 225-square-meter pool villa here fits the bill. You can curl up on the four-square-meter Bale Begong daybed exclusive to this villa, work on your latest project at an oversized desk complete with highspeed Internet, then turn on your Bose surround sound system and dance the night away. Your villa is soundproof, so the neighbor won’t hear a thing. The Deal Stay Longer: four nights in a Marvelous one-bedroom pool villa, from Rp5,100,000 for two, ongoing. Save 20%. — MONSICHA HOONSUWAN


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...where life is a private celebration

exotic & idyllic retreat

Sanur I Ubud I Nusa Dua I Jimbaran

P. 62 361 705 777 F. 62 361 705 101 E.

News + trends + discoveries


c o u r t e s y o f t h e s a m ata

What’s Samata?

A new resort in Bali is trying to improve our lives, one waistline at a time. By Daven Wu

Above a one-bedroom pool villa.

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/ here&now /

Bali’s charms blossom the moment the traffic-choked, onestreet towns are left behind, and the journey turns towards either the terraced emerald rice fields, or the white foam-flecked coast. Happily, newly opened The Samata (; doubles from Rp1,630,413) in Sanur offers the best of both worlds. The resort’s entrance is practically lost along a row of unremarkable private residences that are set off a busy highway. Once past the smiling security guards and across a bijou concrete bridge that spans a little stream, the vista opens up tardis-like into a cloistered haven of manicured greenery and white Palimanan stone. Framing the tableau is an expanse of rice fields and, beyond that, the shimmering curve of the ocean. Each of the 10 villas and suites ticks off all the required boxes of a swanky Balinese retreat with thatched roofs made of alang-alang, plunge pools, and cool modern interiors furnished in natural woods; soothing hues of green, earth and sand; some Javanese teak; and soft linens.


But what really sets The Samata apart from the pack is its focus on fitness, sports and healthy living. For starters, three swimming pools are scattered around the grounds: one for laps, one for lolling around postlunch, and one for energetic sessions of aqua aerobics and water Pilates. Manned by a crack team of buff instructors, the spacious gym offers an arsenal of cross-trainers, treadmills and bikes. Or step into the ring for a round of traditional boxing and muay Thai. For exercise and privacy, each room is thoughtfully kitted out with a yoga

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c o u r t e s y o f t h e s a m ata

Outdoor a two-bedroom pool villa. FROM top right: The master bedroom in the pool villa; fine wood details; seared tuna at Zenso.

mat, skipping rope and muscle relaxation oils. The focus on physical wellbeing continues at Zenso restaurant where resident chef Anton Ventslav serves up a healthy menu. He concedes that there are less healthy options, where saturated fats, and calorie- and cholesterol-rich ingredients are allowed. But you’ll get a vitality kick tucking into meals made of grains, pulses, nuts and superfoods like cacao and berries. An organic farmer delivers spirulina that’s blended into a smoothie with spinach, cucumber and honey to kick-start the day. To ease into the evening, a massage by The Samata’s corps of therapists, all trained by traditional healers from Ubud and Gianyar, is a just reward. “Samata means a state of equilibrium between body, mind and soul,” says Jose Luis Calle, the affable Spaniard behind Lifestyle Retreats that runs the resort. “Whether they come to us to achieve physical balance, diet or simply chill, our goal is to help our guests feel better and recharged.”

/ here&now /


Island Girl

Australian fashion regent Natasha Gan catapults her eponymous fashion label to the next level in Bali. By Ian Lloyd Neubauer . Photograph by Jason Reposar Getting sweat y in Bali has never looked so sexy, thanks to designer Natasha Gan’s new activewear collection. When Gan relocated to Bali from Sydney in 2010, many in the rag trade assumed the designer, whose creations hung in 80-something Aussie boutiques, was going into semiretirement to raise her kids. Yet Gan—a fashion dynamo who went to vocational school at 13 to study pattern-making and was working in London as a designer for H&M by 21—had no intention of slowing down. In the past five years she’s doubled her distribution network and cracked the critical American market, with Natasha Gan creations now hanging in Neiman Marcus, Urban Outfitters and Free People


stores throughout the Americas. She’s also opened three Natasha Gan boutiques in Bali: two in Seminyak, and one in Nusa Dua, with a fourth opening in Canggu. “I saw an opportunity to take things to the next level in Indonesia,” she says. “It gave me the flexibility of getting my hands on hand-printed fabrics, embroiders, beaders and much better access to digitalprinting machines.” Bali’s aquamarine waters, velvetgreen rice fields and kaleidoscopic fishing boats have also crept into her palette. “Once I moved here my direction really changed and my ranges got a lot more colorful,” Gan says. “It’s always summer and there is so much color in the landscape. I wanted to bring that through in my

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work.” And the heat provided its own inspiration, as Gan looked for innovative ways to stay stylish through Bali’s scorchers. In July she launched Gan Active, a new range of tanks, tees and functional workout gear that looks smart and doesn’t wilt even when the temperature climbs. “It’s sporty but with an urban edge,” the designer says. Gan loves her island home, but as she’s proven from her stint in Sydney, her style won’t stay shackled to just one set of sunny shores. “Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore... in the next two years, I will be launching all across Asia,” she says. Good news for trendsetters in the tropics who want to look the good kind of hot.; Gan Active outfit A$130-$200.

