There’s an island in the sun that is known around the world and is on the bucket lists of those seeking sunshine, surf, spirituality, spa’s and sometimes maybe just cheap beer. In this post pandemic world have you thought about going to Bali? Have you thought about what Bali is like now? Let me tell you about my recent travels to Bali and find out what a long weekend for a couple of blokes really looks like and establish that what happens in Bali doesn’t have to stay in Bali, it can be shared with you.
Getting to Bali requires more planning and a bit of patience in the post pandemic world.
Arriving in Bali, if you’ve completed the requirements online you’ll be able to walk around the queues of people applying for the visa and show your customs declaration QR code. There’s a bit to do but it’s all about being ready.
Once out you’ll feel that island vibe hit you immediately. The heat and humidity that is ever present, just like the familiar welcome pack of signs being waved by accommodation drivers as you emerge from the airport. There’s something satisfying about knowing that your driver is holding the most fancy sign!
Bali now has quieter streets, particularly at night, and it feels more relaxed than bustling.
For this trip, I’m with my travelling companion and son, Tom, who last flew in 2021 and is now a fully fledged teenager. Travelling with Tom reminds me why I love coming to Bali.
Bali gives you time. It’s easy to get to, easy to get around and easy to find things to do, or even nothing to do, for everyone you’re travelling with.
For our weekender in Bali, Tom and I are staying at the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton in Nusa Dua. The resort is a return trip for us and while we’re familiar with our surroundings, we have a room that needs a full day to explore and an itinerary that gives me plenty to write about and also challenges my young travelling companion.
Have I ever told you about my first spa treatment? I don’t relax easily and I felt like a coiled spring as soon as the wafting scent of calming essences passed beneath my nervous nostrils. Let me tell you more about that another day and instead share with you how Tom turned to the spa side.
He was so nervous. He wasn’t riding a horse for the first time. He wasn’t learning to swim or starting at a new school. He was having a massage.
He was very uncomfortable about getting undressed and wearing a robe but the two ladies were so patient and I think I helped him as well. Actually, that’s not true, I may have giggled a bit too loudly.
I think Tom thought he was now safe as we made our way into a darkened room with aromas of lemongrass, ginger and fear clearly evident. Our feet were gently bathed and then we were asked to take our robes off and lie on the massage table. I remember Tom saying in a low, firm voice: “I’m keeping my robe on.” There was an exchange of whispers between our massage team, trying to work out what to do. I could have sorted it out. I could have looked after my boy but I thought I’d just take care of myself and allow myself to relax. An hour or so later, we’re both getting dressed in the changerooms and Tom tells me it was awesome and he is amazed how he actually relaxed. He kept his robe on but let them massage his feet and lower legs and some head, neck and hands – all while comfortably wrapped in his robe.
He will never forget the experience and I will never forget his fear becoming trust. Respect to you Tom. You faced your spa demons at 13, I was 42.
Our time in Bali is spent on the beach making s’mores in a firepit at sunset, and just taking the time to recharge in the world’s best recharging environment.
We spend our time exploring the resort gardens, feeding fish, floating on our backs and not really swimming and having amazing dinners that have taken an interesting turn for the Ritz-Carlton.
While I have previously experienced the resort’s restaurants there is a change now that has deepened the connection for the resort and the guest. There is an emphasis in the air across Bali and certainly at the Ritz-Carlton to embrace what was learnt during the pandemic, to turn to local stories at every level.
More than just cultural music and dance performances, the dining at the Ritz-Carlton provides an opportunity to connect with food that is sourced across the island and is prepared by locals the same way they would prepare and serve for their family and for their community. You are invited to learn about where the food has come from and why it is important in Balinese culture and important to the person who is serving you.
The more we look for culture that is genuine and authentic in our travels the more we discover that culture is more than just legends and traditional costumes, it is the person who goes home each evening and prepares a meal for their family.
Return to Bali and you’ll find all you’ve missed but you’ll find so much more as well. There’s a new path you can take that is less worn and just as welcoming.
I’ve just proven that Bali is perfect for that post pandemic travel because you can do a lot, or you can do nothing at all with whoever you take with you. Like any great destination, you can avoid areas you’re not interested in or jump right into areas that challenge you. Or just jump onto a massage table for the first time.