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Saturday, 01 September 2018

Idyllic Indonesia: 'The Slow Life'

Written by Prachi Kagzi
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As I sit here on the infinity edge of the three tiered pool, which is the center piece of this cliff side property overlooking Maggis Bay, I realize what an untapped treasure this eastern part of the beautiful Hindu island of Bali is. I am visiting Amankila, a part of the 5 hotels bouquet in Indonesia offered by Aman Resorts, for the Aman junkies!

The resorts have developed a loyal fan base of travelers who decide their vacations according to the global 'Amanmap'.

The hotel is about a 90 minute smooth drive from the Ngurah Rai International Airport and perched on top of a hill. The solitude seeks you as you enter with panoramic views of the ocean. When I arrived at the library they were serving afternoon tea and I had a Balinese ginger tea while my partner tried the local luwak coffee.

While we savored this with Klepon and other local sweets, a pretty young child came over in a kebaya kamen (garment) and handed me a intricate canang sari. This is a common floral offering during morning rituals at temples.

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My days consisted of walks by the volcanic black sand beach, which is accessible through a short walkway descending the cliff, and clocking in laps at the 41 meter pool. That evening, I decided to try out the hobbie cat sail, which was unfortunately cancelled due to incoming windy weather. My hunger was fully aroused by the swimming and justifiably satiated by mouth-watering nasi and me goreng in the sanctity of my villa's private dining.

Our Villa offered a four poster bed with a splendid bath area replete with a tub and 'his and her' sinks. The bath also had a changing area and sitting area to add to the opulence. The reclusive nature of this ocean villa opened out only to views of the hillside forests, residence for the birding life.

One of the days, I scurried over to a nearby village after my morning routine of a Balinese Massage followed by scrumptious breakfast at the Terrace restaurant. Tenganan Village, the oldest Balinese traditional village is famous for the art of weaving. This craft of cloth fastens are famously called as Ikat Pangringsingan or Double Ikat. It is worn mostly by the Balinese during ceremonies such as weddings.

To continue my offbeat Indonesian soirée, we were headed to Lombok Island across the strait for the rest of our holiday. Lombok, the neighboring island to Bali, overshadowed by the shiny cousin, is a mere 2 hour high speed boat ride away from the Padangbai harbor. We disembarked drenched by the torrential rains at Teluk Kodek harbor, only to be whisked away and welcomed with hot drinks and towels in the scenic lobby of The Oberoi Lombok. Their lush gardens, set alongside the sea hugging a narrow beach, are dotted with exotic plants from jackfruits trees to hanging orchids. During the short walk to the villa, the interplay in their landscaping brought artistic solace to my citybred sore eyes.

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The villa we were appointed was expansive and designed using locally sourced handicrafts. I settled into a luxurious hot bath in the sunken tub, in our marbled bathroom which was well stocked with crystallized bath salts, loofah and aromatic soaps. We had a flavorful lunch of Balinese curry and laksa, before we climbed into the Gulliver-ised bed (complete with a stepping stool) for a cat nap. We spent the rest of the day in the pool area, which replicated the nearby rice paddy fields, and lounged in the day bed cabanas sipping yummy cocktails from the Tokek Bar. The bar is aptly named Tokek, the local name for the common house gecko found everywhere on this island. The chef came over to meet us during dinner at the seaside al-fresco restaurant to plan our 3 day stay menu and even offered to make off-the-menu Indonesia fare for the vegetarian traveler.

The next morning, we were headed out to the mystical Gili Islands in the celebrated all teakwood Oberoi speed boat, Outrigger. The Gilis are a set of three isles – Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno and Gili Air. Characterized by sandy beaches fringed with palm trees, they're known for their coral reefs just offshore. On the smallest island of Gili Meno, sea turtles swim at Turtle Point. At Gili Trawangan, the largest island, a sunken ship sits at Wreck Point near Mentigi Beach.

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We were excited beyond belief to scuba dive these waters and see this rich coral filled aquatic life up close. After our first dive at 'Cabbage Patch' we headed to Gili Air for lunch. We lounged at beach shacks fit to be starred in 'Cast Away' nibbling away at the perfect Gado Gado. We finished our second dive at Gili Slope to encounter turtles, sting rays, octopus, lion fish and more! We spent the next day diving in the locales including a wreck and went for a short walk to photograph the salt water lake at Gili Meno. The remoteness and relaxed island vibe left the white sands and warm turquoise waters unspoilt for us. There were no cars on the islands and the only transportation are colorful pony drawn carts. The islands have low key accommodation with many restaurants, bars and dive shops.

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With uninvited rain chasing our backs, we sped back to the Oberoi Lombok for a champagne evening in the environs of our Villa Verandah with views of the setting sun, exchanging travel stories with the young and energetic GM of the hotel. The chef had outdone himself for our requested customization of indigenous dishes using homegrown vegetables and fermented soybean during the dinner service at the formal restaurant. The restaurant had a showcase of musical dance recitals for the diners with all performers in colorful masks and elaborate costumes depicting folklore and everyday life.

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The next morning, we packed not only our belongings but memories of this wonderful island only to say goodbye to the smiling and proactive staff at the hotel. With my binge shopping of 'mother of pearl' tableware, packed neatly in the boot of this luxury sedan en route to the airport, I write my musings recollecting my amazing week at AmanKila, Bali and The Oberoi, Lombok.

Indonesia – I am stoked and will return to discover more!

©Prachi Kagzi


Last modified on Saturday, 01 September 2018