©2016 Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Preferred Guest, SPG, Sheraton and their logos are the trademarks of Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., or its affiliates. For full terms and conditions, visit

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/ here&now / the que st

Follow the Grain Centuries-old tradition infused with individual creative license, wood carving is integral to life on Bali. On the hunt for the perfect mask, it just might be a silent artist who offers the best directions. Story and photographs by Christopher Kucway

clockwise FROM left: Found carvings as

art at Uma by COMO; local flora preserved as a wall hanging; a sculptor at work in Mas.

I’m in Mas vill age on the outskirts of Ubud in

search of a traditional Balinese wood mask. The smoothfeatured face of a legong dancer, perhaps, or a finely detailed barong macan (tiger king). In either case, I’d prefer the piece to be unvarnished to let the pattern of the crocodile wood, so polished that it almost looks like white marble, speak for itself. Yet, here in Mas, I’m met with perfect silence. The old Balinese wood carver sitting before me doesn’t speak. I’m not even sure he can. He’ll look at me every now and again, staring me straight in the eye, but never utters a word. Instead, he communicates through his works, each as varied as the grains and knots in the wood they’re made from. He’s been carving for about 50 years, I’m told, but no one is quite sure how old he is. Years of squinting have engraved deep lines and ridges into his own face, and I’m guessing he’s in his 80s, older than the acacia or hibiscus he transforms. I never even find out his name. I simply watch the wordless enigma as he manipulates the 20-centimeter piece of wood into a Balinese dancer. A sculpture this size takes three, maybe four weeks to


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finish, depending on the grain of wood and how much detail the carver wants to incorporate. Larger wall hangings or life-sized sculptures can take the better part of a year to create, if not longer. The entire village focuses its working day on wood carving. Stroll along its narrow two-lane streets, and it is impossible not to stumble upon mahogany and sandalwood and gray hibiscus all spilling out into the traffic. The scent of cut wood is everywhere. Shop fronts overflow, woodpiles collapse in on themselves. Everywhere in Mas, there are pieces in mid-evolution, waiting to be turned into artwork. Ornately carved doors I yearn to buy and ship to my old house in Vancouver, hefty sculptures that would look great in my Bangkok flat, Christmas gifts at every turn. Focus, I tell myself. Yesterday’s 90-minute drive from Nusa Dua was just a teaser for what was to come. Both sides of the road were lined with countless stone works. Ganesh. Images of Buddha. Chinese dragons. Bird baths and waterfalls. But stone tips the airline luggage scales into laughable directions, where wood, at least in moderation, is a more

manageable hand carry. Both wood- and stone-carving are a part of daily life here, whether in a family compound or at a centuries-old temple. These are not antiquated traditions resurrected for the tourist trade. Still, outsiders have played their part. Balinese wood carving underwent a transformation in the 1930s and 1940s, with an influx of European artists who spurred the market with their interest in the craft. In his groundbreaking work, Ida Bagus Nyana distorted the human body, shortening some aspects of it while lengthening others. It’s a style that was carried on by his son Ida Bagus Tilem, who moved towards more abstract sculptures of the human form. Just as importantly, even for casual fans like me, he taught dozens of sculptors in Mas that the best can translate their own creativity into the wood; there is no one route to a piece of art, but more of a path each sculptor and his imagination take along the wood’s idiosyncrasies. Around Mas, it’s not uncommon for these skills to be passed from one generation to the next using little more than a dozen small metal chisels and a wooden mallet. Early the next morning, I’m witness to just how integral wood carving is to the fabric of this community when wandering around some of the rice terraces that seep into every vacant corner around Ubud. Even the stilted wood huts farmers use for temporary storage and shelters from the storm come with a devotion to details that’s also apparent at boutique resort Uma by COMO, where wood carving elements are incorporated for both design and as functional pieces. Some found and aged pieces hang as art and simple but smartly designed furniture decorate the villas. Later, we drive north to Pura Tirta Empul, the Hindu Balinese water temple. As intriguing as the temple’s purification pools are, it’s the ornate wood and stone work dating back to the 10th century that stays with me. Sitting there under the tropical sun, I realize I’ve encountered a rich vein of Bali’s history in the short span of two days. I’ve almost forgotten about my original aim of buying a Balinese mask. In the end, I find one with a more modern visage. But I’m giving it away as a gift. I’ll hold on to the memories of my visit.

from top: A stone carving at Pura Tirta Empul; Uma by COMO uses simple, local designs in its villas and rooms.

the details Gajah Bali Gallery The shop has a wide selection of wood carving that is not of the cookie-cutter variety found in many spots. Prices reflect the amount of time spent by carvers, with top-quality Balinese masks starting at around US$250. Jalan Raya Mas; 62-361/982-570. Museum Puri Lukisan In Ubud, the museum aims to preserve and display modern Balinese art,

whether paintings or sculptures: a good spot to visit for a grounding in the topic. Uma by COMO Take advantage of the hotel’s knowledgeable concierge, an indispensable font of information when it comes to uncovering Ubud’s best artisans and shopping. Jalan Raya Sanggingan;; 62-361/972-448; doubles from US$340.

