VIP TRIP: BLISS SANCTUARY, BALI
Ever since Emirates started direct flights from the UAE to Bali, getting there takes around nine hours and is as easy as watching three inflight movies. When you’re staying at a Bliss Sanctuary (there’s one in hip-and-happening Seminyak, and another in chilled-out Canguu – pronounced changu), it’s even easier as a driver will be waiting for you upon arrival. Within an hour you’ll be safely ensconced in the man-free zone that is Bliss. Wipe off your make-up, wrap up in a complimentary sarong, and do nothing all week but swim, eat and take the odd (optional) yoga class.
If you prefer a more active escape, the retreats’ drivers can take you anywhere you want to go at any time. Bliss is all about having the holiday you want, your way. Visit Ubud and relive some Eat, Pray, Love moments, hit the local Crossfit centre, try your hand at Balinese cooking or even learn to surf. If it can be done in Bali, the retreats’ helpful hostesses will arrange it for you – think of them as your spiritual PA, and remember: do it your way! INFO: Our return flight cost Dhs2,555, emirates.com, the basic Bliss package starts from $2,350 (Dhs8,635), Bliss Sancturary for Women, Seminyak/Canguu, Bali, email@example.com, blisssanctuaryforwomen.com
WHILE YOU’RE THERE
SAMPLE BALINESE HOME-COOKING
All meals are provided at the sanctuary, rustled up by local resident cooks. Other than a few Western concessions (bacon and eggs, for examples), cuisine is traditionally Balinese. Portions are ample and, as it the way in Bali, most food is fried. We tucked into nasi goreng (goring means fried, nasi is rice), nasi campur (pronounced champur, this is rice with mixed accompaniments), fried tofu and tempe, and fish and chicken steamed in banana leaves. Most meals are group affairs, with dinner at the main table at 7.30pm every night. FYI: There’s also a chocolate stash in the fridge!
STRETCH YOUR YOGA SKILLS
The sanctuary has a yoga studio and hosts complimentary classes three times a week with the wonderful Jennifer Adams, a Californian yogi with a soothing voice, a sunny disposition and seven years’ experience as an instructor. If you want more, your drivers will deliver you to Desa Seni (desaseni.com), which translates as Artistic Village – a very zen centre offering a full timetable of classes in all varieties of yoga, from kundalini (in which we practised panting like a dog, oddly) to Flyhigh, the aerial variety that’ll see you suspended from the ceiling!
Treatments can be carried out in the poolside cabana or in your room, and include 45-minute manicures, pedicures, cream head massages, facials and reflexology foot massages, and 90-minute Balinese, Thai, hot stone, aromatherapy and herbal compress massages. The latter features a compress stuffed with herbs, heated and then quickly patted over major muscles in the body. The heat helps the muscles loosen up during massage. Our favourite is the Balinese deep-tissue massage with coconut oil.
All Bliss suites feature private alfresco bathrooms, complete with tropical greenery and locally sourced complimentary organic toiletries. It’s a liberating feeling to cleanse your body and mind in an open-air rain shower or soak in the Bliss bath salts in a free-standing marble tubs beneath the leaves – think Herbal Essence shampoo ad. But beware that you forfeit A/C and increase your chance of bumping into critters outdoors. Plus late-night toilet breaks can be a little spooky.
Ohhh, the beds. Four-poster protective mosquito-net cocoons with banks of plump cushions and cuddly soft blankets make the sleeping arrangements utter bliss. Set the room temperature how you like it, switch on your aromatherapy light-therapy air purifier and drift off. Some guests come here just to be alone and catch up on sleep, and as shut-eye is nature’s best beauty treatment, we see the benefits in doing just that. Though everyone has TVs in their room, we never heard one during our stay. Silence is golden and bedtime seemed to organically happen by 10pm every night.
LEARN TO SURF
As terrifying as it may seem to the novice, surfing in Bali is brilliant for beginners. We learned at Surf School Bali on Double Six Beach. The sand was soft and free of rocks and shale, the water was shallow and the instructors were excellent, giving one-on-one tuition and guidance in the sea – all three participants in our class made it onto their boards for several Hawaii 5-0 moments – at least they felt like that to us! Having since seen the photographs (available at pupils at an additional cost of 150,000rp/Dhs40), they didn’t quite live up to the vision but they make fabulous souvenirs all the same. INFO: 750,000rp (Dhs205) for a two-hour lesson, surfschoolbali.com
SEE A HEALER
Balians are traditional Balinese healers who use deep-tissue massage and intuition to assess and remedy ailments. Since Eat, Pray, Love became a hit, Balians have become a big tourist attraction, but the practice is centuries old, with many Balinese people preferring this approach to popping pills – and if a massage can remove a backache or a headache without the need for pharmaceuticals, then why not? Bliss recommends fifth generation healer Master Chyrillus Ketut Samiratha, who cured my resort neighbour of a persistent shoulder strain in just a couple of hours! INFO: 750,000rp (Dhs205) for 90 minutes, balichyheqaling.com
PLAN YOUR FUTURE
If the first page you turn to in Ahlan! each week is Horoscopes, then you’ll appreciate a tarot reading. Bliss recommends Erlanga Patria, a counsellor with developed intuition, trained in psychology. Shuffle his pack if well-worn dog-eared cards to be discover the best months to invest, your career progression, future family life, and more. Fundamentally, if there’s something on your mind, you’re likely to receive sound advice prompted by your own musings, which may just help you make a few decisions. INFO: 350,000rp (Dhs96) for 30 minutes, 700,000rp (Dhs193) for 60 minutes
Ahlan!'s Sarah with fellow bliss guests Mel and Kim
MAKE NEW FRIENDS
You could take five to seven girlfriends to a Bliss resort and have the place to yourselves, but going alone gives you the opportunity to meet women from all around the world. We met Emily, a bubbly British-born investment banker living in Sweden; Mel and Kim, two hilarious police constables from Tasmania, and Marissa, a Ducati-driving biker chick from Florida who works in healthcare. To paraphrase Forest Gump, it’s like a box of chocolates – you never know who you’re going to get. However, resort hostess Anna, surrogate big sister and generous compliment giver, is a permanent feature, on hand to look you day and night.