Beautiful Bali: Rain or Shine
Balinese greetings are smiles, bows, and frangipani flower necklaces. Balinese air is fragrant, and the land is washed intermittently in warm downpours and sunlight. In Bali, subtle pleasures and indulgences are delivered in myriad ways. Here you feel light and floating on air, like a flower petal.
Driving from the Ngurah Rai International Airport along the winding, narrow, left-side roads of central Bali, we were amazed and enthralled by the giant sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses; the scary ugly demons carved of lava rock, guarding entrances to temples and dwellings; and the stone and wood carvings and pottery in front of artisan shops. Children in school uniforms, women with baskets on their heads, teens on motorbikes, and crowds of brightly dressed people gathered for a temple ceremony moved to and fro on our way.
We headed to Viceroy Bali, an exclusive five-star resort, literally cut into a vertical mountainside high above the green Valley of the Kings in the vicinity of a bustling Ubud village. Secluded and serene, Viceroy Bali is a paradise for newlyweds—and for olden-weds, too. Twenty-five luxury villas under the traditional thatched roofs are perched on a steep ridge one above another in three rows—all facing the opposite side of a deep canyon overgrown with tropical forest.
Our villa’s glass double doors opened to a private patio with an endless-edge pool, a cozy gazebo for two balanced on its far corner. On the other side was a small fountain streaming from a stone bowl held by a sculpted couple in tender embrace (Shiva and Parvathi perhaps?).
At the tranquil indoor-outdoor Lembah Spa overlooking the Petanu River Gorge, our couple’s massage began with a footbath—the copper tub filled to the brim with rose petals. Spa therapists, trained in Swiss massage, were highly skilled and soon made us forget all the exhaustion of a long flight.
After the spa treatment, in pouring rain, we were escorted under large umbrellas to the next-door CasCades Restaurant, where high tea was served just for us. The restaurant has no walls, and from our corner we could observe the endless jungle, lashed by the rain, and then suddenly blue sky and foggy vapors rising from the green lawns and the large hotel pool. At this award-winning restaurant we had a dinner of tomato carpaccio, barramundi fish teppanyaki, and passion fruit mousse. In the morning, we enjoyed a lavish a la carte breakfast, at which I picked a plate of tropical, island-grown fruit and Bali coffee.
After breakfast, we took a free hotel shuttle to the Ubud village and walked to a sacred monkey forest. Cute little fluffy monkeys—many with tiny babies firmly attached to their bellies—roam the trees, sit on the road busily pounding fallen leaves with rocks, and communicate with visitors, looking for apple bananas sold from a cart nearby and skillfully peeling them. They go in and out of a locked-up temple with a note on a gate, “For worshippers only,” and rest upon stone statues that surround the sacred ground.
We took a Balinese dance lesson at Arma Museum with professional dancer Ketut Riawati, who taught us the arm and eye dance movements (“Long arm! Big eyes, never small!”).
With a hotel-organized tour we visited the temple Batu Bulan to watch a performance of Pemaksan Barong Denjalan then drove to the temple Goa Gojah, where worshippers bring fruit and flower offerings to a Buddha statue toppled over by an earthquake. We admired a view of emerald-green terraced rice paddies and traveled to water temple Pura Tirta Empul, where pilgrims perform purification rituals in a deep pool formed by underground streams.
To bring home an exotic souvenir, we stopped at Teba Sari Bali Agrotourism and bought Luwak coffee made with beans eaten and “naturally processed” by mongooses.
In a futile attempt to catch some beach time in Bali, we moved from the mountains to the sea, but the rain prevented us from getting tan. Gradually we realized there were so many things to do here even in the rain.
Ayana Resort and Spa and Rimba Jimbaran Bali comprise Bali’s only integrated resort located on a 220-acre Karang Mas Estate in southeastern Bali. The Villas at Ayana are 78 individual, secluded, luxurious dwellings with private plunge pools and gazebos on limestone cliffs above the Indian Ocean. We felt positively pampered when our amiable on-call butler took us in a golf cart to Cliff Villa surrounded by flowering hibiscus and bougainvillea.
Everything seemed special, designed for ultimate relaxation and enjoyment inside the traditional Balinese-style gate, under the alang-alang roof. Inspired by the Balinese philosophy of Tri Hita Karana “three reasons for well-being”—harmony with people, deities, and nature—indoor areas seamlessly merge with the outdoors.
A bathtub was filled with red rose petals. Behind it, a picture window framed coconut palms and frangipani trees covered in blooms.
We spent plenty of time at the Thermes Marins Bali Spa in the Aquatonic Seawater Therapy Pool, praised for the therapeutic properties of its vigorous underwater massages performed by powerful jets. We indulged in Balinese massage with age-old techniques used by the thorough spa masseuses.
At the end of the day, we picked fresh-from-the-boat seafood from an icy display at Kisik Bar and Grill right on the beach. Grilled, sauced, and served with Balinese accompaniments, our dinner was brought to our table on the sand, lit by torches around the Ocean Beach Pool.
We took a walk to the iconic Rock Bar perched above Jimbaran Bay. Guests are taken down to the bar in a lift descending along the steep cliff. At sunset, dozens of vacationers line up for the lift, although the hotel guests are treated as VIPs with their own, shorter line.
At Dava Restaurant with koi ponds and lotus pools we enjoyed flawlessly served a la carte breakfast, included with the Villa stay.
A complimentary resort shuttle in mere minutes delivered us from the more traditional Ayana to the boldly contemporary Rimba, with its ark-shaped lobby surrounded by reflective pools. The resort’s 282 luxurious rooms and suites are decorated with natural materials, reclaimed wood, and plant fiber.
From the balcony of our suite we admired the sweet sound of a flute—the performer in a floor-length gown was standing barefoot on a platform half submerged in an oval-shaped endless pool as if suspended in the air.
As soon as the nightly musical performance was over we headed for Unique Rooftop Bar, which offers dramatic views of the Uluwatu Hills in addition to DJ music, island mojitos garnished with sugar cane sticks, and a swimming pool cleverly positioned between the tables and long chairs.
In the morning, before leaving for the airport, we got a substantial breakfast at To’ge Restaurant. The breakfast buffet features dishes from all corners of Asia as well as Western classics. True to form, we picked Indonesian chicken and rice, local fruit, and coconut juice from a whole coconut.