This small Indian Ocean island bursts with thousands of Balinese Hindu temples and 3 million Balinese – all of whom seem to be on scooters at the same time! No sense is left untested: Bali is equal parts serene (lush jungles, mystical volcanoes, black-sand beaches), chaotic (buzzing markets, vibrant dance performances, tourist-clogged Kuta beach) and spiritual (delicate incense-and-flower temple offerings, carved goddess figurines, burning funeral pyres). It is a magical place to find – or celebrate – love. And is it ever the place to shop!
Since Bali is an island, it is tempting to think, beach. Certainly, its shores are studded with resorts. The main enclaves are Jimbaran Bay, Nusa Dua, and Seminyak – home to upscale hotel brands such as Four Seasons, Starwood Luxury Collection, and Oberoi.
But to me – and from the trailer, it seems as if Julia/Elizabeth agrees - Bali’s jewel is its lush, artistry-rich and karma-centric interior with its cascades of emerald-green rice paddies and traditional villages. Central to this experience is the once-sleepy, now trendy village of Ubud. Its boutique- and restaurant-lined streets and maze-like palace market make it one-stop shopping mecca (the Balinese are unparalleled artisans) for jewelry, carvings (shown above at left), furniture and fabrics, while its rice paddy-flanked and river-kissed outer fringes are home to secluded resorts offering romantic suites and pampering spas. Two I enjoy are the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, a modernist masterpiece secreted alongside the rushing Ayung River, from $460/night, and the more affordable Uma Ubud with its yoga focus and clean, breezy décor (shown at right; courtesy of Uma Ubud), from $260/night.
You shouldn’t leave Bali without experiencing: a karma cleansing ceremony on the beach near Uluwatu temple; a dance performance – preferably the mesmerizing Legong (shown at left) – inside a fabric- and garland-draped temple; mist-shrouded Lake Beratan with its multi-tiered Ulu Danu temple; and the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary in Ubud with its vine-covered statues and mischievous monkeys. But most of all, take time to observe the Balinese people as they pause to light an incense offering, effortlessly balance a basket of fruit atop their head, dance with equal parts precision (the women) and passion (the men), and turn a piece of wood or silver into a precious objet d’art. You don't need to meet Javier Bardem to fall in love with Bali.