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Blissful Bali

Lift your spirits in beautiful Bali

From seaside yoga to holy water ceremonies and charming culture - this tropical island makes the spirits soar, as Alice Hart-Davis found out

We had only just set off white-water rafting through the jungle gorges of the Ayung River when our guide began flinging water over us with his paddle.

The water was too calm for his liking – this was his way of livening up the trip.

We retaliated in kind until we were all soaked, but then, just to make sure we were fully drenched, he beached the raft under a pipe ditching a small stream into the river and made us stand beneath it for photographs. They like a giggle in Bali.


Snorkelling and swimming with turtles on a trip to the Gili Islands


By then, we'd been in and around Bali for a week and had acclimatised to the warmth, the drifting scents of incense sticks, the greeting of everyone with a hands-in-prayer Namaste gesture, and the gaiety of the little temples that peek over the walls of family compounds, their pillars decked out in bright fabrics.

And we were getting hooked on sambal, the tangy, spicy tomato dip that comes with crackers wherever you order drinks. We had also learned that not taking things too seriously is a way of life here, even in the tranquil, opulent surroundings of the Four Seasons at Sayan, set in the jungle just outside Ubud in the middle of Bali.


Aerial yoga at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay


I thought our cycle tour guide, Agus, was joking when he suggested we stop for a cat-poo coffee. We had been deluging him with questions as we pedalled through open countryside north of Ubud. How many rice crops did this green and fertile island yield each year? Four.

What were the tall, frondy bamboo decorations going up outside every house? Penjors, to celebrate the national festival of Galungan.

The cat-poo-cino turned out to be for real. It's made with coffee beans that have been eaten, and excreted, by a sad, fierce-looking creature called a Luwak, which makes the beans milder in flavour, once they have been washed, roasted and ground. Oh, yes.



The Four Seasons at Sayan is an extraordinary building that clings to the steep side of a river valley, like some retro James Bond baddie's lair.

You sashay across a treetop-height walkway towards a large lily pond that appears suspended in mid-air. The hotel is beneath said pond, with a stupendous view across the river valley. The Obamas stayed here last year.

I knew from friends who honeymooned here in style that Bali is not just for backpackers, though even in the luxurious hotels lining the Ayung, the vibe is relaxed. Everyone is friendly and laidback.


Take a tour of Ubud and take in the beautiful scenery


Most people hang out on the pale-sand beaches at its southern tip. They might get as far inland as the hippyish town of Ubud but, with its yoga centres and art studios.

We started on the beach. Steering clear of Kuta – the Magaluf of Bali – we stayed in the beachy, more upmarket Seminyak district.

Then, in search of an island paradise of the sort that brought the first hippies here in the Sixties, we ventured across the Lombok Strait to the Gili Islands. Gili Gede, off the south coast of Lombok (the next Indonesian island to Bali), boasts the super-chic hotel Kokomo Gili Gede

Back on Bali, my husband Matthew had a massage using milk and honey scrubs at Sayan. Then he agreed to spend our final afternoon enjoying a three-hour 'Blessings of Bali' ceremony.


The Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay resort offers a stunning and peaceful setting


By now we had moved on to another Four Seasons hotel, at Jimbaran Bay on Bali's southernmost tip, where the blessings take place in the seafront pavilion. We did aerial yoga, we meditated. We 'bathed' in the reverberating din drummed up by the massage ladies on 3ft gongs.

After a muscle-probing massage, we donned sarongs and sat, eyes closed, as the priest chanted prayers – and concluded the ceremony by tipping a litre of blessed water over our heads. It was my turn to giggle – respectfully, of course.

First published in the Daily Mail -  April 2018

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