bali

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Bali – The Good, the Bad & the Ugly

For every cheap beer, sunburnt babe and perfect wave, there’s a dodgy dealer, bad braid job and cheeky bastard money

For a tropical paradise rich with its own distinct culture and steeped in mystique and tradition, depending where you go, Bali can be as Australian as thongs, bongs and bad Cold Chisel covers – all of which you can enjoy bleary-eyed alongside your sunburnt friends from home, if that’s what you’re after. But you don’t need to go too far to rub sweaty shoulders with well-heeled Euro and US tourists on the thin, dusty sidewalks either – two-buck Bacardi Breezer in hand while dodging the incessant mosquito drone of haphazardly veering, non-licensed mopeds and haggling to get an extra 20 cents off a Bintang singlet.

A typical Balinese souvenir shop, jam-packed with handicrafts, at Indonesia's famous Ubud Market

A typical Balinese souvenir shop, jam-packed with handicrafts, at Indonesia’s famous Ubud Market

The most packed parts of Bali – yes, we’re looking at you, Kuta – have been claimed by Australians ever since tourism opened up the destination in the early ’70s, thanks to pioneering long-haired surfers named Bruce and salty-skinned sheilas called Shazza, all looking for that eternal dream – a place to chill on the cheap on a beautiful beach. Of course, in this ever-evolving world, things are same/same but different now and Bali – much like your evil ex – has developed a split personality. One side will see you wondering just how loose, bronzed and embarrassing some people are willing to let themselves get in public, all the while attracting bribe-hungry cops like Schapelle Corby to a boogie board.

The other is all amazing food, eye­-spinning sunset beverages at high-end joints on the beach and affordable private villas that make you want to email the boss and tell him you’re never coming back. And if you want a taste of both, Seminyak – a couple of beaches but a million miles away from Kuta – is the place to be. So what’s really going down in Bali these days?

Bali Highs

While green-room loving surf fiends head out of town to classic breaks like Uluwatu, and those looking for a more relaxed, yoga-friendly, monkey-swamped getaway favour Ubud up in the mountains (and let’s not talk about the ritzy end of town at Nusa Dua) Seminyak lets you spend the morning drinking cheap beer on the beach, lunch time scoffing fresh seafood and cool beer, then repeat the cycle in the afternoon and evening – all day, every day. Throw in the dodgy DVD outlets, an assortment of eye candy, markets to grab a crap souvenir for your mum, upscale bars and boozy hellholes just a short stroll from each other, and joy in a sandy box, I even got accosted by a pack of sozzled Aussies in bootleg Sydney Swans gear asking if I knew where the midget boxing was at. Sadly, I didn’t. Even sadder, they went on their way before I could grab a beer at the closest convenience store and join them on their quest for miniature pugilistic entertainment.

Spectacular rice fields in the jungle and mountain area near Ubud in Bali

Spectacular rice fields in the jungle and mountain area near Ubud in Bali

There are also ample ways to get out of throng and into the mountains for some nature admiring and the thrill of being bitten by a mammal hairier than you. The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary (Monkey Forest in Ubud) – as the name suggests – is teaming with the primate pricks all looking for a way to steal your bananas and scamper up a tree with them, leaving their mates crying little monkey tears of hunger. Word of warning – keep your belt tight, as more than one hapless tourist in loose camos has been left semi-nude after a furry dude uses their waistband as a ladder. Also, lock your backpack – it might look cute when they climb in and steal your drink, but when they’ve scaled to the top branch of the nearest tree and pierced a hole in your orange juice you’ll wish you had of mixed it with vodka. Deceivingly cute bastards!

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Pura Besakih, Bali

Bali is not exactly short of temples, but one in particular stands out – a century after it was hit by a devastating earthquake, discover the island’s ‘Mother Temple’

Get orientated

Bali might be known for beaches and parties, but describing it as a ‘tropical escape’ does it a bit of a disservice. Delve into its heart and you’ll see the Indonesian isle is more like a giant spiritual retreat. Thousands of holy compounds stud its interior, the majority of them Balinese Hindu – in contrast to the mainly Islamic main land – but one truly stands out.

