Bali’s Bukit Peninsula is a haven for some of the island’s best beach and pool clubs. We tested six of the best (look, someone’s got to do it) for your bathing edification, from architectural statements at Uluwatu to the new hot in Nusa Dua. So pack the floaty kaftan and big sunglasses and skip our wintery shores.
This article was published in the Traveller section of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age newspapers.
To read, click here
|Small fry: mashed duck potatoes at the Sheraton Bali Kuta|
Buffets, I’ve had a few…
I know I shouldn’t start a blog post on a negative note, but… a pet hate of mine is people who will never try eating something new.
Especially when they’re on the road. Truly, I have morphed into my mum when I hear myself saying, “But how do you know you won’t like it if you’ve never tasted it.”
Why, just today I found a list of what was sprawled across my breakfast table one bright, Balinese morning, in my recent past: admittedly I was sharing the table with a three-year-old (hence the donut, the Babybel cheese and the Vegemite).
Here’s a list of the table’s contents – it’s breakfast, remember:
Kankung (water spinach) with slices of roast duck and mushroom
|I photographed it, but it may come as a surprise to learn
that I didn’t eat it. Strawberry cheesecake for breakfast? Really.
Vegemite and toast
A quail’s egg, boiled
One Babybel cheese
A fruit plate
A glass of tamarillo juice
A pot of Earl Grey tea
Churros (heavily sugared)
A flat white coffee
A chocolate donut.
What’s not to love? The hotel buffet: it’s a beautiful, dangerous beast. Where’s your favourite?
The new pocket-friendly
second edition of its Little LUXE Bali tours the island with
ankle-biters in tow, and is summed up in its tagline, “How to go glam
with the fam”.
Little LUXE has also got junior Singapore and Hong Kong
covered. Costs $US10 each. See luxecityguides.com.
|Child’s play: the hotel’s infinity pool at sunset.|
Kuta is known for its traffic, its touts and its tattoos, but
as Belinda Jackson finds, there are pockets where families can chill
Arrayed in white linen, the Italian hotel manager glides
between tables, chatting while the DJ eases us into the evening with a
A photographer snaps the poolside model, garnished in jewels
and tiny bikini, and staff watch on as small children splash in the
toddlers’ pool, which is awash with a coloured light display.
We’re in Kuta. Yes, Kuta. The much-maligned Balinese home of tie-dye
T-shirts, cornrow braids and misspelt tattoos. But stay with me. The
Sheraton Kuta Bali is a little haven amid the insane traffic and moped
touts, right across the road from the iconic Kuta Beach.
|Nanny and charge during Sunday brunch. Photo: Belinda Jackson|
The open-air foyer is capped by a massive faux grass-weave
roof and looks over the ocean. Each of the 203 rooms, suites and the
penthouse has a balcony, with 64 rooms interconnecting and kitted out
for travelling families.
Now two years old, the hotel is still in a state of evolution
that defies its location, from the handpainted plates of its Bene
rooftop Italian trattoria to the low-key Sunday sunset pool parties and
newest addition, the kids’ club.
I’m a novice at this kids’ club thing. In the past, I’ve used nannies
with Small Girl, timing it with her naps to slip out for a few hours of
grown-up time. There have been good times, there have been tears.
“We decided to open a kids’ club because we were hit with a
massive number of families last holidays,” says the hotel’s general
manager and father-of-three, Dario Orsini. “Parents are travelling with
kids much earlier than they used to. And we just didn’t expect people
would bring their kids to Kuta.”
The sparkling new Play@Sheraton Kids Club opens with a pretty
dance by a local Balinese ballet class, and we admire the unblemished
sand pit, slides and the paddling pool outside. Inside, the little
dancing girls all leap onto the computers to play a pink, fluffy game,
the boys tear up to the mezzanine level to bond with the PlayStation 3.
My child, through some genetic programming glitch, merely stands in
front of a three-storey doll’s house, gasping in shock and awe.
In a clever piece of marketing, the kids’ club is free to
hotel guests but also to anyone spending more than $35 in the hotel’s
Shine spa. See what they did there?
|Indonesian desserts. Photo: Belinda Jackson|
With my new freedom, I take the hotel’s advice and, an hour
later, erupt from the hotel’s spa with all nails newly painted an
extremely perky orange called “A Roll in the Hague” . It is a test
drive, it is a revelation.
