Escape the office

The Sukosol, Bangkok

Be it shopping, flopping by the pool, an island sojourn or a city break, the neighbours can assist.


Thailand

Go for the food, people and direct flights to Bangkok and Phuket. The newest hotel in Bangkok, The Sukosol, is celebrating flinging open its doors with happy-hour cocktails, free dinner at its restaurant, Patummat, late checkout and wi-fi. Choose a Club Siam deluxe room and save $120 on stays until March 30. Costs from $320 for two nights. +66 0 2247 0123, sukosolhotels.com.
Koh Samui, on the Gulf of Thailand, can be reached from Bangkok, Singapore, Phuket or Pattaya. Book a two-night Escape to Samui package in the top-of-the-line sanctuary pool villa at the Banyan Tree Samui and save on the best rate. You’ll get a set dinner at the Banyan’s Saffron restaurant, hydrotherapy sessions for two, a honey and milk bath, daily breakfast and transfers. Costs from 82,150 baht ($2560) a villa, which sleeps four, for two-night stays until March 31. 1800 050 019, banyantree.com.
Trisara, a resort about 15 minutes’ drive from Phuket’s airport, is where eight people can stay in a four-bedroom ocean-front suite with chef, butler and driver, food and beverages, transfers and unlimited spa treatments. There’s a helicopter tour over Phuket and a day’s sailing on a private yacht through the beautiful Phan Nga Bay, too. Available until April 30. Costs from $25,110 for eight people for two nights. +66 76 310 100, trisara.com.

Fiji

Jean-Michele Cousteau Resort
Jean-Michel Cousteau Resort is set on the northern island of Vanua Levu. The resident marine biologist will help you explore the beauty of Fiji’s underwater world on snorkelling trips, night dives and seashore walks. Stay six nights, pay for four in a garden-view bure, and receive six dives and three massages as well. Bures can accommodate up to two adults and two children under 13. The package includes all meals and the resort has a kids’ club. Save $3110 on stays from now until December 21 and January 7-March 31. Costs from $4296 for six nights. 1300 306 171, fijiresort.com.
Likuliku Lagoon Resort, voted Fiji’s top resort this year, is modelled on a traditional village – if villages had over-water bures, plunge pools and private bathing pavilions. Stay five nights and get the sixth night free, until March 31. Costs from $2271 a person. +679 672 0978, likulikulagoon.com*Please note: Likuliku Lagoon Resort was badly damaged by Cyclone Evan and will not be reopening until March 2013.

Samoa

Sinalei Reef Resort and Spa has a 30 per cent discount on seven-night stays, with breakfast and a massage thrown in, if booked by December 25 for travel until March 31. Samoa is heading into the rainy season. Costs from $1666 a villa. +685 25191, sinalei.com.
Phuket, Thailand

Cook Islands

The Little Polynesian Resort in Rarotonga is the place from which to throw your watch into the turquoise waters and relax. The resort’s ares (villas) are by the beach and usually cost from $460 a night. Stay three nights, pay for two, if booked by December 10 for travel until May 31 (excludes stays from December 21 to January 13). Costs from $920 for three nights. +682 24280, littlepolynesian.com.

Bali

Villa Kubu is down a quiet gang (laneway) in the heart of Seminyak. Stay four nights, pay for three, or stay seven nights and pay for five, until March 15 (excluding December 15- January 8). Costs from $US245 ($235) a night for a one-bedroom villa with a plunge pool. +62 361 738 905, villakubu.com.

Hawaii

The Hyatt Regency Waikiki Beach Resort and Spa. Stay each fourth night for free, with free daily breakfast, when booking the hotel’s Sunshine on Sale deal (excludes December 26- January 4). Costs from $US1035 for four nights. 13 12 34, waikiki.hyatt.com.

Vanuatu

The Warwick Le Lagon resort in Port Vila has a four-night deal. The package includes return economy airfares with Air Vanuatu, breakfast and spa discounts. Book now for travel until December 14, or from January 16 to March 13. Costs from $1445 a person, twin share. 13 13 81, holidayspecialists.com.au.

