Travel: Welcome to paradise in Bali

By Carmen Hall

The warm breeze blows lightly over my back, its soft caress in sync with the surreal, tropical landscape. I lazily lift my head off the massage table to soak up my tranquil surrounds. The sound of cascading water echoes in my ears as my body rejoices after two hours of kneading that has released tension in muscles and mind.

I embrace the moment and my exotic location snaps me back into reality when a gigantic fluorescent green gecko, the size of a small dog, saunters out of the undergrowth and takes a bypass through the bale before disappearing out of sight.

My shrieks make the beauty therapists smile and when I tell the tale to Chintamani Retreat and Spa hostess Courtney during dinner she laughs and says I must have met George, one of their resident guests. Despite her promise to send the gardeners on a search and rescue for photographic purposes the large lizard remains my "one that got away" holiday enigma.

On the picturesque west coast of Tabalan island, surrounded by lush rice paddy fields and encompassing over a hectare of stunning gardens, Chintamani is a luxury women's resort that focuses on health and spiritual wellbeing.

It is a haven for those who, like me, toil with a job, kids, stress and family commitments or others who may be recovering from grief or need time out to recharge, revive and re-energise.

The programme includes two hours of relaxing spa treatments a day as well as invigorating yoga lessons.

Our guru Budhi is an expert in manipulation and, even though I've never done yoga, by the end of my week I feel fitter and have a new appreciation for people who can put their foot behind their head and stand on one arm.

These activities combined with the divine, organic cuisine and around the clock services of attentive butlers make it an indulgent experience where pampering is an art form.

While you can easily wile away the hours lounging poolside, swimming, reading and relaxing, Chintamani prides itself on its flexibility and has organised tours and adventures for those who want to explore life outside the peaceful sanctuary.

Their driver Whiskey is an encyclopedia of local knowledge, privy to the must-see attractions and a great interpreter of the Balinese customs and culture.

He has learned seven languages on the job and is keen to add more Maori words to his vocabulary. My travelling companion and I tell him he is our tiki tour driver and we want to go to the wop wops, which makes him roar with laughter and repeat the words out loud three times.

We take a trip up into the mountains to see the Agung Batur Volcano, which last erupted 10 years ago. It is a scenic sight that has a shimmering lake and quaint village in its crater.

On a coffee plantation visit to Buana Amertha Sari the most expensive brew to take home is made from beans eaten by the Kopi Luwak (looks like a possum with shining beady eyes). The excreted product is washed, lightly roasted and exported around the globe.

We visit the Tanah Lot (land in the sea) temple that is majestically perched on an off-shore rock, a beautiful creation that dates back to the 15th century and is steeped in mythology.

We also manage to squeeze in an authentic Bali cooking class with Puspa, a shopping expedition tothe village of Ubud and the Monkey Forest, where the cheeky critters will steal your heart as well as your handbag.

It's easy to fall into Chintamani's pace of life, one of unsurpassed opulence, spiced up with excursions tailored to your needs, a paradise where you can do a little, a lot or nothing at all. Bliss.

Air New Zealand flies non-stop to Bali from Auckland seasonally between June 19 to October 14 offering four in-flight product choices - Seat, Seat + Bag, The Works and Works Deluxe plus Business class. Connections are also available from all Air New Zealand Domestic ports. Fares from $602 Seat one way ex Auckland. Two return flights a week. Visit

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- Hamilton News

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