Destinations & Cities

Bali: the undiscovered getaway

Lifestyle writer Shonagh Walker spends seven glorious days in Bali, discovering two very different, yet equally as blissful, vacation experiences.

Sunset at the InterContinental Bali Resort

Days one to three: Jimbaran Bay's InterContinental Bali Resort
The first thing I noticed when I entered the gates of Jimbaran Bay's InterContinental Bali Resort was its elegantly traditional Balinese feel. Steeped in Indonesian culture, colourful lanterns sway in the entrance hall and a vast, beautifully decorated lobby echoes the unrivalled Balinese hospitality. I instantly knew I had arrived somewhere incredibly special.

Club InterContinental
As a Club InterContinental guest, I was ushered discreetly into the private Club Lounge for a seamless check-in into my palatial suite (all the while enjoying a refreshing Bali hai cocktail).

The Club InterContinental Lounge boasts a 24-hour cocktail bar and guest services centre, along with exceptional privileges, including: a 24-hour butler service; a choice of five breakfast locations; the use of a private Club InterContinental pool; a choice of iPods loaded with every kind of music you could imagine; concierge service to the "in the know" action around the bustling area; interactive workshops, ranging from painting classes to traditional Balinese Wayang puppet making; and the list goes on.

Exploring the resort
As soon as I unpacked my belongings and finished jumping on the bed in excitement, I headed out to explore this amazing resort. After finding my way past the six gorgeous swimming pools (one featuring an ever-so convenient swim-up bar), my breath was stolen.

There is an endless stretch of white sand beach overlooking the tranquil waters of Jimbaran Bay that's like nothing I've ever seen. I made a quick mental note to book in at resort's new beach recreational centre, which has recently partnered with Rip Curl School of Surf to boast one of the best water sports centres in Indonesia.

There's a huge array of activities on offer, including dive classes, surfing, windsurfing, kayaking, snorkelling, bodyboarding and stand-up paddle boarding, all under the guidance of some of the world's most experienced aquatic athletes.

Shopping
Jimbaran Bay's InterContinental Bali Resort is a 20-minute drive from the shopping area of Seminyak. I literally spent hours strolling its bustling streets scoring unbeatable bargains in homewares, clothing, jewellery, shoes and so much more!

Feast
By the time I returned to the resort, I was keen to try some of the local delicacies. While just a few metres down the road lies the famous seafood hub of Jimbaran Bay, where rows of open restaurants prepare their daily catch, I was eager to try the InterContinental's new Ko Sushi Lounge and Bar.

It's currently being touted as Bali's newest hot spot and it certainly met its reputation. With a cocktail menu to salivate over and mouth-watering Japanese cuisine, it's a do-not-miss dining experience. I filled up on a selection of delicious fresh sushi, sashimi and maki rolls along with yakitori, tempura, noodle and rice dishes, all freshly prepared to perfection.

There are also four super-fun teppanyaki tables, but no room for that after this feast!

Chill
After a blissful night's sleep in a cloud-like bed, I awoke to a "hectic" schedule of spa treatments and yoga.

First stop: Spa Uluwatu. The unique spa has several different treatment rooms, with treatments based on the ocean and nature, each with nurturing properties for the body, mind and spirit. I indulged in the traditional Balinese massage, a firm, deep massage including thumb walking, skin rolling and percussion and palm pressure and point foot massage. It was amazing.

I followed this with a one-on-one Balinese yoga session in a private hut on the beach — an unrivalled mind-body-spirit experience that stretches the body and strengthens the soul. Then, I floated off to the Rip Curl School of Surf for a one-hour stand-up paddle that finished just as the sun was slipping behind the horizon — did someone say heaven?

Edible theatre
Energised (and hungry) by all that massage and exercise, I was keen for a Teppanyaki experience at Ko Sushi Lounge and Bar. Like edible theatre, the meal was exquisite and the talents of the chef mind-blowing — how does he still have all his fingers?

