The crunchy spinach pakora, although fried, are still green enough for me to convince myself they are actually not too unhealthy (ha), the glass of rosẽ is well chilled, the air is not and I am so happily engrossed in my book that I am oblivious to anything else around me.
For a busy working mum such relaxation is almost unimaginable but it is in fact a very real part of my 4 days sans kids at Club Med Bali. Mention the words Club Med and most immediately think “family” and my children continue to argue the fact as I pack my bag and kiss them goodbye. What they don’t know is that CM Bali has created some wonderful child free spaces for those of us needing a wee break away or maybe just an escape for an hour or so without our beloveds in tow.
The Zen pool is one of my favourite spots (well the spa is actually but I can’t feasibly spend my whole day there), this is where adults can recline in peace and comfort poolside with the occasional bird call the only sound. The days are deliciously hot and the pool thankfully devoid of chill factor.
While the Zen pool bar service is strictly soft, it is only a stroll through the grounds to the Kintamani Bar where you can get anything from a barista made latte to an icy cold cocktail (think jars of mojitos filled with ice, mint and lime wedges…). Everything I want to drink is all inclusive although French champagnes and some spirits come with a price tag. The Kintamani bar is a great place to sit and either watch those who choose to frolic in the main pool or recline facing out to the Indian Ocean and simply soak up the vista.
With so little to do there is plenty of time to contemplate meals and where and what to pick out of a myriad of choices. The Deck has elegant a la carte dining while the main restaurant has stations representing many of the nations of the world. The choices are varied and include some well ripened French cheeses and a dazzling selection of tiny sweet treats. While my kids would be in chip, pasta and pizza heaven, for me I would love to see a bit more selection from SE Asia and in particular some delicious Balinese fare.
With local fare in mind a group of us head along the beach (well we could have but we actually grabbed a cab) to the award winning restaurant Bumbu Bali, renowned for its true Balinese fare. I am swooning as soon as I open the door,
Balinese people are known for their ready smiles and friendly natures and judging by our service, Bumbu Bali must hire the best of the best. The setting reflects the attention to detail that Bali is renowned for with the stylishly designed open plan kitchen, stacks of gorgeous ceramics and the plants and flowering orchids creating an outdoor feel. The outdoor feel is actually quite real and during a brief downpour it takes a little bit of navigating or an umbrella to cross the restaurant.
The set menu tasting selection is generally recommended for first timers as it covers many of the dishes that Indonesia is so well known for, including satays still sizzling, fiery sambal sauce, gado gado, curries, meltingly soft “happy” pork (from NZ), and my favourite being coconut shredded chicken and vegetable salad.
Bumbu Bali set menu
While most of Indonesia is Muslim the island of Bali is almost exclusively Hindu with Bumbu (spiced) suckling pig being an island favourite.
Another specialty is duck and we manage to devour this at Bebek Bengil aka Dirty Duck Diner. The somewhat dubious name is worth explaining, when the restaurant was just about complete a flock of quite dirty ducks flew in from the rice paddies for a look – hence the name and nothing to do with their hygiene standards. The rice paddies in central Ubud are now long gone and instead Bebek Bengil shares the neighbourhood with cafes and shops that sell everything from beautifully made silver jewellery and handicrafts to blatantly phallic bottle openers (do people really buy these?).
The signature duck dish is actually a smoked duck that sounds divine but needs to be ordered 24 hours in advance so we opt for the crispy fried duck with condiments and the best gado gado ever made. The duck is indeed crisp with a mildly spiced skin and the most succulent flesh beneath. With only a fork provided we just do what everyone around us is and use our fingers to detach bones and extract the meat.
It is near Ubud that you will find the Sacred Monkey Forest for an up close experience with long tailed macaques, there is also a white water rafting experience and it is the final destination for the cycling tours that head down a nearby mountain.
We opt for the latter and after a scenic trip up the mountain we then spent an hour or more flying down a quiet country road through villages and traversing rice paddies heading towards Ubud. I had planned on some exercise but find that my fingers spend more time on the brakes than my feet on the pedals. The roads are in great condition and cycling a lovely way to feel part of the surrounds.
Having ticked off a cycle and lunch it is time to head back to Nusa Dua and Club Med where a pampering massage awaits. Balinese massage are world famous and this one doesn’t disappoint, I actually push back against dozing off so to actually remember the moment and appreciate just how lucky I am.
The streets of Bali are lined with massage houses which even outnumber the plethora of pseudo Ralph Lauren polo shops. While I wander the narrow lanes of the popular tourist beach Seminyak, aside from wondering about the logistics of a shipping container to transport home some outdoor furniture and eye catching ceramics, I find that most of the other stores are yoga and resort wear or Australian surf labels that won’t be worn at my desk at home. Both Seminyak and Kuta are hugely popular tourist areas with the quick flights from Australia into Bali drawing huge numbers of travellers.
This burgeoning tourist industry combined with a local food culture has meant that there are plenty of quality restaurants to choose from and a great selection of accommodation including the popular Bali rental villas that come complete with pool and chef.
Safety while travelling is often a concern and while some might find the car security checks each time you enter the tourist district of Nusa Dua claustrophobic there is for me an assurance that comes with this. For many, the beaches and resorts of the Nusa Dua tourist district are a perfect way to unwind and unravel in tropical warmth without having to think further than what you plan to eat and drink and where you intend swimming….
*Air NZ flies direct to Bali during the winter months, check availability. Otherwise flights go via Australia.
*Hiring a driver is way easier rather than facing the often frantic traffic congestion.
*Police bribery on some roads does exist and it is worth paying the small amount asked for and then moving on.
*The local rupier currency is easily accessed through ATM machines as a fair exchange rate and fee.
*Jenggala Ceramics is is well worth a visit for gift buying or stylish mementos.
*While the resorts spray for mosquitoes, if you are planing to go on excursions it is worth using a deet based repellent to reduce the risk of dengue fever.
Helen was a guest of Club Med Bali.