Japan

Tokyo, Kyoto and Osaka are on the itinerary of a seven-day Raw Japan tour that usually costs from $1520 a person, twin share. Book by December 31 for a January 20 departure into Japan’s rather chilly winter and the tour costs from $1064 a person. Tour begins and ends in Tokyo and includes taking the Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto and two days spent in Osaka. 1300 791 485,geckosadventures.com.

Malaysia

The Hard Rock Hotel, on Batu Ferringhi beach on the resort island of Penang, has 250 rooms, wi-fi, iPod docks, CD and DVD players and satellite TV. The hotel also has a kids’ club and club for teenagers, pool, spa and gym. Batu Ferringhi hosts a lively night market, is a popular site for parasailing and windsurfing, and has street eats and upscale dining venues aplenty. The Hard Rock’s Rockin’ Internet Deal is a discount of up to 40 per cent on the standard room rate. Costs from $167 a night. penang.hardrockhotels.net.

Hong Kong

One of the hottest shopping destinations on the planet, Hong Kong is on the boil, while little sister, Macau, makes for a perfect side trip. The Mandarin Oriental’s Christmas Extravaganza package includes a two-night stay in the oriental presidential suite at its second-tier hotel, The Excelsior, and a third night free at the Mandarin Oriental, Macau. Includes massages, transfers, champagne and hampers, gift cards and bathrobes. Normally $9753, save up to 35 per cent when staying between December 20 and January 1. Costs $7173 for three nights. 1800 123 693, mandarinoriental.com.

Sri Lanka

Deep inside, you’re a surf goddess and yoga goddess, too. If in doubt, head to Sri Lanka to make it happen. Surf Goddess Retreats is running two eight-day programs (from January 4 to 11 and January 14-21) that include daily yoga sessions, surf lessons, all equipment, six hours of spa treatments, cultural exploration, accommodation and meals. Costs $US2595 a person, save $US500. The retreat’s villa is near Unawatuna, about five kilometres south of Galle on Sri Lanka’s south-western tip, and is a short tuk-tuk ride from several beaches (for beginner surfers) and reef breaks (for advanced surfers). Galle Harbour was the island’s key southern entry point, and its fort, built by Portuguese and then Dutch colonisers in the 16th and 17th centuries, is a World Heritage site.surfgoddessretreats.com/srilanka.

Nepal

You’ll rarely be outdone in, say, a dinner party conversation when you say you spent the Christmas break trekking remote mountain paths, crossing glaciers, traversing valleys and climbing passes to arrive at Everest Base Camp. This 15-day journey begins and ends in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, and includes a flight to Lukla, before participants trek between teahouses and monasteries to the base camp. Save $216 if booked by December 24 for travel on December 29. Costs $1219. Maximum group size is 12, minimum age of trekkers is 16 and accommodation includes 12 nights spent at teahouses. 1300 018 871, intrepidtravel.com.

Source: Belinda Jackson, Sun Herald 

Wheels of fire and ice in Gippsland’s great bike ride 2012

www.bicyclenetwork.com.au

Gippsland was on high alert this weekend – and we’re not talking gale-force winds or the opening of Wonthaggi Plaza (which saw traffic congestion at 8am today). 


No, it was the 29th RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride. 

The ride is an annual event that moves around the state, with cyclists spending eight days in the saddle. The 2012 route went from Lakes Entrance in the far east to finish at Philip Island, a total of 591km. So I scrubbed up the bike and joined for the idyllic stretch from Inverloch through Cape Paterson to Dayleston.

There were roughly 4000 cyclists on the road, with 350 volunteers and 150 support staff, from medics on motorbikes to marshals on foot, bike mechanics on call and WAMRBYs (We Are Right Behind You), super-fit cyclists trouble-shooting in the pack, fixing bikes and calling the sag wagon, which relieves weary riders of their bikes, to whisk them off to camp for some R&R.

