Bali: Your Trip to Paradise

beach and Pura Batu Bolong temple Nusa Dua, Bali.jpg

Pura Batu Bolong Temple – Nusa Dua, Bali

When it’s time to think about a warm winter getaway, time to think Bali. The popular tour company, World Spree, is offering an 11-day Exotic Bali package for only $1,899 from New York or San Francisco ($200 more from Los Angeles) that includes round-trip air on China Airlines, taxes, fuel surcharges, fabulous hotels, daily breakfast, five other meals, all ground transportation, sightseeing tours and a professional English-speaking guide.  And $1,899 is probably less than you’d spend to go to the  same old Caribbean or Hawaii.

Why Bali?

borobudur-night

Borobudur by Night

Bali is a chance to experience a totally different culture, while also enjoying a sun-splashed beach vacation. The trip starts with five nights in Bali’s cultural capital, the picturesque hill town of Ubud, full of color and chaos, artists’ studios, handicrafts shops and garden restaurants. Here, you’ll stay in the stylish boutique resort Alaya Ubud, which is surrounded by emerald green rice paddies but within walking distance of downtown. Its elegant Balinese-style rooms are complemented by a spa, swimming pool and restaurant.

Bat cave (Goa Lawah), Bali, Indonesia.jpg

Bat Cave (Goa Lawah)

Balinese Hinduism, the predominant religion, shapes much of the island’s life and culture.  There are thousands of temples and shrines and colorful religious ceremonies can be seen regularly.  You’ll visit a temple fed by local springs and have the chance to take part in a traditional purification ceremony, and visit a Monkey Forest that’s home to three holy monkey temples. Just remember, they’re wild monkeys and not afraid of humans, so keep an eye out as they can get frisky! Other excursions include a famous coffee plantation,  the Mother Temple , lunch on the edge of a volcano caldera with a breathtaking view of Lake Batur, and a  special day in a village where you will be warmly welcomed by the locals.

Beach Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia.jpg

Beach Nusa Dua

Then comes the totally relaxing part of the vacation: four nights at  the luxurious Melia Bali Resort in Nusa Dua, famous for its glorious white sandy beaches lapped by warm shallow waters and surrounded by lush green foliage.  There are tons of possibilities here (a safari, ocean rafting, a catamaran cruise, shopping in Kuta, a traditional fire dance) or just soaking up the sun and enjoying the serenity of this exotic  beachfront resort that overlooks a reef-fringed lagoon , exhuberant tropical gardens and a swimming pool that winds through the grounds.

Beach chairs on perfect tropical white sand beach Bali.jpg

Beach chairs on a perfect tropical white sand beach… sigh

Two post-trip options are offered on the way home: a 4-day Stopover in cosmopolitan Singapore, with its exciting cuisine and great shopping ($599 per person) or a 3-day Stopover in Taiwan, which has wonderful Chinese food and a world-class museum ($220 per person). All prices quoted are per person, double occupancy, and are subject to availability.  There is no additional charge for credit cards. 

www.worldspree.com

 

Beautiful Bali: Monkey Mayhem and Filthy Gorgeousness

Last week, I ventured off to Bali for a little R&R and, accordingly, I must share a few photos with the highlights. It was a whirlwind trip (just a weekend in Bali, folks), but I managed to pack in both Jimbaran Bay and Ubud and monkeys, of course, lots of devilishly cute, but don’t mess with ’em monkeys. I look forward to spending more time in this fascinating Goddess filled land of rice and Ganesha!

Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali 

We arrived late in the evening to gracious staff who had us beat a gong three times to announce our entrance. Although it was pitch black, the grounds were more impressive than we could imagine. After making reservations the very day we were to arrive through one of my new favorite websites for Asia, Agoda, we booked garden rooms at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali for approximately $350 USD and, to our amazing surprise, they had overbooked those rooms so we were upgraded to villa rooms. And, when I say villa rooms, I mean, one bedroom villas, each with it’s own private pool and a separate sitting area with enough space for three people as the sofa was large enough to nap comfortably.

