(Published in The West Australian, 21 August 2010)

Bali ticks all the boxes when it comes to a good holiday.

Butterflies of the sea at Amed: fishermen returning home at sunrise (Photo: Michael Day)

Box One: Food Treats: Tick

(i)   Vincent’s of Candi Dasa: Impeccable service by black-aproned waiters matched the quality of the dishes. Try the seafood pancake. It is more elegant than it sounds. Also give the mocktails a spin. My favourite was mint magic. A European décor with an Indonesian flavour.

(ii)  Jimbaran: A visit to the legendary beach restaurants in late afternoon let us beat the evening crowds who for good reason flock there for the seafood, baked to perfection.

Box Two:Accommodation with a special something:Tick

(i) In a beautiful setting like Bali, it is reassuring when you can relax without feeling your fancy accommodation is harming the natural environment. At the Bloo Lagoon eco-resort in Padang Bai, we swam in a pool cleaned by ionisation, found our way at night with the help of 4 watt LED bulbs, ate fresh vegetables grown in the garden irrigated by waste water, and abstained from soft drinks because sugary drinks are not on offer in the restaurant which serves healthy, delicious food.

The safe environment of Bloo Lagoon

(ii)  We stayed in a luxury room at the Honeymoon Cottages in Ubud where there is an Australian connection, with co-owner Janet De Neefe, the author of one of the best books that explain Bali to a newcomer, Fragrant Rice. We heard Janet delivers a knowledgeable talk about Balinese cooking and saw a demonstration by her staff of how to produce certain local dishes. The resulting meal was one of the most scrumptious we had in Bali.

Hibiscus and frangipani petals at Honeymoon Cottages

Box Three:Artistic creation: Tick

(i) In the days before the festival of Galungan, it seemed as if most of the population was involved in the creation of a penjor, a towering, drooping bamboo pole decorated with weavings and colourful leaves and other decorations. Symbolising affluence, they represent the dragon’s tail. During the festival these elegant examples of people’s art lined the streets and lanes of every town and village.

(ii) Threads of Life, a textile arts centre in Ubud, is a place where we found handmade natural-dyed textiles (blankets, shawls, sarongs, shoulder cloth), baskets and baskets sourced from 40 cooperatives on 11 islands in Indonesia. The genius of Indonesia unfolded before our eyes.

Box four: Characters:Tick

Characters:

(i)   The waitress in a small restaurant was a novice and disarmingly honest about her excitement and nervousness. “I was a servant in a house in Denpasar but came here to work in the kitchen. When the boss said the other day that I could start serving the foreigners, I was so nervous, my heart went tock, tock, tock.”

(ii) The Ubud taxi driver’s right leg was partially crippled and barely reached the accelerator. But his smile was luminous and his spirit transformed what could have been an ordinary taxi ride into a memorable experience. He had no complaints about the cards life had dealt him.

Box five: The unusual  and  the mystical: Tick

(i)   The Blanco museum, Ubud: An eccentric Manila-born artist of Spanish heritage, Don Antonio Blanco (1911-1999), arrived in Bali in 1952, married a famous Balinese dancer and began to paint portraits of nude Balinese women. We viewed his elaborately framed paintings in an impressive three storey circular  gallery crowned with a dome and with an adjoining aviary. Nick-named the “Dali of Bali”, the late artist is succeed by his son, Mario.

Boys practice dancing in Ubud (Photo; Chris Day)

(ii)  Dancing in Ubud: Young boys provided a graceful afternoon spectacle as they practiced dancing outdoors. That night rain began to fall so the location for the hypnotic kecak dance performed by their elders moved to a covered pavilion next to a temple. The venue proved strangely atmospheric, especially later when an ancient-looking dancer fell into a trance and danced on burning coconut shells. He emerged from the smoky haze with blackened but unscathed feet.

Box six: The unusual  and  the mystical: Tick

(i)  The sea off Amed. The trick to enjoying Bali is to arise early. At Amed I went on to the beach before 6am to watch the fishermen sail home. Their outriggers adorned the bluest of oceans with coloured, triangular sails—like butterflies at dawn.

(ii) After sunset, we walked along the side of the Uluwatu temple and looked down at the steep, seaside cliffs. They were streaks of white in the purpling dusk.

END

http://www.bloolagoon.com/

http://www.threadsoflife.com/mainstoreubud.asp

http://www.casalunabali.com/

Michael Day was a guest of Casa Luna.