We have always traveled a lot, both together and apart. But since I met my husband Simon, we mainly traveled to South Africa and France. Two destinations that either one of us knew very well. The reason is that Simon is from South Africa, and I am from The Netherlands. We are both living in Amsterdam so when we travel we travel to South Africa to visit family and friends. We actually never explored a néw destination together and the urge to do so was growing on me.
When I fell pregnant, I told Simon that we really needed to make that dream come true. To travel somewhere we both hadn’t been before and to explore something new together. There were some challenges, such as the South African passport Simon has (also known as The Green Mamba – he literally needs a visa for almost every destination) and my pregnancy. Bali came out with a 100% score. Being high on my wish-list, with amazing resorts and a different culture, they also don’t ask South Africans for a visa and it’s easy on the pregnancy; you don’t need to travel much to explore.
And so we flew to Bali – with a ‘fit to fly’ declaration – with Qatar Airways. Oh the bliss, cause they actually are really considerate and provided us with comfortable seats and some extra leg space. Thank you!
Upon arrival in Bali, our driver and guide were waiting for us and brought us to Seminyak. I can recommend everyone to start the journey here. It’s an area that’s nice and buzzing but with resorts that really let you relax and offer privacy. It’s quite close to the airport so the drive there is not too long – you really want that shower after the flight!
Seminyak; a good start
In Seminyak, there are so many options. My two recommendations? The Amala and the Alila Seminyak.
The Amala is a little sanctuary. It’s about 15 minutes walking distance from the beach and offers an all-villa concept. As soon as you step onto the street the scooters are zooving by, but step back into the tranquility of The Amala and you’ll enjoy a haven of peace and privacy. Twelve villa’s serviced by butlers and a whole team of wellness experts at your disposal. Because that’s the ‘theme’ at The Amala; wellness and wellbeing. All the meals are prepared with healthy fresh ingredients, giving you a kickstart to your holiday. We stayed in a Spa Villa and thoroughly enjoyed our plunge pool, the in room dining service and quiet lounge areas that can be found everywhere. Best way to get rid of that jetlag!
The Alila Seminyak is much more a resort as we all know resorts; with 240 studios and suites this can be considered a large resort. It doesn’t feel that way however, when you step into the lobby. Maybe it’s the view; the two infinity pools and clear ocean attract your attention immediately. Or maybe it’s the whole design of the resort. Done by Singaporean architects URBNarc, you will find yourself in a stylish haven. And not only stylish, the resort is extremely sustainable as well! All Alila hotels are known for their sustainability. Alila Seminyak scores almost 44 points on the EarthCheck sustainability scale. You need a reference? The average hotel scores 5.
We stayed in an Ocean Suite, with uninterrupted views of the ocean and a lot (a lot!) of space. One of the two ‘guest only’ infinity pools was easily accessible from the suite, no need to say that’s where we pitched every afternoon! Andy was our host, he knew us by name from day 1 and made sure everything was catered for. From sunscreen to drinks and lunches at the pool. Divine.
You really don’t need to go out here – there are two pools, a beach bar, a fabulous restaurant and amazing spa (you have to try the spa when staying at any Alila) – they do a proper pregnancy massage! But if you want to explore the streets, they are literally at your doorstep.
Forward and onward: Local life in Tabanan
You might think; Tabanan? Never heard of that. Exactly. That’s the one and only reason to travel here because there are no tourists flocking the streets and local life here happens in a slower pace.
On the way from Seminyak to Tabanan we stopped at the Tanah Lot temple, one of the most famous temples of Bali. Only accessible for locals and only when it’s low tide. We got there early but wow was it busy already. And understandable; what a stunning view.
Actually, another very good reason to go to the Tabanan region is to stay at Soori Bali. Again a design and sustainable masterpiece, with poolvilla’s situated between the volcano beach and the rice paddies. Oh boy what an amazing place this is; local luxury 2.0.
The temple next to the resort is visited regularly by colourful dressed locals with offerings. You see them walking over the beach in the morning, afternoon and evening making a picture perfect setting. Here, you will feel away from it all. Whether that is by lying at the pool (which is what we did most of the time) or jumping on a bicycle to explore the little village. You can immerse yourself in activities every day, from learning how to make offerings to dancing with the Balinese children or exploring the Balinese cuisine in a cooking class. It was hard for us to pull ourselves away from our private pool and deck, but when we did we made the most of it.