A quick photo of my private villa pool

A quick photo of my private villa pool

Needless to say, when we each awoke to see the villas in daylight, we were blown away. We were very close to staying at the Four Seasons or InterContinental, but Agoda showed that the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali had last minute availability (and a better price), so we were thrilled. We were also keen to stay somewhere that felt authentically Balinese and this did the trick. With offerings and statues scattered around the lush grounds, along with a massive common pool and beachfront dining, it was really a no brainer.

Complete with entertainment in the evenings…

Firedancers at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Fire Dancers at the Belmond Jimbaran Puri Bali

Next up, we took a quick (way too quick, but we were short on time) jaunt to Ubud, where we dined amid rice fields and visited the Ubud Market. I am still kicking myself for not having enough time to visit all the cool shops in Ubud, but my wallet is probably thanking me.

Dining in the rice field on satay and smoked fish

Dining in the rice field on satay and smoked fish

When we ordered Smoked Fish, I’ll admit, I thought it would be smoked like Whitefish or Salmon, but it was more like Steamed Fish. A tasty melange of garlic and subtle curry flavors rounded out this impressive looking snapper.

Balinese Smoked Fish

Balinese Smoked Fish with a salad of cooked bean sprouts and green beans, and a sugar cane covered fish cake on the side

But wait… I forgot to mention Monkey Forest in Ubud! How could I forget? This hanging forest meets monkey haven is an experience worth flying 20 hours to see. Monkeys and little monkey babies run wild and have no shame! You buy bananas at the entrance without realizing that once the monkeys see you they will jump on top of you and go, quite literally, bananas.

This little mom and her baby stole my heart (I was out of bananas).

Monkey Forest - Ubud, Bali

Monkey Forest – Ubud, Bali

We finished our day trip with a stop at Tanah Lot, a Hindu temple sitting on a rock formation on the coast, along the beach. It was quite interesting in that it felt as if we had stepped back in time (complete with a Holy Snake you could pay a small donation to touch). That said, it was quite crowded which hampered the allure a bit.

Tanah Lot Hindu Guardian

Tanah Lot Hindu Guardian

However, I did manage to capture one nice sunset, even if the actual temple view was obscured by too many tourists.

The sunset from Tanah Lot Temple

The sunset from Tanah Lot Temple

I finished the outing off with a massage at the hotel and a promise to always make the most of life’s brief moments. Even if it means a very rushed weekend trip to Bali after a crazy turbulent flight. In this case, my 60 minute moments equalled a very powerful Balinese massage where I was covered in the most delicious smelling orange bergamot oil.

The Belmond's beachfront outdoor spa

The Belmond’s beachfront outdoor spa

Because like life, and this storefront in Ubud, it’s filthy and it’s gorgeous and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

ubud stores

Layla Revis, Editor-in-Chief

Layla Revis, Editor-in-Chief

Passionate traveller, blogger, journalist, mother, and friend. Revis loves almost every type of food, but she won’t eat organs… or water chestnuts.

When she’s not flying to Asia for work as Senior Vice President – Global Digital Strategy Director at Leo Burnett, she can be found shamelessly watching trash television or reading Foucault. High/Low with rarely an ‘in between,’ her recent motto is:

“Live large… and love always.”

The Dancing Nymphs of Angkor

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

Angkor Wat, Cambodia

This week, Will Ottley explores the Buddhist/Hindu temples of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat complex and discovers that ancient civilizations’ wisdom lives on in the treasure trove of temples and monuments they left behind.

What surprised me most about Siem Reap, Cambodia was not the grandeur and sophistication of the temple complexes. Walking among the ancient ruins of Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument in the world, I was struck by the overriding presence of the ‘feminine’. Carved into every wall of this vast complex are the images of Devata (goddesses) and playful Apsara (nymphs). This beautiful setting blends a rich history of Buddhist and Hindu influences that exude a feeling of peace and hint at the grandeurs of the lost Khmer civilisation.

