Photography by Yuri Krasov
Bali! The world of dreams. The world of smiles, bows, and frangipani flower necklaces, where the air is fragrant, the lush tropical greenery is awashed in warm downpours and sunlight; where subtle pleasures and indulgencies are delivered in a myriad ways – where you feel light and floating on air, like a flower petal…
All through the drive from the Ngurah Rai International Airport along winding narrow left-side roads of central Bali, I’m amazed and enthralled by the giant sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses; scary ugly demons carved of lava rock, guarding entrances to temples and dwellings under coconut palms; stone and wood carvings and pottery displayed in front of artisan shops. Children in school uniforms, women with baskets on their heads, teens on motorbikes, and crowds of brightly dressed people gathered for a temple ceremony move to and fro on our way.
We head to Viceroy Bali – an exclusive five-star resort, literally cut into a vertical mountain side high above the green Valley of the Kings in the vicinity of a bustling Ubud village.
Beautifully appointed amid tropical wilderness, secluded and serene, Viceroy Bali is a paradise for newlyweds – and for olden-weds, too. 25 luxury villas under the traditional Balinese thatched roofs are light, spacious, with open-plan bedrooms and living rooms, marble bathrooms and private dipping pools.
The villas are perched on a steep ridge one above another in three rows, all facing the opposite side of a deep canyon overgrown with tropical forest.
Our Deluxe Terrace Villa has two glass double doors opening to a private patio with an endless-edge pool, a cozy gazebo for two balanced on its far corner, and on the other side – a small fountain streaming from a stone bowl held by a sculpted couple in tender embrace (Shiva and Parvathi?)
At the tranquil indoor-outdoor Lembah Spa overlooking the Petanu River Gorge, our couple’s massage starts with a foot bath – the copper tub filled to the brim with rose petals. Spa therapists, trained in Swiss massage, are highly skilled and soon make us forget all the exhaustion of a long flight.
After the spa treatment, in pouring rain, we are escorted under large umbrellas to a next door CasCades restaurant, where high tea with finger sandwiches and house-made pastries is served just for us! The restaurant has no walls, and from any corner we can observe the endless jungle, lashed by the rain, and then suddenly blue sky, foggy vapors rising from the green lawns, and the large hotel pool – sparkling again, with a little tiled island lined with long chairs.
CasCades, multiple award-winning restaurant, serves creative Asian-influenced French cuisine, with nightly offerings including little masterpieces like Tomato Carpaccio, Barramundi Fish Teppanyaki, and Passion Fruit Mousse for dessert.
Come morning, we discover yet another CasCades wonder – a lavish a la carte breakfast, included with the room stay, and served on white table cloth. I inevitably pick a plate of tropical island-grown fruit and Bali coffee.
After breakfast, we take a free hotel shuttle to Ubud village and walk to a sacred monkey forest Mandala Suci Wenara Wana. Cute little fluffy gray monkeys – many with tiny babies, firmly attached to their bellies – roam the trees, sit on the road, busily pounding fallen leaves with rocks, and communicate with visitors, looking for apple bananas sold from a cart right there, and skillfully peeling them. They go in and out of a locked up temple with a note on a gate, “For worshippers only,” and rest upon stone statues that surround the sacred ground.
We take a Balinese dance lesson at Arma museum with a professional dancer Ketut Riawati. When she tells us that a few years ago she traveled to San Francisco, and danced on a Berkeley stage in a large ensemble, my husband and I look at each other in disbelief. We’ve seen that performance! That was a remarkable show – only one in many years, and we remember it well – authentic Balinese dance and gamelan music brought to the California stage in all its exquisite beauty. We double our efforts to get to the core of the arm and eye dance movements (“Long arm! Big eyes, never small!”)…
We manage to pack a half-day tour departing from the hotel into our short stay at Viceroy Bali. Our experienced and friendly driver takes us to the “Moon Rock” temple Batu Bulan to watch a Balinese dance performance Pemaksan Barong Denjalan.
We drive to the “Elephant Cove” temple Goa Gojah, where worshippers still bring fruit and flower offerings in white coconut leaves to a Buddha statue, toppled over by an earthquake.