The stats men tell me there were 40 semitrailers lugging showers, loos and the 3000 tents that were put up each night (though you can opt for the motel option), not to mention the food: we’re talking 30,000 bananas, 12,500 apples, 1800 kg of rice and 40,000 bread rolls. No surprise when you saw the school groups go past. There were the nice girls of Geelong Grammar (extremely well trained and terribly obedient, to the road marshals’ delight), groups from the high schools from the cycling-mad Mornington peninsula, even a team from an inner-city Melbourne primary and a bunch of Western Desert kids from Wiltja, a part of Woodville High School in Adelaide. There were kids riding tandem behind their dads, even a few in little wagons behind their cycling parents. 

That’s not to say it’s a children’s affair. There were plenty of MAMLs (Middle-Aged Men in Lycra) and I spotted a police bike squad. The speed freaks were reputed to have left shortly after dawn each day, finishing the day’s course by 11am, with plenty of time to shoot espressos and discover Gippsland’s villages, such as pretty Mirboo North and seaside San Remo. There was another gang who stopped for two pots in each pub, and stat-trackers bent on beating their personal bests. The oldest rider clocked in at 85 years, the youngest at 15 months. 

The day I joined was sunny and bright, with a headwind. Naturally, it was the first wind the riders had encountered the entire journey. But no complaints; the pack had cycled on the day it hit 39 degrees in Melbourne, yet hundreds had been carted off in the sag wagon while turning blue from the cold as they crossed the Grand Ridge. 

A medic told me the key is to pack for all weathers – not just shorts and light jerseys, but arm warmers, wet-weather jackets and boot socks are key essentials.

The ride has been going 29 years. Next year, the 30th ride will go the classic route, 610 km along the Great Ocean Road, through the Otways, past the Twelve Apostles, and along Lorne, Torquay and the iconic Bells Beach, starting from Mt Gambier in South Australia to finish in Geelong. They’ve capped the riders at 6000, which will sell out quickly when tickets are on sale in May 2013.

If you don’t have a week free, you can do the  3 Day RACV Great Vic Getaway from Gellibrand to Geelong or the 1 Day RACV Great Vic Community Ride from Torquay to Geelong. 

The RACV Great Victorian Bike Ride 2013
Saturday 23 November – Sunday 1 December 2013

Ride Facts:      ·    Entries open in May 2013 (limited to 5000 9 day, 800 3 day and 200 1 day tickets)
·    The nine-day ride is a fully catered, tent-based holiday. There is extensive back up including luggage transport, a licensed cafe under canvas, massage, full medical team, and bicycle repair facilities.

More information: greatvic.com.au 
Twitter: #GreatVic

Places in the Heart: Pat Rafter

Forget lounging by the pool: tennis champion Pat Rafter’s holidays are action-packed adventures on Sunshine Coast beaches and in the hinterland.
My family moved to the Sunshine Coast from Mount Isa when I was eight. I’m one of nine kids, and someone was always playing sport at weekends, so we just had little adventures, such as going camping, and we were always big swimmers.
When we lived in Mt Isa, we’d drive to Sydney, stopping at beach caravan parks along the way.
From about age 10, I got right into tennis, which pretty much takes over your life. I travel overseas two or three times a year, but I don’t feel the need to go anywhere else when I’ve got time off. When I’m away, I want to go home, for the surfing, golf and beaches. My home is right on the beach and I love it.
I’m a really active person: a holiday is not piña coladas and reading a book. I try to exercise a couple of times a day and I go for a surf first thing.
I took up surfing for a bit of fun after I finished my tennis career. I’ve got a mountain bike and there are great tracks in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. It’s pretty full on. I fall off — I’m bloody hopeless.
I go hard and do all the adventures with my kids, teaching them new skills such as kayaking or exploring marine life. The kids swim and surf, and they’re in the local nippers club — they’re living one big holiday. Hey, the kids have got it easy!
They’ll say, “I don’t want to go down to the beach.” That’s the way kids are.
You just tell them, “Put your shoes on and put your hat on.” And they get on the beach and have a ball.