Siem Reap, a Temple Base Camp

Siem Reap is a short (less than an hour) flight from the international airports of Bangkok, Phnom Pehn, and Ho Chi Minh City. It serves as the base for visiting the surrounding temples and caters for all travellers’ requirements. It can equally be enjoyed as a single traveller or a family. You can stay in a five-star luxury colonial style hotel that offers traditional afternoon tea, such as Raffles (+855 63 963 888), boutique alternatives such as Shinta Mani Club (+855 63 761 998) or mid-range options such as Tara Ankor hotel. (+855 63 966 661).

Shinta Mani

Shinta Mani

There is an array of excellent local restaurants easily reachable from your hotel by tuk-tuk (think horse and carriage, with a motorbike in place of the horse). They offer traditional Khmer and Asian cuisine, such as the local delicacy, Amok, a thick curry soup made with coconut cream. Two good options are the Khmer kitchen (+855 63 964 154) and the Chamkar Vegetarian Restaurant (+855 92 733 150).

Khmer Kitchen

Khmer Kitchen

There are traditional dance and dinner shows such as Apsara Theatre (+855 63 963 561). These can be quite touristic and you ideally need to book in advance. There are also luxury spas, such as Bodia spa that offer a full range of body treatments including the traditional Khmer massage (+855 63 761 593).

The Temples of Angkor

Visiting the wondrous temples of the UNESCO Archaeological Park, can, at times make you feel like Indiana Jones. From the 9th to 15th century Angkor, was the heart of the Khmer Kingdom. The most famous temples of Angkor Wat, the Bayon, Preah Khan and Ta Prohm, exemplify changing periods of Khmer architecture. Mini-buses packed with tourists set off early to see Angkor Wat, on what is termed the inner-circuit route to see the main temples, followed by the outer circuit on subsequent days (it will make sense when you get there).

Bayon

Bayon Temple

These package tours break for breakfast and lunch at the same time each day, leaving the temples virtually empty. My advice is to hire your own tuk-tuk or taxi, from as little as $15 a day, and to visit the temples in the opposite direction to the arranged tours, taking a later breakfast and lunch. By staying out later, you also get to watch the sunsets shimmering above the tree line. A 5am start to see the stately sunrise over Angkor, is also very popular.

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm

You can hire a knowledgeable tour guide with good English from $45 per day, or just enjoy the experience of discovering the temples for yourself with a guide book. Each temple is unique. The complex of Bayon for example has amazing head carvings, whilst the complex of Ta Prohm was so overgrown when it was excavated that they had to leave trees in place to protect the structure from collapse. This haunting temple was used when filming Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and is a definite highlight.

Getting There and Around

You can travel to Siem Reap via Bangkok from London with British Airways (0844 493 0775; ba.com), and Air France (0207 660 0337) from under £500 per person return. Internal flights to Siem Reap from Bangkok with Air Asia from £70.

Cambodian visa information: www.cambodianembassy.org.uk

Will Ottley is a freelance travel writer and author of the inspirational fable, “Mountain Garden”, but does not work with or for any of the parties mentioned in this article.

Follow Will Ottley on: www.mountaingarden.co.uk

Little Tibet

Shakti Ladakh View from Likhir house

They call it, “Ladakhi Love,” because this high-altitude desert is a breathtaking escape where remote wilderness overlooks the Himalayas. Here, one is brought closer to the love in their heart and the SO in their soul.

Ladakh, better known as little Tibet, is in India’s northernmost region. Only comfortably accessible to travelers during the summer and fall months, this time of year, the weather is gorgeous and humidity-free, making it the perfect alternative to the sticky heat that envelopes the rest of India.  We’re highlighting Shakti, operator of bespoke walking tours and homestays, because they’re a small sweet little outfit offering customized, private itineraries for guests to experience the breathtaking beauty of this remote wilderness with a full range of activities including village-to-village walks, treks, visits to monasteries, camping, and rafting along the Shayok and Indus Rivers.

