Don’t underestimate the power of smile. In his TED Talk, Ron Gutman mentions that “researchers have found that 1 smile can generate the same brain stimulation as up to 2,000 bars of chocolate.” The Balinese people have certainly understood that a long time ago! That is perhaps their greatest secret of all.
Bali (Seminyak) has been on the tourist map for decades on end. Since the tragedy that struck the island back in 2004, the island has however been undergoing quite a spectacular renaissance and has since become the indisputable St. Tropez of Asia, with it’s fancy beach clubs, super-uber boutique hotels, fancy 5 star beach resorts, world class dining experiences and last but not least, a stunning selection of gorgeous spas & wellness retreats. More importantly, it remains a highly special and spiritual place, where smiling remains the ultimate local dialect. And smile you will in Bali
First comes first, where to rest your mind for a few hours after that bumpy
flight over the South China Sea? The choice is somewhat mindboggling, given the fabulous diversity that this little piece of paradise currently has to offer. You can’t go wrong with the newly opened (5 star resorts) Katamama (by Potato Head Club owners) or the Alila Seminyak. Both are
absolutely superb, highly contemporary, and impeccably well located.
Alternatively, book Maison Congo, an award-winning colonial-chic style family villa, located in the beautiful Umalas. With its spacious open living Maison Congo is ideal for families or couples. Other features of the villa include a 10-meter pool and a lovely mezzanine where a cinema room with projector has been set up. As per the bedrooms, they are spacious
and well appointed, with superb en suites. MADE, the unassuming housekeeper is extremely caring, gentle and attentive to your every need, providing a wonderful level of service.
Bali Ethnic Villas, another option in the Umalas, is a complex of 3 gorgeous properties designed in an ultra ethnic eco-friendly style and offering total privacy. The complex is made up of a 5 bedroom villa (Villa Ka), a 4 bedroom (Villa Kayu) and a 3 bedroom (Villa Kalua), all of which are connected. My personal preference goes to Villa Kayu, with its 30-meter pool, its cinema room and its pool table. Ngurah, who is hands on and anticipates your every need, manages the complex most professionally.
Maison Congo and the Bali Ethnic Villas are in Umalas, a residential area in the north of Seminyak (near Canggu), away from the crowds yet within
proximity to the action.
Last but not least, you may consider booking yourself to a yoga retreat at
Desa Seni, the superb and unique village resort up in Canggu. The landscaped gardens are fine and the overall all experience beautiful.
After you’ve settled down in your fancy & tropical new home, it is time to satisfy your culinary needs. Bali’s F&B scene has become world class,
extremely diversified and outstanding value for money.
Tiger Palm, the latest venture of the Sarong Group, is a great way to immerse yourself in regional cuisine. This is surely one of Bali’s hottest new openings. The Penang inspired dishes created by Bali’s celebrity Australian chef Willy Meyrick will send you straight to heaven, in first class. Some of my favorites dishes include the Indian rojak salad (with crispy prawn fritters, fried dumplings, potato, egg, 80 tofu, cucumber, bean, sprouts, yam, bean, and crunchy lettuce), as well as the Duck korma with almonds, green chili, mint, coriander and potato. Make sure to leave enough space for their divine ice creams, served in coconut bowls – their salty caramel ice cream with honeycomb is just out of this world.
MAMA san (Kitchen Bar & Lounge) is another one of Willy Weyrick’s fabulous creations. The décor is within a similar spirit to Tiger Palm, though the dining experience is very much different and again incredibly unique. At MAMA san, he successfully takes you on a tasting journey through SE
Asia and India. Start by cooling yourself down with a Mandarin & Mint Ice Tea – Mint infused tea lemon & mandarin sorbet – or anyone other one of their ice teas or crushes. Their selection if fab ! And now on to the real deal … Here are some dishes you may want to consider; 1. “Dendeng balado” caramelized short rib beef with kaffir, lime, chilli & lemon basil 2. Crispy whole fish with three-flavor sauce wild ginger, turmeric, pineapple, chilli & tamarind 3. Steamed snapper dumplings with chilli & black bean oil . You are in for a serious treat.
Other exceptional dining options in the Seminyak area include Merah Putih (fusion Balinese cuisine), Petitenget (where you might eat the best risotto in the world), and Bambu (contemporary Balinese),
Stroll down downtown Seminyak, with its trendy designer shops, hipster café, trendy restaurants, … A must stop shop is SOUK, a multi-brand store from former Shanghai expats Peter and Sophie Kemp. Magali Pascal is another fabulous address for all you ladies out there. Last but not least, head to Drifter on Jalan Oberoi, for it’s super cool surf and beachwear. They’ve also got a small but great selection of books – expect to find Catcher in the Rye, a biography of Musashi, as well as one of Jenna Jameson’s. I have yet to read the latter, which I’m sure makes for a fascinating read.
