What to do on Australians' favourite holiday island: don your tie-dye and head for the hills, or sip a cocktail beach-side in your Bintang singlet? Our duelling experts help you decide.
By Mal Chenu
This is like asking me to choose my favourite child, if their names were Wayan and Ketut. Ku De Ta in Seminyak is where I asked my girlfriend to be my bride, and where we named our son-to-be, who would arrive 16 months later: Daniel, since you ask, rather than Wayan, but it was a close call.
I indulge in this personal reflection because earlier that day I told my then-fiance-to-be that our stay in Seminyak felt like a honeymoon. And while it may have been Barry Gibb's dreamy falsetto in How Deep is Your Love bursting forth from the Ku De Ta speakers that finally got me over the line (along with her beach hair and my fourth Bintang), there is no doubt the romance of Ku De Ta in particular - and Seminyak in general - played their romantic roles.
We've been back a few times since, with Daniel in tow, and while Seminyak has expanded over the years (not unlike my good self), this is still the "just right" part of Bali: classier than Kuta, better serviced than Uluwatu and Canggu, less of a Disneyland for resorts than Nusa Dua, and less hippie-fied than Ubud. It is the Goldilocks of the Island of the Gods. Seminyak has it all. It's a lovely, lively beach resort space, and the main drag - Jalan Legian - and the plentiful stimulating side streets are crammed full of markets, boutiques, bars, restaurants, hotels and clubs. Eat, shop, love.
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Top-end dining abounds with feasts of every conceivable variety and ethnicity within easy reach. Check out the Grumpy Butcher for smokehouse barbecue, Barbarossa for Mediterranean, The Flying Squirrel for Japanese, Waroeng Bernadette for Indonesian and SugarSand for Instagramming.
Seminyak is also home to the most opulent private villa accommodations (LataLiana Estate and Mayaloka Villas are simply spectacular) as well as some of the finest hotels on the island, such as W Bali, The Legian, Hotel Indigo and Alila Seminyak, to name but a few. That other great pastime in Bali - shopping - is also well covered in Seminyak, and there's not a kleptomaniac monkey - sacred or otherwise - in sight. You can haggle at the markets, nose around Seminyak Village and the fashion boutiques, and shop for shoes, homewares, beachwear, kidswear, and even underwear at the intriguingly named Gooseberry Intimates.
And when you've finished you can enjoy a sunset seaside cocktail. But if you'd rather spend your time and money having your vikruti analysed and your chakras opened at a yoga shala, there's nothing wrong with taking the jalan less travelled and heading up to Ubud. Just swap your Bintang singlet, beach hair, thongs and hand-made cocktail for tie-dye, dreadlocks, Birkenstocks and a hand-woven dream catcher and you'll fit right in. Mind you, if you really want that sort of holiday, Mullumbimby and Kuranda are a lot closer.
By Amy Cooper
Elizabeth Gilbert said it best in Eat Pray Love, the book that launched a million Ubud odysseys: "Just keep coming back to the centre, and you'll always find peace." It should be the official tourism slogan for this blissed-out, emerald-green sanctuary in the lush interior of our favourite Indonesian island. Ubud is Bali's spiritual, creative and cultural heart, embodying all that's best and authentic about a destination that can, from some angles, seem a little overwhelmed by its fans' attentions.
For busy beaches and bars plus surround-sound Aussie accents you need only venture as far as the Gold Coast. So I skip Seminyak, and peace out among picturesque rice paddies rather than party hard at packed Potato Head. In Ubud, you can EPL endlessly by immersing in nature, cycling through verdant villages just like Julia Roberts in the movie or chasing waterfalls in jade-green jungles. Or wander through Wanara Wana Monkey Forest Sanctuary, where thousands of wild bipeds frolic. A bit like Seminyak beach, but cuter.
The name Ubud means "medicine", testifying to the healing energy flowing through Bali's wellness capital. Even if yoga isn't your thing, you can bask in a muscle-melting Balinese massage, bathe in sacred waters, revel in reflexology, or simply soak up the serenity. Retreats range from haute-hippy at luxe resorts like Fivelements Puri, Capella Ubud's rainforest treatment tents, or Viceroy Bali - where your wellness package comes complete with optional shaman - to budget and barefoot at Blooming Lotus Yoga or Firefly Retreat.
There's even a rock n' roll retreat at musician Michael Franti's Soulshine Bali, where bliss and beats mix in the Soulrocker penthouse with private plunge pool and floating glass bedroom.
For busy beaches and bars plus surround-sound Aussie accents you need only venture as far as the Gold Coast.
Ubud is tops for temples, with gorgeous ornate architecture, hand carvings and elegant rituals. At Tirta Empul, the 926 CE Hindi sacred water temple, you can purify yourself in a holy spring, and at Ubud Palace you can see Balinese Legong dances nightly. Before TikTok there was Tek Tok, a much classier dance spectacle, performed regularly at Ubud Cultural Centre.
Ubud's rich artistic history shines in multiple galleries and museums including Blanco Renaissance Museum, Agung Rai Museum of Art and Neka Art Museum. While Seminyak has every brand in your local Westfield, Ubud's streets are crammed with artisan wares handmade in surrounding villages. Recently revamped Ubud Art Market is a treasure trove of textiles, jewellery, statues, ornaments and furniture.
Liz Gilbert's Ubud souvenirs were enlightenment, a bestseller and a hot Brazilian. If she'd been to Seminyak instead, she'd have taken home a pash rash from a bloke in Bintang boxers. Or maybe Mal - except someone else got there first.