I recently had the opportunity to spend 16 luxurious days in Bali.... and what an amazing experience that was! The vibrant colors, quirky architecture and beautiful beaches were so intoxicating and inspiring.... this was a much needed recharge from my hectic "Slave-To-Fashion" day to day. Bali is a lifestyle: the tropical climate and lush surroundings dictate how people dress and live, and it couldn't have been more "My Vibe." Here are some of my favorite Must-Do highlights from my unforgettable trip.
WHERE TO STAY:
The Ayana Resort and Spa in the Town of Jimbaran Bay was my home base for two weeks. It really was an unbelievable place- like straight out of a fantasy picture book. Sitting high above the Indian Ocean on a cliff top, I found that The Ayana Resort has the most amenities to offer out of any Resort in all of Bali. From the world-class On the Rocks Spa, breathtaking golf course and Beach Resort, to the dining options of over 19 restaurants, my time at The Ayana Resort was unparalleled.
There are two properties that you can shuttle between (a 5 minute trolley ride) and enjoy all the luxuries they have to offer- The Ayana Resort and the Rimba Resort. Both were very unique in their own ways.... Rimba is very sleek and modern (Photo of the Lobby above), while Ayana was much larger and had a traditional Balinese style decor as pictured below.
Relaxing poolside is my favorite travel past time (next to shopping), so when I heard there were a total of 12 pools- I was sold. I think out of the 16 days I was on vacation, I must have spent two thirds of the time in some sort of body of water.
My personal favorite pool was the Cliffside Infinity Saltwater Pool at the Ayana Resort (photo above)... everything about this pool was perfect. Reservations are a must at this tiny couples only pool- seating only 16 people in romantic poolside cabanas..... Imagine this: no screaming kids, a swim up bar with delicious food service and the ocean sunset views- just beyond priceless. This was by far the best sunset I have ever watched, hands down. You will hear many people recommend The Rock Bar at The Ayana, (located 20 feet North of this Pool, photo'ed)..... but if you can get into this pool- there is absolutely no need to go to The Rock Bar. I mean, let's be honest....watching the sunset while relaxing in a gorgeous pool cocktail in hand is much more enjoyable than getting all dolled up in the sweaty humidity, all to wait in a line and go to a bar. You heard it here first. (Resort website link below).
Bali Travel Tip!!!! In hindsight if I had to do it all over again (and I will someday!) I would not have stayed the entire duration of my trip at one resort. While The Ayana/ Rimba was an amazing and an unforgettable place (and I definitely will be back), my next Balinese adventure I will break my travel down to different locations, and spend quality time in each place, rather than day-tripping to only spend limited time in each destination. Bali is a small Island, but the travel time between destinations is not the swiftest with the rough roads and possible weather conditions- It could take hours to get from one city to another.
WHAT TO DO:
Partying in Seminyak at Potato Head: This Club came highly recommended from the Hotel Concierge.... but I'll admit, when I first arrived I thought to myself, "I can't believe I traveled all the way around the world to visit yet another Day Club a la Las Vegas"...... but this Day/ Night Club did NOT disappoint! From the quirky exterior with the patchwork of old shutters to the gigantic lawn that overlooks the beautiful Indian Ocean, each nook and cranny of this Beach Club was stunning. The drinks were definitely on the expensive side, but well worth every Rupiah. The food was just so-so compared to some of the local food that I had on this trip- and it was MUCH more expensive. I sat on the lawn all day and listened to the live reggae music, (they have International DJ's on the regular), chatted with other foreign tourists, and revealed in the beauty that was a perfect day. On a side note- the waves in my photo above are really THAT BIG and powerful! This beach is definitely for experienced swimmers ONLY.... My suggestion- enjoy the crashing waves from the comfort of one of the plush daybeds or even better- from the edge of the warm infinity pool with of course, a fruity cocktail in hand. (website link below).
The gorgeous wall of patchwork shutters outside of Potato Head Beach Club, Seminyak, Bali. I was told by my Bartender that all of the shutters were salvaged in and around the Island!
