Yes, Bali has beaches, surfing, diving, and resorts great and small, but it’s the essence of Bali – and the Balinese – that makes it so much more than just a fun-in-the-sun retreat. It is possible to take the cliché of the smiling Balinese too far but, in reality, the inhabitants of this small island are indeed a generous, genuinely warm people. There’s also a fun, sly sense of humour behind the smiles. Upon seeing a bald tourist, many locals exclaim ‘bung ujan’,which means today’s rain is cancelled – it’s their way of saying that the hairless head is like a clear sky.
BEST SUNSET SCENE
At La Plancha in Seminyak the vibe is relaxed, and as well as music there are screens showing surfing films, which you watch while sitting in oversized beanbags. Or, of course, you could turn your head a little and watch the sun set instead.
BEST CUTE HANGOUT
Old Man’s, overlooking the breaks at Batu Bolong, is the latest outpost from Aussie expat Sean Cosgrove, of Petitenget Café fame. He’s taken his uncomplicated approach and once again come up with another groovy, effortless joint: this time a beer garden by the beach.
BEST FINGER FOOD
No need for cutlery at Waroeng Tugu, a stylishly rustic private kitchen in Hotel Tugu at Canggu Beach, where the chef chooses what to cook and you eat with your fingers. The menu might include grilled chicken marinated in coconut milk, steamed fish in banana leaves or stewed bamboo shoots and tofu.
BEST SECRET RETREAT
Puri Ganesha is a laid-back hideaway on the less-visited north-west coast, the personal passion of Diana von Cranach. She creates menus based on local recipes, enhanced with her own expertise in raw food. Her signature dish is tempeh marinated in coriander seed, garlic, onion, turmeric and Javan mountain honey, topped with prawns and ginger flower, tomato, shallots and lemon basil. The spa is as good as the food; so are the rustic villas with pools.
BEST BEATS PLUS EATS
The introduction of a dress code has done nothing to cramp anyone’s style at the Seminyak institution Ku De Ta. The August parties are the stuff of legend: there’s something on every night, with highlights including the Underwater Wonderland Bikini Party and White Party. The 12-course tasting menu (coral trout ceviche; foie gras and miso royale; Jimbaran seafood stew) at the upstairs restaurant, Mejekawi, is heaven.
If you want to get underwater, head to OK Divers, based in Padang Bay. What’s more, there’s no longer any need to take the boat from there to the Gili Islands, famous for their white beaches, turtles and a blissful lack of cars and motorbikes; now you can take an Air Bali chopper – and fly past Gunung Agung, one of Bali’s active volcanoes, while you’re at it. www.okdiversbali.com
BEST AFTER-DINNER DRINKS
Just north of Ku Te Da, Mantra is a cute café/bar full of paintings, with lots of distressed wood and wrought-iron tables and chairs. Not the kind of place you’d automatically assume would be a late-night hotspot. But it is.
BEST SUPER-HEALTHY CAFÉS
For that wheatgrass-shot and organic-veg fix, it’s got to be Betelnut in Batu Bolong (try the mixed-green smoothie) or Watercress in Batu Belig, which has just opened a by-night option, Watercress Malam. The house salad (toasted seeds, crispy tempeh, sweetcorn and leafy greens) is so good for you, you’ll want to achieve balance by washing it down with a Lemongrass Tart cocktail of gin, lemongrass, lime marmalade and pomelo juice.
resource reference: conde nast traveler