Monday, January 16, 2012

bali i'm in love: ayana resort + naughty nuri's + cafe bali + rock bar + popies lane II + jimbaran

Finally *heaving sigh of heavy relief* we went on our long overdue Bali trip. The trip was booked in the first quarter of 2011 for November. I know now NEVER to book trips ahead ‘cos we’ll never know what lies ahead in our schedules. Out of nowhere Guy was assigned to go for jungle training so we had to postpone the trip. It was impossible to get a reservation in Christmas so we ended up bringing it forward up to the next year. And... what was supposed to be a peng-leng-cheng aka steal turned out to be a regular rate getaway much thanks to rebooking fees and whatnot. Anyhoots the time has come for us to relax and so we did!

I figured since I’ve done Seminyak 4 years back I’ll do Jimbaran-lah pulak. Besides I’ve always been curious about The Rock Bar. Bali airport has changed quite abit since the last trip. For Bali virgins, upon exit head towards the right (or follow the taxi sign) and it’ll lead you to a wee booth where a prepaid system will hook you up with a cab. We were staying in Ayana Resort in Jimbaran.

Ever since the bombing, malls and hotels perform compulsory security checks on all vehicles upon entrance into the building. Ayana’s security point is at their pintu gembalang which is located at the ‘foot’ of the hotel hill. At that point there will be someone from the concierge who goes through the checklist to ensure that you are an expected guest. As usual-lah my name is not on the list but I had a print-out of my hotel voucher and so we were allowed in. As we alighted the cab wit our luggages, an uber friendly ibu Tuti greets us: Mr and Mrs Shelby :D  I watched Guy raise his eyebrows before chuckling. I found it hilarious! She placed frangipani leis over our heads.

It was my first time getting lei-ed (pun not intended)!! 

Trust me it’s such an awesome welcome, already I’m feeling the Bali love and I haven’t even checked in!

At first we wondered how she could possible have known who we were and then we realized from her very active walkie-talkie that the guy below radios in the names of incoming guests. How cool is that?? It’s a very personalized check-in where we needn’t do much except sit and wait in the lounge as they swiftly settled the paperwork. Just as we approached the desk to submit our passports, Tuti announces to us that our humble room was upgraded to the Suite with a garden view! Say it with me: WOW! I was so darn ecstatic I actually shrieked and leaped there and then only to realize it was pretty unclassy of me to do that *sheepish*

The room was large of course with personal living area and a patio outside. They even prepared a rose petal bath for us! Awesome possum! First thing we did after the bellboy left is jump outta our clothes into the tub :) It was Guy’s first flower bath and he loved it! 

Guy: Man this is nice!
moi: Why do you think I wanted to get a tub?
Guy: I actually like the idea of it now *sips his tea in the bath*
moi: If you like the idea of this.. wait 'till you.. *showcases some Libby vs Nick soakin' action* 
(WHADYA mean you've NEVER read Jane Green's Mr Maybe?? Use them 1Malaysia cook coupons and get youself some tubducation! *snorts*)

The perfect marriage. Although Ayana did provide some wonderful Balinese bath salts that we did use later on.

I love the woman-sink man-sink! And they say this is the recipe to a sustaining marriage... I'm thinking there could be some truth to this.

I've always believed that a 4-poster canopy bed would leave me feeling like a French Dauphine but I was clearly tres wrong. It must have unearthed the silent claustrophobia in me 'cos I suddenly felt so trapped and constantly wondering if something is lurking behind the drapes. Needless to say they stayed tied up throughout the stay. Otherwise the bed was crazy comfy!

Breathtaking, non?

Our first stop, which proved to be pretty far off, was a mischievous little eatery known by many foodies including celebrity chef / traveller extraordinaire Anthony Bourdain who chugged Naughty Nuri's martinis (AND ribs) like it was an eating competition.

