Bali bliss time: Seven quick ways to switch off and recharge – even with kids in tow!

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Bali is renowned for its laid-back, bliss­ful life­style – even when you’re trav­el­ling with young chil­dren. Anna King-Sha­hab shares seven quick ways to en­joy all the re­lax­ation the is­land has to of­fer

COM­ING GRAD­U­ALLY BACK INTO THE PRESENT, A THRILLING FEEL­ING OF LIGHTNESS BUZZES IN­SIDE ME

WWhile a ded­i­cated yoga re­treat is firmly on my wish­list, I’ve found that in Bali, you needn’t be en­sconced in a re­treat to find many mo­ments of peaced-out bliss, even when trav­el­ling with young kids in tow as I did. In be­tween the bar­ter­ing for bar­gains to bow­ing to hair-braid­ing of­fers, it’s easy to grab mo­ments in which to com­pletely switch off and recharge the in­ter­nal bat­tery.

Go off grid

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30-minute or so ferry ride from Bali, Nusa Lem­bon­gan has been pop­u­lar with surfers for years, and has re­cently seen a steady growth in those look­ing for a su­per-chill at­mo­sphere. De­vel­op­ment is low-key with no big in­ter­na­tional ho­tels, rudi­men­tary roads host­ing mostly scoot­ers, and a hand­ful of of­ten un­re­li­able ATMs – stock­ing up on cash feels pleas­antly old-school.

The Nusa is­lands of­fer per­fect con­di­tions for a wa­ter­sports fix, with surf breaks, calm seas for standup pad­dle-board­ing, and ab­surdly clear turquoise wa­ter for snorkelling. The best bit of our day in the wa­ter is drift-snorkelling off Man­grove Bay: our skip­per drops us off at one end of the bay and the swift cur­rent draws our fam­ily along; we sim­ply float, wowed by the co­ral for­est and in­quis­i­tive fish, to meet the boat a few hun­dred me­tres along.

Take a sa­cred nap

T he trusty nana nap gets an an­cient treat­ment at the hands of for­mer Bud­dhist nun Ibu Fer­awati (Fera), the res­i­dent well­ness men­tor at Four Sea­sons Sayan. I book in a day visit to the re­sort, a five-minute scooter ride from our villa in Ubud, cu­ri­ous to find out what on earth a sa­cred nap en­tailed. Fera wel­comes me and one other nap­per to the beau­ti­ful, Elora Hardy-de­signed bam­boo open-air yoga bale, and helps us in to the yoga silks sus­pended from the rafters, so I lie on my back, gen­tly co­cooned. Plac­ing a fra­grant wheat bag over my eyes, Fera be­gins to talk. She speaks softly, her lilt­ing Ba­hasa ac­cent adding a sing-song qual­ity, as she tells the life story of the Bud­dha. The tale ends with Fera chant­ing mantras and the res­o­nant ring of a Ti­betan singing bowl. Then she be­gins to sing a lul­laby, and to gen­tly swing us in our co­coons, and I de­part fur­ther and fur­ther from real life and into a dream-like state. Some time later, as the swing­ing slows to an even­tual halt, Fera crouches down by my head and gen­tly mas­sages the top of my fore­head, whis­per­ing in­can­ta­tions. Com­ing grad­u­ally back into the present, a thrilling feel­ing of lightness buzzes in­side me. After­wards, Fera tells me she’d thought up the idea quite re­cently, while rock­ing and singing her first-born to sleep. And that’s ex­actly what this feels like, the weight­less­ness of be­ing a baby again, of hav­ing no wor­ries, at least for a bliss­ful 60 min­utes.

Is­land of the bowls

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owls of good­ness are around every cor­ner in Bali, from smoothie bowls to salad bowls and raw ve­gan curry bowls, there’s a bowl to suit your bouche. Yel­low Flower Café, ac­cessed by foot on a nar­row path through the rice pad­dies and jun­gle on the out­skirts of Ubud, is a great spot. For later in the day, I love their bowl of nasi goreng – a far cry from greasy fried rice, theirs in­cludes red and wild rice, and pulses lightly fried in co­conut oil, plenty of greens, nutty tem­peh, Bali’s fa­mous sam­bal matah, and a fried banana. (Banana-fried rice? Trust me on this!) And break­fast doesn’t get more bliss­ful than a cerise-hued drag­on­fruit Is­lan­der bowl from Muntigs restau­rant at Batu Karang Re­sort, with a ta­ble by the pool, over­look­ing the serene turquoise shal­lows and fur­ther out to the surf breaks off Jungut Batu beach.

Spa-maz­ing

I t goes with­out say­ing that a spa treat­ment (or many) is a self-lov­ing must, and Bali is right­fully fa­mous as one of the world’s top spa des­ti­na­tions. You’re spoilt for choice, but some spas stand out from the pack.