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Nikol a Kostic

Lounging on the beach front at the Ritz Carlton, Bali.

/ August 2016 /Luxury and local culture on the Bukit Peninsula | Where to hit the restart button in Bali’s Natural Retreats

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Grounded luxury amid thriving local culture? Diana Hubbell asserts that you still can have it all on the evermore-upscale Bukit Peninsula. Photographed by Nikola Kostic

Waiting for a bite in Jimbaran.

clockwise from left: Sofitel’s spa;

plump prawns at Sofitel; a RitzCarlton balcony; standing tall at Nikki Beach; shockingly understated Bulgari; Bulgari serves rich treats.

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and this is just a lowercaste wedding,” whispers Tasya, who with her friend Tommy is one of my two partners in gluttony for the day. We’ve been delayed in our quest for babi guling by a swarm of women in towering, gilded headdresses and embroidered sarongs that has invaded the street. This being Bali, the rickety motorbikes and cars part for the procession, rather than the other way around, and just like that a major road is closed until who-knows-when. “At an upper-caste one, the ornaments are even higher and even heavier.” “There’s always something unexpected going on around here,” Tommy says. Maybe, but these guys have volunteered to take me down Nusa Dua’s narrow alleys for some real Balinese food—specifically a porcine extravaganza—and our destination, Warung Pak Dobeil, is just a little shack rumored to have long lines by 11 a.m. My stomach and nerves are grumbling at the delay, still the romantic in me is thrilled by this serendipitous cultural encounter. On an island where luxury tourism just keeps growing, it’s a shock to the senses to see the real world, still raw around the edges, minutes from all those Instagram-candy infinity pools. Bali booms, but you already knew that. The Bukit Peninsula is turning into a high-stakes arms race as each five-star competes to outshine its neighbors. It’s a Who’s Who in hospitality: Aman, St. Regis, Club Med, Grand Nikko, and the mammoth, three-part Mulia. Newest is the sleek Sakala, as well as a stunning Ritz-Carlton draped down a sheer cliff face by way of a great, glass elevator to a winding series of rice paddy-inspired lagoons. Next door, the concrete skeleton of a 600-plusroom Kempinski looms. Sofitel has just added the island’s only cutting-edge medical spa and a Nikki Beach Club. Meanwhile, even over on Uluwatu, the Alila and the Bulgari Resort Bali are taking the surf locale upscale. Bali is no untrammeled oasis, but there’s something grand about its current incarnation where some thoughtfully designed hotels coexist alongside patches of a thriving local life, where the best lobsters come from the docks and not an airplane, where floral offerings litter the sidewalks each morning, and where some of the most revered restaurants are street-side warungs. Here you can eat truffle-oil-anointed


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In Jimbaran, fishing boats bring their haul to pasar ikan, or the seafood market. Opposite: Nikki Beach club, temple to hedonism, is brand new to Nusa Dua.

sashimi and suckling pig from a makeshift firepit all in the same day. Yes, we at last make it to Warung Pak Dobeil and the promised pork is more than worth the trouble. Babi guling pretty much defines noseto-tail dining: a whole suckling pig is gutted, crammed with spice paste and herbs, then surgically sewn back together before slowroasting for hours. Shards of skin, deep-fried intestines, pork sate, and collagen-rich bone broth accompany the tender meat. Served with an incendiary sambal to cut the fat, this pork is an undeniable affirmation of why I cannot be a vegetarian. It’s all I wanted and more. “You know, it’s a shame for you to come all this way and not try nasi ayam,” Tasya begins. Nasi ayam is the halal equivalent to my piggy feast, though it’s equally popular with nonMuslims. “The place next door is owned by the same family as Dobeil and their version is excellent,” Tommy teases. “We could just try a bite...” Minutes later, a plate of chicken materializes, topped with a hard-boiled egg, peanuts and a glob of chili paste. It vanishes with equal speed. Drenched in sweat and stretching the limits of human stomach capacity, I’m both intrigued and horrified when Tommy and Tasya mention that, although this nasi ayam is good, it isn’t really the best, and it would be a crime to come to Bali without trying the famous Ibu Oki’s rendition. With no turning back now, we weave down the road past whole families piled circus-style on scooters to another unassuming warung with a formidable line. This rendition is saucier and less scorching, though every bit as addictive.

