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Why I lost my heart to Hunza

Fast becoming one of the most popular long haul destinations for Brits, Luxtrippper blogger Natalie Walford tells us why Bali has stolen so many hearts.

On a recent trip around Australia I made a last minute decision to take a detour and join my extended family for 10 days in Bali. And what a happy detour it turned out to be. Bali is one of those rare countries that makes you smile from the moment you arrive until the moment you leave. Jumping in a taxi at the airport I was half asleep and desperate simply to find the hotel, but my taxi driver wasn’t having any of it, and instead I was soon laughing as he attempted to teach me some Indonesian, grinning a toothy grin and giggling at my terrible pronunciation.

Once I did arrive at my hotel, The Lokha on the outskirts of leafy Ubud, I was greeted with hugs from my parents, and had my bags whisked away as I was handed a refreshing cocktail. Bliss. Following a long anticipated catch-up we headed to find the Luxury Pool Villa I was sharing with my sister. Entering through a little wooden gate I walked into a beautifully styled courtyard area, complete with a private plunge pool, an outdoor bed area, and an array of colourful plants and palms. The room itself was no less welcoming; as I opened the glass doors the feature four poster bed – bigger than I have ever seen –called out to my tired body, but not before I caught a glimpse of the glass walled bathroom with its huge bathtub, and virtually dived straight in. It had been a long journey!

Suitably rested after a peaceful night’s sleep I was able to spend the following days enjoying all
that The Lokha and Ubud has to offer. Dining at The Lokha’s alfresco Bukit Cinta Restaurant & Bar
was a particular highlight of our time here; with a vast menu spanning Balinese and International
cuisine we were treated to feasts of fresh and flavoursome culinary delights. Another of The Lokha’s
magical features is its main pool, whose glimmering surface reflects the emerald green rainforest
that surrounds it. This really is a perfect hotel retreat.

However, to properly see the wonders of Ubud demands a bit of time spent outside the comforts of
your hotel. So, having hired bikes from The Lokha, we set out on a cycle ride through the
neighbouring rice paddies – an utterly impressive series of staggered hillside plantations – to
reach the centre of Ubud. This bustling, colourful town is home to some of the best markets in Bali
and so a happy morning was spent haggling and shopping for a range of embroidered bags and gorgeous
ornate trinkets. The afternoon was spent just as happily, drinking smoothies while overlooking lily
pad strewn ponds at the Karsa Kafe & Spa – which is next door to The Lokha and is an absolute must
visit.

Second on our Ubud itinerary was a day of sightseeing the cultural side of Bali, with the help of a
private driver. Beginning the day with two temples, the Rocky Temple and the Holy Water Temple, we
donned sarongs and admired the beautiful, ornate architecture of these historic sites. Visiting on a
Sunday afternoon we were also lucky enough to get to see the Holy Water Temple in full usage, as
hundreds of Balinese locals queued up in the waist deep pools to cleanse themselves with the holy
water. A surreal and almost comical experience for us, an average Sunday for the children who posed
for our photographs.

Next up, coffee and chocolate tasting at Teba Sari Agrotourism farm, where we received a guided tour
through the farm and the production process. We learnt that Bali is famous for its ‘cat-poo-chinos’,
in other words, coffee made from beans digested and pooped out by cats – delightful! – and though we
opted to stay clear of that delicious treat, we did end the tour by tasting several varieties of
flavoured coffee and chocolate. All of which were made from coffee beans or cacao which had been
grown, roasted and mixed with coconut milk right there on the farm. Sadly this marked the end of our
day and so, with arms laden with chocolate, we headed back to The Lokha in high spirits and a little
wiser.

Next morning, having now spent 4 nights in Ubud, we packed our bags and took a transfer to the
beachside town of Seminyak, in the South of Bali. Staying in a gorgeous resort with pools and bars
aplenty, we spent the following week doing little other than sunbathing and relaxing. There were a
couple of trips to the boutique shops and markets – bartering for more hippy goods – cocktails in
the pool and of course, lots of delicious food. Seminyak is a vibrant and stylish resort, with a
plethora of bars and restaurants to choose from and so once again we were spoilt for choice.
Something I hadn’t exactly considered before arriving in Bali was its cuisine, but by now it had
become perhaps my favourite thing about the island. Fresh, tangy and incredibly diverse Balinese
dishes seem to have grown with the country’s growing tourist industry, evolving into a fusion of
cultures on a plate. There are typical Asian noodles, Australian style steaks, Brazilian Acai bowls
and reminiscent of the Caribbean, things cooked in palm leaves – I loved it all.

Another contender for my favourite thing about Bali is its beaches. Seminyak’s wide sandy stretch of
coast is about as good as it gets, and is perfect for either a lazy day of sunbathing or an action
packed day riding the waves. As dusk falls, find yourself a beanbag bar and watch the sun go down
with a smile on your face and a cold Bintang beer in your hand – which is exactly how I spent my
last night. Perfection.

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