Despite the Australian government’s travel warnings and the silence on the streets in the once-thriving beach town of Kuta, there’s plenty of life to be found in Bali.
But while the island was once best known as a place for package-tour Aussies to indulge in beer, cheap T-shirts and beach massages, a different kind of traveller is heading there now.
Seminyak is a smaller town a few kilometres up the coast from the traditional heart of Balinese tourism, but here is where it’s clear the tourists haven’t given up on Bali.
In contrast to the quiet streets of Kuta, Seminyak is seeing a mini building boom, as empty patches of land become holiday villas. In this part of the island, villa and hotel managers can still boast about their occupancy rates.
While the beach along Seminyak features some of Bali’s best resort hotels outside of Nusa Dua, a growing crowd of European and a steady number of Australian travellers now head to the area for its small-scale villa accommodation.
Renting a villa is an excellent idea for a couple looking for privacy, a family, or a group of friends who want their own living spaces. Villas are also significantly cheaper than staying in most of the island’s luxury hotels.
Seminyak’s villa accommodations are generally small clusters of individual houses with a central office. Villas commonly come with an open living room, air-conditioned bedrooms and outdoor bathrooms and many feature their own pools.
Alu Bali in northern Seminyak is a great example of high-end villa accommodation. Each of Alu Bali’s seven villas comes with tropical gardens and a large pool, as well as friendly staff to come in and make whatever meals you feel like in the villa’s kitchen.
Within walking distance from Alu Bali is a string of hotels, fine dining restaurants and bars with incredible views over the Indian Ocean.
The most famous of these is Ku De Ta, more a pleasure compound than the sum of its bars, lounges, restaurant and pool. After you clear the comprehensive security check at its gates (a common feature these days in Seminyak), walking into Ku De Ta at sunset brings an instant feeling of being on holidays.
During the several sunsets I visited, Ku De Ta was packed with beautiful, young -“ and plenty of bold, older -“ Europeans, cool ex-pat families, their naked toddlers sometimes splashing in the pool, Indonesian movie-stars and a smattering of gays.
Cocktails cost about 10 Australian dollars -“ an outrageous amount in a place like Bali -“ but the view and atmosphere are worth it. The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, or the waiters will bring gourmet snacks to your lounge chair if you’re lucky enough to grab one.
There’s no shortage of other eating options around this section of Seminyak. La Luciolla, the Living Room and Hu’u stand near each other at the northern end of Seminyak and attract crowds. Hu’u has DJs late into the night on Fridays and Saturdays. La Luciolla, despite its high prices, should be considered a must-visit for its beautiful setting overlooking the ocean. Bali Deli is a great place to stock up on imported foods. Seminyak’s Jl Oberoi is known as Eat Street, for its range of dining options.
Just as Ku De Ta’s sunset drinks quickly become part of the routine of staying in Seminyak, so do beauty treatments for men and women. Two famous day spas, BodyWorks (two venues in Seminyak) and The Prana Spa at The Villas, are great ways to spend a decadent day.
At BodyWorks, an hour massage in a private room -“ complete with a pair of paper underpants -“ plus a manicure and pedicure will set you back about $50. Double rooms in which friends or partners can be massaged at the same time are available. Bookings are essential for both places.
Seminyak is known as the gayest place for travellers to go in Bali, but it’s not exactly Fire Island. Gay and lesbian couples would be wise to avoid overt public displays of affection. Other gay-friendly villas are listed on the Bali Rainbows travel site.