At the centre of Bali’s temple network lies the 8th-century Pura Besakih, known as the ‘Mother Temple’. Sat on the slopes of sacred volcano Gunung Agung, it comprises 23 temples and over 200 buildings. It also has special significance among local Hindus, as the spirits of ancestors from every island family are said to reside there.

Such is Bali’s fragile geography, however, it’s remarkable any of its centuries-old temples still stand, and none more so than Besakih. This year marks a century since it was struck by a devastating earthquake. Extensive rebuilding followed, but it has fared better since, miraculously surviving the 1963 eruption of Gunung Agung unscathed.

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Entrance to Besakih Temple

The visit

Stepping into Pura Besakih, you’ll be struck by its vast 3km-long stretch of temples, its central walkway adorned by rock-cut figurines. If you’re in luck, a clear day will reveal the towering Agung volcano. And, if you visit during a ceremony or festivaI (there’s more than 70 a year), the bunting and decorations provide vivid contrast with the imposing dark lava stone of the buildings.

Entry to the complex’s temples is forbidden, except for prayer or for making an offering, but the steep climb up its steps is worth it for views of the island, as seen from Split Gate. Elsewhere, you’re free to explore by yourself, but be prepared to swat away armies of souvenir touts and ‘official’ guides – arriving on an organised tour helps fend them off.

Pura Besakih is just the tip of Bali’s temple iceberg. Delve into bat-laced Goa Lawah, the relic-fil courtyard of Goa Gajah or the tall pagoda-topped temples of Ulun Danu Beratan. Equally, if you’re up to the challenge, conquer the marked trail up the summit of Agung – from there, you can really appreciate why Bali is the ‘island of the Gods’.

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9 World’s Most Romantic Gateways

Travelling was always the best solution for those who wish to escape the daily routine and spend some time with just their significant others around. Today, our experts from planetofbrides.com prepared for you the top 9 places that definitely worth your attention. Read and find out where to spend your next romantic vacation!

1. Venice (above)

Someone associates this jewel of the Adriatic with brilliant Shakespeare’s tragedies; someone links it to the person of Casanova. Well, you may have your own connections. Yet no one would argue that Venice is a must-see place for those who are willing to get some of the Italian magic.

2. Niagara Fallsniagara-falls

It’s hard to remember any spots in North America that would surpass Niagara in fame and beauty. Located right on the border of Canada and the United States, it attracts tens of millions of visitors from all around the globe annually.

3. Paris

Trivial as it may seem, Paris seems to never give up its status of the most romantic city throughout Europe. Centuries ago, the capital city of France was already the centre of sophistication and courtesy hosting a significant number of stunning landmarks.

4. Santorinisantorini-greece

This fascinating island lies in the southern Aegean Sea, right in between the mainland of Greece and the famous Crete Island. So if you’re planning a trip throughout the country, there will be no difficulties to include this destination to your wish list. To make a long story short: it was actually ranked as the best island on the globe by BBC Travel.

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Alila Seminyak Bali, Indonesia

An elegant coastal boutique resort that exudes luxury, sophistication and vibrancy like no other

Profile

“Our goal is to send our guests home with spiritual and emotional memories, not just souvenirs,” shared Mark Edleson, President of Alila Hotels & Resorts group. The name Alila derived from Sanskrit, which translates into surprise and is perfect for each property has its own refreshing character and hospitality charm. Alila is also constantly setting new standards for getaways, with featured privacy, eco-friendly buildings and bespoke travel experiences.

It might not be the newest kid on the block, but it is definitely a hot spot in town. Alila Seminyak is a contemporary beachfront resort with vertical gardens and an ancient temple at its heart, making it a truly distinctive feature and a sophisticated addition to Seminyak’s beachfront. Sensitive site planning helped preserve the local landowner’s family home and the ancient ancestral temple, which has stood for generations. The temple was integrated into the resort’s design, framed as a central focal point for the entire property, while providing hotel guests a unique glimpse into an authentic Balinese tradition.

Designed by Singapore-based architecture firm URBNarc, the team maximises the resorts’ privileged location with the best ocean views at every opportunity while maintaining an atmosphere of privacy and individuality. Beyond its aesthetic appeal, Alila Seminyak is grounded in sustainability. It is the first resort in Indonesia to surpass the rigorous EarthCheck Building. Planning and Design standards by achieving an astounding 44 point best practice score against the industry norm at 5 points.