– Interview: Belinda Jackson. Source: Good Weekend

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/travel-feature/places-in-the-heart-pat-rafter-20121129-2ahy7.html#ixzz2E5CS9CRv

Animal antics in Africa and Adelaide: travel deals 25 November 2012


Discover the Way of the Panda in Adelaide, go gorilla-tastic in Africa, or hitch a ride on a camel in Broome in this week’s best international and domestic travel deals.

TASMANIA
Stepping into summer, it’s shaping up as peak walking
time for Tasmania’s hills and mountains. Yes, you can camp, but it’s so much
nicer to fall into a hot tub after a day trekking the highlands. Cradle
Mountain Chateau is knocking its rates almost in half until December 20, quote
booking code ‘PT004’. Normally from $105 a person, costs from $65 a person. 1800
420 155 www.puretasmania.com.au
AUSTRALIAN CAPITAL
TERRITORY
Canberra celebrates its centenary in 2013, with a
year-long calendar of events, with indigenous cultural explorations, art
exhibitions and sporting face-offs, canberra100.com.au. Stay at the 4½-star Pavilion on
Northbourne in a deluxe room  with the
big buffet brekky, and save up to $286 a night. Valid for stays until February
2013, quote ‘Canberra Sale Special’. Costs from $140 a night. 1300 88 7979, wotif.com/hotelW6953.
WESTERN
AUSTRALIA
Where else can you ride a camel along the beach but
in Broome? Soak up that golden WA sun on Cable Beach and save up to 30 per cent
off your room at the 4.5-star Oaks Cable Beach Sanctuary, curled around a
lagoon-style swimming pool. Book by November 30 for travel until April 30,
2013. Costs from $139 a night for two in a studio room or stay five and save 40
per cent, from $595 for five nights. 1300 888 180, zuji.com.au.
SOUTH AUSTRALIA
Let Wang Wang and Funi show you ‘The Way of the Panda.’
Adelaide Zoo’s two pandas are one of the city’s great drawcards for kids and
adults, set in eight hectares of botanic gardens. The zoo is a pleasant walk
(ok, five minutes in a cab) to BreakFree Adelaide, in Hindley St, which is offering
the fourth night free for families who stay three nights in a two-bed apartment
until March 27, 2013. On top of that, stay before January 18, 2013, get a
two-for-one Gray Line Barossa Valley tour. Costs from $615 for three nights.  132 007, breakfree.com.au.
VICTORIA
The few weeks before Christmas is when bargain hunters
slip in a sneaky getaway: take San Remo, 
for example. Just over an hour south of Melbourne, the sleepy town is
the gateway for Phillip Island, and the place for fish and chips on empty,
windswept beaches, visiting tiny cellar doors and shopping the weekend produce
markets. Stay two nights, get 10 per cent off, or stay three or more and get 20
per cent off at Silverwater Resort on stays until December 20 quote code
‘Santa12’. Costs from $278 a room, for two nights. 1800 033 403,
silverwaterresort.com.au
TRANS-AUSTRALIA
It’s time to break out the iconic Aussie songs,
Gangagang’s ‘Sounds of Then (This is
Australia)’ and
of course Icehouse’s ‘Great Southern Land’ – you come over all patriotic when
you’re crossing our country’s Red Centre. 
Save up to $611pp on The Ghan, travelling from Adelaide
to Darwin or vice versa. Book before December 24 for travel until March 31,
2013. Was $2116, costs from $1505 a person, Gold Service, and was $3210, now
$2259 a person, Platinum Service. 13 21 47, greatsouthernrail.com.au.
The Dipan Resort Villa & Spa, Seminyak, Bali
BALI
Seminyak is
Bali’s hip and beating heart, with the best boutiques, bars, spas and
restaurants on the island. Stay in The Dipan Resort Villa and Spa, a
22-suite hotel in the pinnacle of Seminyak hip, Petitenget, for half the price,
but still get breakfast, wi-fi and a welcome massage. Stay four night and get a
dinner in the resort restaurant as well. Book now for travel until July 3,
2013. Costs from $130 a night in a hotel room, or $241 a night in a one-bedroom
villa. 1300 85 95 65, cantikbalivillas.com.
Flamingoes on Lake Nakuru, Kenya.
KENYA
Kids travel free
when they’re with two adults on an eight-day Kenya Highlights package. Each
couple can have one child under 12, who stays in the same accommodation and the
deal includes all meals and sightseeing. Highlights include meeting the Maasai
and the masses of flamingos on Lake Nakuru. Costs from $1895 a person, twin share.
1300 195 873, benchinternational.com.au.
CHILE & ARGENTINA
With a BMW F650 GS between your legs and the panorama of
snow-capped volcanos before you, is there any more beautiful place in the world
than the Andes? This nine-day tour by road bike starts and ends in Santiago and
covers 2100km, travelling south into Patagonia, where you cross the Andes to
Argentina and beautiful Bariloche. Compass Expeditions is offering US$800 off
for the rider and $400 for co-riders. Tour departs 28 December, 2012. Includes
bike hire, fuel and 10 nights’ accommodation. Costs from $3490, $2190 for
pillion. 1300 887 327, compassexpeditions.com.
AFRICA
Spend 20 days visiting the gorillas of Africa in some of
the continent’s most spectacular scenery, including Masai Mara, Victoria Falls
and Tanzania’s Lake Manyara and the Serengeti. There’s mountain gorilla
trekking in Rwanda, game drives, a boma dining experience beneath the
stars. Travel Associates is offering one free return economy flight with South
African Airways when two people book together. Book by December 31 for travel
on May 31, 2013, includes all internal flights and up to eight game park
drives. Costs from $16595 a person, twin share. 1800 044 066, travel-associates.com.au
TOURWATCH: SWEDEN
The low Swedish coastline was surely designed for
kayaking, and the new West Coast Sweden: Bohuslän Archipelago journey with
Southern Sea Ventures is a girl’s or boy’s own adventure writ large. The
itinerary includes beach camping and stays in snug lodges, paddling through
thousands of granite islands while observed by seals and seagulls. You’ll be
led by Swedish seakayaker Ulrika Larsson, who started her paddling career in
the Stockholm archipelago and has paddled the Swedish coastline solo. The
10-day trip includes eight days’ kayaking, and has a moderate grading, so some
paddling experience is necessary, and it helps if you’ve seen the inside of a
tent before. Departs August 25, 2013 from Gothenburg, in southern Sweden, and
includes all kayaking equipment. Costs from $2250 a person. (02) 8901 3287, southernseaventures.com