“See, this is the trouble with living here,” Tommy groans. “We can’t eat like this every day, but it’s so tempting.”


ut I can eat like this every day—at least for my time here. Which is why one morning I rise at an ungodly hour to join I Made Suriana, the chef de cuisine at RitzCarlton Bali, as he scours pasar sayur for produce and pasar ikan for seafood. Along the way, he describes the distinct cuisines in this country of 300 ethnic groups and more than 700 languages and dialects. “In Sumatran rendang, they use coconut at the beginning of cooking. If you go to Java, they put a lot of a gula melaka, palm sugar, in,” he says, snatching up half a dozen tiger prawns. “Go to Flores, you’ll see the Portuguese influence. I take a little bit from everywhere, but mostly I am Balinese and I cook Balinese.” Greater and lesser galangal, turmeric root, kaffir lime, candlenuts, roasted shrimp paste and fistfuls of screaming-red chilies are sautéed, puréed, then sautéed again to produce the fiercely aromatic bumbu that forms the backbone of other dishes. “Bruise the lemongrass or there’s no taste!” chef commands. “Now tie it in a knot to make it easier to fish out later.” “Fold your banana leaves this way, not that way. That’s how you know whether the inside is sweet or savory.” “Smell the shrimp paste—it could kill your cat. Then roast it over the grill. Smell the difference?”

Partner your detox at Vietura medical spa with healthy, locally sourced meals at Sofitel. Opposite: On the Bulgari-accessed beach in Uluwatu, it’s still possible to experience rough and rugged Bali.

We whip up electric-green pandan crepes with braised jackfruit, minced duck meat steamed in banana leaves, tuna sate lilit skewers on lemongrass, nasi goreng, and finally, a bunch of those magnificent salt-water prawns slathered in bumbu. “Now you see why women get to the market well before 5 a.m. to start preparing the food,” chef smirks as I bungle another sate lilit. He takes my mangled fish and wizards it into a pleated shape. My lessons in local brewing continue at L’Atelier Parfums et Créations, where guests create fragrances from combinations of 44 essential oils ranging from spices such as nutmeg and cloves, to flowers like ylang-ylang and frangipani, to woods such as massoia, which smells intensely of coconut, and agarwood, a substance worth more per ounce than gold. “Indonesia is such an important center of raw materials,” effuses Nora Gasparini in her breathy French accent. “About 80 percent of everything here is local.” A striking native of Martinique with a pixie cut framing her petite face and high cheekbones, she has been working with perfumes in Bali since she arrived six years ago. Enigmatic, heady and with a deep sense of place, the scent we concoct together quickly replaces the brand-name staple I’ve been wearing daily for years.


ince I’m already mixing science and beauty, I check in to Sofitel Nusa Dua’s Vietura. While the hotel’s day spa is robed in dark tones and burnished bronze, Vietura medical spa is like a plush doctor’s office with high-tech treatments including cryogenically freezing your fat. My girly side is thrilled when my technician offers dermabrasion with diamond particles, along with a blast of super-chilled oxygen. Though some of the chemistry eludes me, the results speak for themselves: I emerge two hours later shining bright and minus a few stress lines. No detox is complete without a re-tox, especially on this pleasure-centric playground. If you’re going to dive headfirst into Nusa Dua’s pursuit of hedonism, there’s no better place to do it than Nikki Beach, the newest member of the empire that stretches from Ibiza to Phuket. “Understatement” is unheard of in this world of aerialists, models and bottles. On this particular Sunday, the brunch is in full swing. Enviably curvaceous women, in feathered

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headdresses and not much else, shimmy along the bar in stilettos to a saxophonist’s solo. And although the crowd never gets too rowdy, there’s plenty of dancing in and out of the pool before the sun begins to set. “We definitely stand out in Nusa Dua,” admits the appropriately named general manager, Michael Sin, a 16-year veteran of the company who started as a busboy back at the brand’s flagship Miami property, then a regular haunt of A-listers from Madonna to Matt Damon, and has just moved here from Thailand. “Plenty of people asked why we’re not in Seminyak, but I think we’re exactly where we need to be. When we opened in Samui, a lot of people doubted us, and now that club does upwards of 800 people at brunch during high season.”