Shakti Ladakh Taru Bedroom

For the 2011 Shakti Ladakh season (May 1 – October 31) there are three new village houses as well as new treks and camping options in and around the Indus Valley.  The village houses have been gently spruced up to meet Western standards and yet maintain their authenticity as British interior designer Ellie Stanton has created a stylish and comfortable décor for each, including all new fittings in the bathrooms that give them a stylish functionality.  All houses feature solar power and grey water recycling facilities; locally-source wood and mud bricks were used in the construction along with sustainably-harvested willow for the interior roofing in the traditional Ladakhi style.

About the new village houses and treks:

Shey: This century-old home offers views from its roof terrace of the nearby Shey Palace and the Tibetan-Buddhist Thiksey monastery. It has three bedrooms, an en suite bath, large sitting room, and traditional kitchen.  Many of the rooms are painted in a traditional style with decades-old motifs.  The village house at Shey provides a great location for walking, trekking, and biking.

Eego: The village of Eego is one of the few locations where guests can enter and exit the valley on foot. This 150-year-old stone baronial mansion, three stories high, is situated above the village near a glacier and some of the oldest Ladakhi dwellings.  It boasts three bedrooms, a sitting room, a dining room, and an open terrace with stunning views of snowcapped peaks.  Eego provides a superb setting for walks and treks.

Likhir: Sitting above the renowned Likhir monastery and just below the glacier that bears its name, the village house at Likhir provides jaw-dropping, alpine-like sights of the valley and snowcapped peaks. It has two bedrooms, en suite bath, and is within easy reach of Alchi village and the famous Alchi monastery, one of the oldest in Ladakh, with its beautifully preserved 11th century wall paintings.

Stakmo to Eego Four-Day Trek: This three-night/four-day trek through the unexplored valleys and villages on the north side of the Indus Valley can be added on to any Shakti Ladakh itinerary.  On daily treks 5-6 hours in length, guests will experience trekking along some of the highest ridgelines as they traverse from west to east across the northern side of the Indus Valley, passing by villages, forgotten valleys, and high-altitude flora and fauna such as the ibex, yaks, and marmots.  Enjoy daily picnics in some of the most stunning valleys and picturesque river settings the Ladakh region has to offer, while evenings are left to explore villages and camp out under the stars in comfortable, domed canvas tents.

Shakti Ladakh Courtyard at Shey

For Shakti Ladakh’s seven-night itinerary, rates start at $890 per night for one person traveling, $530 per night per person for two to three persons, and $461 per night per person for parties of four to six. Included in the rate: private accommodations for group, all meals, drinks, activities, two rafting trips (weather dependent), English-speaking guide, cook, porters, car at disposal, all taxes, 5% service charge, and round-trip transfers between Leh Airport and Shakti Ladakh.  Minimum stay of five nights required; children ages three and older allowed.

For Stakmo and Eego three-night, four-day trek, rates begin at $1,499 per person on a twin/double share basis.  Included in this rate: accommodation in dome tent, all meals and drinks, English-speaking guide, porters, transfers between Stakmo and Eego at the beginning and end of trek.  Children 16 and older are allowed.

www.shaktihimalaya.com

Last Minute Fall Getaways

Rajasthan, India

Looking for some last minute fall getaways? Who isn’t? If you’re anything like me, you’re a workaholic often being told by your colleagues to just ‘get some rest already!’ So, as it’s just around the corner, fall is the ideal time to discover the world, with many destinations around the globe featuring cooler temperatures, colorful panoramas, abundant wildlife and a kaleidoscope of festivals. India, already a vibrant country, explodes in a riot of colors in the fall, when many festivals take place, including Diwali and Pushkar Fair.

Budapest by Night

Budapest, Vienna and Prague are also beautiful during the Fall, along with Berlin, China, and Tanzania.  So, when Abercrombie & Kent sent us a list of their special fall journeys (with added discounts and deals), we wanted to spread the word so that you, too, could experience your dream destination at its best. Solo travellers take note: you can also save up to 96% on the single supplement on: Treasures of Northern India from Oct 7 and Nov 11 and Essence of India from Oct 13 and Nov 17. Remember, Abercrombie & Kent is high-end so you won’t be skimping. This is 5 star all the way with guides that are some of the best in the world. We’re talking life changing travels, baby, and you could use a shift in your continuum, right?

