Travel Diaries

Going Back to Bali

by Jessica Wright of Bon Traveler and Michelle Halpern of Live Like It’s the Weekend

Endless beaches, bustling cafes and lush jungles are a captivating combination. Returning to Bali for our second time, we were determined to dive deep into the parts of the island we hadn’t touched yet. The cultural center sprinkled with vast, wild views and temples at every turn, Ubud was our base as we explored farther into the northern regions before setting our sights on the eastern beaches in Manggis.

Alila Ubud Room at Alila Ubud

Arriving in Ubud, a two hour drive from the chaos of Denpasar Airport, it’s easy to take a deep breath. Perhaps it’s the endless green vines and leaves twisting and turning through the streets that puts one at ease. Checking into the Alila Ubud, just 15 minutes away from town, we found ourselves in our own Balinese village that felt otherworldly. Set high atop a hillside overlooking the Ayung River Valley, the resort’s rooms are built on stilts, so guests have a view of the dense jungle below. Mornings at Alila were spent gazing out over the jade green infinity pool, which seems to dangle over the jungle’s edge, while sharing plates of fresh fruits and Indonesian dishes with coffee in hand. Needless to say, it wasn’t easy to pack up our bags when check-out time approached.


Breakfast at Alila Ubud

When it comes to exploring Ubud, the days are filled with cultural sights like the lotus ponds at Pura Taman Saraswati and walks along the Campuhan Ridge. Between these activities, meals include Anthony Bourdain’s favorite suckling pig at Warung Babi Guling Iba Oka 3, coconut ice cream at Tukie’s Coconut Shop and an elevated dinner at Hujan Locale (be sure to reserve in advance). One morning, we ventured up to the north before sunrise with the goal of witnessing some of Bali’s most beautiful waterfalls near Danau Buyan. We made the 30-minute hike down into the Sekumpul Waterfall, where the towering water dramatically misted over the rocks. We ended the day with a blissful swim at the basin of Banyumala Waterfall, which we both agreed was our favorite of the two, and certainly the prettiest.

Amankila pool

After four nights, we left Ubud and made our way to the less frequently visited Karangasem Regency. There, on the eastern shores overlooking the Lombok Strait, peacefully situated down a long driveway and up a hill in Manggis, the sanctuary of Amankila welcomed us. Its 34 suites placed high above the turquoise waters are connected by elevated walkways and, in typical Aman Resort fashion, felt effortlessly one with the natural landscape. At the front of the property, a three-tiered cascading pool hangs over the hillside, mimicking the design of the region’s rice fields. We couldn’t have dreamt up a more perfect spot to enjoy our daily afternoon tea.

Bali local bags

Our days at Amankila were spent exploring the private beach and beach club, and then soaking up the Bali sunshine beside our suite’s private pool and bale (pavilion). One morning, we set out on adventure, curated by Amankila, to visit one of the local areas. We started our trek through a series of rice terraces and made our way into the jungle, passing local homes, before emerging into Tenganan, one of the oldest and most historical villages of Bali. This proved to be one of the most eye-opening and special mornings of the trip, getting a chance to learn about the local traditions and customs that shape the island we know today.

At last the trip came to an end, with our adventures etched into our memories like the tan lines from our bathing suits. Bali once again showed us why there’s always a reason to come back.