General manager Dario’s three beautiful children have been
instrumental in the hotel’s many kid-friendly initiatives, including the
kids’ buffet. One section of the restaurant is set with low children’s
tables, unbreakable crockery, plastic cups and pint-sized cutlery beside
the kids’ buffet, where they can pick up their own breakfast cereal,
noodles, a pastry or the cutest little ducklings made from balls of
I do mention to the (possibly childless) food and beverage
manager that a little fruit or some cheese could be squeezed between the
chocolate donuts, but Small Child seems perfectly happy with the
selection. In keeping with the local expat tradition for elaborate
Sunday lunches, the main restaurant, Feast, runs a Market Brunch.
What I love best is not the free-pour drinks package
(although that’s pretty good) nor the fact that a nanny whisks your kids
away to the kids’ area to make bracelets and drawings so you can eat,
unencumbered (also exceptionally good). No, I love the strong Indonesian
bias on the buffet.
Yes, you can have your sushi, your curry, your fruit platters
and your dim sum. But there’s also a flame grill on the terrace,
overlooking busy Jalan Pantai Kuta to the beach, where your hand-picked
monster prawn or local whole fish is grilled before your hungry eyes.
At another little trolley, an aged woman makes rujak, the
classic Indonesian salad of papaya, cucumber and sweet potato, tossed in
a salty-sweet, chili palm sugar dressing, and the bebek rica-rica, a
fiery duck curry, is the best I’ve tasted.
The dessert display groans with sweetly coloured ice-creams
and petite fours, sharing the limelight with cantik manis (literally,
“beautiful dessert”), a pink banana and tapioca slice arranged beside
green dadar gulung rolls and klepon, little balls filled with liquid
palm sugar that has my Indonesian colleague reminiscing of her
The next day, I want to experiment to see if that
happy-kids-club thing wasn’t a fluke. Small Child runs toward said club.
I run toward spa. Even better. The masseuse slaving over my
densely knotted shoulders nods knowingly when I mention my young
daughter (“Ah, picking her up all the time,” she diagnoses
sympathetically as she drives a thumb beneath my shoulder blade, making
it stick up like a chicken’s wing. It feels surprisingly good.)
It’s also at this hands-free time that I discover another
hotel secret: walk out the front entrance and you literally walk into
Zara, in the Beachwalk shopping mall, which shares the same block of
real estate. Zara and Top Shop not your thing? OK, head for Armani, the
surfware shops, slick cafes.
If you’re in the market for exceptional local fashion, make a
beeline for Satu, which showcases Bali’s best labels including Natasha
Gan’s floaty dresses, chic, monochromatic pants suits from Uluwatu Lace
and bags by Jakata-based Soe.Hoe.
I also pop in to the beautiful Museum Kain, Bali’s first
cloth (“kain”) museum, well curated with excellent interactive displays
on the history of Indonesian fabric design.
It’s our last day, and Small Girl has spent every waking
minute either talking about or dancing around the kids’ club. I have to
pry her out to check out.
At the reception, the three-year-old drops to the floor and
turns on a spectacular tantrum. People turn to stare, disapprovingly as
her howls echo throughout vast lobby.
“Noooo! I want to go to kids’ club! I don’t want to go home!”
Dario, the general manager, passes us with a small smile: he knows I’ll be back.
The writer was a guest of Sheraton Kuta Bali.
STAYING THERE The Play@Sheraton family package includes breakfast, kids’
club, a play pack, kid’s manicure, free-flow bottle for juice or milk
and all kids’ meals from $215 a room, a night (two-night minimum) for
two adults and two kids under 12. Sunday’s Market Brunch costs from $25
for adults, $12.50 for children, and is open to non-guests. A Shine Spa
signature massage costs from $37 for an hour. Sheraton Bali Kuta, phone 1800 073 535; see sheratonbalikuta.com
|Bon Voyage shoes|
you want to be with the cutest women’s shoes from Venuzuelan brand Hot
Chocolate. Imprinted with an old-school map of the world, they have a rubber
sole for comfortable strolling and the soft polyester upper makes them easy to
clean. Flip the buckle and they’re an ideal inflight shoe, but if you’re not
travelling anywhere soon, just look down, map out your route and daydream. Bon
voyage shoes, $75. Phone 0499 116 659, see pimposaustralia.com.