To Ubud, with some stops en-route
Our lovely driver and guide came to fetch us at Soori Bali to bring us to our next destination: Ubud. But not before stopping at a local ceramics factory and jewellery factory. To be honest, I was a bit afraid that the stop at the ceramics factory might be more of a tourist trap than a hidden gem. Luckily our ever smiling guide proved me wrong; this was such a great stop! We learned from locals how to make pottery and got a real insight in the factory life. Of course we did end up buying some of the beautifully handmade ceramics to take home…..
The area around Ubud is famous for it’s silver jewellery. This is also where the Buddha to Buddha brand was founded. Here you will find a lot of tourist traps, with little factories that sell fake silver jewellery and it’s where a guide and driver proof their value. We stopped at an amazing building and factory (Prapen) where we could watch the pieces of art being made and on the other hand explore the endless collection of rings, necklaces and bracelets (jippieeee!). Needless to say my husband ended up buying me a stunning ring…..
And finally we arrived in Ubud, a place that I was so curious for! Having heard so much about it, I wanted to see what it was all about. A bit shocked by the busy traffic and tourists (after having seen only a handful of other travellers at Soori Bali) we arrived at Komaneka at Bisma. Another amazing place to stay, slightly more traditional, but tucked away in a fun little road with a suite surrounded by green wilderness.
On our first evening here, I was feeling quite exhausted from all the traveling so we decided to have dinner in the restaurant. Amazingly, all staff knew us by name already and we had the most amazing evening enjoying typical Balinese food.
The next morning, my husband wanted to sort out his coffee fix and had heard that the Ubud Coffee Roastery was by far the place to be for the best coffee on the island. The transfer service of Komaneka at Bisma made sure we didn’t have to walk so fresh and thirsty we arrived at the Ubud Coffee Roastery. And yes – the coffee was almost as good as at his favourite place LotSixtyOne in Amsterdam. A big compliment!
Tip: If you love animals and coffee, avoid the ‘Kopi Luwak’ coffee plantations and coffee. In most places, the civets are treated very badly and are in a lot of discomfort. There are only a few places where you can get the ‘wild’ and animal friendly Kopi Luwak, look out for those if you really want to try it.
And if you love animals, pay the Bali Animal Welfare Association a visit. It’s located in the main street of Ubud and you can donate money or buy one of the bracelets or t-shirts in the shops. The money goes to the homeless animals. I still really enjoy my bracelet that I bought there, it doesn’t come off!
Ubud itself is just amazing. Once you get used to the pace you will find yourself roaming the streets and the shops. Silver jewellery, clothing and design artefacts and accessories; we shopped up a storm here! In between we had lunches, dinners and a lot of cool drinks to beat the heat. The Three Monkeys Cafe is an absolute hit, but the winner for us was the lunch at the Bridges Restaurant. WOW! The view into the rainforest, while you just escaped the busy streets of Ubud, is simply mind blowing.
The best for last…
After a few eventful days in Ubud, it was time for our last leg of our journey through Bali. Not looking forward to ending the holiday, but looking forward to spending some nights at what should be the best resort on the island, we drove to the most southern tip of the island where you find Alila Villas Uluwatu.
This place is almost indescribable. We were welcomed by the assistant of the general manager upon arrival and enjoyed a fruit juice while checking in. The hotel is situated on the edge of a cliff and offers dramatic views over the ocean.
First things first, we were transported by golf cart to our villa (Alila Villas Uluwatu is an all-villa resort). The eye for detail is what struck me the most; the bathroom had a drawer with products ‘for him’ and a drawer with products ‘for her’. Upon check in we were asked what kind of service we would like and what evening snacks we wanted to have provided in our room. Every staff member knew us by name and greeted us as they walked by.
We enjoyed lunch in a cabana on the poolside, and dinner at the Asian restaurant (Alila Villas Uluwatu has two restaurants). The food here was the best I had tasted so far, and the service was out of this world. What an amazing place. With another very high ranking on the sustainability scale! Staying at Alila Villas Uluwatu, as luxurious as it is, almost leaves zero footprint. It’s one of Indonesia’s Top Eco Friendly Hotels, and carries the absolute WOW factor.
Having stayed at many amazing places in this world, Alila Villas Uluwatu definitely got a place in the top three. If you can provide luxury at such a high level and carry out such high sustainability performance you are having gold. The atmosphere is best to be described as ‘laid back luxury’ and a stay here will definitely send you back home revised and relaxed (and reluctant…).