There’s a rea­son why Four Sea­sons Jim­baran Bay is a shoo-in to any in­ter­na­tional spa guide. Af­ter chang­ing and us­ing the hot and cold plunge pool, I’m greeted by my ther­a­pist Sri and guided through a se­ries of path­ways, fringed by hand-built white­stone walls and green­ery, to the treat­ment room. My 90-minute Ku Nye mas­sage sees Sri ap­ply­ing marigold and laven­der salt com­presses and warm river stones, as well as strong, flow­ing Ba­li­nese mas­sage strokes. The aim of bal­anc­ing merid­i­ans and work­ing on acu­pres­sure points works to iron out the crick in my neck that’s been both­er­ing me for weeks, and leaves me feel­ing nicely spaced out after­wards, as I sit sip­ping jamu.

At the other end of the price spec­trum is Ubud’s Can­tika Zest spa. A handy two-minute scooter ride from our villa, I es­cape to the semi-out­door jun­gle spa one rainy af­ter­noon for a fa­cial and a hair wash. All Can­tika prod­ucts are hand­made from herbs and plants grown on-site by owner Jasi and her team; the whole place smells like a trop­i­cal flower mar­ket.

Drink up

I f you’re any­thing like me, look­ing af­ter your­self in­volves the oc­ca­sional dis­cern­ing cock­tail or two, and when on hol­i­day, by oc­ca­sional I mean each evening when cock­tail hour rolls around. My favourite im­bib­ing mo­ment comes cour­tesy of The Howff, which is as bizarre as it is bril­liant: an el­e­gantly Scot­tish-themed whisky speakeasy built into the cliff on Jungut Batu beach, Nusa Lem­bon­gan. It’s not ad­ver­tised or clearly sign­posted, so un­less you know it’s there you’d never find it, but be­lieve me, you want to find it: look for the stairs go­ing down be­side The Deck Cafe next to Batu Karang Re­sort. As well as a huge range of whiskies, The Howff ex­cells in G&Ts.

Em­brace a cliché

S ome­times, ex­pe­ri­ences that seem clichéd shouldn’t be over­looked. Case in point for me was din­ing at one of the many seafood restau­rants that fringe the sand along Jim­baran Bay. I nor­mally avoid heav­ily touristed spots, but af­ter cav­ing into the tempt­ing aroma of fresh seafood cook­ing over burn­ing co­conut husks, I can vouch that there’s se­ri­ously de­li­cious eat­ing to be had here. Rip­ping into a shar­ing plat­ter of freshly caught and per­fectly cooked crab, lob­ster, clams, prawns, scampi and fresh fish with my feet in the sand while watch­ing the gi­gan­tic burn­ing ball of sun get by the wa­tery hori­zon is some­thing quite spe­cial. It doesn’t mat­ter that I shared this ex­pe­ri­ence with hun­dreds of other tourists; I’ve learned to switch off, be in the mo­ment and en­joy one of life’s sim­ple plea­sures – which is a les­son that Bali teaches in spades.

It takes a vil­lage

I n Bali, there is no short­age of im­pres­sive ac­com­mo­da­tion op­tions. Cho­sen well, a pri­vate pool villa of­fers ex­cel­lent value, which you could bal­ance with a short stay some­where sump­tu­ous. Si­t­u­ated on the quiet out­skirts of Ubud, our fam­ily loves kick­ing back in the spa­cious sur­rounds of Villa Shanti, a stand-alone three-bed­room villa, part of Devi’s Place, a col­lec­tion of cot­tages and vil­las built in har­mony with the sur­round­ing vil­lage and dot­ted around the rice pad­dies. The cov­ered ve­ran­dah by the pool is where you’ll find me most of the day, loung­ing on the daybed with a book while the kids flip up a storm in the big pool.

For out-and-out lux­ury, Four Sea­sons Jim­baran Bay sur­passes my ex­pec­ta­tions, prov­ing to me that in just a few nights, I can set­tle into a new pace of life, set to the per­cus­sion of a steady, slow pulse. Four Sea­sons de­signed this 14-hectare prop­erty along the in­tri­cate lines of a tra­di­tional Ba­li­nese vil­lage. And when every staff mem­ber, whether they’re wel­com­ing you into the restau­rant for break­fast or lay­ing out tow­els, iced wa­ter and snacks for your pool­side plea­sure, seems to know you by name and stops by for a chat, you do come to feel you’re part of a (very lav­ish) vil­lage.

I’VE LEARNED TO SWITCH OFF, BE IN THE MO­MENT AND EN­JOY ONE OF LIFE’S SIM­PLE PLEA­SURES – A LES­SON THAT BALI TEACHES IN SPADES

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