Sydney’s The Powerhouse Museum and Indian textiles aficianado. You will watch
silk and cotton weaving in women’s charities, learn about ancient tribal dyeing
techniques, block-printing and visit renowned ateliers during this new 15-day
textiles tour. Other highlights include the 1st-century Buddhist
caves of Ajanta, sufi concerts, local village visits and the photogenic Rajasthani cities of Jaipur and Jaisalmer. Accommodation includes
Jodhpur’s Ajit Bhawan Palace and Samode Haveli in
Jaipur. Threads of Rajasthan tour numbers are capped at 12, tour departs
February 7, 2015. Costs from $11,500 a person, twin share, including flights
ex-Sydney, meals and guides. Phone 1300 130 218, see classicsafaricompany.com.au.
bottom dollar you won’t miss your luggage on the
carousel amid a sea of boring black. Online retailer Kogan’s new
budget-friendly three-piece luggage sets are lightweight with a hard-side shell,
and sit sturdily on four multi-directional spinner wheels. The set has two suitcases, 100-litre (4.2kg) and 65-litre (3.5kg), and a 40-litre (2.6kg)
cabin bag, with TSA-approved locks and a one-year warranty. Colour challenged?
Available also in charcoal. Kogan Hardside Spinner luggage set, $159, three
pieces. Phone 1300 304 292, see kogan.com.au.
against the masses, and you’re demanding the hotel room decorated with street
art. You’re the epitome of the new traveller. “Curation is the future of
says Mat Lewis of new boutique accommodation booker View Retreats. Travellers are seeking
architectural statements for eye-popping travel snaps. “Our
most-viewed property is the Wollemi Wilderness Treehouse in the Blue Mountains,
followed by Campbell Point House on Victoria’s Bellaraine Peninsula and Alkira
Rainforest Retreat in the Daintree.” Romantic cocoons are the top request. See viewretreats.com.
mother-of-two, Ingrid Huitema, is dedicated to journeys with babies. The site aims to take the grunt out of
travelling with young kids and give parents time to reconnect as a couple.
“Taking a few hours each day to eat lunch uninterrupted, walk on the beach or
try a surf lesson are things that usually don’t happen when you’re on holidays
with babies and toddlers,” says Huitema. “We want to change all of that.” Packages
in baby-friendly Bali comprise villas tailored for children, with pick-up at Denpasar airport, car seats and pool fences with nannies. A five-night stay in
Seminyak starts from $1895, with four days’ nanny service. Phone 0408 112 728, see babyandtoddlertravel.com.au.
GOT IT COVERED
they’re the ones cosily bedded down with their own neck pillows and eye
masks in cute-as jungle scenes or candy-pink babushka prints. The
Australian-designed travel products are kid-sized and include matching
passport covers and luggage, thus teaching kids that if they want to
bring it, they also have to carry it. Each item is sold separately so
you can build the collection as your kids’ needs change. Pillow, $19.95,
eye mask and passport covers, $16.95 each. Phone (07) 3018 3504, see bobbleart.com.au.
|Flying to Fiji’s Mamanucas with the kids.|
worth $950, at the absolute beachfront apartments at Seahaven Noosa until July
31. The 4.5-star property includes four heated pools, spa, gym and bbq. From $2375,
seven nights. (07) 5447 3422, seahavennoosa.com.au.
and Moscow on the nine-day Tsar Route tour and save $225. Includes transport,
accommodation in first-class hotels, breakfast and sightseeing. Available August-September 2014. Costs $1891 a person,
twin share. 1300 668 844, eetbtravel.com.
|The glamour of the Russian empire|
break on Phillip Island and get $200 of extras including dinner, wine and a
three-parks pass that includes the Penguin Parade when you stay two nights in a
studio spa room at the Ramada Resort Phillip Island. Costs $484, two nights,
until August 31. (03) 5952 8000, ramadaphillipisland.com.au.
|The new Karma Reef hotel on Gili Meno, Lombok|
of Lombok, two hours by boat from Bali. The new boutique resort Karma Reef’s low-season
special runs from October 1, 2014 – March 31, 2015 (excludes Christmas).
Normally $315 a night, from $170 B&B for two. +62 370 642 340,
spring by reconnecting with nature at the eco-accredited Paperbark Camp near
Jervis Bay, and save up to $440 throughout September and midweek
(Sunday-Thursday) in October. From $500, two nights, with gourmet breakfast,
bikes, kayaks and stand-up paddling. 1300 668 167, paperbarkcamp.com.au.
