lifestyle

Susan Carland gives holiday recommendations. Makes us all want to jump on a plane.

“I’d experienced a few, sweet days of peace, and I now knew it was only a short plane ride away.”

Unlike many Australians, I’d never been to Bali.

So whenever yet another friend mentioned they were going there or had just come back from there, all I could imagine was rolling episodes of chaotic, blind-drunk Australians on the What Really Happens in Bali TV show.

It looked hectic, loud and – for someone who doesn’t drink at all – a bit too rowdily inebriating.

But when the chance to check it out came up, I couldn’t resist. With Australia feeling so perennially far away from the rest of the world, the chance to fly to another country in around six hours sounded highly desirable. It was freezing in Melbourne, and the tropical Indonesian sun beckoned. Plus, I was curious: there must be something that made a million Australians go there every year. Was it just the Bintang Beer? Finally, I was incredibly stressed over work: maybe a few days away from everything would help.

By the time we arrived at our hotel, the InterContinental Bali, I was so wound up about work, I had a permanent ache in my neck and shoulder blades. My chest felt tight, and my eyebrows were stuck to “furrow”. But as we walked in to what looked like a palace, the kindly staff placed leis made of aromatic frangipani around my neck. They gently banged a gong to welcome me as I walked passed.

I felt something in my chest loosen slightly. As soon as we dropped our bags, my kids wanted to check out one of the many resort pools, and I found myself sitting here:

things to do in bali
Susan by the pool at her hotel. Image: Supplied.
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And I felt a different sensation in my chest, one I hadn’t felt for a while. I realised I was breathing deeply. I smiled.

All around me was calm. The ocean lapped languidly nearby. Children laughed.

Fallen tropical flowers were scattered across the expansive lawns. We wandered to the Sunset Beach Bar for fruity mocktails, and found a vacant hammock lazily strung between two palm trees.

This place was the anti-What Really Happens in Bali.

things to do in bali
“All around me was calm. The ocean lapped languidly nearby. Children laughed.” Image: Supplied.

On day one I attempted Bayu Suci – similar to Tai Chi, it’s a combination of Balinese dance and Pencak Silat.

At first my stress over work, coupled with performance anxiety (did I look stupid doing this? Was I doing it right? What were we meant to do now?!) limited my enjoyment.

But halfway through, I forced myself to realise where I was: on a lush tropical island at a stunning resort, doing relaxing exercises in front of the beach as birds sang and the sun rose. I told my stress levels to take a hike, my performance anxiety to shut up, and I tried to bring my focus to now. I didn’t want to waste one of the most serene and beautiful experiences of my life because of futile worrying.

things to do in bali
The view from the resort pool. Image: Supplied.
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And I tried to bring that attitude to the rest of the trip. I had a fancy massage and foot rub at Spa Uluwatu. My husband and I went on a tour of a fresh food market and did a local Balinese cooking class at Rumah Desa. We ate the fruits of our labour under hanging vines and next to bubbling fountains. We went for walks on the beach, and I spent a lot of time stretched out on a lounge while the kids splashed in the pool near Jimbaran Gardens. I ate a lot (and made use of the resort gym to balance it out).

On our last day, I even jumped in the pool with the kids and as I swam a few glorious laps, I realised I could not recall the last time I had swum with my children.

things to do in bali
“We did a local Balinese cooking class.” Image: Supplied.
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Far from feeling like I was in a McHotel that could be in any city on Earth, the resort was proud of local Indonesian culture, and featured it at every opportunity, from the numerous Balinese dancers who demonstrated various traditional styles of dance over dinner at Taman Gita Terrace, to the traditional Balinese food on offer at every meal, to the art work on display at every turn.

Even the activities they had for children in the kids’ club, Planet Trekkers, featured a local flavour; my children loved learning how to make Balinese floral displays and crafts.

things to do in bali
“Far from feeling like I was in a McHotel that could be in any city on Earth, the resort was proud of local Indonesian culture.” Image: Supplied.

We had such a good time while we were there, my children were literally praying the volcano would rumble back to life and we would be trapped indefinitely.

I’d love to tell you when I returned, my sense of calm remained at Bali-levels. Sadly, not long after I got off the plane in Melbourne, the email deluge returned and along with it, my cortisol levels.

But at the very least, I’d experienced a few, sweet days of peace, and I now knew it was only a short plane ride away.

If you need a brief escape from the unrelenting pressures of life, maybe you should jump on that plane too.

Susan stayed in Bali as a guest of InterContinental Hotel Bali.

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