Celukan Bawang, Bali
Situated 55 miles/90 kilometres away from the busy tourist spots of Ubud and Kuta lies Celukan Bawang. The port is a typical Balinese dichotomy between ancient and modern, with high-prowed Bugis schooners floating elegantly beside brand new cruise ships and age-old architecture sitting next to modern, streamline buildings. But within minutes of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of the industrial port, you are transported into a living postcard. The black sand beaches of the north exude exoticness, the white sand beaches of the south are a playground for the adventurous. Monkey jungles and rich, cultural heritage are just some of the ingredients that make up this wondrous, multi-faceted isle.
Pura Beji Temple
The only Hindu island in the Indonesian archipelago, Bali is naturally celebrated for its many temples and devout religious learning. Temples, sometime spectacular structures, sometimes just simple shrines are to be found all over the island and illustrate the sincerity of the islanders’ faith. Secluded away from the beaten track, the temple of Pura Beji is a uniquely beautiful and intricate example of the history of Bali. Built in the 15th century from local sandstone, the temple is adorned with demons, devils and snakes as well as their leyak guardians to protect the temple from intruders. A subak temple, Pura Beji is dedicated to the goddess Dewi Sri, custodian of the complex irrigated rice terraces. The inner courtyard offers a refuge of spirituality infused tranquillity and peace and features rather unusually, depictions of 15th century Dutch musicians. The temple is a spellbinding place of exquisite beauty, far from the day trippers of the busier villages.
Located in the hills of Banjar, just half an hour from Pura Beji is the Buddist Monastery Brahmavihara-Arama. Perhaps the only site for Buddhist pilgrims during holy days on the island, visitors are allowed to wander freely in the gardens admiring the many statues of Buddha depicting his path to Nirvana. Set in a hectare of lush hillside overlooking the sea, the monastery rises majestically over the Tegehe hamlet and has beautiful gardens with lotus flower ponds, numerous meditation rooms, libraries, and an impressive mini replica of the world’s largest Buddhist archaeological site, Borobudur on its highest grounds. Built in 1970 (and consecrated in 1972), the temple is a relatively recent acquisition on the island, which is reflected in the Hindu influence; despite not being centuries old, the architecture is traditional, and notably the lower temple and the bell tower are superb. The monastery offers peace and respite high up in the mountains to all those who request it.
For those wishing to push their Balinese experiences a little further, the famed Banjar Hot Springs are just less than a mile/1.5 kilometres away, while the black sands of Lovina Beach are 6 miles/10 kilometres from the monastery.
Taman Sari Bali Resort
Bali is no doubt a place of gentle meditation and spectacular natural wonders at every turn. But every weary traveller enjoys some rest and relaxation during even the most spectacular of journeys and located in the northwest of the island is the expansive Taman Sari Bali Resort. Located amongst the coconut groves, the resort looks out onto the volcanoes of Java and the Javanese sea, making sunrises and sets something particularly spectacular. The beautiful location is topped only by the excellent service, friendly staff and exquisite cuisine, and both international and local is offered on site. Everybody from the adventurous to the sedate is well looked after, with exciting diving and snorkelling trips leaving from the resort for the former and high quality spa treatments for the latter. The retreat is a romantic paradise of exoticism, leaving you only the difficult decision of whether you chose to relax on a sun lounger looking out to the beautiful islands and beyond, savour the acclaimed cuisine in one of the restaurants or enjoy an underwater adventure off the coast.