Nabataen civilisation of Petra on an 11-night tour through this beautiful
desert country. Book by September 30 and receive all entrance fees to sites
free. Departs March 30, 2015. From $4989 a person, twin share. (07) 3372
family fly-in, fly-out package to Fiji’s Castaway Island in the Mamanucas. The
five-night offer includes helicopter and sea plane transfers for two adults and
two kids from Nadi airport to the island. There’s also plenty of water action,
with snorkelling, a dolphin safari, sunset cruise and a ride on a banana boat
included. From $5470 for a family of four, available until March 31, 2015. +679 666 1233, castawayfiji.com
most poignant battlefields during the centenary years of WWI. The 12-day tour travels from London to Amsterdam
via France and Belgium to the D-Day landing beaches of Normandy, the
battlefields of the Somme and Ypres’ Menin Gate. Highlights include the new
First World War Galleries in the Imperial War Museum in London, and lighter
moments are found in a wine tasting in Reims and dinner in a local’s home in
Amsterdam. From $3775 a person, twin share. 1300
663 043, trafalgar.com.
the vast hotel lobby.
attempted to check out of the hotel. Happily, the general manager was within
earshot (it wasn’t hard). At least
someone was smiling in the room.
Sheraton Kuta, in southern Bali. Traditionally the bastion of Bintang t-shirts
and bad cornrow braids, the hotel has carved out a chic niche within the most
maligned of Australians’ tourist destinations.
nannies for very young babies (excellent, especially for new mothers who
haven’t slept in five months) and private nannies in the countries we’ve
travelled together, including Vietnam (where, in Hanoi, I came back to the room
to find the entire housekeeping division dancing to the cartoon channel along
with an ecstatic baby) and Sri Lanka (my older driver and de facto nanny would
have his afternoon nap along with Yasmine while I interviewed hoteliers and
swimming pool and sandy beach and little playground at the front, separated by
the interior of the Play centre, with its computer terminals loaded with games,
books, babies’ wooden toys, farmhouse animal sets and the pinkest palace to
house all the Barbies. Upstairs, the playstation den is also a crash pad for
children, united by a love of a pink world, pausing reluctantly only to eat
with her guilt-ridden mama (now sporting extremely beautiful orange nails). The
kids’ club is free to all guests (and anyone spending more than A$35 in the
hotel spa – clever marketing, eh?)
amusement arcades, but I’m more than happy to become part of this club. Quite
frankly, both Mme Three and I were both upset to be leaving the hotel: I guess
we’ve just got to learn to say goodbye.
|Balinese dancer. Photo:Belinda Jackson|
That special moment when you find your laptop isn’t charged and the sound on your airline movie screen is stuffed. Yes, that moment. All hail technology and dodgy electrical plugs.
Mandarin Oriental Taipei, Taiwan.
Soak up the seafood and sunshine in Perth, shop Seminyak or sip South Australia… there’s not much more alliteration left, so I’ll stop right here to leave you to read this week’s domestic and international travel deals.
(Sorry, forgot to mention the fabulously chic baby-will-travel bag in this week’s kids’ feature – and not a tacky cartoon character in sight!)
Blow the budget on rock lobster and WA wines when you stay
two nights at Perth’s 3.5-star Alderney on Hay executive apartments. The
“two-bedroom breakfast special” includes a breakfast hamper and DVD
hire in a two-bed apartment until June 28. From $370, two nights. See lastminute.com.au/deals.
Snap up great local fashions and hit the restaurants in
happening Seminyak with a stay-five, pay-four offer at the one, two or
three-bed villas of Villa Kubu, available until August 31. From $320 a
night. See villakubu.com.
Shop for the cellar on a half-price day trip to the Barossa
Valley, then enjoy a room upgrade and late check-out when you stay two
nights at Adelaide’s refurbished Mantra Hindmarsh Square. Book by July
31, travel by October 31, quote “Mantra Winter Special”. From $149 a
night. Phone (08) 8412 3333, see mantra.com.au.
|The Fairmont San Francisco, USA.|
Stay four nights, pay for three at The Fairmont San Francisco
and use your savings to snap up American labels on stays until
September 4. You’ll also get $108 hotel credit, breakfast, early
check-in, late check-out and a room upgrade. From $622 a night. See virtuoso.com.au.