Property

Alila Seminyak comprises 240 contemporary styled rooms and suites with a spectacular penthouse, all of which embraces modern style chic with composites of nature within the design elements. Usable spaces are also thoughtfully planned out for artisanal living and each room is furnished with sliding balconies and sun shading screens to fully embrace guests in the light and airiness of the outdoors.

alila-seminyak-bali-1The lobby space was definitely one to remember. The open counters were a concept designed to maximise the use of natural cooling, shading and daylight to reduce energy usage. Once we set foot into the massive space, we were ushered to the plush sofa seats right in the middle of the lobby for a refreshing and fuss free check-in process, which includes some spa products (facial mist, body lotion) accompanied with a cold cup of tea and some local desserts. Though it might be a simple act, I find it very heartwarming to know that guests are treated right the moment they set foot into the establishment. Art decor is a huge deal for the resort and artefacts on display are handpicked works from local artiste and placed around the resort premise, subject to change seasonally. Akin to visiting a museum, you will be in for a treat each time you return. We were then escorted to our Ocean Suite, located within the main hub of the hotel and with easy access to the beach, and given a room tour before settling in.

A bottle of fresh orange juice and a small platter of local delicacies might be the first thing to notice, after which, the incredibly bright yet inviting natural sunlight that lit the entire room (or suite in this case). What I really love was the fusion of nature and modern contemporary as seen in the furnishings within the room. The walls were made of dark wood sourced from local timbers and the design elements (bamboo-like wall designs) were inspired by the local forest. There are also two vanity spaces, perfect for couples to get ready in the morning. Did we mention the additional bath amenities such as sunscreen, after-sun lotion and facial mist on top of the usual shampoo and soap? It was the perfect place to be if you enjoy cradling by the lull of the waves and the caress of the ocean breeze.

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Bali’s Most Favourite Family Resort

Bali Dynasty Resort is a premier beachside resort in South Kuta Bali, renowned for its warm Balinese hospitality

The resort is fully integrated and offers six restaurants, five bars, three swimming pools including a kids pool with its own Kids Water Fun Zone and a dedicated adults only pool, spa, exercise room, beach club, kids’ club, teens club, Trapeze school, meeting and wedding facilities and a complimentary Hospitality Lounge for those early arrivals and late departures.

The unique layout allows for a subtle but effective division between the couple and family market. Couples can enjoy the famous Gracie Kelly’s Irish Pub and relax at the adults-only Lazy Pool, while kids enjoy a 56-metre waterslide flowing into their own pool and complimentary entrance to the Enchanted Garden Kids’ Club. A wide variety of rooms catering to the family market are available, sleeping up to five people.

Kupu-kupu Kids’ Club for kids from the age of 4 to 10 and The Den Teens’ Club for children from 10 to 16 years of age are located adjacent to the kids’ pool. A professional trained team is always on hand to ensure the utmost safety and security of all children, with a full, action-packed list of games and activities, ensuring fun for the kids and a relaxing break for the parents. The kids’ playground area provides kids’ slides, climbing frame, see saw, swings, table tennis and much more.

Strategically located on the famous South Kuta Beach strip; Bali Dynasty Resort is only ten minutes drive from the airport and located within walking distance of many small restaurants and bars, Kuta Art Market, nightspots, entertainment venues as well as the Waterbom Park and two large shopping malls.

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Nusa Dua’s Sanctuary, Bali

Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa offers an ultimate getaway that will bring guests closer to Balinese traditions …

It has been 33 years since the beachfront Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa was first established on the island, yet this hotel is still just as captivating as any of the newcomers. Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa’s history is interesting on its own as it was the very first hotel to be built on the Nusa Dua stretch, even before the BTDC complex was established, and it was President Soeharto himself that officiated its opening in 1983.

Just by looking at the design of the hotel one can see how Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa pays tribute to the Balinese tradition. When I visited the hotel I was truly in awe seeing how the hotel maintains its vision to be true to its Balinese roots.

