— Betsy Pie is one of our favorite travel experts. She’s an American from Nashville, TN whose marriage to an Australian brought her to Melbourne 30 years ago. Her PR firm, Betsy Pie International Communications, specializes in luxury travel* the kind of journeys that dreams are made of. Here she gives us some incredible ideas on that most exotic of locations, Bali.
East Bali’s Tirta Gangga Water Palace and Gardens. Exploring Bali and beyond in Indonesia
Following the worldwide success of Elizabeth Gilbert’s novel and the subsequent movie,
Bali has been having a moment. Bali was the third stop for the adventurous heroine’s travels. After Italy (Eat) and India (Pray), Bali was the chapter devoted to Love. What’s not to love about Bali? Eat, Pray, Love
Bali is quite a large Indonesian island (population around 4.5 million). It is famed for its volcanic mountains, verdant rice paddies, great beaches, coral reefs, countless religious temples and sacred rituals. All this is juxtaposed by some of the most luxurious hotels on the planet, wonderful restaurants, excellent shopping, cocktails, sun-soaked beaches and stunning sunsets. It’s long been a desirable destination for creative and spiritual inspiration. There is, indeed, much to love.
Bali is so many things, so to get the most out of it, it’s important for travelers to carefully choose the parts that best suit them. I would definitely recommend staying a couple of places during the trip, just to experience the many personalities of this multi-faceted island. It’s worth the move to experience the full Bali.
Alila Hotels & Resorts long ago discovered the diverse landscape and cultures that coexist within Bali—and thus have not one, but five remarkable hotels, each in an iconic Balinese location. I also urge travelers to venture further in Indonesia, with a stay at one of the world’s truly unique resorts, Nihiwatu. This unspoilt paradise on Sumba, Indonesia is truly, as its tagline suggests, “on the edge of wildness”. It’s also staggeringly beautiful, authentic and fun! I have just returned from both Bali and Sumba…and I am already plotting a return visit with friends with whom I want to share this paradise.
Here are my tips for a fabulous two weeks in Indonesia…starting in Bali and finishing at Nihiwatu!
Where to Stay in Bali
There are several top hotels to choose from in Bali (many of the luxury hotel brands—Four Seasons, St. Regis, The Ritz-Carlton are all in Bali), but the Alila group is an excellent choice. Not only do they have five hotels to happily hop between (and provide airport transfers as well as transfers between their hotels), Alila Hotels also have design edge in spades.
Serene, palm-lined pool at Alila Manggis.
Alila Manggis is ideal for taking in the tranquility of East Bali, one of the island’s hidden gems. Kerry Hill designed this lovely hotel some 22 years ago, and its timeless and sympathetic Balinese architecture has garnered much praise. East Bali is great for exploring ancient villages, visiting the former king’s magnificent Tirta Gangga Water Palace and Gardens, and swimming in some of the pristine waters at one of East Bali’s hidden beaches. Alila Manggis has expansive grounds and a very large pool, making it an ideal choice for families with younger children. The diving in this part of Bali is also exceptional. Oh, and don’t miss the cooking class in a nearby rice field and herb garden, followed by lunch!
Alila Villas Soori
Ocean Pool Villa at Alila Villas Soori.
Alila Villas Soori is another favourite option. It has some stunning villas and one of the best spas in Bali (and that is saying something). Tanah Lot Temple and lovely local villages are part of the Alila Journeys on offer for enjoying this slice of “real Bali”. For golfers, there is also a superb Greg-Norman designed course within easy reach of the property. This hotel oozes understated Asian style and is in a very peaceful, relaxing part of the island. Heaven!
View of the pool at Alila Ubud.
Pura Desa Temple, Ubud, Bali Indonesia.
Alila Ubud is a perfect base for experiencing one of Bali’s most popular regions. Ubud is known as the cultural heart of Bali, and its cool mountain terrain and the picturesque Ayung River make it a respite from the sun and heat of other parts of the island. Its popularity, (further fueled by the book and movie!) can make Ubud crowded with tourists, especially around the Ubud market, where traditional local crafts can be had at great prices. Recommended shopping in Ubud is a visit to the John Hardy jewelry factory for hand-crafted silver pieces, as well as the Threads of Life shop for exquisite textiles and baskets by local weavers and craftspersons. Threads of Life work with women across numerous Indonesian islands to keep the traditions of their ancestors alive and to alleviate poverty. The goods often are of museum quality.
