Bali
Bali

For new-husband Rich and I, choosing our honeymoon was tricky because we'd both been travelling around the world independently and had already covered quite a few destinations. We wanted our honeymoon to be a new experience for both of us, but as we were getting married at the end of June, most destinations apart from the UK came with a weather warning.…! We wanted to relax – although we're not sitting-on-the-beach-for-two-weeks types, so we eventually opted for Bali, combining a mix of adventure, activities and chilling out.

The winding road to Alila Soori lies on the southwest coast between verdant rice terraces and beautiful black-sand beaches. We booked three nights in a one-bedroom pool villa facing the azure Indian Ocean – it’s all contemporary Asian architecture {read spacious and luxurious}, with our own pool overlooking the ocean.

The first day it rains non-stop for 24 hours, so we only leave our room to head to the Cotta restaurant to dine on taste-bud-tickling cuisine. Serving a vibrant mix of Western and traditional Asian meals, the chef wins Rich over with the tasting-style breakfast menu, which sees him start the day with a six-course tuck-in!

The next day, the rain lets up, so we explore the local towns of Kerambitan and Tabanan – once home to Bali’s royal families – which are overspilling with arts and culture. First stop is a dance school where giggling children perform for us in traditional dress, then a busy market packed with intensely coloured foods. In a pottery factory, I take to the wheel to try my hand Ghost style (although it’s easier than I envisaged, my creation is hardly a work of art). Our exploration ends with a walk along the glittery black volcanic beach (taking in the bat cave!) where we meet local legend Ibu Novi who has been producing salt on the island since she was a little girl. It’s fascinating to watch.

We spend our final day soaking up the sun by our pool before making the hour-long transfer to Alila Ubud, where home is a pool villa for three nights. Its location is breathtaking – set away from the main hustle and bustle of the town (as seen in the film Eat Pray Love) – high up on the edge of the Ayung River valley in Bali’s central foothills. The design is perfectly in-keeping with the area, using local materials to create a mix of secluded courtyards, spacious terraces and private gardens. And then there’s the infinity pool. Named one of the best in the world, its glass-like surface reflects the clear blue sky and seems to drop into the forest below to stunning effect. Our biggest challenge is to decide whether to lie beside this or our villa pool on the first day!

We wander around paddy fields (the rice trade is one of Bali’s legacies), navigating the tiny ledges of mud which make up the irrigation system between the mirror-like squares where the rice grows. The shapes go on for as far as the eye can see, reflecting the brilliant blue sky above – it's breathtaking.

Next, we head to Ubud, which is the polar opposite of the tranquility of the paddy fields. It’s noisy, busy and dusty with hawkers on every corner wanting to sell us something or entice us into their restaurant. We hire a scooter for the day (£5!) and drive around for hours, taking random turnings here and there, leading us to tiny off-the-beaten-track villages. Full of adventure but hungry, we head back to Ubud where the streets are filled with lights from the bars and clubs dancing into the darkness.



The next day we jump back on the bike snaking our way through winding jungle, weaving around waterfalls and through colourful flora. At the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary riverside trails lie beneath huge banyan trees and the animals roam freely around the moss-covered temples. Their mischievous faces imply they know the mayhem they’re causing as they jump on people’s heads to remove sunglasses, or take food out of the hands of children who squeal with excitement!

Back at our resort, we book in for a couple’s massage where all the stresses of the past few months’ wedding planning fall away as the pressure points on my back are manipulated, while Rich’s gentle snores softly echo around the room… Revitalised, we head for dinner at Alila’s Plantation Dining restaurant, where tea lights beckon us up the pathway to where a traditional thatched roof balances upon towering coconut pillars. It’s an oasis of calm as bright and open stunning views mix with the soft sounds of a neighbouring village in the distance. The head chef spoils us with a unique tasting menu packed with traditional flavours and modern techniques. We savour each mouthful washed down with local cocktails. A culinary delight!

The next morning we set off early to the resort of Alila Manggis taking in Gunung Abang – at 3148 metres, it’s Bali’s highest mountain. At Tulamben we get our diving gear on and explore the USS Liberty shipwreck. For 45 minutes, we drift in and out of the structure, which, having been forced here by the volcano eruption in the Sixties, in now covered in colourful sea plants where schools of bat fish, moray eels, clown fish and yellow-fin tuna dart in and out. As we’re about to surface, we’re caught in what looks like a silver whirlwind as hundreds of jack fish envelop us in their tornado of transportation – an unforgettable sight and once-in-a-lifetime experience.Post-dive, we head to Vincent’s in Candidasa where we’re served first-class local cuisine al fresco with plants intertwining around the tables and a clear view of the stars.

Many of the beaches on Bali are black sand, so we task ourselves with finding a pristine gem. We travel along the coast from Candidasa, up the twisting lanes until we see the sign for ‘whitesand beach’, and turn off along the makeshift road, passing villages which turn into rural paddy fields before the road becomes a dry-mud track. The result is worth the journey – stretching for miles is creamy-coloured sand with sapphire waters lapping at its shore. It’s a hidden sanctuary, where we decide to spend the next two days crashing about in the waves and munching spicy noodles.

Our final destination, at the most southern point of Bali, is Alila Uluwatu where we finish our honeymoon on a high – quite literally! The resort, perched on limestone cliffs 100 metres above the Indian Ocean, is the epitome of luxury. The architecture is spectacular – all Alila properties are built with water features in mind but this award-winning property has taken it to another level, with a viewing framework that juts out over the cliff, offering unrivalled panorama of the ocean. Wow. 

Our butler zips us towards our picture-perfect pool villa for the next few nights. We spend days lazing by the pool and enjoying the awesome cuisine. Half a day spent with the head chef, exploring local markets, ends with us turning our hand to creating mouthwateringly exotic dishes in the kitchen.

On our final night, glass of bubbly in hand, we wander over to the lookout box and take in the vista that has been the backdrop to our Balinese honeymoon. It’s been the perfect mix of relaxation and serenity via action and adventure. We’re sad to be leaving Bali, but it’s given us memories we can cherish forever. And we couldn’t wish for anything more than that.

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