L-R: Teh Botol Sosro.. I knew not how much I miss you till that day. Jus Alpukat.. the ultimate vegeshake made of avocados and a drizzle of chocolate condesned milk! Naughty Nuri's signature martini done the way James like it best: shaken not stirred.

Turns out, despite having the 'best martini in the world', I'm really not a martini person. I'm more of a cocktail wuss. Should've ordered a Mojito / Caipirinha / Cosmo instead.

One of the best places I've eaten in Bali. Seriously. So... it's a lil bulé and a lil touristy rated but worth the effort and price. Wonderful pondok-ranch ambience with friendly servers and the presence of holiday makers eating to their hearts' delight.

The best ribs I've ever tasted. Period.

Naughty Nuri's
Jalan Batubelig 41
Kerobokan Kelod
Kerobokan 80361
Tel: +62 0361 847 6722 

After the meal we decided to take a slow walk out of Kerobokan into Seminyak and perhaps drop by KuDeTa on the way but the stroll proved to be more of a country-cross so we took the way way out: hailed a cab!  

Lovely island day dresses (I specifically mentioned island 'cos they're made in Bali and don't they look like they belong on the beach??) by vendors in front of Seminyak Square.

Would've loved to try this place out but just didn't have the time or tummy space.

The Junction
The corner of Oberoi 
Jl. Kayu Aya Oberoi 
Bali, Indonesia
Tel:  +62 361 735 610

As we strolled along Jalan Laksamana, I guided Guy to my FAVOURITE place in Bali:

Cafe Bali makes my heart smile :)

Apparently it has the same effect on Guy too.

Cafe Bali is just as magical as I remembered it. Which really goes to show that good designs don't age, they're indeed timeless.

A fusion of French elegance and quaint Balinese architecture, this cafe sparked my love affair for Bali 4 years back when I was on my independent trip and I've never recovered since.  

I adore the colour and scent of Balinese roses. They're intoxicating.

Coming back to Cafe Bali is like coming back 'home'.. the Bali home I built in my heart. Sitting on the vintage wooden chair watching the Seminyak chic crowd pour in brought me flash backs (it's so Eat, Pray, Love I know.. please don't gag) of my life before I got married and how free-spirited my journey was back then. Those were the days, non? I still do read silently as I sip on my mojito except now there's a man that distracts ever so often by playing footsie below the table. I like now better.

Cafe Bali
Jl. Oberoi (Laksamana)
Bali, Indonesia

Guy's the kind of Malaysian dude who feels the day is incomplete if he doesn't have an Asian cuisine as a meal so we dropped by a local warung and I ordered a bowl of soto ayam for the gentleman and bakso for myself. 

I ♥ continental buffet breakfast! Especially if they serve pancakes  :)  Ayana's spread is commendable. The taste is not spectacular but the lil' perks are enough to keep the mood cheery. I'm talking fresh coconut juice (shelled on the spot!), Bitcher muesli, powdered sugar and fresh strawberries! Awesome!    

Unfortunately those are not salak pondoh and the markisa is quite bland but the mangosteen was worth returning for seconds (and thirds.. erk!)

All the while being serenaded by live rindik and the ripples of the surrounding pond. Seriously if people don't find this to be an awesome breakfast experience they can go kick themselves!

After the hearty breakfast we changed into our swimming gear and went to explore the resort. It's a massive space with an award-winning spa. There're multiple pools in the resort and each to suit one's liking but there's one pool in particular that I was dying to dip my toes in!

*sigh* it would be nice if Guy had some decent camera skills and take nice pictures like this for me!

At the brink of the cliff lies the oh-so-popular Rock Bar

Guests get to use the mini-tram that brings you from the hotel right to the doorstep of the bar. 

Oh and another thing I love is their 24-hr tour hotline (you get them on tourist pamphlets upon exit of the arrival terminal). We didn't really decide to go on a tour. OK.. I.. didn't really decide to go on a tour but Guy, being a Bali virgin and all, was getting antsy 'bout not doing something 'productive' on the trip. Haiya military men-ah.. everything has got to be some kinda mission. So we whipped out all the brochures we gathered at the airport and looked for the cheapest Ocean / Sea Walker tour on the island. All we did was called the number up, state our hotel and room number, pick-up spot and time. How easy was that??

