"Bali is the picture-postcard paradise: stunning scenery, gentle sarong-clad people and sunsets of legendary glory," says World Travel Guide, and I would tend to agree.
I headed to Seminyak, on the west coast of Bali and just north of Kuta and Legian. The majority of Balinese here are either Muslim or Hindu and so we found offerings presented to spirits on every corner. There are lots of restaurants and bars here, including the fashionable beach bar Ku De Ta. The beach bar is featured in The Miele Guide, a publication that recognises and celebrates Asia’s best chefs and restaurants. The setting feels like a continental luxury hotel in an ideal location to sit back, sip on a cocktail and watch the sun set over the beach.
Kuta -- a 10-minute taxi ride away -- was once a small fishing village. It is now one of Indonesia’s main tourist destinations. This was the site of the 2002 bombings and is now marked by a permanent memorial built on the site of the destroyed bar on Legian street, a tribute to the 202 people who died.
My home for the next three nights was at 101 Legian hotel on Legian street, in the centre of Kuta and a 30-minute drive from Denpasar International airport. The Travelzoo offer included daily breakfast, lunch for two on one day, a 30-minute massage and a welcome cocktail each. We loved that the hotel was close enough to the nightlife but far enough removed to chill out. The hotel has a health club, an outdoor pool with a poolside bar, two restaurants and a bar/lounge. There’s also a rooftop bar, where you can relax on the big sunbeds whilst listening to chilled-out tunes and enjoying a cocktail.
After several days of partying, I headed to the Gili Islands for a bit of R&R, or so I thought. After an hour’s drive and a 2-hour bumpy boat ride I arrived at the idyllic Gili Trawangan, just off the northwest coast of Lombok. "Gili T", as it is most commonly known, is one of the more lively islands. There’s one long dusty road lined with bars, restaurants and huts, and cars are prohibited on the island, so you walk, hire a bike or jump on a horse-drawn carriage called a "cidomo". It has a really laidback feel and people flock to the beach to soak up the sun, snorkel in search of turtles or scuba dive.
If you want more of the traditional, untouched Bali, I recommend heading to Ubud, its spiritual heart. The rice fields merge into jungle and there are ancient temples and traditional villages.
You can’t go to Bali without drinking a cold Bintang at sunset, experiencing an aromatic jasmine massage, partying in Kuta or overindulging on spicy nasi goreng. There is a wealth of Bali to explore -- from beautiful beaches to temples that appeal to spiritualists, backpackers and adrenalin junky surfers alike.