Blissful Adventures in Bali
When I imagine my recent trip to Bali, the first scene that comes to mind was from my second to last day in the country. After a series of unfortunate events, causing our early morning tour to be canceled last minute, my friends and I decided to take a walk down to the beach.
We were staying at the Bulgari Bali – which quickly escalated to the top of my list of favorite resorts in the world – in one of the most immaculate accommodations I’d ever stepped foot in, much less stayed in. The Bulgari offers a handful of three-to-five bedroom mansions, which they graciously offered to our agent group (I was fortunate enough to take this trip with three of my best friends in the industry – Laura, Cassie & Beth). From the Balinese wood interiors, which we were informed cost more than gold, to the two cascading pools – we could have easily been in paradise without leaving the villa.
However, we’d been told that it was a must to take a look at the beach – a daunting task that would require a funicular ride down the cliffside and an additional 100 steps to the bottom. From the height of the cliff, where the hotel is perched, you’d have no idea what was waiting in store at the bottom.
During low tide it’s as though someone has peeled back the sea to reveal pockets of bright green tide pools, each one housing a bird’s eye view into the ocean.
As we walked along the beach, spotting starfish and sea urchins – someone even saw an octopus! – the tide began coming in, quickly, filling in the tide pools and sweeping the captive sea life back out into the ocean. It wiped clean our tracks along the beach, along with the monkey tracks – four little paws with a tail-line drawn through the middle. As we hiked back up the hundred steps to the funicular, the waves picked up to seven-foot swells, completely covering the tide pools full of treasures.
In that one moment, I felt what makes Bali so special. It’s not a matter of plopping yourself down at a beach resort with no one else around you – you can do that elsewhere in the world, and on better beaches. Bali is special for those of us who have a thirst for discovery – the discovery of what’s outside in this world around us, as well as what’s inside of our souls.
The latter part of that discovery starts in Ubud, the Northern part of Bali where we were fortunate enough to spend time in the brand new Ritz-Carlton Reserve property, Mandapa. This would be my first time at a Ritz-Carlton Reserve and I now see why they are titled as such – Mandapa functioned on a different level: still the same great Ritz-Carlton service, but built in a way that reflected a sense of place that all travelers crave nowadays.
As the spiritual capital of Bali, one can feel the pulse of Ubud – the deep religious roots into Hinduism, the yoga culture, the connection into nature – almost without leaving Mandapa’s serene riverside environment, but I wouldn’t suggest that. Get out and explore the cascading rice fields, learn about the process behind Luwak Coffee, check out a temple or two and, even though everyone is going to tell you it’s touristy, go to the monkey temple to buy a batch of bananas and have monkeys crawl on your shoulders to eat them. Where else in the world are you going to do that? Make sure you visit the craft market, too, and buy your souvenirs there – you won’t see handmade goods like this in the Southern part of the country.
The challenge with a good split stay in Bali is deciding where to pair your Ubud stay – Jimbaran? Seminyak? Nusa Dua? While we spent time in Nusa Dua and exploring Jimbaran, these destinations are going to be much more manicured and beach-centric. Seminyak seems to be the party hub with a few decent hotel offerings, but I can’t imagine a better experience than the property mentioned above – the Bulgari.
Situated on a daunting cliff, the property offers unbelievable views of the sea below which, yes, you have to go explore one day. But since you aren’t in Bali for the beaches because you’ve listened to your travel agent’s advice, you’ll enjoy what the property has to offer from the top of the cliffside. The property feels like a hilltop Italian village with a strong Asian influence – an obvious pairing from the brand’s heritage and the destination itself.
Take an evening to explore a local surf bar – most notably, Single Fin, where you can watch the sunset as the experienced surfers catch mega waves. The most scenic temple in the area, Uluwatu Temple, is perfect for an early morning excursion, before the crowds arrive. We were also lucky to visit a local temple located in a cave where we received a blessing from the priest. We can easily arrange all of these things for you and, the fortunate part, is just how affordable private touring is in Bali.
I feel as though I barely scratched the surface of this intriguing destination for myself, but it gave me just enough insight into planning customized vacations through the area. I can’t wait to return one day and our team can’t wait to help you get here – and experience it the right way!