Shopping in Seminyak:
You are going to find from my travel blogs that I do A LOT of Shopping. I have become the International Queen of Shopping. It's my thing and I spare no apologies for it. I love to get inspired by the different textiles, local clothing, furnishings, jewelry and culture of my travels. I accidentally stumbled upon the shopping scene in Seminyak on my way to The Potato Head Beach Club and had to make a separate day trip back..... It was really that good. I love color and the streets were reeking of vivid hues and quirkiness. Most of the really good stores are on and around Jalan Basangkasa, the main drag in Seminyak. There are countless Surf Shops, Jewelry Stores and Local Designer Boutiques, so if you are in need of a bikini, pareo, tassel beaded necklace, pom-pom accent.... this is the place to find it... and everything is nothing less than an amazing piece that you will cherish and love forever.... and everything is really affordable!
My favorite shop that I stumbled upon was a store called House of Feathers. The Owner/ Designer is from Scotland, and now splits her time in Bali (lucky girl). She stocks her own Brand: Feather and Find- a collection of gorgeous wrap maxi dresses and tunics, as well as local jewelry and other fun must have accessories/ gifts....and there's even an Organic Juice Bar! Everything in this Boutique is vibrant with life, and I couldn't help but pick up a few things that spoke to me. Even the wall art was cool! I really enjoyed shopping in this Boutique, and have even frequented her online store many times since my trip for inspiring pieces that remind me of my time in Bali. (website link below).
I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I stumbled upon this incredible bead store, Big Ben Bead Shop during my day trip to Seminyak. The colors, shapes and textures of the beads were some I had never seen before, and all mostly handmade. From blown glass, clay, carved bone and semi-precious gemstones- this store had it ALL. The owner was so knowledgeable and friendly- I'm so glad I brought an empty suitcase for all of my finds! (Photo Below, link to shop at bottom.)
Ubud is probably the most famous City in Bali- being featured in the Movie: Eat, Pray, Love. This is the center in Bali for meditation, spirituality and arts and crafts. I really felt as if I connected to Ubud, and am disappointed that I didn't spend more quality time exploring there. I learned that "Ubud" is the ancient word in Balinese for "Medicine"... and you can see from the many Temples, Shrines and Monasteries why this is still the center of healing in Bali.
I really enjoyed walking the streets of Ubud and found that the shopping here was the most eclectic and had the most variety of all the cities that I visited in Bali. It was almost "sensory overload" at times! There was so much to look at- the colors and textures were incredible.
Driving into the town of Ubud was an adventure all in itself: the highway lined for miles with funky Furniture Stores, Art Galleries, and Batik Fabric Manufacturers. These areas are called "Craft Villages," and each Village specializes in a particular Art and Craft. My Driver was quickly becoming annoyed with me as I wanted to stop every 10 feet and shop. Most of the stores offer global shipping services, so if you do decide to spurge on a hand-crafted tree-root dining table, you will have a reliable source to get it home for you. If I didn't already have a house full of crap- I would have spent all my time and money here. Most of the furniture that you find are pennies on the dollar to what you would find in the States, and it has much more sentimental value since you get to meet the artists and the people that crafted it, and you found it in such a magical place.
I was most excited to visit the Batik Fabric Village since this was the whole reason I wanted to visit Bali in the first place! Long since my days in High School working at Cloth World, I have loved Batik: the stiff texture of the fabric, waxy smell, and all the bright colors/ designs that you can achieve. The special painting process is completely unique to it's culture and for centuries, the technique has been passed on from generation to generation. Batik is a process where a beeswax is painted on the cotton fabric in patterns, then fabric dyed. The wax resists the dye, creating the printed design. This process is repeated over and over until the desired pattern is achieved. This process is not only extremely time consuming, but unbelievably labor intensive. One yard of fabric can take weeks to finish! Watching this first hand was fascinating, and as a Fashion Designer I have developed a deep appreciation for the Art of Batik.
Once you are in and around the center of Ubud you will find many more stores that offer handmade shell jewelry (you will not believe how much shell jewelry you will find!), colorful embroidered dresses and lots of crocheted items. The main shopping center is called Ubud Market. It centers around a large two-story building, and bursts onto the streets for blocks and blocks. It's really important to know that the Locals set prices about ten times higher for Tourists... so you must haggle, haggle, haggle!
