Somewhere in the United Nations charter there must be a paragraph stating that any expat who’s lived in Bali for more than a couple years has to
greet new arrivals with ‘It’s all changed – you should have seen it back in [supply date]…’
Bemoaning the changes in Bali
too, for that matter) is something of a spectator sport on these two-of-the-most-lovely-of-the-13,000-
plus islands that make up the Indonesian archipelago. The good news is that while traffic may be more frenetic than it was, and some of the larger shopping malls would look better
if they were teleported elsewhere, Bali is still the delicious, gorgeous – and quite a few other ‘ous’ adjectives – island it always was. Lombok, for the moment, remains far less developed
but offers breathtaking landscapes, stunning beaches, an impressive array of traditional arts and crafts and a real taste of untouched Southeast Asia. On both islands, however, are an abundance
of private luxury villas – these are, after all, central to this book – that rank among some of the best in Asia, if not the world.
Travellers have been drawn to this region for centuries. More than 1,000 years ago traders from as far away as China were sailing to the ‘spice islands’
of Indonesia, and the same commodity drew Europeans as early as the 16th century. Dutch colonialists subsequently gained a strong foothold in the country, and it was only after the Japanese
occupation during World War II and several years of armed struggle, that Indonesia finally achieved independence in 1949. The decades that followed were marked by a gradual
prosperity, interspersed with some domestic upheavals. Tourism only started to take off in the late 1960s, with Bali leading the way, as it has done ever since.
It’s understandable that many of Bali’s villas are near the island’s beaches, either overlooking the sea or within easy reach of it. Sleepy Sanur
was the first but has
fast been overtaken by the labyrinth of eclectic restaurants, fashion boutiques, antique and lifestyle stores that make up vibrant Seminyak
. As the beaches and
hippest nightclubs and bars have become ever-more popular and crowded, villas have been pushed to the district’s outskirts – Canggu
With further urbanisation, and in an effort to find the real Bali, regions such as Seseh, Tanah Lot
west and Candidasa
to the east have flourished. Most striking perhaps is the recent wave of modern cliff-top villas on the ruggedly beautiful Bukit Peninsula
those in Nusa Dua
. By way of contrast, Bali’s other villa hotspot is the area in and around
the rain-forested hill town of Ubud
– the island’s cultural capital. Lombok
is fast catching on as the next ‘in place’.
Given that Bali is renowned for the skills of its craftsmen it’s not surprising that the architectural style of the vast majority of both islands’ villas follows
what might be called home-grown, traditional design, although this is changing with some very futuristic styles appearing in recent years. And, of course, Bali is superbly fertile so gardens
blossom and fl ourish with ease.
Like the other parts of Asia featured in this guide, Bali exudes a distinct allure, and numerous visitors who originally just came for a holiday have returned, wallet
in one hand and blueprint in the other, to build their own dream home here. Some of the best rental villas are family homes, with all the ambiance and character that
you might expect from such. If only these walls could talk; but there again, absolute privacy is so often a villa’s USP
First-time visitors might ask what there is to do on Bali. The answer is less of a list of ‘Top Ten Must-See Places’, and more simply to absorb the culture which is unique to the island; to glory in the
landscapes and settle into the refreshing hospitality that come naturally to all Balinese. Children enjoy a special role in society here, cosseted and worshipped (not too strong a verb)
from the moment they are born, and so Bali makes for a particularly good family holiday. Lombok, being one pace further along the archipelago’s stepping stones, is still ranked as a
more adventurous destination.
Straddling the equator, Indonesia has two main seasons – wet between October and April and dry for the rest of the year – with slight geographical variations.
The wet season is by no means intolerable, as storms tend to come in sudden bursts and once they have subsided it will be dry for the rest of the day. The Christmas holiday period
traditionally attracts a horde of visitors from both Asia and the rest of the world. And, given what awaits them on these unique and exotic islands, that’s more than understandable.