Right.

Though I tend to be more of a fly by the seat of my pants kinda traveller, as I get older and wiser I find that sometimes it’s just easier to have someone in the know do all the legwork for you. At Abercrombie & Kent, the nice thing is that you can also search for tour options like the following:

August through November departures are filling fast so click the link below to see last-minute destinations for fall travel, and reserve a fall getaway now!

Abercrombie & Kent Last Minute Fall Getaways

Bali-ssimo…

The last in her series on sweet, sweet Asia, Sarah Ivens, Jaunt Magazine Contributor and Founding Editor of the US-version of OK! Magazine, tells us a bit about her out of body, mind, and soul experience in Bali.

Bali-ssimo…

Bali Luxury Hotels - Amanusa

By Sarah Ivens

The tiny green Hindu Island of Bali has been a Mecca for those seeking enlightenment and rest since the 1970s. The hippy centre of Indonesia welcomes healers and artists, writers and doctors to witness its natural beauty and its spiritual traditions and customs.

It’s a place where Ganesh the holy elephant nestles next to statues of Buddha, while ancestors are worshiped and revered and Mother Nature is thanked. You can’t help but leave with your eyes opened and your forehead relaxed. To experience each element of the unique landscape and culture, I travelled the island, staying at three different resorts within the Aman resort group. The five star service and luxurious suites were uniform between all three places but the flavor was spiced up between them, depending on the location and the desires of the 95% local teams running them. By combining the three places, even the short term visitor can get a real sense of Bali and the beliefs of its wonderful, smiling people.

For the mind…

Amandari will challenge your brain in the most soothing way possible. An oasis of green paddy fields, built high above the artistic center of Ubud and designed to look like a traditional Balinese village, this tiny, eco-friendly resort inspires its visitors to seek out their inner creativity. You are encouraged to learn about local music, paintings and poetry while feasting on food you’ve witnessed being harvested at sunrise.

Ubud is perhaps most famous for its medicine men – a gaggle of gurus who guide the locals between right and wrong and who offer sage advice for locals looking for spiritual advice on the fly. The friendly local staff at Amandari can find you an enlightened expert to suit your needs – and even ship you there free of charge in the resort’s air-conditioned fleet of vehicles. If that seems too Western, they can arrange for you to borrow a bicycle. Recover from such prophecies by unwinding in the resort’s extensive library, or take a cocktail into the main courtyard and observe the local art on display. There are only 30 thatched-roof suites so you’ll be free to muse the days away without fear of obnoxious interruption.

For the body…

A Guru Near Amanusa

Amanusa allows the lazy to lounge (if they must) but they prefer the get up and goers, who burst into life at the breaking of dawn and don’t stop until the sun goes down. One of Indonesia’s best golf courses, The Bali Golf and Country Club, sits adjacent to the tree-lined hideaway and proves irresistable for anyone with a decent swing. If hitting the green isn’t your thing, Amanusa also has a 30 metre pool (plus eight of the 35 suites have their own swimming pool), two tennis courts and a private beach club which allows for every kind of water sport you can imagine. Healthy smoothies and fresh fruit cocktails are abundant – the butlers constantly lap the public areas with tray of delicious yet healthy snacks – and you don’t need to worry about one evening in the restaurant undoing all your hard work. Protein-rich, low-fat barbecues are offered by candlelight, and the locally caught fresh fish won’t make anyone fat! You can indulge without the bulge quite easily here.

