We know of many Singaporeans who escape to Bali once in a while for much needed rejuvenation and inspiration. After all, it’s one of the most relaxing places for a quickie weekend getaway after Bangkok, KL and Hong Kong, and probably one of the most affordable too.
But more than just another accessible weekend hiding place, Bali also has much beyond beautiful beaches, luxury villas and virgin landscapes. There are a slew of hip contemporary art galleries, boutiques, bars and restaurants that you should really check out—especially those located at the upmarket Seminyak area as well as the cool and culturally rich Ubud town. Here’s what to do on your next Bali trip.
Lapping Up Luxury Pads
Frequent Bali visitors will let you know that there are hundreds of affordable and decent hotels and resorts on this beautiful island to choose from, but why settle for anything less than luxury when you’re there? We’ve narrowed down some of the best resorts and villas to pamper yourself in before you do all that gallery- and bar-hopping.
The extremely gorgeous The Samaya (Jln. Laksamana, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-731-149), located in the heart of Seminyak, boasts 18 private villas with private terraces—each with its own private lounge pools (from US$400). Check into one of these and choose to lull the evening away inside the extremely comfortable villa, or sit outside and watch the beautiful sunset as you dine at the alfresco restaurant A. Mare, which serves a top-notch dinner menu, including ragout of jumbo prawns and the fresh Alaskan black cod.
Also good is Hotel Padma (Jln. Padma No. 1, Legian, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-752-140), which is situated on Legian’s legendary sunset beach just outside the touristy Kuta, for a totally relaxing and quality stay from just US$200. Apart from its lush greenery and gardens entwined with lotus ponds, its Mandara Spa also offers quality spa packages such as aromatheraphy and exotic body scrubs that will soothe you into tranquility.
But for something truly majestic, check out the unbelievable The Royal Pita Maha (Kedewatan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-980-022) up in Ubud. This is as close as you can get to how royalty lives. Located in the picturesque area of Kedewatan, its majestic atmosphere is enriched with its celestial history, and overlooking the Ayung River (think scenes from The Lord of the Ring movies), it totally blows you away as soon you enter the resort. With each villa having its own private garden and swimming pool (from US$400), this is unparalleled luxury and beauty.
On the Art Trail
Those who think Bali’s art scene is undeveloped and archaic (or just too touristy)—think again. There are many notable galleries that exhibit quality artworks that would put some of our contemporaries to shame.
Ubud’s Gaya Fusion (Jln. Raya Sayan, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-979-252), helmed and curated by Italian. Bali-based artist-curator Filippo Sciascia, is excellent. This is where some of the most cutting-edge works can be found—from Sciascia’s very own mysterious video works and paintings, to native Nyoman Sujana’s complex and abstract paintings and photographs—this is as forward-thinking as it gets.
Also a favorite among serious art collectors is the minimalist-styled Biasa Art Space (Jln. Raya Seminyak, 34 Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-744-2902) at Seminyak. This is certainly one of the most modern galleries in Bali, and has held numerous contemporary shows—such as the recent Genta +, where some of Bali’s youngest and edgiest artists, such as Zulkarnaini and Zulfa Hendra, came to together to exhibit in the almost sold-out exhibition.
For more contemporary artworks, Komaneka Fine Art Gallery (Jln. Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-976-090) is also good for artists including Putu Sutawijaya, while the privately owned Salim Gallery (Jln. Laksamana, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-737-164) and Poon Studio (Jln. Laksamana, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia), located just a stone’s throw away from each other, is where the best in street and indie art is. Poon Studio, in particular, sees artist Yoesoef Olla’s street pieces (which are reminiscent of Basquait) gracing its narrow walls.
Equally cool is Randelli (Jln. Raya Basangkasa 20, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-731-488) where both pop-inspired works by local and international artists can be found, while G&V Amazing Crafts (99 Jln. Laksamana, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-743-3853) stocks some rather rare paintings and sculptures that date as far back as 100 years ago.
While Bali may not boast top international designer brands, there are smaller, indie boutiques nestled in many nooks and corners that sell quality clothing, accessories, bags and everything in between—fashionistas will have a field time here.
You must visit Funky Princess (Jln. Raya Seminyak 42, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-766-537) for some really colorful bags and one-off accessories from local label Roxy (not to be mistaken with the surfwear label). But more than just that, the store also carries funky casual wear that includes watches, tops, skirts and flip-flops.
For something more upmarket, 3A (Jln. Lesmana 3A, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, +62 338-505-557), is a hot favorite among the expatriate community here. Carrying a diverse range of clothing from its inhouse label Quarzia, 3A stocks batik-inspired pieces for both men and women, as well as more simplistic and gorgeous scarfs and belts that will go with any outfit.
Also on the top of our list: Saya Suka, translated as “I Like” in English, (Jln. Legian 162, Kuta, Bali, Indonesia, +62 338-440-3690), which stocks affordable, edgy streetwear from Bali and overseas, and The Orchard (Jln Lesmana 33X, Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-736-724), which sells a selected collection of quality clothing next to its lighting and furniture pieces.
But don’t stop here, as there are literally hundreds of other smaller boutiques here that will bowl you over with their eclectic and colorful designs and labels—you just have to find time for them.
Eat, Drink and Be Merry
After all that shopping, look no further than two of Bali’s nightlife institutions for an assured quality time out. Bali is chock-full of smaller, dodgier bars, especially in the Kuta area, which is why Ku De Ta (Jln. Lesmana, Oberoi, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361-736-969) and Hu’u Bar & Restaurant (Jln. Oberoi, Oberoi, Bali, Indonesia, +62 261-736-443) are certified hotspots in Bali.
There is no stopping the fashionable Hu’u from drawing in a quality crowd. It is, after all, the best-looking bar in Bali, and set on a sprawling 20,000 sq. ft. area, it’s one of the biggest too. The quality drinks, good music and chilled ambiance pull the beautiful crowd in. The alfresco area, where the restaurant is located, is good for pre-clubbing drinks, as the lychee martini and champagne are the perfect accompaniment for the view under the stars. From midnight onwards, head inside the club and dance the night away and let your hair down. The resident DJs here play kitschy house music, interspersed with ’80s classics that certainly get the crowd going.
Ku De Ta is just a mere 10 minutes walk away from Hu’u. Overlooking the beach, the bar and restaurant is jam-packed with poseurs especially during the weekends, who are there from 3pm onwards to catch the beautiful sunsets. But come night time, the place transforms into a fashionable enclave where the downtempo music invites you to lounge on the comfortable sofas, and the mood lighting and cocktails here set the tone for a good, long conversation that will take you through the night.
Indeed, Bali is a perfect blend of the contemporary and the customary, and therein lies its charm that will appeal to those already familiar with it, as well as newbies looking for some serious bargains and a superior time out.