walk for the better part of an hour before I find the only other inhabitant on a jungled stretch of nowhere. My feet sink into the slope of coarse sand. To my left, huge translucent waves rear up and froth to the ground. To my right, limestone cliffs rise, riddled with crags and choked with a riot of savage greenery. And directly before me, kilometers from any sign of civilization, sits a surfer type with a neon orange tent, his hair so sun-bleached that his brows and lashes all but disappear on his face. His name is Grigori. And while I arrived on the lonely patch of Uluwatu via a five-minute ride on a reopened private funicular, this wayward Russian made his way down to the beach by sneaking through one of the far resorts and clambering down the rough-hewn stone stairs. When I ask if he’s even allowed here, he gestures pointedly to the empty expanse. “Do you see anyone to stop me?” Rough and rugged, Uluwatu still resembles the tropical fever dream that Bali once was. Not that there aren’t cushy amenities. Somewhere on the top of those bluffs sits the eco-gorgeous Alila Uluwatu and the Bulgari Resort Bali, where I am staying. Much to my surprise, the latter is a study in understatement that has little to do with its ostentatious name. Yes, the spa is an intricate, century-old joglo house imported piece-by-piece from Java and painstakingly reassembled on this 160-meter drop-off overlooking the Indian Ocean. If nothing else, it’s a superlative example when it comes to using local, or at least nearby materials here.

from top: Cool drinks in tropical colors at Nikki Beach; the spa at the Bulgari Resort. Opposite: High above the RitzCarlton, Bali in Nusa Dua.

Bukit, the same kind of coral stone used in many Balinese temples, and bangkiray, a type of mahogany from Java, dominate the all-villa landscape. The resort sports brand-new three- and five-bedroom mansions larger than most boutique hotels with interiors dripping in Italian onyx, but from the outside even these exceedingly luxe abodes are moss-covered and subdued. More than 1,500 ceramics and 80 objets d’art ranging from the Stone Age pieces to the one-tonne copper sculpture by contemporary Balinese artist Made Wianta dot

the 8.5 hectares. Textiles called songket, stitched in gold and silver silk threads, decorate most rooms. Lovely as the resort is, it’s that view and this coastline that steal the show. So transfixed am I by the scenery that I fail to notice the steady advance of the sea. By the time I turn around, the beach behind me has vanished into saline foam. The biblical waves that made this area so beloved by boarders come ever closer. I begin to crawl my way back, bruising each time my body slams against the cliffs, fully clothed and drenched through. “Time to make everything change. In the fields, where another Ritz-Carlton is going to be, I used to cut the grass for the cow,” chef Suriana told me back when I first landed. “But something of the old stays, even when the new comes. I still have my village. I told my father, ‘Bring my kid and take him to the rice field.’ I want him to play in the mud there as I did. I want him to know where he comes from.” That it is still possible for the youngest generation to free-play in the paddies like their parents did, to even here on the Uluwatu shore find a place this wild, to be half-terrified and fully alive, is truly something. Salt-crusted and wind-battered, I hold tight and let the next wave come.

The details stay The Ritz-Carlton, Bali 3 Jln. Raya Nusa Dua Selatan, Sawangan Nusa Dua; 62-361/849-8988;; doubles from Rp5,292,000. Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort N5 Jln. Nusa Dua, Kawasan Wisata Nusa Dua tourism complex; 62-361/849-2888; sofitel. com; doubles from US$239. Bulgari Resort Bali Jalan Goa Lempeh, Banjar Dinas Kangin, Uluwatu; 62-361/847-1000;; villas from Rp9,450,000, two-bedroom mansions from Rp50,000,000, five-bedroom mansions from Rp135,000,000. The Sakala Resort & Villa Bali 95 Jln. Pratama, Tanjung Benoa, Nusa Dua; 62-361/775-216;; doubles from US$120. Inaya Putri Bali Traditional Balinese style infuses every bit of this stylish newcomer. S3

Kawasan Wisata Nusa Dua; 62361/774-488;; doubles from Rp1,727,750. eat and drink Warung Pak Dobeil 9 Jln. Srikandi, Nusa Dua; 62-361/771633; babi guling for two Rp60,000. Warung Merta Sari Buana 9 Jln. Srikandi, Nusa Dua; 62-361/778278; nasi ayam campur for two Rp40,000. Warung Nasi Ayam Ibu Oki 27 Jln. Siligita, Nusa Dua; 62361/805-2059; nasi ayam campur for two Rp40,000. Bumbu Bali One It may cater to international guests, but that doesn’t make the food at this iconic Indonesian restaurant from cookbook author Heinz von Holzen any less authentic or enjoyable. Bumbu Bali One and Two are located within a kilometer of one another on the same street and sport identical menus, though the former has a bit more ambience.