For the soul…

Bali Holistic Hotels - Amankila

Amankila means ‘peaceful hill’ in Balinese and it’s true, this Cliffside resort tumbles elegantly into the sea with a gentle grace that allows your mind and body to unfurl from any taxing times its recently encountered. Overlooking the Lombok strait, each villa is elevated to make the most of the sweeping ocean views (and the soothing breeze), while above your head is nothing but dazzling stars. Indeed, the most taxing evening activity here is having the butlers set up your bed on an outdoor day lounger so you can fall asleep with a flashlight in one hand and an astrology guidebook in the other. To doze off under a mosquito net with the sweet scent of coconut and frangipani caressing your nostrils is to have died and gone to heaven. Your soul will thank you for it. And it will really celebrate when you book in for a traditional Balinese massage, outdoors on the beach, with nothing to worry about except how you’re going to remember this state of pure bliss once your back at work and in the real world.

http://www.amanresorts.com

24 Hours in Singapore

Sarah Ivens, resident Jaunt Magazine Contributor and the founding Editor-in-Chief of OK! Magazine in the United States, rounds out her Eastern exploits with two more treats in a series on Singapore and Bali.

Singapore is the kind of place that’s seen as a get in and get out joint, the link between East and West, Asia and Australia. But it’s changing. It now rivals Hong Kong and Tokyo as the sleekest of dining and dancing destinations, with enough culture to keep you busy during the day too.

If you’re only passing through on a stopover, don’t fret. At least you’re getting a sampler of this dynamic metropolis… enough to whet your appetite for a longer stay.

So how should you spend 24 hours in Singapore? First rule: stay at the Shangri-La. It’s perfectly placed for the colonial district and the Marina (and a quick trip from the airport and train station). The delightful team there will have everything planned so by the time you unpack, you will feel relaxed, revived and ready for action. If you can push the boat out, stay in the Valley Wing of the hotel. Not only will you be dazzled by the breathtaking chandeliers and local art, the constant flow of champagne and attention to your needs will charm the weariest of travelers.

First stop once you step out of the air conditioning should be the Singapore Flyer, South East Asia’s answer to The London Eye – only bigger. From here you can check out the layout of the city and plan your routes. On a clear day, you can see Indonesia but even on a bad day you’ll be able to see the Singapore Grand Prix track that snakes around the city and the party island of Sentosa.

Next, get walking. From the Singapore Flyer it’s a 10 minute walk along the river front to the iconic symbol of the city, the Mer Lion – half fish, half lion, the gigantic water feature represents Singapore’s strong position as a port and is perfect for photo opps. From there, walk to the old Cricket Club. The pitch sits in the middle of skyscrapers and a Sir Norman Foster spaceship building, a clash of old England meets new powers. It’s another great place to pose for pictures and really sums up the balance Singapore still strikes today. All this posing is hot work of course, so from here head down Beech Road to the legendary Raffles Hotel for a Singapore Sling – the cocktail was invented here, and the place played home for many a famous writer (Somerset Maughn is rumored to haunt the Billiard Room). Sit down and sip, chuck your monkey nut shells on the floor (its tradition!) and mingle with the ex-pats. By now, you’ve have worked up an appetite. Newton Circus is the most bountiful Hawker Marker in Singapore and will have something to suit your appetite whatever your mood. Hawker Markers are old Singaporean favorites, stalls or little shops nestle up against each other in competition and the winner is the hungry visitor: cheap prices, quick service and lots of options. Expect a hearty meal of curry or noodles for as little as $3.

If you still have the energy, head to Little Indian for a gawp at all the busy people and colorful stalls. If you don’t, head back to the Shangri-La for a cooling fruit juice by the garden-situated swimming pool.

One of the best things about Singapore is Changi Airport. It’s constantly voted the best airport in the world, and it’s the only one that I wouldn’t mind being delayed in. There is 24 hour dining and shopping, free wifi, a cinema and free Xbox stations. One thing you must try thought is Dr Fish Therapy.

Plunge your feet into aquariums and wait for the 500 or so little swimmers to nibble on your dry skin. Not only do you come out with pedicured feet but the tickling sensation is relaxing and improves your circulation. Ask for offers if it’s not busy (I tried my look and got 30 minutes for the price of 10!)

You will fall in love with Singapore, I warn you. It’s a powerful place and even 24 hours will get you hooked and wanting more.

http://www.shangri-la.com