BRUSHING UP ON BALI - OUR DESTINATION EXPERT JULIE VISITS THIS MAGICAL ISLAND

Our Destination Expert, Julie Mathews, recently jetted off to Bali for a 7 night tour that saw her dine in a hotel restaurant of glass and wood designed by a Japanese architect, visit local farming families and rice paddies high up in the mountains, enjoy lunch on the treetops of the rainforest, head into the heart of Barat National Park for an overnight boutique stay with a difference. This is Bali, Off The Beaten Track…

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After my flight with Singapore Airlines, on which I enjoyed a delicious lunch, we landed and were transported to the Rustic boutique resort of Waka Gangga Resort on the serene South West coast. I would recommend this resort for short stays for jet lag recovery, or longer stays for those seeking the tranquility and calm that this isolated spot offers in abundance. I spent my time here wondering along the rugged coast line of volcanic sand, meandering around the gorgeous gardens and splashing about in the infinity pool.

For me, what particularly stood out was design, spirals and circular structures made their presence felt all over the resort, while somehow still working harmoniously with their green environment; the restaurant, perched high above the ocean and specially designed by a Japanese Architect, featured lots of wood and glass and was particularly breath-taking at night when the sun set and cast an orange and purple glow over the waves.
 
Our second day was full of excitement as we headed out after breakfast, picnic baskets in hand (or in Land Rover…), on a, slightly bumpy but beautifully scenic, ride to Sang Girri (which means ‘The Mountain’ in Sanskript). During our stay here we were lucky enough to visit Beluland Village, where we welcomed into the home of a local farming family who showed us around and served us a cup of fresh (and delicious) coffee grown on their very own farm!
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The Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, a UNESCO world heritage site, was next on our list: a set of rice terraces perched high up in the mountains, picture perfect and awe-inspiringly beautiful. Our lunch was served, well, in the middle of a rainforest actually, amid the very top of the tree canopy on the slope of Mount Batukaru. A truly magical experience, our food was bursting with fresh ingredients from the island and our wooden tables were laid with linen, lace and fresh flowers.

Our final stop was the Batukaru Temple, a sacred mountain sanctuary and royal temple of Tababan dynasty founded in the 11th century by a great Hindu sage who established six main temples on the island of Bali.
 
Our ‘camp’ home, Sang Girri, was in the middle of the island, in the shadow of the sacred mountain in the Jatiluwih Region and surrounded on all sides by rainforest. It is the pride and joy of it’s owner, a charming Indonesian gentleman, who is extremely passionate and caring about the land, wildlife, nature and religion, encouraging his guests to learn about the culture and wildlife that surrounds them. So we did, duteously. Sang Girri is an unfinished tribute to one man’s love for his surroundings, due to be completed, with 27 luxury tents in total, at the end of 2015. All the tents have, and will have, double beds, en-suite bathrooms and private decks. The work is discreet and did not hear so much as a peep from the ongoing project during our stay.
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The camp centre’s around a dining/living area where everyone gathers for breakfast and dinner, round the large communal table (or smaller, more intimate tables should you prefer) to enjoy food using fresh ingredients and adhering to local village traditions and tastes. In the afternoons and evenings in the dinning/living room they play Opera and Café Del Mar style music in the background, guests are offered rice tea and there is a stack of board games and packs of cards for guests to help themselves to.

Our last home-away-from-home, for this trip at least as I will be back, was Menjangan in the heart of Barat National Park. A boutique resort with only 26 rooms and villas, surrounded by nature and wildlife, including birds, butterflies, monkeys, wild deer and wild boar.
 
We went on a snorkeling excursion to Menjangan Island, the coral is healthy and very bright, as were the vegetables in our picnic lunch back on the boat.  The Mangrove Spa here is simple  but lovely, made up of four open-air gazebos on the beach overlooking the ocean and offering a natural range of massages. Perfect after a day of wandering around the national park or snorkeling, trust me!
 
I returned home enlightened to the charm of Bali and its many varied landscapes, people and hotels, and a little sad that my journey had come to a close. Bali, I’ll be back…