My Bali Sundown
Ariel Leve joins the sunset enthusiasts in Bali, but says that's just the start of the Indonesian island's attractions.
Bali is all about the sunsets. They're an event. I'm not sure why Bali attracts so many sunset enthusiasts, but it has something to do with the vibrant colours and unobstructed view - laws forbid building anything taller than a palm tree on the island.
I've never understood the appeal of attending a sunset as though it were a play. The sun comes up, the sun goes down. What's to watch?
At the peaceful Jimbaran Puri Bali hotel, extra-wide chairs with pillows are set up on the white-sand beach which overlooks the bay. Guests relax with their lychee martini, watching the horizon as the breeze blows and the waves gently crash. The only way to avoid a sunset here would be to stay in your room until the moon comes out.
Which was not, as far as I was concerned, a bad idea. The rooms are individual private cottages with traditional thatched Balinese roofs, marble tubs, flat-screen TVs and Egyptian-cotton-covered beds.
My father lives in Bali and is an avid sunset-watcher. Despite living only 20 minutes away in residential Sanur, when he arrived at Jimbaran beach it was as though he'd travelled to another island. And therein lies one of the most distinguishing features of Bali. The scenery and settings and cultural options are so diverse, it can offer a laid-back beach holiday, a trek up a volcano, and a stay in the mountains, where the temperatures are cooler. There are swanky restaurants and nightclubs, but it's also very easy to avoid other people and walk along the rice paddies in the valley, where the only traffic is the ducks.
An hour's drive north is the Ubud Hanging Gardens, and it doesn't get more luxurious than this. The hotel was built literally into the mountain. The private villas are perched spectacularly overlooking a lush and steep gorge. Every dark stone from Java was carried on heads and shoulders to build the steps, the infinity pool, the spa.
If you don't feel like walking up the stairs, there's a funicular that runs from the spa to the highest villa, stopping along the way at the restaurant, where the French chef has been imported from Le Cirque in
New York. The Ayung river runs just below, and as you sit having dinner you can hear the river raging. Because the hotel has been set into the landscape, it feels like being in the jungle. My kind of jungle. The kind where there's a funicular to bring me back from my foot massage.
Just west of Ubud is the Sangeh Monkey temple. Built in the 17th century, surrounded by tall nutmeg trees, it's where all the monkeys hang out. I was reading one afternoon when a monkey swung by the pool at the Hanging Gardens to say hello.
Before setting off for Bali, I had one goal: try to relax. There are people who, from the moment they step off a plane, can do this. I'm not one of them. However, low on the list of things I worry about is terrorism. So when people asked, "Is it safe?" I assumed they were referring to the mosquitoes. Conveniently, the answer is yes to both. At a final sunset-watch, there was a comfort in knowing this will continue, long after I'm gone. And then, just as I relaxed, a mosquito bit me.