Each element in this hotel has its own meaning, from the decorations on the tables to the hotel’s temple. However, that’s not the only surprise I found. Nusa Dua Beach Hotel & Spa now has the Palace Club Wing, an exclusive addition that offers the ultimate luxurious getaway that will treat guests just like a royal, which I discovered over a beautiful weekend…

A Royal Stay

Unlike other guests who check in at the main lobby, Palace Club’s guests can check in privately at the Palace Club Lounge. Comfortable sofas are provided, and a welcome drink and a cold towel are given to refresh one’s energy as the staff assists with the check in. I personally found their welcome service to be more personalized, as the staff who assisted me with the check in was the one to escort me to my room.

The Palace Club Wing has four different types of room; Palace Club Room, Palace Club Lagoon Access Room, Palace Club Suite and Palace Lagoon Access Suite. I stayed at the Palace Club Suite, which is designed with high-quality wooden furniture and intricate Balinese design. The room is also so spacious that it made me feel spoiled in an instant – it has its own guest powder room, a pantry, a dining room and a living room.

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Palace Club Lounge for guests who stay at the Palace Club Wing

Adjoining the living room, separated only by a Balinese designed door, is the bedroom with a king-sized bed that was so comfortable I slept like a baby all through the night. The bedroom also has a walk-in closet and a bathroom with marbled floor. The bathroom is even more unique as there is a window right next to the bathtub – a little tip from me is to open that window and set the flat TV in the bedroom to face the bathtub, and just relax with warm water in the tub while enjoying your favorite TV show. Relaxing in a hot tub has never been better than that! The Palace Club Suite also has its own terrace with daybeds with the view of the hotel’s manicured garden.

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Water Indulgence, Bali

Healing senses with water at Mulia Spa …

Of course it’s not difficult to find a good Balinese massage on this island, but to have an especially crafted one where the therapist uses a distinctive technique that not only renews one’s body and mind but also aura is definitely a one of a kind experience. Mulia Spa promises this kind of treatment. In addition, this spa also has a Wellness Suite with Asia Pacific’s first ever Ice Room, where guests can chill prior to a spa treatment. Ever wonder what the Ice Room looks like and how amazing the treatment is? Let’s start this beauty journey…

State-Of-the-Art Suite

With 20 treatment rooms, each one designed like a five-star hotel room, Mulia Spa welcomes their guests with a personal touch. It shows in how interactive their staff is when a guest enters the spa. At least that was what I experienced when my electric car from the hotel lobby stopped at the spa’s door.

A woman welcomed me to the spa lounge and handed me a glass of iced red ginger and lemongrass that was surprisingly refreshing. As I sipped my drink, I decided to have a Balinese massage. However, before the massage began, I opted to access the Wellness Suite first – and trust me, an experience at this suite is one to treasure.

After my welcome drink was done a therapist escorted me to a locker room where I changed into a bikini and put on a yukata, both provided by the spa. When I was ready, the therapist took me straight to the Wellness Suite where the Emotional Steam Room, Finnish Sauna and Ice Room are located. These three rooms use state-of-the-art technologies with buttons for guests to choose the color and song that suit their mood. The steam room has an emotional shower with two buttons: ‘Breeze’ for a shower time with medium level of Water power and ‘Rain’ for a heavy rain shower. All these features are believed to increase one’s mood, and the song, colors and fragrance form a relaxing ambiance that is good to cleanse one’s chakra.

I began with five minutes in the steam room to open up all my pores. Five minutes is highly suggested, and when the time was up I spent another five minutes in the sauna for detoxification. Those 10 minutes may seem long due to the heat, but it was also rejuvenating because the rooms are equipped with a relaxing eucalyptus scent, gentle heat and fair level of humidity. In the sauna especially, I could feel my body experiencing stress and anxiety detoxification, and when I went out of the room I felt my body and spirit become whole again.

After the sauna I walked into the final room: the Ice Room. Created by an award-winning Italian spa specialist, this room is set at -1°C. My body was shocked a little bit because of the major change of temperature from the sauna to the Ice Room, but it didn’t last long as the ice crystal that is set on some kind of an ice fountain could help increase immune level. It can also stimulate blood circulation, as the ice is actually frozen oxygen water. And it works very simply; all I had to do was to sit in the Ice Room, grab some ice and rub it all over my body like a body scrub.mulia-spa-bali-1

By the time I walked out of the Wellness Suite my muscles were relaxed and my skin was totally purified. I could also see why the Wellness Suite is best used prior to a massage treatment as these suites have successfully made my skin so soft and clean that it could easily absorb the massage oil from my next treatment. But before I continued to the massage room there was one more feature at Mulia Spa that I wanted to try. It was the Hydrotherapy pool.

