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Destination Visits: Andrea Discovers Bali And Beyond

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Destination Visits: Andrea Discovers Bali And Beyond

The one problem with people asking me about Bali? Putting it into words. When I sat down to write this, I knew I was going to have to come up with more than just “wow”.  When Philippine Airlines and the Balinese Tourist Board invited me out to Bali and the Gili Islands, I jumped at the chance. I’d heard many good things, but I had no idea what kind of paradise I was in for. Despite it being mid-season when there’s a tendency for it to rain, we didn’t see a single drop. I got 8 nights of bliss. Here’s how it went.

Nusa Dua- Paradise Beaches And All-Round Resort Luxury

I was travelling with some other UK travel agents, so we all met at Heathrow Airport for our flight out. We landed quite late (about 10 p.m.), but the prompt minibus transfer to our hotel was a sign of things to come- the service here is impeccable. Nusa Dua is the South Balinese peninsula known for its dazzling beaches, lush rainforests and luxury hotels. We stayed in the Laguna, A Luxury Collection Resort & Spa- definitely what it says on the tin.

The Laguna sits right on Nusa Dua beach overlooking the Java Sea. Inside, it’s marbles, Balinese woods and contemporary chic. Outside, it’s landscaped gardens, 7 pools (lagoon, saltwater, sand-floored and kiddie), plus the stand-out feature- the beach.

It was total paradise. White sands, blue waters, sunbeds and intimate thatched or cabana loungers. Even the bar overlooks the lagoon. The agenda was 100% R&R, although we did go into the Bali Collection, which is basically your downtown. A lovely selection of shops, bars, restaurants and al fresco terraces. The whole of Nusa Dua is a gated community, you won’t find any rowdiness and the security checks are really tight.

Onto Ubud- Tropical Rainforests, Temples And A Monkey Forest

I could’ve stayed in Nusa Dua forever, but after 2 nights, it was onto even more beauty. Our private minibus to Ubud took about 45 minutes. Whoever had the idea to build a hotel with 2 infinity pools overlooking a rainforest was onto something.

Ubud is the jungle-set region where Julia Roberts filmed Eat, Pray, Love. You’re wrapped by lush rainforests and rice paddies here. Sunset rays shine through the Talah Lot Temple which feels like something out of a movie. This iconic pilgrimage site used to be land-based. Corrosion isn’t always a good thing, but something about the island setting, pouring light and an immense sense of stillness does make it feel quite spiritual. Ubud’s temples are world-famous, including the Royal Family Temple of Taman Ayun.

A few words on the Maya Ubud Resort & Spa. Overlooking lush rainforests and completely serene, this hotel is perfection for couples, families or solo travellers looking for top-class everything (in the world’s most beautiful setting). This resort is set in 24 acres of riverside jungle, the villas have private plunge pools and there’s free yoga and rice-field treks. Ubud Palace is 10 minutes by car, as is the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary, which we visited. It was adorable to see baby monkeys here, although they are cheeky. One of them grabbed someone’s paper bag (with her bikini in it) and just ran off with it! The forest also has a beautiful temple towards the exit.

Some of my group chose a cycling trip, but I was too tempted by the poolside lounging. I did, however, brave the Plataran jungle trek. Definitely a “trek”, but with so much wildlife and nature, it was so worth it. In the evening, we went into Ubud town centre for some cocktails and dinner. There’s loads of choice along the main strip and if you’re there in the day, tons of local crafts, textiles and markets. There’s also the beautifully carved Goa Gajah “Elephant Cave” and the hilltop Blanco Renaissance Museum.

Lombok- Bamboo Jungles, Waterfalls, Villages And The Happy Cafe

We reached Lombok Island by ferry speedboat- get the top deck if you can. Our first destination was the western region of Senggigi, known for its beaches, sweeping views and lively town centre.

Our hotel was right on Mangsit Beach with Mount Agung as the backdrop. It was really stunning. I wound up having a villa with a private pool all to myself, so no complaints there. The area has lovely shrines, but our itinerary took us on an incredible bamboo rainforest trek to open waterfalls. Local village women were our guides, and I’ve got to say, they’ve got more stamina than any man I’ve ever met! I got an insight into Sasak village life, plus a cracking night in the town’s Happy Cafe. From lounging poolside overlooking the sea to the Michael Jackson and George Michael acts in the evening, this was a really fabulous few days. Like everywhere, the fish and seafood were fresh, there’s everything from steak to pasta, and you’ll never have a disappointing meal.

Lombok is also home to Indonesia’s second-highest volcano and stunning craters, plus it’s the gateway to the idyllic Gili Islands, which was our next stop.

The Gili Islands- Crystal Water Bliss, Horse & Cart Transport And Chilling

The Gili Islands are a triplet set of isles just off the coast of Lombok. We visited the smallest first (Gili Meno), then the largest (Gili T). These islands are a literal piece of heaven. Think powder-sand beaches, lapping waters, thatched beach shacks and a little something for everyone. Coral reefs here are beautiful, there are turtles and the snorkelling is brilliant.

Gili Meno is super laid-back and ideal for couples or families- it’s actually nicknamed “The Honeymoon Island”. Public transport in Gili is horse and cart only, so you really get that removed feel. Bear in mind though that there’s a big difference between Gili Meno and the party-centric Gili T. I still enjoyed Gili T, but it’s got more of a backpacker vibe. You’ll find fun stuff like beach-screened movies and open cooking station restaurants, but Gili T is definitely less secluded. Unless you’re on T to party, you go to the Gili Islands to switch off (which is precisely what I did). The sun, sea and sand wasn’t quite as stunning as Nusa Dua, but I was sad to leave, overall.

I’d sum Bali up as amazing. The people were some of the kindest and friendliest I’ve ever met and the beaches were some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. Whether it was jungle-facing pools, bamboo trekking or those sunset-bathed temples, everything about Bali and the Gili Islands was breathtaking. You can check out our Lombok, Gilli Islands and Beach Holiday featured on our which is a similar itinerary to what I did, or check out our recommended Bali Multi Centre Holidays for more ideas..  or give me a call.

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