Order the the rijstaffel for the full experience. Jalan Pratama, Tanjung Benoa; 62-361/774-502;; rijstaffel menus from Rp550,000. The Beach Grill Simple, beautifully executed seafood dishes overlooking the Indian Ocean. Order the lobster linguine. The Ritz-Carlton, Bali; ritzcarlton. com; dinner for two Rp765,000. Il Ristorante Contemporary spins on Tuscan classics from chef Nicola Russo. Bulgari Resort Bali;; four-course tasting menu Rp850,000. Nikki Beach Bali Every day is a party, but in laid-back Nusa Dua it tends not to run late. Though the club stays open well into the night for special events, on regular days it shuts its doors at 7 p.m. Sunday brunch is well worth getting out of bed for, both for the spectacular spread and peoplewatching. Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort; 62-361/849-2900;; Amazing Sunday Brunch Rp350,000. Do Cooking class The Ritz-Carlton, Bali;; cooking class with lunch US$90. L’Atelier Parfums et Créations The Ritz-Carlton, Bali; 62361/849-8988 ext. 3941;; 90-minute workshop and 30 milliliters of custom perfume US$80. Vietura Sofitel Bali Nusa Dua Beach Resort; 62-361/849-2988; VieturaAestheticLifestyleBali; one-hour Micro Exfoliation facial US$60. The Spa Bulgari Resort Bali; 62361/847-1000 ext. 6601-6602;; two-hour Balinese Four Hand Massage US$325.

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Transcendence Rising above prosaic daily life, and Bali’s hectic south, holly mcdonald hits the restart button at some of the island’s more remote natural retreats.

Seventy gardeners maintain the greenery at COMO Shambhala Estate. Opposite: The black sand beach of Spa Village Tembok.


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photographed by lauryn ishak

From left:

Welcome to Spa Village; descend to the Ayung River from COMO Shambhala. Opposite clockwise from top left:

Spa Village’s infinity pool, and traditional lulur body scrub; COMO Shambala hosts Balinese dancers, and, Sandy, its golden retriever..


We’ve wound our way up into the

orange-grove laden mountains of Kintamani, passing views of Lake Batur, scenes of traditional rural life and glimpses of volcanic peaks. Shrines are wrapped in black-and-white checked fabrics, shaded by golden umbrellas. Hibiscus flowers wend over stone carvings. Mossy walls shield family compounds with cocks strutting outside. We pass small plantations of cacao, papaya and bananas until the mist of mountains gives way to an ocean panorama. All of this beauty is why I get so defensive when people insist the crowds of the south mean Bali’s best days are over. The interior and the north are the island’s retort to those maligners. I’m juicing, stretching and bird watching my way through three natural-living retreats, which despite occupying varied landscapes—blacksand beach, oceanic protected park, lush hilly interior-collectively encapsulate the gentle spirit of Bali, away from the busy, mercantile south. A three-hour trip to the northeastern tip from the hectic Kuta area has allowed me to relax into the full gamut of the island’s geography before arriving at Spa Village Resort, where I’m enrolled in a short version of its “School of Life” program. Like many, I live a relentless march of deadlines and parenting, with little time for reflection. My time here is a whirl of healthful meals, spa, classes and quiet time to allow me to recalibrate my life, to hit the restart button. That begins with a black-sand cleansing foot ritual, to rid me of any negativity arising from the earth. Then my legs are smothered in red clay and I’m left alone for 10 minutes. All I can do is listen to music, eat my frozen watermelon and sip my ylang-ylang flower water. It’s an induction into stillness. Later, two therapists are filling the bath in my room, so I sit outside on my veranda overlooking a lotus pond to read. But there’s

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not enough light, so I’m left yet again, listening to insects, and voices drifting over the lawn and through the frangipani trees. Sheer torture. But I’ve mind-melded into my surrounds by the time I step into the bath, a detoxifying blend of volcanic clay, the leaves of various local plants and the essential oils of neem, piper beetle, turmeric, tea tree, citronella and patchouli. I am becalmed, centered and en route to a more healthful me. Spurred on by the thought of seeing a sunrise over black sands scattered with local jukung (outrigger fishing boats), I pull myself out of bed for an early morning swim. As much as I’ve been trying to abandon my phone, I’ve got to break my moratorium to Instagram this dusty rose sunrise. From the beachside, infinity-edged pool, the horizon seems liquid as the day slowly asserts itself. I attend a class to learn the basics of pencak silat, an ancient Balinese martial art; I practice swing yoga, swaying in a hammock-like contraption by the sea. Both classes are such hard-core sessions, so focused on learning precise moves and postures, so far removed from even the strict routine of my usual Bikram yoga—that I feel like I’ve had a good physical as well as mental workout. Using a mortar and pestle, I pound fresh galangal, cloves and soaked rice to make a headily aromatic body scrub. It’s about body and earth: back to the basics of life. Throughout my stay, I’m sipping herbal teas from a flask I’ve been instructed to carry with me at all times, or staff members are chasing me down to hand me freshly shucked yellow coconuts, the kind used in Bali’s many ceremonies, reputed to have greater healthgiving properties than your standard young green coconut. It’s hydration on hyperdrive. On my final morning, the hotel arranges a visit to a local white-bearded Balinese healer at his home. The massage session, on a simple mattress behind a privacy sheet hanging from the roof, is intuitive and strong; the healer, Ketut, eventually gives me a diagnosis. “Your chakras are all alive.” It’s a welcome surprise, since I usually feel like I’m playing catch-up. The subtext seems to be: “Get ahead of life. What are you waiting for?”