Home of the island gods

Candi Kuning temple at Lake Bratan, Tabanan. Photo: Getty Images

Belinda Jackson swaps the noisy demands of the south for a slice of serenity amid temples and hillside rice terraces.

The main road through the beautiful Balinese village is blocked by a parade of about 100 people, led by women in glittering costumes bearing offerings on their heads and men playing percussion instruments.
It’s a pretty event, and I wind down the window of my car and take plenty of pretty photographs. Everyone smiles and waves. 
They’re happy, I’m happy.
Eventually, the parade is over and we start on our way again. “What’s the occasion? I ask my guide, Nata.
“It’s a cremation ceremony,” he explains, still smiling.
There are 17,508 islands in the Indonesian archipelago and we all go to just one, Bali. But while southern Bali heaves and pumps, there is a slice of serenity less than an hour’s drive west of the choked roads of Denpasar, in the Tabanan regency, as “states” are known in Bali.
Tabanan is a quiet state of farmers and royal dwellings, the rice bowl of Bali, and famed for its traditional dancers and plays. It’s also home of the extremely well-loved sea temple, Pura Tanah Lot and, blending rusticity with glamour, Alila Villas Soori hotel, which is set between the ocean and rice paddies.
Jatiluwih in northern Tabanan is the site of Bali’s famous terraced hillsides of rice fields that recently made the UNESCO World Heritage list, but there are plenty of examples of the traditional farming techniques in the south of the regency.
There’s no need to ask the driver to slow down so I can photograph the terraces; we’re inching between a string of potholes masquerading as the road. Nata snaps photos to send off to the government to plead for repairs.