We chose to go on the Ocean Walker because we can't dive and I'd like for Guy to experience a world other than the one we know.

Underwater lovin'!

It's best that you take a motion-sickness pill before the tour 'cos the boat ride to the 'dive' spot is a real b*tch. I made the mistake of assuming the journey would be a short one and short it may be but hell was it a rocky one! Fortunately the anticipation overwhelmed my spinning head and soon we were suited up with weights before descending the ladder into the ocean. It's an odd feeling: suddenly you're heads up at the surface of the sea and the next moment a heavy 5kg helmet lightly taps onto your shoulder and you're water-borne!

This time you're a tourist. This is their paradise and you're only visiting. They go about their lives foraging, mating or just plain exploring. It's so peaceful it's surreal.

The 'walk' goes on for about 30 mins and you have a choice of them to either shoot a short video or take underwater pictures of you on a disposable cam. Guy succumbed to both and I let him since it's his first time to Bali and all. Many a time I almost drifted away 'cos I was just way too busy looking out for exotic fishes and forming peace signs at the camera. I had to be tugged back to the safety bar alot much to the aquaguide's dismay. I can't help it that I have such a wanderlust spirit!                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
I'm an aquanaut!

I'm so glad that Guy urged us to go on this Ocean Walker tour. It's the total highlight of the trip and I won't admit it but it does bring a certain sense of satisfaction to have completed a 'mission' *smirk*

We got back to the hotel so Guy could take a nap and I could pop a motion-sickness pill. Serves me right for overestimating my ability to withstand the waves.

Salak. They call it the snakeskin fruit. I used to wonder what my parents ever saw in that bitter yet tangy apple-like fruit. I suppose it is of an acquired taste. that was until I had Salak Pondoh which is the creme de la creme of salak. This isn't Salak Pondoh but I thought it was a nice choice to offer guests fruits at the receptionist table rather than the same-ole same-ole mints or sweets.

I wonder how they manage to keep their orchids so well-maintained 'cos I attempted it and failed. Tres beautiful, non?

Every morning the gardeners would pick fallen flowers to be strung into leis. Insufficient? They have a frangipani farm at the back!
Later in the day it was shopping time! We had a dodgy cab guy that tried to con into diverting us to a 'better' ole ole place. I stood my ground and insisted on Khrisna.

Dancing nuts in grilled fish anyone?

There were truckloadsa local lulur and cold-processed soaps. Really got the wheel in my brain turning. A Bali line for *bisou* bonbon maybe?

We then went searching for umbul-umbul for Miss MeiMei and boy was it a feat. I figured there must be something at Poppies Lane II. It's a road with every paraphernalia imaginable on each side. Take your time to browse through the shops for the best price.

Remember this kite ship?

Showed Guy the Bali bombing Memorial site.

Nasi Padang for lunch. Love 'em cabe ijo!

Finally we found some umbul-umbul - rainbow in particular - for Miss MeiMei. It was a freakin' long walk too. 2 hours in total. Totally worth it to make a friend happy. They were so adorable I got myself a pair!

Wonderful tie-dye threads. 

We were about to leave to Jimbaran for dinner on the beach when it rained cats and dogs. I decided to revisit Seminyak. I cannot explain it. There's just something about Jalan Laksamana that continues to draw me in.

Not much has changed since the last I was here. Familiarity is comforting. I was chatting with this Russian lady and her daughter in the pool and the lady exclaimed that it has been 10 years since her last trip to Bali and everything's just pretty much the same way she left it. And it is so... 4 years and...

.. the tree still grows in that awesome little boutique.  

The mirror shop, though, has gone upmarket hence no butterfly mirror souvenir yet again  :( 

We did, though, leave with truckloadsa groceries like:

Designer Balinese coffee.

