Johns Just back
Our extended party included my wife and myself, our travelling companions
(husband and wife) who have also been to Bali about 4 times, our 2 sons aged 22
and 18, their 2 sons aged 22 and 13, and 3 other young friends aged from 18 to
Naturally, the younger ones had a different agenda than the oldies and had booked a surf trip on the Ria Wisata (www.surfsumbawa.com) which included a night on arrival at Garden View Cottages in Legian, then 6 nights on the boat, then another night at Garden View Cottages on return from the trip. Amongst many adjectives (not all of which can be repeated here), they reported their trip as absolutely awesome and our eldest son has just re-booked to go back and do the same surf trip again at the end of June. Obviously, this is highly recommended!
For the rest of us, we commenced our stay at the Santika in Tuban for a couple of nights. Although not really fans of large tourist hotels, this one is pretty good! Plenty of open space, good rooms, great grounds and a good beachfront. Also, not too large (171 rooms over about 10 acres I think).
Following this, we caught the Island Explorer Quick Cat to Nusa Lembongan for 3 nights stay at Coconuts Beach Resort. This is highly recommended - a great place to just relax and kick back! We would definitely go again. Coconuts is built on the side of a hill with an uninterrupted view over the surfing breaks of Shipwrecks, Lacerations and Playgrounds towards Mt Agung on Bali. Some rooms are air conditioned, some fan cooled, none have hot water (you won't miss it) but there are a lot of steps to the newer rooms at the top of the hill, so if you aren't too fit, ask for a room near the pool! This place also has a very nice restaurant with reasonably priced food. Down on Coconuts Beach itself, where the boats come in, Nyoman runs a little bar with very cold beers (especially if you ask him to put a few at the bottom of his cooler each day!) and this is a wonderful place to enjoy a sunset drink and enjoy the company of a few of the locals.
Following our return to the mainland, we rented a Feroza and drove up to Amed. Having seen the Santai recommended on the forum, we booked in there and had the most wonderful couple of days. I cannot speak highly enough of this establishment! Only 6 bungalows set in a very private beachside location, it is superbly managed by Kim, the English/Australian part owner and her excellent staff. The bungalows contain a king size bed on the lower level with two single beds on a mezzanine level above the verandah. The Santai also has a wonderful little restaurant with very reasonably priced food and the coldest beers in Bali! My wife and I also enjoyed quality massages in a picturesque garden bale, indeed the best massage I have ever had in Bali. While the Santai was a truly wonderful experience, I cannot finish this paragraph without mentioning our visit to Blue Moon Villas which is a couple of kilometres to the south of Santai. This is a brand new hotel with only 5 rooms but it is absolutely sensational! The rooms are delightful, the bathrooms out of this world, and the views awesome. When we revisit Amed (as we certainly will) it will be a hard choice between Santai and Blue Moon. Perhaps we will just have to stay at both!
For as long as we have been travelling to Bali, Lovina has been a special place for us because we have close friends among the local community. However, much as we enjoyed visiting our friends again, we were deeply disappointed in Lovina. Basically, the area seems to have lost the plot! It felt sleazy with a lot of older men with young Indonesian mistresses, a general atmosphere of despair, and few quality options in accommodation or restaurants. Having previously enjoyed the Sea Breeze Cafe, we had our great expectations dashed when, after about 10 minutes of waiting for even a menu on a quiet night, no-one came to the table and no-one even noticed when we got up and left! Finally settled on the Restaurant Kakatoa because it was obviously busy and popular but this was arguably the worst meal we have ever had in Bali. We left thinking the Lovina Crisis Centre could also extend itself to rectifying the malady hanging over the whole area. Such a beautiful place but Lovina really needs a huge shake up before the tourists abandon it in droves.
Returning to the Kuta area for the last few days, we would like to comment on a couple of establishments. First, Papas Cafe, in front of the Kul Kul resort on Jl Pantai offers great atmosphere, excellent service and superb food. Highly recommended!
Second, we had some clothes tailor made at a place called Sajojo near Bakung Beach Resort in Jl Kartika Plaza Gg. The manager is a guy called Forest and, with his staff of Kasangke, Roy, Dedy and Edy, they do great work! Skirts, tops, mens trousers, all superbly made with one measurement, two fittings and no patterns, your cloth or theirs. If you want more details please email us. We have no hesitation in recommending this establishment both for quality and price.
Since our last visit 2 years ago and evident over many visits, Bali is gradually moving up-market as a tourist destination and needs to do so rather than cater to the yobo/pub-crawl market of previous times. However, to really be taken seriously in a better market, there is quite a lot that the authorities need to address, notably the scams that still exist and still appear to be openly tolerated. It is one thing to come off the worse for a bargaining deal, but the money changing scams, the police bribery, the customs bribery, the dodgy scales at Jimbaran Bay are simply fraud and should be treated as such. A quality tourist industry will not develop in such an environment.
Having been somewhat critical of some aspects, we are looking forward to our next visit. Bali is a wonderful holiday destination whatever one's agenda and we hope it remains so. Enjoy!