What happens when you reach the last resort? You have the time of your life.
That’s what we discovered when, two years in a row, we accidentally chose the last beachside resorts at two different towns.
The first time we did this was the first time we actually booked our own accommodation through the internet, looking for the best deal on the beach and ended up at the Grand Balisani Suites, Seminyak, on the western side of Bali’s south coast.
To the left of this hotel was a string of other beach resorts, some swankier and pricier. To the right was a little beach bar, just a couple of metres from our hotel’s property line, which is a favourite with locals and tourists alike for sensational sunset views.
After that, there is beach, beach and more beach, occasionally interrupted by a fishing village or hippy style surf school.
We were delighted with the accidental find for several reasons.
First, the price was right and the view, perfection. Also, as an older hotel, it had oodles of the Balinese charm the newer, pricier resorts cannot seem to achieve, no matter how hard they try.
The Grand Balisani Suites features the most beautiful garden setting with statues and ponds scattered throughout.
The four-star resort’s pool overlooks the ocean.
Though the sand is black (Bali is a volcanic island) and the surf dangerous, we fell in love with the place and with the town of Seminyak.
The walk into town from the front of the hotel was long and quite stressful with crazy traffic on one side of the narrow footpath and open stormwater drains on the other. Not a good place to walk if you’ve had too many cocktails! Walking the long, windy road into the town was a bit of a mission but we preserved until we stumbled on the beach shortcut that made the walk a breeze.
The second time we reached the last resort was in the town of Sanur, Bali.
We fell in love with the country and its people all over again.
Sanur is a small town on the eastern side of Bali’s south coast. Much quieter than Seminyak, Sanur is a favourite residence for ex-pats.
Here, the beaches are golden and the water relatively safe.
Once again, by chance, we booked the last resort and daily walks past the string of other hotels lining the beach made us rejoice yet again at the decision.
A short walk on the beach takes you to the town centre and a plethora of restaurants and bars.
Walk the other way and you come across an almost hidden treasure of a mangrove lagoon offering its own array of fun activities.
Unlike the Seminyak view, featuring a dramatic and often dangerous ocean and the occasional brave tourist swimming, the beach at Sanur is protected by a reef so the water is quite calm.
This opens the way for so many fun water sports, including windsurfing, kite surfing, parasailing, kayaking, and more.
Maybe one shouldn’t rejoice in any interruption to the beautiful sky and sparkling sea, but the colourful kites that dot the blue and the crab-like boats and junks that bob on the water bring joy as they represent people at play and having fun. And we need more of that.
The surf kites, in particular, are a beautiful sight, their bright patterns fluttering on the breeze, dipping this way and that in a colourful dance. Just when you think one will plunge into the water it is saved by a last-minute wind gust and every now and again you see the tiny body attached to the kite rise up and fly over the waves before landing and being pulled across the top of them again.
The reef attracts tourists in glass-bottom boats and adorned with snorkelling gear as well as surfers who make the most of the great waves crashing onto it.
When the tide goes out you are treated to an amazing spectacle as hundreds of local fishermen walk right out to the reef to try their luck at catching fish.
If you can tear yourself away from the sun, surf and sights, a small and easy walk into town offers a variety of wonderful places to eat or enjoy a bottle of Bintang, Bali’s local brew.
The stallholders and shopkeepers are much less pushy in this part of Bali and the streets much easier to negotiate.
We were told a strong residents group works hard to try and keep this lovely pocket from turning into the big tourist centres that Kuta, Seminyak and Legian have become.
It is in this little town that we met the wonderful Philip sand Ketut, owners of the Goanna Bar and Restaurant.
Phil was born in Hong Kong but grew up in the UK. He met and fell in love with Ketut, who was born in Bali, during a holiday. They have been married 21 years and have two daughters.
What makes these people so remarkable is the help they so eagerly give to others.
We watched as they helped many tourists solve minor travelling issues and as ex-pats came back regularly, sometimes daily, to enjoy the friendly and comfortable atmosphere and Ketut’s wonderful cooking (she made the best Mia Goreng I tasted while in Bali).
In fact, Ketut’s cooking is so good customers at the bar across the road often order her meals and it’s not unusual to see her staff carry a tray full of feasting across the road to that bar, especially when the Goanna Bar is full.
Their kindness is not just reserved for tourists and ex-pats. They regularly deliver food to the local orphanage.
From the safety and comfort of their bar, we watched a drunken and aggressive tourist, renowned for his bad behaviour (ashamed to say he was a fellow Aussie) cause havoc with the locals by parking his oversized car in the space reserved for the store’s customers.
The man refused to back down and the store owner resorted to protecting himself with a chair until another tourist stepped in to calm things.
The bar next door refused to serve the drunk so he crossed the road to the Goanna Bar where Phil told him he could have a beer if he promised ‘no agro’.
The man heeded Phil’s advice and sat quietly with his Bintang until crossing the road to annoy someone else.
I remarked to Phil he was brave to let the man drink in his bar and Phil, with a twinkle in his eye, replied; “you cause a problem for someone else, you cause a problem for you.”
“It’s best to be kind to everyone.”
Those words pretty much sum up the atmosphere in Bali – a prevailing sense of kindness and friendliness that acts like a magnet to tourists seeking a soul-soothing refuge.
Read more about this magical country in The Road to Bali – a Fast Track to Enlightenment and come back Monday to find out about one man’s mission to create world peace with a mathematical solution.
Wishing you a gleeful week, Tamuria.