As I stepped off the plane in London after my trip to beautiful Bali I wondered whether my nearest and dearest would recognise me. Not my appearance (even though I was sporting an enviable suntan), but my personality, which had gone from stressed out and irritable to blissed-out and carefree in just seven days. The Bali effect started the second I arrived at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan, in Ubud. After a 17-hour flight I was feeling rather cranky, but the welcome ceremony of a sash and flowers from the smiling staff made me instantly forget my flying fatigue. The sight ahead helped, too: a suspended walkway and lotus pond jutting out across the tops of the trees, with steps down to the riverside resort below. The hotel truly makes the most of the atmospheric jungle – with open-sided restaurants and bars and huge verandas in the rooms, which are 100% private, so when you’re lounging by your personal plunge pool you’re only overlooked by the odd monkey passing through.
It wasn’t the setting or the fact that my room had a walk-in wardrobe and a romantic draped bed that made me feel so happy here though, it was the Balinese people and their peaceful way of life. Keen to discover the secret to their constant smiles I followed their lead from sunrise to sunset – starting with pre-breakfast yoga on the floating lotus pond, saluting to the sun as the lily pads blossomed and finishing with delicious, yet healthy al fresco meals at Ayung Terrace restaurant by the gushing river. It was pure heaven sitting in the warm night air serenaded by a Balinese gamelan band and watching legong dancing.
The next day I took my cultural immersion one step further by signing up to one of the hotel’s Extraordinary Experiences – to spend a day in the life of a Balinese farmer. It began with a hike through the fields with our guide stopping off to lead us in some laughter therapy, before we ascended to a rural village where we saw villagers making offerings of incense and flowers to the gods in their ornate personal temples. The finale of the day saw me knee deep in mud, triangular straw hat on my head, raking the paddy fields and planting rice in a rather haphazard fashion compared to the neat rows of the pros.
And then it was time to relax with some noodles and rice porridge in a bale (an open-sided wooden gazebo) followed by a visit to the spa village, a calming collection of thatched buildings around a lotus pond. With just two months until my wedding, I opted for the two-and-a-half-hour rose-scented Heart Chakra ritual, which includes an al fresco rose-petal bath.
With my love chakras perfectly balanced ready for my ‘I dos’, I bid goodbye to Ubud, which was decked out in colourful displays as its residents celebrated a religious festival, and set my sights on continuing my spiritual journey on the southern coast at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay.
Just an hour’s drive away, Jimbaran Bay, with its many restaurants and five-star resorts, seems like a different country to the rainforests of Ubud, making the two a perfect combination for a diverse honeymoon. The Balinese philosophy (a love of life, nature and laughter) is ever-present though and straight away I’m taken to the hotel’s temple overlooking the sea for a welcome ceremony where I’m dressed in a Balinese outfit and an offering is made to the gods.
The exotic east meets the modern west in perfect harmony here – my room resembles an old temple yet has a private pool, mod cons galore and both an outdoor and indoor shower. Looking down over my terrace I spy the longest infinity pool I’ve ever seen, flanked with cosy looking daybeds. One of three pools, this turns out to be part of the ritzy Sundara restaurant where I dress to the nines to enjoy a glamorous meal of fresh fish and beef cooked in a wood-fired oven. I also take part in a cocktail-making class, enjoying the fruits of my labours on the terrace overlooking the lights of the bay.
Having indulged in the many luxuries on offer at the resort, I turned my attention back to the spiritual side of things with a Karmic Cleansing ritual. This ‘journey of self-renewal’ starts with yoga and meditation in a beachside bale followed by a water purification ceremony by a Balinese priest. Sat on an outcrop over the sea with the wind in my hair, flowers in my hands and the soft chanting of the priest in my ears I’ve never felt so peaceful – that was until he tipped a bowl of cold water over my head bringing me swiftly back to earth!
Minutes later, the relaxed state was restored however with an Ocean Opulence massage using a seashell to rid me of those final stress-induced knots. By the time I find myself having a romantic lantern-lit farewell meal by the beach, I’m in such a state of euphoria that I burst into laughter when the band asks for my song request and Michael Bublé’s Everything rings out across the bay!
Five nights in Ubud at the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan coupled with five nights at Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay on a B&B basis, incl. all flights and transfers, from £2090pp, audleytravel.com