Wild Luwak coffee.

We returned to the hotel slightly disappointed that it was still raining. I made a last minute decision to head out to the spa. It was an hour and a half to closing time so my choice (and funds) was pretty limited. I would've so wanted to try out the Spa on the Rocks but I just didn't have the kachings and instead I opted for on of their Thalasso treatments: the Sea Breeze massage. It was amazeballs! It felt like a massage by the seashore what with the hydrojets spurting warm saltwater as the masseuse kneads through my muscle knots. I slept like a baby that night.

Such a charm to see black volcanic sand being used in the cigarette receptacle. 

This is my breakfast.

And this is Guy's. I guess I'm the mat salleh celup then heh.

One day.

We could not leave before taking one last dip in our favourite pool of the lot: the infinity saltwater pool! I could gush about it all day but I'll just let the pictures tell the story. 

Awesome, non?? Perched by the cement looking at the waves crash into the shore / lovers stroll by the pier as I sipped lychee martinis and soaked the sun in. C'est la vie!
♥ us here  :)

We've just explored the pier and have descended to the beach. The waves are quite scary.

Thumbs up:
- salt-water infinity pool
- complimentary suite upgrade
- comfortable bed
- serene environment
- smiling staff
- rindik at breakfast, good spread as well

Thumbs down:
- quite obscure location

My Agoda review:
We arrived at the hotel greeted by the receptionist who anticipated out arrival. Thank you Agoda for upgrading our room to the Suite! The hotel even prepared a complimentary flower bath on check-in. It was the best welcome ever! The staff are ever smiling and we enjoyed having our breakfast with live bamboo music every morning. The bed is pleasantly comfortable and we absolutely appreciate the space. The hotel is massive and there's alot to discover including their award-winning spa and Rock Bar! We loved our time in Ayana and Bali... thank you Agoda for making our 2nd honeymoon so special!

Hotel Feature Tip: You must find time to enjoy the salt-water infinity pool that overlooks the shore. The pool opens early at around 9am so be there early to get a daybed (which comes with complimentary nuts and chilled water). It's bliss.

Ayana Resort
Jl. Karang Mas Sejahtera
Bali 80364

Time's up for reality.

We've always wondered what these gargantuan structures were every time we descended the hill to get to town. It's enclosed with man-made barriers and appears seemingly important. Apparently they're limestone hills and the locals are prohibited from mining them.

Turns out we did manage to squeeze in a Jimbaran seaside meal just before leaving. We had over an hour to kill before check-in and the cab driver offered to drive us to a makan place (albeit overpriced 0_0'). We sat in the shaded area 'cos it was roasting outside but we still enjoyed the view.


We were serenaded by travelling musicians. They sang Dddy's favourite 'Country Road  :D

I've heard much about the local wine Hatten. It was, umm, no good. I had to get a Bintang beer to wash it down.

I'm no coffee connoiseur and neither am I even a fan of 'em but Kopi Luwak is seriously so damn good! The whole hype of it having astonishing flavour, lingering aftertaste and smoothness.. well guess what?? It's true! I'm a Kopi Luwak convert. Bought myself a miniscule pack for RM50.. omigosh I know but so worth it. Though I'd suggest that you get Wild Kopi Luwak so you can have your antioxidizing caffeine fix conscience free of unscrupulous businessmen who cage up civets and force feed them coffee beans to get them precious poo. I did.  

What they really meant was Massaman curry was voted by CNNGo as the most delicious food and not AirAsia's Massaman curry. Sigh. Needless to say I struggled to finish that.

I almost nodded off when the French lady (yeah call it law of attraction or whatever.. can't help it if there's always something French around me) beside Guy woke me up to witness a glorious wonder of nature. Took my breath away and still does. 

Goodbye Bali. I'll be back.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored review. The views expressed in this blog are based on the blogger's personal opinions, thoughts and impressions. The material on this blog may not be used, reprinted, or published without the blogger's consent. Merci!

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