“It would normally take about 15 minutes to drive from Tanah Lot to the hotel, but we allow about 45 minutes,” he says, as we lurch, teeth crunching, into yet another crater.

Fighting cocks ready for action.
On either side of us, field workers wearing their caping – conical hats made from leaves or grass – bend down to tend their muddy rice paddies. The fields are dotted with little shrines and Mount Batur is just visible through the haze.
The villas of Alila Villas Soori overlook either the rice paddies or face a black-sand beach, where tourists ride sedately trotting ponies. A local zips past on the wide beach, the noise of the old motorbike’s engine dwarfed by the rolling surf. It’s not a swimming beach, it’s a beach for dipping your toes, walking along and admiring from the comfort of an overstuffed sofa, with a large tropical drink in hand.
Alila is a home-grown success story, an Indonesian-owned group whose Uluwatu property has cleaned up the world’s architecture awards and a new Seminyak hotel is in the making.
We check into our villa, guided by our host Iyu, and head straight back out for a sunset dinner on a platform jutting out towards the ocean.
If you’re up for action, hunting for the next club, this is not the hotel for you. In fact, you may even rule out the entire regency.
“Why would you go to Tabanan?” a smug Ubud resident asks. “You get there, then there’s nothing to do.” I guess it depends on who you’re there with.
The hotel is buzzing with a large wedding, and darkened corners are the scene of much hand-holding and long gazes. There are also a few families with small children who are being cooed over by the staff.
The night is quiet, save for the crash of the surf, and the next morning we’re up with the sun. The full-length windows of the villa open out to the ocean and our pool, so it’s with great delight that I jump from the lounge room into the water for a frolic before breakfast is served in our cabana.
I enjoy fresh tropical juices, beautiful eggs hollandaise and, to end, a petite, perfectly chewy almond croissant with a cup of kopi luwak, Bali’s famed “civet coffee”. You know the one: Where the beans have been eaten by a small mammal, passed through their digestive tracts and popped out the other end, where they’re collected, dried and ground to make an oh, so smooth coffee. You just have to banish the idea of civet poo from your mind while you’re enjoying your cuppa.
Today, I’ll journey with the gods, through a few of Bali’s 20,000 temples (puras), with Nata as my guide. He is dressed in a white-collared shirt, a sarong over his trousers and a udeng – a cloth – knotted around his head. A woman ties a cotton sarong over my trousers, and we are declared suitably dressed to visit the temples.
Nata at Pura Timan Agung
Pura Penarukan is the main temple in the nearby village of Penarukan and, unusually, the three deities are all here – Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva: the creator, the preserver, the destroyer. We cleanse our hands with fragrant incense smoke, wave a flower through the incense and hold it in cupped hands, tearing off a small piece that we tuck behind the right ear. Three times the temple’s priest pours water into our hands, and three times we sip it, then splash a few drops on our heads. We place a few grains of uncooked rice on our forehead and at the base of our throats, where they stick as though glued, and leave an offering at a shrine.
The canang sari is an offering of fruit, flowers and food, with fire from the incense stick and water, the universal symbol of life, sprinkled on top. Rice signifies life and prosperity.
“We consider rice as a goddess,” Nata says. Dewi Sri is the goddess of rice, “padi” is the name for unhulled rice, “baras” is uncooked rice and “nasi” (think nasi goreng) is cooked rice.
“You have only one word for rice, yes?” he asks, looking at me sorrowfully. I struggle to think what we Australians have a multiplicity of words for: tax?