The guide is patient in directing

our binoculars to the right spot. It takes a moment but finally we see them: two endangered Bali starlings perched at the top of a tree. We can see their drooping, distinctive

The silence

of the water

is a meditation

in its own right,

allowing contemplation without distractions


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Treehouse living at COMO Shambhala. Opposite: Plying the waters near Java from The Menjangan.

t r atvrealvaenl da lnedi ls euirs euarsei aas. ci ao. m c o/ mA u / gj u u sl t y 2016



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white crests, the blue patches around their eyes and their black-tipped wings. They are stunning. While estimates vary, only around 100 remain in the wild and these were likely released from captivity as part of the resort’s breeding program. I no longer resent getting up at 5:30 a.m. to go bird watching. West Bali National Park in the island’s far northwest makes for a different kind of back-tonature getaway. I’m staying at The Menjangan, seaside in the park, where aside from bird watching, horseback riding, diving, snorkeling, hiking and just beachside chilling are on offer. Getting here has taken me through an under-touristed part of Bali. Thanks to its proximity to Java, around the western port of Gilimanuk and across Bali’s flat northern coast, there’s more of a Muslim influence here than elsewhere on the island: curved domes of mosques grace the main road every now and again; I pass cycling school boys wearing embroidered skullcaps, and catch the wafting strains of a haunting call to prayer. From the resort, my snorkeling trip to nearby Menjangan Island, a highlight of the national park, begins with a 30-minute boat drive during which we spot a pod of dolphins jumping in the distance. Once in the water, our guide points out a massive pink stonefish crouched in the sands meters below. The soft corals of brilliant blues, greens and pinks plus the array of fish are astounding. At one point, I spy three distinct schools of fish, each on top of the other: swirling silver trevally, yellow and white angelfish, and another electric-blue type of fish. It’s like a swimming rainbow. At our next stop, we follow a massive drop off along its edge with another dense coral garden and again loads of life. The sun emerges from a cloud and rays light up the scene, fish glistening. There are trumpet fish, sea anemones, large grouper and parrotfish mauling the harder coral. It’s a thrilling bombardment; the silence of the water is a meditation in its own right, allowing for contemplation without any distractions. Back on board, we devour our lunch of pepes ikan, or fish steamed in banana leaves, before zipping back for a reflexology session in the mangrove-set spa, where I drift off listening to lapping waters and chirping birds. Sunsets are lazy affairs here; I take a lounger for happy hour, sipping on a rosella margarita and watching frolicking deer. “Menjangan” means deer in Indonesian and the park is home to Javan rusa and Indian muntjac

(barking) species. A single jukung bobbing offshore makes for a perfect photo, the low tide shows the mangrove roots in their gnarled glory, and Java’s volcanoes glow pink-purple. I’m staying at a lodge off the beach, a few minutes away by the resort’s safari minibus. After dark, I clamber up to sit on the roof, spotlights ablaze to highlight any wildlife. During the day I see wild chickens, monkeys and more deer, but this evening I spot only frogs and insects. They may not be the most glamorous critters, but they bring the night to life with their humming stridulations and baritone harmonies.

My butler settles me into my room.

Though, that’s almost an inappropriate description of this vast, wooden, serene space overlooking a palette of greens and a rushing creek with a roar as soothing as surf. It seems cruel to advise leaving this sanctuary as soon as I’ve dropped my bags, but the butler suggests that I head straight to yoga, and I have to admire her efficiency in getting me to actively unwind; COMO Shambhala Estate is a wellness retreat, after all. Programs here cater to an individual’s needs; I decide to focus on exercising and eating only raw foods. So off I hustle to the yoga pavilion, which overlooks an undulating spread of landscaped gardens. A storm plays out on the horizon and the natural drama is so compelling that it’s hard to concentrate on our instructor, Mark. But our class falls into a rhythm of postures, deeply breathing the oxygen-heavy air, and I’m glad I’ve plunged right in. And Mark says: “It’s not about seeking happiness, or avoiding unhappiness. We can seek, instead, transcendence. We may be happy or unhappy, but this will pass. We can touch it and let it go if we can transcend it.” This is wisdom I’m ready to hear after spending an unusual amount of time pondering such matters in previous days, and there’s a joy in discovering a vague feeling you have being put into just the right words; most of the time, I have to admit, bursts of philosophy during yoga class merely irritate me. I’ve been anything but irritated on this drift through the best of Bali’s natural offerings, let alone here at COMO. A fairyland-like lawn sprawls down to the Ayung River and mistspray from a nearby waterfall creates a rainbow in the early morning sunshine. It feels mythical, a step away from the real world where the possibilities are endless. It’s a vision

Clockwise from top left:

A Beach villa at The Menjangan; vegan pizza at COMO Shambhala; dreamy Spa Village; a Menjangan kayak in West Bali National Park.

