by Kristy Alpert
I took my seat on the floor beneath a large wooden pergola alongside a handful of fellow travelers sporting sun-kissed tans and eager eyes. A trio of girlfriends in their 40s huddled together to my right while a clean-shaven man, who seemingly swapped his business suit for board shorts, took his place with his teenage son and daughter to my left. We had obviously each come to Bali for different reasons but all ended up in the same place for the same experience. We settled into silence as the renowned Balinese healer Cokorda Rai appeared from a tiny farmhouse adjacent to the pergola, chickens clucking at his feet as he made his way toward us on a makeshift pathway of mismatched rugs.
People travel from around Bali — and around the world — to spend 10 minutes with the skilled healer, whose method of healing combines Reiki, acupressure and intuition. Over the years Rai brought enlightenment and healing to thousands of visitors who look to him for treatment of a number of ailments, including fertility issues, sleep disorders, illnesses and more.
As the man was called to the front, his son leaned in and whispered to me about how his dad visits the healer every year while in town for work, but this would be the boy’s and his sister’s first time to sit with the same healer who cured their father of his debilitating migraine headaches.
Business travelers, just like the man I met that day, have begun taking advantage of more than just Bali’s beautiful beaches and delicious foods while in town for work. The island’s wellness offerings allow for ample opportunities to unwind and recharge before, during and after meetings, especially when done alongside visiting friends and family members.
Bali’s proximity to Australia and numerous flights from Indonesia’s capital city of Jakarta make the destination ideal for bringing the family and friends along for a few days of relaxation while in town for business. One of the Lesser Sunda Islands of Indonesia, the island stretches 95 miles east to west and 70 miles north to south. Despite the island’s seemingly small size, driving around Bali can take longer than expected due to traffic and the abundance of small winding roads, so it’s best to keep the trip to one or two regions during a shorter stay to make the most of the time on the island.
The island’s six different regions each add another vital element to Bali’s well-earned moniker as the ultimate paradise. South Bali, known for its vibrant nightlife, is the most visited region on the island and includes the towns of Kuta, Canggu, Denpasar, Jimbaran, Legian, Nusa Dua, Sanur and Seminyak. The buzzing city of Kuta features one of the most famous (and busiest) beaches on the island but is also where families can find two of the island’s top waterparks, Waterbom Bali and Armada Flow House Bali.
The resorts along Nusa Dua are among the best in the country, especially The Mulia Resort & Villas, an elegant enclave set along the pristine beaches of Nusa Dua Bay. The fitness center at the resort offers complimentary classes for both adults and children throughout the day, including a full range of activities for families and friends to get out and explore along the water and sand. Nearby Legian Beach proves a surfer’s paradise, while the chic shores of Seminyak offer stylish nights on the town. The Uluwatu temple on the Bukit Peninsula and the temple of Tanah Lot, two must-visit sites in this region, both provide exceptional photo opportunities at sunset.
Bali’s quiet, offshore Southeastern Islands attract divers from around the world who come to explore the waters off Nusa Penida in hopes of spotting any number of the 247 species of coral, 562 species of fish and the elusive green and olive Ridley turtles. North Bali’s secluded black-sand beaches attract a more laid-back crew, where the accommodations and spas of the region reflect the low-key attitude with an air of natural hospitality. The stilted waterfront restaurants on Jalan Erlangga in the former capital city of Singaraja make great pit stops for lunch after a morning of dolphin-watching off the coast of Lovina.
The coastal villages along East Bali feature some of the least-visited and most attractive beaches on the island, many featuring black sand from the nearby volcano, Mount Batur. Hiking the volcano takes about two hours and is best done in the early hours of the day so as to enjoy the stunning sunrise from the peak. Many tour operators, like Mount Batur Sunrise Trekking, offer all-inclusive packages for families and friends that include pick-up and drop-off from the hotel, a local guide up the mountain, water, flashlights, a modest breakfast at the peak and a lunch at the base of the volcano after the hike. The beaches of Amed prove perfect for escaping the crowds for a private day in the sun, while the village of Tenganan, just a short drive inland from Candidasa, offers the chance to see and purchase from some of the best basket weavers in the whole of Indonesia.
Central Bali is the heartbeat of the island, where wellness and luxury combine within this vibrant mountainous region. Bedugul’s rice terraces create a great landscape for exploring or a perfect backdrop for a local lunch of nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice) or urab (steamed vegetables with a coconut dressing). Ubud, the cultural capital of Bali, is known for its art and its peaceful way of life. The village of Ubud overflows with yoga and massage studios, the most popular being Yoga Barn, near the Monkey Forest, for its massive array of wellness offerings that include lifestyle counseling, sound healing, Reiki and Ayurvedic spa treatments. The shopping street of Jalan Raya is freckled with boutique shops selling everything from organic clothing to hand-pressed essential oils (Blue Stone Botanicals) and also boasts some of the top vegan restaurants on the island, including Alchemy and The Elephant. Things shut down in Ubud early due to a strict 10:30 p.m. noise ordinance that allows visitors to rest soundly to the peaceful flow of the Ayung River. Just off the river, Mandapa, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve, offers one of the most serene accommodation options in the country. This exclusive reserve sits on a working rice paddy and includes spacious one-, two-, and three-bedroom luxury villas for guests. The wellness offerings at the resort range from private yoga sessions with I Ketut Yoga (Nanda) to traditional Balinese massages at the spa and sleep support therapy treatments designed to restore hormone balance and promote holistic sleeping patterns.
The final region of West Bali is by far the least-populated of any of the regions — and one of the best-kept secrets for nature lovers and surfers. West Bali National Park is one of the few places on the planet to spot the Bali starling, one of the rarest birds in the world, while Medewi Beach proves a surfer’s dream with some of the longest waves in Bali. Its unassuming bamboo shacks along the beach serve up ice-cold drinks and inadvertently gourmet plates of ayum betutu (a local specialty of hot and spicy chicken slow-smoked for no less than three hours) that will linger on the tongues and in the memories of your family and friends of time spent savoring the island of Bali.
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