Where a young man once partied, a far-flung family comes together.
Growing up in Perth in the '60s and '70s, summer holidays were all about going "down south" and invariably involved a beach. Those who have trod the sands of that endless coastline - or have consulted a map and seen how far away everything else is - will understand the allure. That part of Western Australia is beach-after-glorious-beach and everyone's family holidays were at Mandurah, Busselton, Dunsborough or Augusta, which was a nice break from hanging out at Scarborough, Cottesloe and Leighton beaches.
Then, upon attaining the age of freedom, the shackles of the fam were cast aside and holidays with friends and/or significant others became feasible. To the chagrin of the 'rents, the world opened up too, and for everyone of my era and age, the first stop on the Freedom Express was the same. In spring and summer, a young Sandgroper's fancy lightly turned to thoughts of Bali.
In those days, Bali meant Kuta - an eye-opening and mind-bending Shangri-La of unkempt beaches, gritty shoulder massages, cheap eats, Bali belly, late nights and too much Bintang, on rotation. But that rotation was a young person's game.
Over the years, Bali and I have both matured and expanded. These days the 'Island of the Gods' caters to a wide range of tastes and desires, so when it came to planning a summer holiday family get-together for 13 of us from four different vintages, five different households and three different states, Bali ticked all the boxes. Or enough boxes to defeat Disneyland in the final vote, 11-2.
LataLiana Estate Villas & Spa in Seminyak, just to the north of Kuta, ticked even more. This sprawling, seven-bedroom complex is emblematic of the top-end accommodations that have become a Bali staple. It was luxurious, serviced, within walking distance to the beach, offered visiting spa treatments and had a lagoon-sized pool for young Talullah to show off the mermaid tail she got for Xmas.
Planning a family holiday means catering for everyone and this part of Bali - and this villa - was up to the task.
On some days, the family unit stayed together like a tightly packed atom. On others, the atom would split into particles and fire off in all directions.
Surrounded by high stone walls, and replete with day beds, fountains and koi ponds, LataLiana was not just a relaxing enclave, it was also a convenient base for exploring and a welcome oasis at day's end.
On some days, the family unit stayed together like a tightly packed atom. On others, the atom would split into particles and fire off in all directions. Some surfed, some shopped, some played board games and snooker, and the remainder lounged around the pool and watched a mermaid take selfies. In the early evening, some of us wandered down the road for a sunset cocktail on the rooftop bar at Hotel Indigo.
But everyone returned for dinner, reassembling for sustenance, connection and laughter, be it at a nearby cheap 'n cheerful warung, at the excellent Mediterranean-style La Lucciola by the sea or for a catered dinner at the long dining table at the villa.
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We introduced the next-gen kids to the sublime Balinese culture, including the canang sari, the small, ubiquitous Balinese Hindu offering of gratitude made from palm leaves and endowed with small flowers, fruit, rice, oil, salt and coins, fragrant with burning incense.
Everyone learned to say "selamat pagi" and "terimah kasih" when appropriate. And while a deeper cultural immersion can be found on a day trip up to Ubud, the red brick Petitenget Temple at the bottom of Jalan Kayu Ayu (next to La Lucciola) was at least a primer to Balinese spirituality.
Bali has changed, as all things must. And while you can still belt out Khe Sanh at a karaoke bar with a singlet full of Bintang, you can now also create a happy, uniting, cross-generational family holiday that is bagus sekali.