The Island Paradise of Bali, Indonesia

I love all the little latitudes but you should open your mind and listen to me about this one.

Island paradise, a term thrown around a bit off handed by writers whose descriptive toolbox is a bit thin, or who are in a rush to finish their literary work before happy hour begins.  What really constitutes an island paradise anyway?  Can we set some guidelines that a destination has to meet before we are allowed to use such a term?  Or is the idea of paradise so subjective that it would be pretentious to think we should codify it for others?

Maybe we don’t need a set of guidelines to prove paradise but as an alternative have a poll.  Let’s check with the voices of support and dissent regarding a small mass of land surrounded by water laying in the little latitudes, that hopefully serves rum.  Democracy rules correct?  Well this might not work either.  Have you ever enjoyed a movie that most people disliked?  Me too.

Sunset over Jimbaran Bay, Bali

Sunset over Jimbaran Bay, Bali ©2011 Carlton Grooms

Maybe, just maybe, if you are going to use the term you should just stop and really mull over the credentials of the island that deserves your accolade.  If it feels right, use it and screw everyone else.

Bali, Indonesia is an island paradise.  There I said it, I used it, I mean it.

Once again, I am sharing with you an island destination half way around the world.  What’s wrong with the Caribbean, Carl?  It’s closer and surely there are island paradises there as well.  Nothing, there are and absolutely.  I love all the little latitudes but you should open your mind and listen to me about this one.

Map of Bali, Indonesia

Map of Bali, Indonesia - Images from Google Maps

Another twenty-four hour flight and just under two-thousand dollars each will get you half way around the world and south of the equator.  I like long flights.  Where else can you watch every movie you missed over the past year and drink for free?

Many flights will take you direct to Denpasar where the airport on Bali is located some may connect through Jakarta.  If you go through Jakarta, consider stopping for a day or two.  Luxury hotels are relatively cheap and you can see a cool city while adjusting your body clock.  If you connect to Bali through Hong Kong, Bangkok or a similar Asian hub you should consider the same.

Once you arrive in Bali, you can operate on a small budget if you wish.  You can also splash out at more than $500 per night.  Bali is generally a cheap destination once you arrive.  There are two major destinations on the island; I recommend you consider splitting your time between Ubud in the center and Kuta and the surrounding beach destinations in the south.

Rice plantation. Ubud, Bali.

Rice plantation. Ubud, Bali. © 2011 Carlton Grooms

Volcanoes formed Bali, like many islands.  The highest mountain, Mount Agung at 10,000 ft. is still an active volcano.  Ubud is in the higher elevations in the center of the island leading up to Mount Agung.  It is also the cultural center of the island.

The best choices to stay in Ubud are in smaller boutique hotels.  You can easily find these with a simple on line search.  I stayed at a small B&B style hotel that only had a dozen rooms.  Mine was open air as the temperature at the higher elevation was comfortable.  If you like Balinese art or furniture you are in for a treat.  For such a small island and population, they have had an outsized impact on the concept of design.  Especially on Asian and spa design.  The furniture factories and stores are abundant and the low prices will take your breath away.  You will start the mental gymnastics of trying to figure how to secure a sea container to send home with all these new treasures.

Bali Culture

Bali Culture ©2011 Carlton Grooms

While you are in Ubud you need to take in a Balinese play and make the effort to drive further up the mountain to observe the volcano.  Clouds often obscure the peak but if you have a good day you will be rewarded with some amazing photos to take home.

After a few days at the higher elevation it is time to make the trek back south to the beach.  We stayed at the Ritz Carlton in Jimbaran Bay.   It has since been reflagged as the AYANA Resort and Spa.  At the time, we paid around $100 per night.  The AYANA this summer can be had for just under $300.  There is a 4 Seasons in Jimbaran as well that was just awarded on of the  “World Best Hotel Spas in Asia 2010”.

Jimbaran Bay Ritz Carlton Hotel

Jimbaran Bay Ritz Carlton Hotel ©2011 Carlton Grooms

What kind of beaches and vibe will you find in Bali?  Fine tan sand, nice waves, clean water and dramatic rocky cliffs.  Indonesia has the world’s largest Muslim population but Bali is predominately Hindu.  This means that you are in a conservative society so topless sunbathing and wild public drinking is a no go.  That said, you may do as you wish in your own private plunge pool at your villa if you drop enough coin.  Bali, as a destination, is more about the slower pace island life.  Daily visits to the spa and leisurely lunches on the cliff overlooking the sea is more in line with this destination.  It is great for a romantic getaway.

The U.S. Government took Bali off the travel-warning list in 2008.  Indonesia is still a region of the world that one has to be mindful of safety in regards to terrorism.  Should that dissuade your trip?  Only you can answer that.  I took my entire family just after the 2005 bombings.  Maybe that’s why I got the Ritz for so few dollars.  In the end, I believe in engaging the world, not hiding from it.

Bali architecture

Bali architecture ©2011 Carlton Grooms

The great thing about a trip to Bali is you will connect with a unique and important culture.  All of your senses will be engaged in new ways.  The smell of unique spices you never knew existed, the taste of vine ripe fruit from the fertile volcanic soil, the sound of Balinese music and sights of the Mother Temple of Basakih.  All of this wrapped in an island that was named Travel + Leisure’s Best Island 2010.

Is Bali and island paradise?  I’ve mulled it over and it deserves my accolades.

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2 Responses to “The Island Paradise of Bali, Indonesia”

  1. Michael Figueiredo May 24, 2011 at 8:47 pm #

    Bali is high on my list of places to go! Very informative article! :)

    • Carl Grooms
      Carl Grooms May 24, 2011 at 10:47 pm #

      Cheers Mike. I was there during a difficult time politically. My dad still will not talk to me about the trip as he feels it was irresponsible. Oh Well!

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