Set in the spectacular shopping hub of South Yarra, the new
Oaks Pinnacle’s opening “Winter Warmers” offer, with midday checkout,
costs from $139 for a one-bedroom apartment (normally $260 a night).
Minimum two-night stay until September 30. Phone 1300 660 223, see oakshotelsresorts.com.
Shop Taipei for rare teas and hand-thrown ceramics during
your stay at the new Mandarin Oriental, Taipei. Its opening package,
“Stay for More” offers three nights for the price of two until September
7. From $677 for three nights. Phone 1800 123 693, see mandarinoriental.com.
|Yuraygir National Park, NSW, Australia|
on the soul
the Coffs coastline, is on display on a new coastal walk that links the
north-coast towns of Iluka and Coffs Harbour via paperbark swamps, clear
lagoons and wide stretches of beach. The walk, for up to 15 guests, includes
canoeing at Wooli, local oyster tasting and a walk around Muttonbird Island.
The six-day trip departs May 25, 2015. Costs $2195 a person. (03) 9530
HANDBAG, WILL TRAVEL
stylishly doesn’t have to go (completely) out the window when you’re towing
babies along. The Budu Baby Bag packs a nappy bag into a chic leather hold-all,
hiding an insulated bottle holder, wipe-down change mat, key or nappy clip and
pram strap. There are zipped compartments for your passport and ebook. Later it
becomes a stylish woman-about-town bag. Designed and owned in Australia, $349.
|101 Bali-Legian hotel, Bali.|
Hi ho, the summer sun is still only just dipping below the horizon but it’s time to think winter, with all the international resorts releasing their snow deals for the 2014 winter season, or drumming up business for summer in the mountains.
Otherwise, there are olives to pluck in Tuscany and family holidays mixing the Taj with tigers in this week’s international and domestic travel deals.
Get return flights from Sydney with Virgin Australia and
three nights at the 3.5-star 101 Bali-Legian hotel, with Wi-Fi and one
three-course dinner thrown in. From $600 a person, twin share, on stays
May 14-17. 1300 887 979, wotif.com/packages.
Check into Brisbane’s newest hotel, the Four Points by
Sheraton Brisbane, and save up to 60 per cent on stays until September
3. There is free Wi-Fi, and craft beers in the hotel bar. From $149 a
night. 1800 074 545, fourpoints.com/brisbane.
|The best of Colorado, USA.|
Discover Aspen’s glorious spring season. Local hotels and
lodges are offering the third night free from May 15-June 16, plus $50
towards outdoor activities such as ballooning, rafting or biking.
Take one of Australia’s most luxurious hikes and bring a
friend free. The Arkaba Walk is a four-day, 45-kilometre private hike
through the Flinders Ranges, with food, wine and guides. Book by April
11 for travel June 12-August 31. Costs $2150 for two people. 1300 790 561, arkabawalk.com.
|The rustic huts of Corinna, Tasmania.|
Explore the incomparable Tarkine Wilderness in winter. Stay
three nights for the price of two, get a brekky hamper, half-day kayak
hire and discounts on the Arcadia II river cruises. Three nights from
$540, queen cabin, $760, family cabin. (03) 6446 1170, corinna.com.au.
Celebrate the Year of the Horse with $200 off Helen Wong’s
China and Vietnam group tours; its 12-day China Discovery tour costs
$3930 a person, includes international flights. Book by April 4, travel
May 1-November 30. 1300 788 328, helenwongstours.com.
HARVEST IN TUSCANY
Experience quintessential Italy at the annual olive harvest
in San Miniato, Tuscany. Back-Roads Touring’s new seven-day “Harvest in
Tuscany” winter tour takes you into the heart of the region’s cuisine
and landscape, with cooking classes, Prosecco and a night in a
12th-century castle. Tours depart November 11 and 18, 2014. From $2418 a
person, twin share. 1300 100 410, backroadstouring.com.au.
|Talking tigers, India.|
TAJ & TIGERS
If you’re looking to take the kids into the wild, the
eight-day India Family Holiday package fits the bill. You’ll explore
manic Old Delhi by rickshaw, (hopefully) spot tigers in Ranthambore
National Park, take an elephant ride in Jaipur and witness sunrise at
the Taj Mahal.
Staying in three-star hotels, the tour departs daily
(except July-September). From $1698 an adult, $1443 a child, low season
(April-June). 1300 760 208, selectivetours.com.