We admire a view of terraced rice paddies – emerald-green in drizzling rain, and travel to water temple Pura Tirta Empul where pilgrims perform purification rituals in a deep pool formed by underground streams.
To bring back an exotic souvenir, we stop at a coffee plantation Teba Sari Bali Agrotourism, and get some Luwak coffee made with locally grown coffee berries eaten and “naturally processed” by mongooses. The small fluffy-tailed animals live on the plantation, gladly eat sweet red berry flesh, and excrete indigestible coffee beans, fermented in their stomachs. The beans then are washed, roasted, and sold as a delicacy.
…The last two days of our journey we spent at the sea level in a futile attempt to experience Bali’s famous beaches. The rainy season prevented us from sun-tanning, but soon we’ve discovered that resort life in Bali never stops to amaze and indulge…
Ayana Resort and Spa and Rimba Jimbaran Bali comprise Bali’s only integrated resort, a winner of multiple awards, located on a 220-acre Karang Mas Estate in south-eastern Bali, not far from Ngurah Rai International Airport.
The Villas at Ayana (“a place of refuge” in Sanskrit) are 78 individual secluded luxurious dwellings with private plunge pools and gazebos on limestone cliffs above the Indian Ocean. We felt positively pampered when our amiable on-call butler took us in a golf cart to our exquisite Cliff Villa surrounded by coconut palms and flowering hibiscus and bougainvillea.
Everything seemed special, designed for ultimate relaxation and enjoyment inside the traditional Balinese-style gate, under the alang-alang roof… Inspired by the Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana (“three reasons for well-being” – harmony with people, deities, and nature), indoor areas seamlessly connected with the outdoors.
In our large marble bathroom the bath tub was filled with red rose petals and yellow frangipani flowers. Behind the tub, a picture window framed frangipani trees covered in white, pink, and yellow blooms on a green lawn.
The beneficial presence of water was felt everywhere. We spent plenty of time at the Thermes Marins Bali Spa, unique to Southeast Asia, in the largest in the world Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pool, deservedly praised for therapeutic properties of its vigorous underwater massages performed by powerful jets. We indulged in deep tissue Balinese massage with age-old techniques used by the thorough spa masseuses.
At Dava (Sanskrit for “water”) restaurant with koi ponds and lotus pools, we enjoyed flawlessly served a la carte breakfast, included with the Villa stay.
By the end of the day, we picked fresh-from-the-boat rock lobster and giant prawns from an icy display at Kisik Bar and Grill right on the beach. Grilled, sauced, and served with an array of Balinese accompaniments, our dinner was brought to our table on the sand, lit by glowing tiki torches by the Ocean Beach Pool.
We took a brief walk to the iconic Rock Bar perched above the clear waters of Jimbaran Bay. Guests are taken down to the Bar in a lift descending along the steep cliff. At sunset, dozens of Bali vacationers line up for the lift, although the hotel guests are treated as VIPs and use their own, shorter line.
A complimentary resort shuttle in mere minutes delivered us from more traditional Ayana to the boldly contemporary Rimba with its ark-shaped lobby, designed in the style of a ship surrounded by reflective pools. The 5-star hotel has 282 luxurious rooms and suites decorated with natural materials, like reclaimed wood and plant fiber.
From the balcony of our Jimbaran Bay Suite, we admired a sweet sound of a flute – the performer in a floor-length gown was standing barefoot on a platform half submerged in an oval-shaped endless pool as if suspended in the air.
As soon as the nightly musical performance was over, we headed for Unique Rooftop Bar, situated on top of one of Rimba’s four buildings that offers dramatic 360-degree views of the Uluwatu Hills to the south-east, and ocean to the west.
Here we lounged on long chairs under an umbrella, sipped our island mojitos garnished with sugar cane sticks, and took swims in a pool cleverly positioned between the tables and the long chairs area.
After a good-night sleep in our large and quiet room, and before leaving the resort, we had a substantial breakfast at To’ge restaurant. The morning buffet featured dishes inspired by the street food from all corners of Asia as well as Western classics. True to form, we picked Indonesian chicken and rice, local tropical fruit, and coconut juice from a whole coconut.
More information at: http://www.viceroybali.com, http://www.ayanaresort.com, http://www.rimbajimbaran.com.