Back in the four-wheel-drive, we weave through the regency to five temples. It’s only the ornate stone gates that indicate where one village ends and the next one starts. The roadsides are lined with upside-down woven baskets covering roosters, ready for a bout of cock-fighting. “They’re fed a special diet of vitamins, eel, slugs, corn and beef,” Nata says.
Each village we pass has its own speciality: Penarukan for its stone and timber sculptures, Kerambitan for is its magical tektekan orchestra and 17th-century palaces that line the main road that runs through the town. Pejaten is best known for its ceramics and terracotta tiles, and the village is dominated by mountains of coconut shells, which fuel the flames to fire the tiles. The rich orange afternoon sun spills over a busy courtyard where newly pressed roof tiles are laid out on the earth.
At Kelating, the village is preparing for temple celebrations, and the local orchestra has its instruments unpacked and ready. Some gongs are more than 100 years old, their metal notes scarred and aged, and the men sit among them, cross-legged, barefoot and smoking.
If you thought Tabanan was all country roads and quiet villages, you’d be forgetting two of its biggest temples – Pura Alas Kedaton and Pura Tanah Lot – which are also two of Bali’s biggest drawcards. Alas Kedaton sits alongside a state forest dripping with monkeys. To get into the hugely popular temple, you run the gamut of souvenir-sellers who double as guides: there’s no getting around it – no guide, no go to the monkeys.
After the shops, you pass a bat show, where you can hold a furry little fruit bat by the tips of its wings, if that takes your fancy. The demo bat looks bored, and I bypass it to see the temple guardians. From every tree, dozens of sets of eyes stare out at us. Fangs, tails, eyes and limbs – all are working overtime. Tiny babies cling to their mothers while bullish teens box each other and try, with fairly serious intent, to get a leg over. They’re draped over the temple’s stupas, and scamper along its walls.
Equally mobbed by the crowds, Pura Tanah Lot, on Tabanan’s coastline, is the classic case of having been loved too well. Come sunset, it is besieged by sightseers waiting to catch the sun setting over the island temple, which is linked to the mainland by a small isthmus. The walk down to the water is fraught with decisions: Hold a snake? Eat suckling pig? Buy plastic frangipani hairclips? Spiritual, it is not.
The last stop of the day is an anathema to the crowd-pullers – it’s a simple temple five minutes’ walk along the beach from my hotel. Nata tells the story of a journeyman whose body was stolen by evil spirits on this beautiful headland. His brother built Pura Timan Agung to protect future travellers, and his descendants, from the faraway village of Pandak, still care for the pura today.
The views are every bit as dramatic as those at Tanah Lot, but we are alone on the headland. The beach ponies are in their stables, the farmers have gone home; there’s just the thunder of the surf and the call of the night birds. A black-and-white temple cloth flutters and a yellow parasol twirls as the night air rises and the little temple casts a shadow as the sun dips down over the ocean. 
The gods are resting and the south Balinese coastline disappears into the sea spray and sunset.

FAST FACTS
Getting there Garuda has a fare to Denpasar from Sydney and Melbourne for about $950 low-season return, including tax. Fly non-stop from Sydney (6hr 25min) and from Melbourne (6hr 10min); see garuda-indonesia.com. Virgin Australia and Jetstar also fly from both Sydney and Melbourne. Australians need a visa for a stay of up to 30 days; obtained on arrival for $US25 ($24).
Getting around The one-day Journey of the Gods costs $106 a person, including lunch, transport and guide, alilahotels.com.
Staying there Alila Villas Soori has 44 villas, including a 10-bedroom residence. A member of Design Hotels, it costs from $US510 plus taxes for a beach pool villa, alilahotels.com.

Belinda Jackson was a guest of Alila Villas Soori.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/travel/home-of-the-island-gods-20121129-2ah6w.html#ixzz2DnqbdzKF