A better side of Bali
Bwhere we would spend the majority of our 10-night stay in Bali – with the hotel and it was all aboard for a trip on the large people mover the next day.
We decided to take a round-about route to our destination on the eastern side of the island. As we had younger children in tow, ALI can get a bad rap with images of boozy bogans running amok – but if you are prepared to get off the beaten track your efforts are rewarded with a beautiful experience. You’ll find stunning beaches where you are not routinely hassled by amateur masseurs, sari sellers or being within earshot of someone from “Sinny in ‘Straya’’.
Given the aim of my overseas holidays is not to be surrounded by fellow Aussies, Bali may seem a strange choice for a winter sun escape. But I convinced my good mate that Bali would make a perfectly relaxing holiday for our families, away from the madding crowds.
Our oasis was Lipah Beach, on the eastern side of the island along the coast of Amed, which is about three hours drive from Bali’s international airport in Denpasar. It was stunning – a palm fringed had a competitively priced restaurant with a mix of western and local cuisine. Despite the main entrance being off a main road, noise was never a problem and access to the main drag at the nearby Sanur beach was via a back laneway.
The walk to the beach past eateries, a grocery store and beauty parlours took less than five minutes and another five minutes along the foreshore brought you to the white sand of Sanur beach, dotted with expensive tourist hotels.
Our two families strolled down there on the second morning and found ourselves sharing the long stretch of beach and warm sea water with just two other couples – and not a hawker in sight.
We bumped into some countrymen but the majority of tourists in our hotel and around this locale were from Europe and East Asia.
We organised our trip to Lipah Beach – beach framed by local fishing boats with a rainbow of coral and tropical fish located just metres offshore – all overlooked by our two-storey, dual balcony beachfront villa.
It’s always a bit of a punt booking online based on reviews and promo pictures but we struck luck at the Coral View Villas.
My plan was to travel to Bali with my family and that of my good mate Jayco to thaw out from the Adelaide cold.
Our first stop was Sanur, which had two advantages – it was only a half-hour drive from the airport and it wasn’t Kuta.
We were staying a couple of nights to recover from the late night arrival flight from home.
Again, the pictures of the grounds, accommodation and two pools looked good on the internet and so were the reviews.
Sri Phala Resort was built and landscaped in traditional Balinese style and
Tourists feed fish at Taman Ujung Water Palace we decided to make our first stop at the Bali Bird and Reptile Park at Batubulan, just 20 minutes drive from Sanur.
After being used to paying around $10 a head for restaurant meals and less than $2 for a takeaway tinnie of beer, stumping up more than $100 for a family ticket was a shock but the facilities were first class and the presentations professional. There were 1000 birds from more than 200 species on show – including exotics like the super colourful macaws, toucans, African hornbills and even Aussie cassowaries. The star attraction of the reptile park was the minidinosaur – aka Indonesia’s own Komodo dragon, as well as some big monitor lizards.
We joined the mayhem of Ubud – famed as the cultural centre of Bali but overrun with tourism, designer shops and never-ending traffic jams. After a visit to a temple and the main market – with its wooden phallic bottle openers – we headed to our seaside destination of Lipah Beach.
We arrived at the hotel in the dark with some trepidation, after a trip down a rough road in what felt like the middle of nowhere. But this was soon banished by the size and style of the villas. Although Coral View was opened in 1995, the well kept accommodation and beautifully landscaped and award-winning gardens were gorgeous.
The next day we headed out to snorkel among an abundance of tropical fish and coral literally metres off the beach. There were only a few other snorkellers off the beach, which was strewn during the day with traditional, colourful catamaran fishing boats. A couple of days in, the seas swelled and the surf was up, so we switched from snorkelling to body surfing. This also made us more adventurous, so we headed out on day trips, including local former royal palaces.
The Water Palace of the last Raja of Karangasem was built in 1948 in a fusion of Balinese and Chinese styles. It is set in beautiful scenery amid terraced rice fields and is sited on a natural spring with pools filled with fish and surrounded by sculptures. The Raja also built the larger, more spectacular Taman Ujung Water Palace closer to the sea. The layout of the lakes here seemed to generate naturally cool breezes and the views of the surrounding mountains and sea were spectacular from the combination of European and Balinese inspired architecture.
The next day we took another, shorter trip to a village nestled in spectacularly landscaped and lush rice paddies. After the driver gingerly negotiated the track held together by potholes, and passing women labouring in the fields in topless Bali tradition, we arrived at the village which featured five sacred springs. The trip was an eye-opener of a typical farming community, complete with numerous temples, basic living conditions and friendly, generous people. A short trek through the fields into the hills brought us to the venerated source of the spring, which was marked by a small altar and daily offerings.
It seemed a million miles from our final onenight stay near Kuta with its fast food, bars, shops and Waterbom recreation park’s water slides.