Fancy a break? Bali could be for you, here's what the experts say you really must do, from those in the know
1 Swap Kuta for Seminyak The frenzied buzz of the Kuta resort town used to be exciting, but not any more. Tourists and chains have overrun the town, so those in the know have moved north to Seminyak instead. Book in to the ultra-slick Anantara Seminyak, where you can watch the sun go down from your balcony while luxuriating in an al-fresco bubble bath.
It’s the perfect prep for a night spent dining and barhopping nearby – The Living Room, Double Six and Kafe Warisan are the places to see and be seen. Anantara Seminyak, Jl Abimanyu, Seminyak (+62 361 737 773; www.bali.anantara.com). A four-night stay for two (including breakfast) from Dhs1,370
2 Play with your food An essential destination on any foodie’s hit list is Spice at the Conrad Bali hotel in Nusa Dua. The Blumenthal-phile chef, Ketut Gede Eka Kurniawan, serves up a molecular menu introduced by founding chef Gary Rosen. The experimental delights, such as steak imbued with the sweet smell of chocolate cake, play sublime havoc with your senses. Spice, Conrad Bali, Jl Pratama 168, Tanjung Benoa (+62 361 778 788; www.conradhotels.com)
3 Savour the early morning rush hours Finishing off a night out at the Double Six club is a long-standing island tradition. Sadly, the club’s not as au fait with the cutting edge as it once was – the music has been dragged into the mainstream in recent years, and a good crowd is only assured when an international deckhead is in residence (Sasha, Pete Tong and Tiësto have all appeared in recent times). Yet Double Six remains essential.
The reason? The 44m bungee crane that towers above the club like an accident waiting to happen. Thankfully, the jump, the tallest in South-East Asia, is run by respected operator AJ Hackett, and is as safe as a bungee can be. As you swan-dive into the dawn (the club is open until 6am), post-clubbing comedown takes a whole new meaning. AJ Hackett Bali, Double Six Club, Jalan Arjuna, Legian Beach (+62 361 731 144; www.ajhackett.com/bali)
4 Don’t buy a Barong mask It’s a quiet revolution, but Indonesia’s art scene has slowly been throwing off its shackles. For years lumped in with the oiled monstrosities of Bali dancers, a new wave of contemporary artists is dragging Indonesian art into the light. Avoid the tourist tat at Seni Ubud’s art market (if you must go, at least have the decency to barter down by at least 80 per cent) and head to the family-run Komaneka Fine Art Gallery in the Monkey Forest of Ubud.
The gallery is a joy just to amble around, but those looking to invest will find the staff only too happy to talk you through the options. Current stars of the scene are Wayan Wirawan, Wayan Sadu and Made Arya Palgunaand and prices start at around Dhs3,701. It certainly beats hanging a clichéd ceremonial mask on your wall. Komaneka Fine Art Gallery, Jl Monkey Forest, Ubud, Gianyar (+62 361 976 090; www.gallery.komaneka.com)
5 Eat out of town in spectacular style Visiting Bali without netting a reservation at one of Indonesia’s most innovative restaurants would be an unforgivable oversight for anyone with a taste for the unusual. Dinner at Mozaic more than justifies the hour-and- a-half drive from Seminyak into the green hills of Ubud, but be sure to reserve a table at least a week in advance – there’s a serious waiting list, especially in the high season.
So what’s on the menu? Don’t even ask to see one – go with whatever chef Chris Salans feels like making that day: his tasting menu is the perfect introduction and will set you back only about Dhs245.
The waiter takes notes of any allergies you have or any foods you’re not partial to over pre-dinner drinks in the lounge, but after that you’re in Salans’s hands. When the chef’s creations are served, the waiter explains each dish, ingredient by ingredient, and the in-house sommelier can guide you in pairing each course with the right wine. If the weather is good, try to nab a table in the garden – adding spectacular views to the equation makes for a sensational experience. Mozaic, Jl Raya Sanggingan, Ubud (+62 361 975 768; www.mozaicbali.com).
6 Join in a local kickabout If football is the global language, then the beaches of Kuta and Legian are the ideal places to perfect your Indonesian accent. These interconnected stretches of sand host numerous ‘sarongs for goalposts’ games that are open to all.
The atmosphere is always friendly, and if you ignore the wash of Manchester United shirts – the Red Devil has set up camp on these far-flung shores – then you’re in for a great, if humbling, afternoon. If you’re more hands on, the area in front of Ku De Ta hosts some very competitive volleyball games.
7 Join a cremation ceremony It may seem like macabre voyeurism, but, if you get the chance to attend a local cremation ceremony, take it. The Balinese bury their relatives when they die and save up for years until they have enough money for the cremation – meaning the day is one of celebration rather than sorrow.
A ceremony lasts all day and begins with prayers before dawn, after which the family walks with friends, relatives and random strangers to the cremation site.
Everyone is dressed in traditional Balinese costumes and there is more prayer during the burning. After the cremation the procession moves on to the sea, into which the ashes are scattered. Most cremation ceremonies are open to all, but make sure you dress conservatively (which in Balinese is a sarong and a shirt), observe local customs and show respect. To attend, visit a local temple and enquire about open ceremonies.
8 Shop for silverware – or forge your own While the sunburnt masses ‘enjoy’ the tat on offer at Jl Legian, Indonesians head to Ubud for their shopping fix. Here you’ll find swathes of jewellers dealing in exquisite, Buddhist-style silver trinkets. If you yearn to unleash your inner Fabergé, then head to Studio Perak.
The family-run jeweller – which has three stores in the town – hosts great silversmith courses. The classes run every morning and over the course of three hours you’ll design and forge your own silver ring or pendant while also getting a basic overview of Balinese silversmithery. Studio Perak, JI. Hanoman, Ubud (+62 361 780 1879; www.studioperak.com)
9 Lie on black sands Be different, avoid the most popular, mainstream strips (Legian, Kuta and the rest) and head to the chromatic sands of Lovina – an abbreviation of ‘Love Indonesia’. It’s not hard to understand why.
Not only are the hues a novelty, but it’s also a prime spot for dolphin watching – hundreds can be seen jumping about around 1km out from shore. Gigit Waterfall and Hot Water Banjar are also nearby as other natural beauties to admire. Get there quick though – the seething hoards are streaming in. Located 10km from Singaraja town, surrounded by various hotels
10 Croak in the countryside For many visitors, Balinese wildlife doesn’t extend far beyond tiptoeing through the trollops in Sanur, but more fool them. Trekkers, cascade fans and orchid lovers should head to Munduk in the north of the island.
In these verdant highlands you can escape the world and enjoy waterfalls, temples and a frog chorus that could fill Madinat Arena. Most car-hire companies will provide maps and directions to the major beauty spots, but if you prefer to be guided, Bali Tours organises excursions with driver and guide from Dhs264 a day. Bali Tours, Jl Hangtuah, Sanur Raya (+62 361 87720; www.balitourstravel. com)
Need to know
Get there Cathay Pacific flies to Bali via Hong Kong from Dhs2,090.
Where to stay Villa Coco Affordable villas of various sizes in Seminyak, starting from Dhs294 for one-person.