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Time for a Swim, Bali

Bali has numerous world-class swimming pools in which guests can unwind, from infinity pools with a view of the ocean to quirky ones with colorful walls to boost one’s mood, and even eco-conscious pools that help sustain their surrounding environment. There are so many swimming pools with breath-taking views and mind-blowing concepts on the island, but here are seven swimming pools with their own distinctive styles that our team has selected just for you.

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Swim in Bali’s longest heated infinity pool with the view of the forest, only at Padma Ubud

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Chillin’ Time, Bali

Enjoy the sunset with cocktails, the sea breeze and the sound of rolling waves while hanging out at the beach bars of Bali

When planning a weekend getaway in Bali, you might long to chill out at a tropical bar facing the beach and tranquil ocean. But if you can’t decide which bar to go to, don’t worry as we have compiled a list of four casual beach bars just for you.

Seaside Escape

Nestled in the heart of Petitenget Beach, Mano Seaside is one of the most favorite beach bars in Seminyak. What makes Mano more pedal than the others is their choice of music, which is played regularly by island-based DJs who are known for their sunset tunes. Apart from that, the café’s cozy rattan lounge chairs and beanbags in the garden, as well as their delectable dishes that include seafood and local delicacies, are the talk of the island. Of course, a sunset session will be more fun with cocktails or craft drinks. Therefore, Mano also has various kinds of cocktails and healthy juices. Mano is located on the beachfront, and to go there from Petitenget road you just pass a temple, a big parking area and traditional food stalls. This makes it more interesting because it gives a sense that the location is quite hidden. In addition, they have a new swimming pool that was just opened in September. The swimming pool definitely gives you more reasons to escape to this seaside gem.

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Enjoying the Sunset At Mano Seaside, Bali

Sunset Chill

If you have spent time in the Seminyak area, then you should make your way to Batu Belig, where 707 Beach Berm is located. With colorful beanbags and a tropical design, 707 is very easy to spot. If you head to Batu Belig Beach from Batu Belig road you will not miss this beach bar, as it is perfectly situated at the first step of Batu Belig Beach, which is also one of the best sunset spots in Bali. The 707 has three parts – the first is the beach part with beanbags, a long table and stools that stand on the sand. The second part is the upper area with beanbags on the grass, and the last is a spot between the beach bar and the DJ deck. The 707 also offers beer, cocktails and light bites at affordable prices. With no minimum charge and no restrictions, no wonder the 707 has become the must-go place for both residents and tourists in Bali.

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707 Beach Berm

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The Springs of Bali

How Water and Springs Play an Important Role in Balinese Tradition …

Strolling along a river in Bali, one might stumble upon a temple that is named Pura Beji. Just like other temples in Bali, it is made of black stones. However, since Pura Beji is nestled by a spring, the original color of the stones has faded through time as they are now covered with moss. Thus the stones seem to be turning green and look more striking under the sunlight.

Almost every village in Bali has its own Pura Beji. This temple is built to honor Dewa Wishnu, the God who preserves the whole universe, and the fact that water is one of the most important elements of life as no living creature can survive more than three days without it. The Balinese believe that Dewa Wishnu can help smooth the water’s flow, and because of this a statue of Dewa Wishnu stands at almost every spring in Bali.

Water also plays an important role in most Balinese traditions and ceremonies. Take a look at melukat, for instance. This ceremony uses holy water to cleanse the mind, body and soul from all negative energy. The use of water in ceremonies like melukat is one of the reasons why the Balinese always strive to preserve the springs in their villages.

Spring Statues

springs-baliTo help them collect the fresh water, they construct pipes at the spring. Since the Balinese have a high sense of art, they also create statues with intricate details at the end of the pipelines. Some pipes are adorned with a dragon statue, while others are with a lion or tiger statue. The pipes end at the mouth of these statues so it looks as if these animals – which symbolize strength – have water flowing out of their mouths.

To preserve water, the Balinese also plant big trees like banyan trees for example, which can hold water in their roots. Not only do these trees give a positive impact to the environment by helping to cleanse the water, they also prevent mudslides during the rainy season. These trees also become home to the wild animals in the area.