For The Road to Bali, part 1. For The Road to Bali, part 2

During most of my two weeks in Bali I stay at Parigata Villas Resort, which, as noted, is right near Sanur Beach, where Parigata has the Banjar Café, a seaside eatery and bar providing lounge chairs, sun umbrellas and towels for guests of Parigata’s three properties. The water is quite calm at Sanur, where there are many colorful traditional fishing boats and some noisy jet skis, a boardwalk past shops and restaurants, and but of course those unwelcome, omnipresent hawkers, disturbing reveries and naps with unsolicited offers of massages, et al.

DSC_0172But inside of the resorts one is free of venders’ unwanted meddling, properties provide security, which helps keep peddlers out. My package included breakfasts at Parigata Villas, which is sort of shaped like a traditional Balinese walled compound. In the middle is a watery oasis, but the best thing about this property is that each private villa (which bears the name of a flower, instead of a number) includes a pool and Jacuzzi. This Edenesque intimacy is ideal for couples attaining a nudist Nirvana.

The same was true, and then some, at Bali’s two sensational Four Seasons, which also offered private villas and pools, although both properties are extremely different. The Four Seasons Resort at Sayan — where I underwent my Karmic Cleansing Ceremony — is located inland, amidst terraced rice paddies on expansive, elaborately manicured grounds in a jungle valley the river Agung runs through. One almost has the sense of being cut off from the world in this green serene refuge, which the resort’s p.r. calls “a river sanctuary” and where many villas seem to be subterranean, not obstructing one’s view like high rise hotels often do. Shaded pathways through bamboo groves to the fast flowing river invite one to return to nature. Situated near Ubud, shuttles are available to that artists’ haven and back to Earth.

Sumptuous villas, surrounded by Monet-like water lily ponds with gurgling fountains, are posh enough for pashas. My canopied king-size bed stood inside of a spacious bedroom that opened up to a wooden deck, plunge pool, outdoor shower and garden of earthly delights. As my bourgeois bungalow was located down a flight of stairs, indoors and outdoors were perfect for going au naturel.

Overlooking a gorge, diners can gorge themselves at Ayung Terrace, which specializes in Balinese and Asian dishes. Beneath a thatched roof, the Riverside Café offers a more informal menu poolside, serving pasta, pizza and the like.

As if all this isn’t enough to bliss you out, a three villa in-house spa awaits guests. My treatment begins with a soothing foot washing and rubbing, followed by ancient Indian ayurvedic and traditional Balinese massage techniques. My flesh is so aromatically oiled, kneaded and rolled in the expert hands of my masseuse that I am totally refreshed, from my sole to my soul. I feel as pampered as Louis XIV, as relaxed as a koala bear waking from an 18-hour slumber in the bough of a eucalyptus tree, as untethered as an astronaut floating through space. Couples treatments applied by two massage therapists is a spa specialty, ending with private dual showers.

DSC_0156But my favorite place to stay is Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, located south of Kuta Beach on the island’s peninsula. Like its Sayan sister, the Jimbaran property features luxurious villas with private pools, elegant, well-appointed grounds, world-class spa and the amenities the Four Seasons are renowned for. However, as its name implies, the Jimbaran Bay resort is located by the sea, with the accommodations situated 150 feet above the ocean, with paths stretching downwards for swimming and even some body surfing on modest waves. I grew up only eight miles from the ocean, and the sea is the deal breaker for me.

My villa and patio have widescreen views of the ocean, stretching from here to infinity. Inside, frangipanis float on the surface of my bathtub’s water, where two pillows lie perched – the divine decadence of those Four Seasons amenities! There’s an outdoor shower ensconced in a bamboo garden that wraps around the villa to the patio. An overhanging thatched roof partially covers the verandah beside my private pool, featuring a statue spraying water from its mouth. From my double bed I can just watch the wheels of the world roll by. Like the resort itself, my villa is beyond comfortable, quiet and refined, in a non-ostentatious way.

The resort’s spa enhances the tranquil ambiance. My therapist Tini may be tiny but her petite hands pack a wallop, pounding the stress, pulverizing the anxiety out of me, rubbing, pressing, stretching my bod using oil blended with essence of nutmeg. Tini turns me into a human batch of silly putty, rendering me as loosey-goosey as a Tahitian in a Gauguin canvas of the golden age.

DSC_0104The Jimbaran makes good use of its sands, presenting (during the high occupancy season) the cleverly named “Six on the Beach” below its ocean view PJ’s restaurant, with overhead fans hanging from its thatched roof. Holes are dug in the sand for diners’ legs, large pillows support their backs, tables are placed low on the sand and candles are strategically spread out, illuminating the beach. On the right are six stations laden with appetizers, such as sashimi and seared ahi, while on the left are six tables bearing desserts and entrees, including roast-suckling pig. In front, a percussive gamelan orchestra performs, accompanying six tantalizingly beautiful Balinese ballerinas, who gracefully dance, seemingly defying nature by bending their rubbery fingers preternaturally backwards. The choreography and costumes bring folklore alive; in one number the sextet of golden-outfitted Balinese Bullwinkles don antlers to depict a legend about deers; in another, they dance a sort of Can-Can. The music and movement of this enthralling cultural performance is otherworldly, totally unique – what Bali’s all about. Alas, it is rainy season, and a sky-borne deluge sends us scurrying for cover beneath PJ’s thatched roof after only half of the six dances have been performed.

It’s coitus interruptus for Six on the Beach. I’ll have to take a rain check on Bali.

Ed Rampell has traveled widely, to more than 100 Pacific Islands, Asia, Europe, Mexico and Africa. His travel writing and photography has appeared in: Islands, Action Asia, Travel Age West, Skin Inc, Porthole, Far East Traveler, Asian Diver, L.A. Times, Toronto Globe & Mail, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Jose Mercury News, Pacific Business News, E The Environmental Magazine, L.A. Reader, etc. Rampell is a staff writer for the Los Angeles Journal. was interviewed at Tahiti for the CBS newsmagazine “48 Hours,” and National Public Radio’s “Savvy Traveler” interviewed Rampell about the Marquesas Islands. Rampell acted as a consultant for, and appears as the most used on-camera interviewee, in the 2005 Australian-European co-production “Hula Girls,” which has been seen by millions of viewers on Dutch, German, French, Swiss, Australian, etc., television on the Avro and Arte networks. Rampell’s Polynesian daughter Marina is a singer in Australia.