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Below: Horseback

riding and snorkeling at The Menjangan. Opposite: Chilling beachside at The Menjangan.

so singularly beautiful that I instinctively secrete it away, tuck it into a mental vault to unwrap and peer at later when the mundane of everyday life gets to be too much. We pass a spring that is the source of all water on the property—including swimming pools. It’s this native hydration not to mention 70 gardeners, a full fifth of the staff, that maintain this natural green. From the breakfast restaurant I can see green paddy skimming the top of the ridge opposite; the scene is awesome, in the older sense of the word. On evenings, the estate’s grounds become templelike, flickering with candles lit in symmetrical lines, the grounds reverently hushed except for plump frogs thrumming in the lotus ponds. It’s perhaps my immersion in such Zen-like surrounds that leaves me not just open-minded at the prospect of a strictly raw diet, but also thoroughly enjoying it as well. A raw lasagna, for example, is a little green and red package bursting with flavor, layers of finely slice zucchini, semi-dried tomatoes, a creamy nut dressing, two kinds of pesto on the side and a watercress herb salad. A simple soup of almond, pine nuts and green herbs garnished with green grapes and flaked almonds has a wonderful depth. One evening I order a Caesar salad that comes with “nut cheese.” It sounds dreadful but it’s so good I’m soon Googling to see how I can make it myself at home-something I know I can do with the beverages, at least. I attend a juice-making class, and weeks later I’m still making the chef’s recommended 2 p.m. pick-me-up: a blend of orange, lime, turmeric, ginger, cayenne pepper and flaxseed oil. It’s a small thing, but a real life change,

much like the after-effects of the deep tissue massage (with a facial, naturally) in which I ask for special attention to be given to releasing my hips. When I attend my next Bikram yoga class back home, I definitely feel more flexibility in my hip flexors; I’ve liberated new territory. In fitting with the Balinese dualistic view of the world (the black-and-white checked fabric used so often in temples is meant to demonstrate precarious equilibrium), where opposites are equally important, my time at COMO has been a blur of sumptuous exertion and relaxation, indulgence and abstinence— that’s balance, right? On my final morning, I’ve been pummeled, blasted and shot. My muscles are jelly after 45 minutes of intense aqua therapy in a warmed outdoor pool. Now wrapped and draped in several white fluffy towels, I recline on a lounge bed, depleted but blissed out, a cocoon of calmness gazing at birds fluttering from palm tree to palm tree. I’m afraid I’m very happy. And it’s going to be hard work to transcend it.








20 KM


Spa Village Tembok Bali Jln. SingarajaAmlapura No. 100, Desa Tembok, Buleleng; 62362/32-033; spavillage; “School of Life” program, double, from US$400 per night. The Menjangan West Bali National Park, Jln. Raya Gilimanuk,


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Singaraja Km 17, Buleleng; 62-362/94-700;; double from US$373 per night. COMO Shambhala Estate Banjar Begawan, Payangan; 62-361/978888;; “Discover Daily” program, doubles from US$700 per night.

m a p by wa s i n e e c h a n ta k o r n

The details

hidden bali

Volcanoes, paddies or farms, beaches, rivers or cliffs: Bali offers plenty of tranquil retreats in breathtaking natural surrounds. The short trip up Bali’s southwest coast to beachside Alila Soori offers sweeping views of volcanoes and paddies; once you arrive, rejuvenation time in the hushed spa is essential. Banjar Dukuh, Desa Kelating, Kerambitan, Tabanan; 62361/894-6388;; doubles from US$508. It’s one of Bali’s older hotels, but the Amankila, backed by Mount Agung and set hillside on the east coast, draws loyal guests like bees to honey. While away time on the black-sand private beach, at the three-tiered pool or ensconced in classic luxury. Manggis; 62-363/41333;; doubles from US$968. Nine-suite, riverside Fivelements offers a stunning riverside location with a world-class raw food and vegan restaurant and an array of holistic treatments. Puri Ahimsa Banjar Baturning, Mambal; 62361/469-260;; doubles from Rs3,174,867. Set on the limestone cliffs of Bukit in the far south, Karma Kandara Resort offers spectacular views; book time at their sauna and private pool to savor one of Bali’s most amazing outlooks solo. Jln. Villa Kandara, Banjar Wijaya Kusuma, Ungasan; 62-361/848-2200;; one-bedroom villas from US$475. In the cooler hills of Bali’s interior, stay in a bamboo hut on its own hill surrounded by spiky pineapples and rolling farmland at The Organic Farm Bali; roast marshmallows in a bonfire and the kids can sleep in their own tent. Jln. Munduk Lumbang Angseri, Baturiti; 62813/3894-3030; theorganicfarm; doubles from Rp200,000 per night for two nights.

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Bali e-guide 20016-07  
Bali e-guide 20016-07