It was the perfect way to end my stay at this luxurious sea-front resort and as I put myself to bed, I was more than a little sad knowing that I was leaving this divine paradise the following morning.

Days four to seven: Karma Kandara, Nammos Bay
I won't lie. I was completely disheartened to leave Jimbaran Bay's InterContinental Bali Resort, but when I arrived at Karma Kandara in the cliff-top region on Nammos (approximately a 40-minute drive from Jimbaran) I felt I had been transported into a paradise that made me forget that the rest of the world existed.

It is like nowhere else on earth: indescribable views, white-washed paved walls, bridges and stone walkways that simply cry out for you to be lazier than you've been before. And that is exactly what I was . For three glorious days, the most energy I expended was lifting a cocktail to my mouth, chewing a morsel of mouth-watering food, or meandering to the spa for a mind-blowing massage.

Villa magic
Karma Kandara consists of 46 luxury villas, each complete with its own kitchen, three bedrooms with ensuites, a vast living area and a to-die-for infinity pool overlooking the breathtaking Indian Ocean.

You'll be woken each morning with a family of cheeky monkeys on the hunt for breakfast. While the resort has a strict "do not feed the wildlife" policy, I have to admit their cute little faces coerced me into throwing them a banana or two. I don't suggest you do the same, as they mess they leave is not pretty!

You'll be hard-pressed to leave your villa, particularly as it also has an oversized daybed in its lush, jungle-like backyard and 24-hour room service, but I'd strongly encourage you to get out and explore the hotel's many other relaxation-inducing amenities.

Di Mare restaurant
Just a short stroll from any of the villas, Di Mare restaurant has the best views of any resort I've ever stayed in. I'll happily admit to indulging in several of the menu's potent cocktails for hours on end while doing nothing else but staring out to the endless azure ocean, then stumbling back to my private villa for an afternoon nap by the side of my infinity pool.

As for Di Mare's food, at the menu's core is fresh, season-driven, ocean-inspired fine dining, with offerings such as spice-crusted prawns, or Moroccan spiced ahi tuna with lentils du puy, lemon confit and Ligurian olive juice. The restaurant also boasts more than 3000 wines sourced from around the globe.

Nammos Beach Club
A little more relaxed than Di Mare, and definitely with more of a party vibe, Nammos Beach Club is located at the bottom of the Karma Kandara cliffs. You catch the inclinator down approximately 200m (a thrill in itself) and enter a Gilligan's Island-style hut that features a chilled-out bar and wood-fired pizza restaurant.

You can choose to eat at the bar, at a table, or soak up the sun on a day bed and simply relax the day away. And as it's pretty much on the beach, there is also a selection of fresh seafood to choose from — think lobster, shrimp and other such shellfish. Upon request, a waiter will seriously slip on a pair of flippers and mask and head out to the lagoon to collect your lunch!

Temple of soul
If you're interested in sunset cocktails, and let's face, who isn't in a tropical resort, make sure you head to the Temple Lounge. It's set on the rooftop of Di Mare restaurant, and has a whole North African ambience going on.

There are plush, colourful banquettes, shisa pipes and giant Moroccan stained-glass lanterns. You can also indulge in some East-inspired tapas-style dishes with your sunset cocktails.

Spa sensuality
At Karma Spa and Wellness, it's all about you (as it should be).

If you want the therapist to massage your big toe for three hours, they will do as you ask. It's that kind of place. I'd suggest avoiding that though and opting for the intuitive Balinese massage, Tari's warm stone chakra massage or the karma rubdown.

The spa was set up by world-renowned spa guru Judy Chapman, and it shows in every element, from the moment you're greeted at reception, to the second you enter your private cliff-hanging spa-hut suspended above the Indian Ocean, to every movement of your therapist's expertly trained hands.

Enquire about one-on-one yoga practice at the spa too — a one-hour stretch and meditation session followed by one of the many treatments available is the ultimate way to up your relaxation levels.

For further information, visit www.bali.intercontinental.com and www.karmakandara.com.

read more from