2) Bali: High and Moderate
If you’re looking for a high-end hotel, it’s hard to compete with the Four Seasons in Jimbaran Bay and its sister, the Four Seasons Sayan, near Ubud, set in an unspoiled valley. The trouble with staying at the Four Seasons is mustering up the desire to leave the properties. From our room in Sayan, we could see Sobek’s whitewater rafting trip down the Ayung river, and the Balinese bird park is but 20 minutes from the hotel, but somehow the open-air bar with local Balinese dancing was too comfortable to leave.
At Jimbaran Bay, cooking lessons with a local Balinese chef include a morning trip to the vegetable and fish markets where you buy the spices for your meal. The day we went my husband and I were the only two students in the class, but the trip to the fish market was worth the not inexpensive lunch. At a fishing village poised to become another tourist center, brightly painted boats are stacked neatly next to row upon row of fresh fish. Back at the hotel, we crushed the local spices of turmeric leaf, basil, ginger, lemongrass, hot chili and garlic in a mortar and pestle with local lime, then sealed them with fish in banana leaf. The flavors stayed with us long after we left.
But in Bali, it is possible to recreate the high-end resort experience less expensively. The Legian Beach hotel is on the main drag in Kuta, yet entering this hotel feels like Bali before overdevelopment. The cottages are set back from the main road and incorporate indigenous building materials and thatched roofs in a retreat of coconut palms and tropical flowers. Internet flash sales now offer discounts of up to 40 percent.
The Legian Beach’s own sister hotel, the Maya Ubud, is perched next to rice fields, and the hotel offers village trekking across the Petanu river and surrounding villages and a spa at the river. A mile outside of Ubud, it is its own island of serenity, yet hotel shuttles go into the city most of the day. Adjacent to the spa, the river café offers blended juices, spa cuisine and hot stone pizzas. Three are discounts of up to 25 percent of the internet rate in October. The hotel provides free shuttle service into Ubud each morning.