After all this walking in the heat, it’s now time to pamper yourself …
For mani & pedi, the New Zealand Spa chain Spring, built on the concept of a social spa, will more than do the trick. The setting is simple, serene, and refined – essentially white and eco-friendly. Both of their Seminyak addresses are absolutely gorgeous and have a booth with a DJ setting the tune.
For an exceptional traditional massage with highly qualified all male practitioners, go to Jari Menari, an institution on the island.
Body Works, with its stunning oriental (Marrakesh-ish) style, interior courtyard (where you can get a foot message), and its wide choice of treatments – the team is trained in Thai, Shiatsu, Aromatherapy and Reflexology therapies – is another great address.
The most unique experience in the Seminyak area however was at Tirta Usada, a centre of holistic medicine. On offer; acupuncture, osteopathy, and more … It’s more than worth the detour.
If you happen to be in Bali for an extended period of time, then an absolute must is Fivelements, an award-winning eco-conscious wellness retreat located on the banks of the famous Ayung River. Their Sakti Dining Room offers an exceptional raw living foods degustation menu, and their therapies are beyond exceptional, set amidst a magical Princess Mononoke like landscape.
DRINKS | NIGHT
A nice in Seminyak …
Bali, the island that never sleeps … Avoid Kuta, unless you’re looking for a trashy night out and you’re desperate to have your I-phone stolen.
Instead, start off with drinks at KUDETA or Potato
Head over sunset. Sunsets on Bali’s west coast are beautiful and a moment to tone down, and enjoy slow living. KUDETA has an excellent snacks menu with divine pizzas, sushis, etc. The Turkish Pizza stands out, with its lamb and halloumi toppings.
Or perhaps you’re looking for a more authentic sunset experience, in which case go to 707 Batu Belig, a hipster beach shack frequented by locals & expats, who dance the sunset away to the beat of some of Bali’s best DJ’s.
From here on, go to La Favela restaurant & bar, known for its super quirky vintage design, much of which was inspired by urban scenes from RIO, thus explaining its name. The private eccentrically decorated dining rooms make for memorable evenings.
To finish off the night, Jenja, with
its impeccable sound system & excellent DJ’s, is where you want to be partying the night away with local and expat hipsters, as my movie producer friend Emmanuel would surely agree.
After all that dining, drinking, shopping, etc. its time to reboot your system.
A walk through Jatiluwih’s endless UNESCO protected rice paddies, river rafting down the Ayung River, trekking Mount Agung or Batur, visiting Balinese Temples (Pura Tanah Lot), learning to surf with the Rip Curl School of Surfing, dirt bike riding in the jungle, a cooking course at Bali Asli, etc. are some of the many activities on offer on this magical island that Bali is.
Or if you’re recovering from a hangover, then on a beautiful & clear day, head down to the Bukit Peninsula (Uluwatu), the southern most tip of the island, and grab lunch at Finn’s Club (part of Semara Hotel). The ocean there is turquoise, and the setting dramatic. When driving back up to Seminyak, make sure to stop for sunset at Blue Point and watch some big wave surfing from Single Finn’s Bar. The sunset from there is spectacular.
Alternatively, enjoy a more private & quiet experience at the spectacularly designed Sunset Cabana at Alila Uluwatu.
There are certainly parts of the island that are overly crowded, polluted and dirty, no doubt. You may also and most likely hit traffic at some points.
Overall, however, Bali remains a stunning destination worth discovering, or re-discovering for those who have not returned in years.
The adrenaline seeker, the foodie, the sun tanner, the athlete, the shopper, the spa aficionado, the clubber, … whatever your fill, you will surely find your thrill on this magical island that Bali is.
BON VOYAGE & SMILE !
Article Contributor and curation: Jonathan L. Hasson
Jonathan L. Hasson, an entrepreneur originally from Italy, was born in Belgium and grew up in Africa. He has a Bachelor of Arts (International Affairs & Economics) from an American University in Brussels. The family business of import/export textiles brought Jonathan to the exciting lights of Shanghai in 2000, where he has been residing since. In 2007, he co- founded Luxury Concierge China, a boutique travel consultancy.
Katamama Hotel – http://www.katamama.com/
Alila Seminyak – http://www.alilahotels.com/seminyak
Maison Congo – https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/11700597
Bali Ethnic Villas – http://bluekarmaresort.com/our-villas/villa-kayu-2/ Desa Seni – http://www.desaseni.com/
MAMA san – http://mamasanbali.com/ Tiger Palm – http://tigerpalmbali.com/ Petitenget – http://www.petitenget.net/ Spring – http://www.springspa.com/
Jari Menari – http://jarimenari.com/
Body Works – http://bodyworksbali.com/
Tirta Usuda – http://tirtausada.com/
5 Elements – http://www.fivelements.org/en/ Single Finn – http://singlefinbali.com/
Finn’s Club – http://www.finnsbeachclub.com/ Potato Head – http://www.ptthead.com/
La Favela – http://www.lafavela.com/