The beach bar and pool at Alila Seminyak.
Alila Seminyak is the newest offering, and already a firm favourite. This larger hotel (by Alila standards) is sleek, sexy, and gorgeous and right in the heart of Seminyak—the fashionable hub of Bali. Think cocktail bars for watching the sun set over the Indian Ocean, restaurants, shops and a myriad of choices of fun spots with live music and people watching. Alila Seminyak occupies a splendid part of beachfront land in the heart of it all—yet still provides a peaceful oasis of green and calm. The hotel also offers Alila Shopping Tours in fun, decked out VW Kombi vans, with your own shopping guide to take you to some of Seminyak’s best boutiques. Don’t miss Biasa for the best island wear in floaty fabrics, and Mercredi for fun tableware, bed linens, and home goods.
Alila Villas Uluwatu
One bedroom pool villa cabana at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
For a Bali finale, a perfect ending would be the drop dead gorgeous Alila Villas Uluwatu. Set on the southwest tip of Bali’s Bukit Peninsula, Alila Villas Uluwatu is perched on a clifftop above the blue waters as far as the eye can see. Think Greek Islands blue waters in Indonesia—glamorous and stunning. It is an Instagrammer’s dream, with timber-slatted pavilions echoed throughout the resorts’ poolside areas and private villas. Warung Restaurant is excellent and takes in these breathtaking pavilions and clifftop views. This is a place to relax with a good book beside one of the lovely pools or better yet, by your own private villa pool—as trust me, you will not want to leave.
Next Stop, Nihiwatu on Sumba, Indonesia
After a week in Bali with its faster pace, you’ll want to step back in time and experience Indonesia as it would have been a few centuries ago! I have just returned from Nihiwatu and can tell you there is nothing quite like it, as it was just named the #1 Hotel in the World by
Travel + Leisure for very good reason. As foremost Australian travel writer Susan Kurosawa recently wrote, “Sumba is 400km southeast of Bali but planets removed from that holiday isle’s chic accommodation and lifestyle precincts.” She also hit the nail on the head by saying of Nihiwatu: “It offers a mix of soft adventure and elevated luxury that sets it apart from mainstream competitors.”
Above: View of Nihiwatu from the water, Raja Mendaka living room and bedroom.
A 40-minute flight from Bali’s Denpasar International Airport and a 90-minute drive will find you in the Sumba Island paradise that is Nihiwatu. Gilligan’s Island meets stylish, authentic design, Nihiwatu steals your heart with its beauty, charm, and honesty. It was conceived as a surf retreat by the original owners who acquired the untouched land and built more modest accommodations for surfers keen to experience the famed Occy’s Left break wave. In 2012, US entrepreneur Chris Burch acquired the property, and along with managing partner hotelier James McBride, set about elevating the resort to an experience that is now truly worth traversing the globe to enjoy. A key addition is the open-air Nihi Oka Spa, one of the best and most unique spas I have ever experienced. Guests can choose to hike to or be driven from the resort. I highly recommend the hike, which is followed by a healthy gourmet breakfast and unlimited spa treatments if you book the all day Spa Safari.
Raja Mendaka Villa, Ombak Restaurant.
The evening vibe at Nihiwatu can only be described as fun! Nihiwatu can be quite social—and the guests tend to be active and like minded. Guests are genuinely thrilled to be experiencing this cool combination of rustic luxury and unregulated freedom. Activities include morning and evening yoga on the open-air elevated pavilion with its magnificent ocean views, hikes to the “Blue Waterfall” for a well-earned swim, and volunteer outings to nearby villages to see the good work The Sumba Foundation is doing in the local community. Food is super fresh, healthy, and full of flavour—and dinners at Ombak Restaurant (Ombak is the Indonesian word for “wave”) with feet in the sand are as relaxing as it gets. For surfers, the maximum 10 surfers to a wave restriction is true nirvana, as I am told. For the non-surfer like me, snorkeling on the coral reef, riding horses on the lengthy and scenic beach, and those unforgettable sunsets add to the combination of natural beauty and absolute fun that is Nihiwatu.
Nio Beach pool, hiking to the Blue Waterfall, gazebo at Puncak Villas.
So my tip for Indonesia, if you can spare the time is—one week in Bali followed by a week at Nihiwatu.
Keep track of Betsy and her amazing adventures on her instagram: @betsypie.
*Betsy Pie International Communications represent Alila Hotels & Resorts and Nihiwatu in Australia/NZ.
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