Monday, January 4, 2010
Happy New Year! Am just back from a fabulous week in Bali--with a sidetrip to Central Java thrown in for fun. Well that, and to experience Amanjiwo--one of the most unique properties in AmanResorts' collection--and of course, to see the sun rise at Borobudur, the largest Buddhist temple in the world. Suffice it to say this was a memorable trip (how could it not be with stays at 4 of the 5 AmanResorts properties in Indonesia?).
Bali's changed a lot since I last visited seven years ago--there's now a total of 51,000 hotel rooms island-wide, and plenty more traffic as well--but the culture, beauty and friendliness of the Balinese people truly sets the destination apart. From the beaches of Amanusa and East Bali , where Amanusa & Amankila are located respectively, to historical Ubud (home to Amandari), the diversity of Bali is highly underrated.
Beyond the beaches and beautiful resorts, there is plenty of trekking and biking for the active set, yoga teachers & healers island-wide, hand-crafted furniture, art galleries & temples nearly everywhere you look. Amazing cuisine (lots of fresh seafood, fresh fruits and Indonesian specialties like Nasi Goreng & Gado Gado), handmade clothing, jewelry and home furnishings are found throughout the island as well.
I only wish I'd had more time to enjoy all of the above, but being the luxury hotel junkie I am, much of my time was spent visiting many of the top properties on Bali. I loved each of the AmanResorts we stayed at, including Amankila (pictured), for its stunning Indian Ocean setting; Amanjiwo, for its gorgeous design and overall uniqueness (including views of Borobudur); Amandari for its authentic sense of place in the middle of Ubud; and Amanusa for its peaceful setting and beautiful suites. We loved the food at each of the properties, as well as the spas and the oversized swimming pools (especially the three with oceanviews at Amankila). The genuine warmth & consistent high level of service experienced at each of the Aman properties is something every luxury hotel worldwide should emulate.
A few other hotels I really liked for various reasons include The Bale, a chic Small Luxury Hotel located nearly next door to Amanusa. Beautiful spacious suites with private pools, a "Wellness" menu, yoga programs, a gorgeous swimming pool and terrific GM make this property one I'd definitely recommend to my yoga/health-minded clients. Those who want to enjoy the healthy living concept in the Ubud area should also consider Como Shambhala (formerly known as Begawan Giri). Here, guests stay in one of Como Shambhala's four main residences (each is nearly a hotel within the hotel)or a spa retreat villa and can enjoy a full program of health/wellness/yoga & spa treatments along with healthy cuisine on the grounds of a beautiful private Estate. Sister property Uma Ubud, a few minutes away, is a great option at a great price. Rooms are good sized, the property intimate and pretty, the food terrific and the location ideal.
Those who love glitz & glamour will find it (and ultra-high prices) at Bulgari Bali, a sophisticated blend of Italian style with Balinese beauty. The views from the "inclinator" leading to the resort's Beach Club are to die for, and service here is also over the top. Four Seasons Sayan, the Ubud property where Julia Roberts stayed during the filming of Eat, Pray, Love, is a good option for travelers who enjoy the high level of comfort (often geared to Americans) that's standard at all Four Seasons properties worldwide.
Highlights of my trip? Here goes: Waking up at 4 am to see the sun rise over the mountains at Borobudur in Central Java; private yoga classes at Amanusa's Beach Club and overlooking the river at Amandari; massages by the best masseuses I've experienced in the world at Amanjiwo & Amandari; Celebrating New Year's Eve with great friends over a fantastic dinner at Amankila (16 hours ahead of my friends in LA!); meeting amazing people at Bali's best resorts. No matter how pretty a property is, it's the people, the culture and the service you remember long after the vacation ends.
For more information or to chat with me about an upcoming visit to Bali, one of my all-time favorite destinations, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310-979-9036.