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Balance in Bali

Deborah Dickson-Smith makes the most of her four days in Bali
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Day 1

The latest trend in accommodation in Bali, one of Australia’s long time favourite destinations, is the villa. A private villa, usually with private pool and five-star service, provides a truly luxurious holiday solution for couples, friends and families alike. And it’s surprisingly affordable.

I’m staying at Space at Bali villas, hidden away off the main drag in Seminyak. In fact it’s a little like a hidden palace.

But the luxury doesn’t start here. It starts at the airport with Denpasar’s Concierge service. I’m greeted by a friendly Balinese face at the airport holding up a card bearing my name – already enough to make most people feel like a VIP. I’m then whisked away from the long queues at customs to a quiet lounge and presented with a cool glass of water and canapés, while they take away my passport to organise my visa.

After a short air-conditioned drive to Seminyak I walk through aged double wooden doors into a secret garden with perfectly manicured lawns that are spongy underfoot surrounding an edgeless pool. The garden is lined with palms and frangipanis and leads to a two-bedroom open plan villa.

Every detail is designed with care, from the curtained circular day bed in the “chill room” upstairs to the Moorish shuttered windows around the circular kitchen. Each air-conditioned bedroom features a walk-in wardrobe and an indoor-outdoor bathroom, complete with a deep free-standing bath surrounded by palms. They really know how to achieve the “wow” factor in Bali.

On arrival I’ve got time for a quick dip in the pool before my masseur arrives. I’m offered a choice of ylang ylang, citrus or lavender scented oil for my hour long Balinese massage which starts from my toes working all the way up to my forehead with a relaxing scalp massage.

The villa is a short walk from the beach and shops in Seminyak but drivers are available on request. There is a huge range of cafes and restaurants in Seminyak. You can choose from a wide range of cuisine, from traditional Balinese food to French, Italian, Indian or Japanese menus and the prices – even at the top end – are extremely reasonable.

On the first night I choose to dine in the villa – the room service menu itself is extensive – and at our chosen time the butler arrives to serve it up. I notice while I’m flicking through the menu there is also an extensive choice of spa treatments available in-room so I start to plan out my stay in accordance.

Day 2

After a surfing lesson in the morning at Kuta – possibly the best place in the world to learn how to surf with glassy gentle waves – I lunch at La Lucciola on the beach at Seminyak.

It's a picturesque tropical setting that wouldn’t look out of place in a romantic period feature film, with high thatched roof covering an open-plan two story building built from bamboo, fronted by a verdant green lawn fading onto golden sands.

After lunch I’m taken to nearby Cool Spa in the centre of the hustle and bustle near Seminyak Square. One step inside and the atmosphere and temperature steps down a notch.

Once again I’m offered a choice or scents for my aroma therapy massage; lavender, rose, orange, tea tree, lemon grass or jasmine before being led through to a curtained area with dim blue lighting.

An ingenious foot bath awaits before I’m led over stepping stones through a pebble covered floor to my massage table. The massage today differs in technique from yesterdays, with firm pressure applied gradually followed by a scalp massage.

This evening I’m treated to dinner by my hosts at a little French bistro called SIP which has, as well as a great menu and wine list, an impressive bathroom complete with flat screen TV, assorted toiletries, mineral water and even paracetamol, alka seltzer and tampons.

Day 3

This morning I embark on a trip to Uluwatu, while not the most impressive temple in itself, in one of the most impressive of locations. Perched on the edge of 50 metre high cliffs and overlooking glassy turquoise waves below. It’s the perfect spot to sit and reflect on life.

On the way back to the villa we stop at Bumbu Bali restaurant in Nusa Dua for lunch which promises authentic Balinese cuisine. In a beautiful setting resembling a Balinese temple we opt for nasi campur, a selection of all the local specialities including sate fish, chicken, pork and duck, several hot and sour salads and a few curries. Delicious.

In the afternoon I’m treated to a Balinese style massage, body scrub and wrap. I opt for ylang ylang scented oil for the massage which is followed by a scrub with traditional Balinese spices including cloves, cardamom and cinnamon and wrap. I fall asleep breathing in these wonderful aromas and awake ridiculously relaxed, just in time for dinner.

Dinner tonight is at local French restaurant Le Sardine. Opened late 2009 by French owners Pika and Pascal, the restaurant overlooks rice fields and has been built using traditional Balinese bamboo craftsmanship, beautifully designed and decorated by Pika. Pascal has designed the menu, which emphasizes fresh fish and seafood from the Indian Ocean and Bali Sea as well as organic vegetables from their own organic farm.

Day 4

My last day in Bali is focussed on finding ways to give back to the Balinese community and achieve some balance after being so spoilt. It’s important to remember that while spa treatments, fine dining and five-star villa accommodation are extremely affordable for visitors, a large number of Balinese live in abject poverty.

I head first into Ubud for a visit to the Green School. Established by Canadian ex-pat and long time Bali resident John Hardy and his wife, the school has been built entirely of bamboo across a sprawling, open plan campus.

The school caters for children from Kindergarten to Year nine and promises students a relevant holistic and green education. Students come from all over the world and amongst them, 20% are local Balinese kids funded by scholarships from generous donors, allowing them to benefit from an international education.

A shopping spree in Ubud market follows before dinner at another of Seminyak’s five-star eateries, Ku De Ta, which I share with another of Bali’s heros, Asana Veibeke Lengkong, who heads up the I’m An Angel Foundation, largely funded by Ku De Ta.

Viebeke works tirelessly with her team to allocate funds and identify the most urgent needs of rural Balinese, talking to village communities to fully understand and appreciate what their individual needs are and providing them what they need to improve their quality of life.

“We do not give, we share; and with this strategy we empower the community to think and help themselves.”
This grassroots charity empowers villagers and helps them improve their standard of living in the face of resource scarcity and socio-economic pressure.
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