During my shopping spree in Ubud, I scored a set of hand painted/ woven nesting baskets that have an amazingly intricate dotted pattern on them. Someone must have spent days painting them! I also was able to snag a vibrant crocheted blanket, a hand-painted tassel parasol and a beautiful traditional Balinese shell collar. Each one of these trinkets are so special, and remind me of my trip to Bali, not to mention look super FAB in my Bohemian Home. (Photo of my loot above.)
So.....shopping aside- it is a must, must, must to visit some of the incredible Temples while you are in Bali. The main Religion in Bali is Balinese Hinduism: a distinct form of Hindu with Buddhist influence. It's been said that there are more temples than actual homes in Bali....... A whopping total of 10,000 temples and shrines! Not only does each Village has it's own Temple Shrine, but within that each home in the Village has a Temple Shrine! Above is a photo of a common Family Shrine; the most sacred area of the home, and is always located in the most North East location of the home. Even though this is a small Shrine, it is very elaborate and most are usual raised on pillars high in the air. I thoroughly enjoyed looking at these... all the detailed handwork, fabrics, flower arrangements and garlands, and bits and bobbles that decorated each Shrine.
Pura Taman Saraswati Temple:
My favorite Temple while visiting Ubud was the Pura Taman Saraswati Temple (photo above). This is a water temple, with a stunning lotus garden and seriously tranquil atmosphere. The Koi Pond is mesmerizing and if your timing is right, the bright pink lotus' will be in bloom giving you a perfect backdrop to your Instagram photo!
Tegalalang Rice Terrace:
Seriously one of the most striking views you will ever see. Pictures don't do this area outside of Ubud Justice! The Rice Terrace is just a short drive outside of Ubud and getting there is best done with a guide since it can be difficult to find... and it can get crowded during mid-day... not to mention hot and humid- so try to go during the dawn or dusk hours. Once you are there the photo ops are endless, and the grounds are so green and lush. My time at the Rice Terrace were short, because once you've seen them, you've seen 'em!
Tanah Lot Temple:
This temple is unbelievably breathtaking- but keep in mind: You can not go inside the temple and depending on the tide- you can't get very close. (my photo above is the closest we were allowed to view; 200 feet high above overlooking on a cliff... and there was an immense amount of fog to obstruct the view, not to mention battling crowds to take photos in the same spot as you.) Also this Temple is one of the most popular Tourist attractions, so traffic getting to and from can be a nightmare as the road is a bumpy one lane situation.
With that said, it is a stunning view and if you have the patience and energy to battle the crowds, this is a must see. Tanah Lot means "Land Sea,' and the Temple itself has been shaped over many centuries by the crashing Indian Ocean tide, and is one of the Seven Sea Temples around the Balinese Coast. It is said that the temple itself is protected by venomous sea snakes to ward off evil spirits and intruders. My advise (from experience), if you do plan on visiting Tanah Lot Temple: plan out your trip. Make sure you go at a time that the tide is out and you can explore the temple. Also try to see if there are any events happening... a ceremonial worship, dance or prayer/ chanting. I will have to say that through all the touristy souvenir shops, pan-handlers, parking lots and massive tourist buses at this temples- I was glad that I visited, but probably won't go back again next time.
The Last Word:
Other activities that I did while in Ubud that I wished I wouldn't have wasted my time or money on was visiting The Monkey Forrest and attending the Barong Dance in Sanur. These were total tourist traps and since Bali is a Tourist's Nation, there are many Tourist Guides that will encourage you to do activities because they receive a "cut" of the profits. My advice- do your homework and figure out the activities that speak to you, then arrange with the Hotel Concierge in finding the perfect travel solution that fits YOUR agenda. I learned the hard way, but it is something that I now make sure that I do whenever I travel.
All in all my time in Bali was amazing, and I can't wait to do it again. There are so many incredible places to visit and explore- it can be overwhelming. Do the research and figure out beforehand the places you want to visit and plan your trip from there. Don't be scared to stay in multiple cities during your trip- it can be an exciting adventure! In Bali you can meet so many interesting people from all walks of life and partake in so many new cultural experiences. It's an extraordinary, majestic place and I hope that you have as much of an incredible time as I did.