When I was a kid, Bali was a dream destination for me. Looking back, I have no idea why as I had never been taught about it or learnt its culture. Or even where it was. Yet it took hold on my list of things to do when I am older and luckily enough for me, at the end of last year I was able to tick it off.
Fortunately, too, Bali did not disappoint me as often is the case with high hopes. Miss W, my trusted companion, and I stayed slightly off the beaten track on the east side of the island in a hotel just outside the town of Candidasa. Our hotel, Alila Manggis, was a Mr and Mrs Smith booking, but without the usual price tag. In fact, our stay was exceptionally good value and I would recommend this outpost of the Alila chain without hesitation. It has so many selling points that made my stay there one of the nicest hotel holidays I have ever had. It is visually stunning and has been designed with a simple elegance that pervades the whole site. There is an 'openness' to the place, which means you are never without a view of the ocean or beautiful gardens and pool area. Indeed, I later learned that Alila Manggis is a Design Hotel. Additionally, and often overlooked, I found the hotel staff to be some of the best I have encountered. They were always smiling and always attentive. A prime example being that, after asking for a pack of cards (they didn't), Miss W and I were given a deck the following day by the reception staff who had evidently gone out to purchase a pack to please a guest. It was a small gesture, but was gladly received. I can't think of many hotels who would have the foresight to have done something similar.
Lastly, but never least in this blogger's eyes, the food is diverse and delicious. At breakfast, Alila Manggis has usurped the usual hotel buffet and instead offers a daily chef's tasting menu and an a la carte option. All choices are worth a try if your stay is long enough to allow. The chef's menu, in particular, is excellent value and will keep you going until dinner if you can manage to pass up their equally tempting lunch offering. Each day there is a a new selection of home made jams that have been freshly made from fruit picked from the hotel garden. My favourite was the papaya, though perhaps I, an English strawberry jam expert, was swayed by the romance of eating something as exotic sounding as papaya jam on freshly made Balinese pastries whilst overlooking a turquoise sea. All washed down with freshly squeezed pineapple juice. All this brilliance before 10 o clock in the morning!
At supper, the restaurant has an extensive menu that offers good value to tourists (you can eat much more cheaply elsewhere, but a three course meal with drinks is still inexpensive at Alila). The chef offers a choice of pan Asian goodies as well as more traditional Balinese fare. On some nights, they offer a themed evening in terms of food (like Satay), but it is unobtrusive and not at all twee. I can't say a bad word about any food I ate there. A nice touch is the daily complementary afternoon tea offered in the gardens. Balinese cakes are served alongside spiced teas - perfect for staving off non existent hunger until cocktail hour.
But enough about food (incidentally, lunch is available poolside and is also very scrummy. The club sandwich is given an eastern twist with the addition of some spices). The rest of Bali has a lot more to offer! A great deal of this week's prints, were taken on a couple of excursions that Miss W and I took, not too far from our hotel. We went to a nearby white sand beach (a lot of Bali has volcanic sand beaches which have their own beauty and charm), which was quite close to deserted. There were several beach huts serving excellent seafood and cold Bintang for next to nothing, and then give you a sunbed for free to sleep off any food babies. The surrounding landscape was stunning and I hope you enjoy my snaps from there.
On another cultural trip, Miss W and I took in the King's Palace (based in gardens that are like a stylised Paradise), the water gardens at Tirta Gangga and also the ancient Balinese town of Tengenan - a dwelling where citizens can only remain if they marry within the village. It is famous also for its Ikat double weaving cloth technique, but personally I couldn't get over the logistics of no outside DNA coming into the town. We saw all of this on a tour run by our hotel, which I found to be very interesting and thorough. It covered a fairly large part of East Bali, but there was always the backdrop of the beautiful Mount Agung, which the Balinese hold in high regard, alongside rice field upon rice field upon rice field. Their extent on the island is quite staggering for this urban being.
My prints this week are a mixture of colour and monochrome - I really loved the light in Bali so I tried to focus on that, at different times of day. All pictures are available on canvas or as an unframed or framed photograph print in varying sizes. A number of these snaps would look great as a pair, trilogy or more on which we offer discounts for multiple purchases! Contact me for any details, thoughts or praise!