Our driver greets us and swiftly ushers the bags away. We're already grateful for the air-conditioned car and chilled bottles of water offered to us. The car pulls up, our doors are opened and we step back out into the otherworldly heat. Still in a daze of all of the new sights taken in along the way. We make our way towards Chandra's entrance building. The doors are opened by the receptionist accompanied by an ear-to-ear smile. It's the gentle ease of everything, the smoothness of the welcome, our bags already being looked after, another bottle of water to our lips, that makes it clear we've arrived in paradise. We're here to be looked after. Almost as if we’re following a well-rehearsed dance, the smiles and nods of the staff guide us down ‘Instagram Alley’, as it has been dubbed for how picture-perfect it is. Palm trees and greenery stand proudly on both sides of the pathway. This Balinese red carpet leads to our exclusive, walled villa. Peace, calm, quiet. Welcome to serenity, this is where it lives. Served to you upon arrival, with a tray full of mouth-popping coconut dessert treats and a tall glass of fresh, cold watermelon juice. I'm already overwhelmed.
I finally take a look around, while using a cold damp cloth to freshen up my hands. We have our own garden - and pool - and fabulously-shaped sacred banyan tree. The space is wide and open. The lounge and kitchen are one with the garden. We're outside but also inside at the same time. There's even a cinema room! Then the bedrooms... enormous, well-air-conditioned again (it's important here!) and brightly lit with glass walls and doors between both the garden and the bathroom. Everything is expansive space. Through the walk-in closet hallway to the bathroom... and we're back outside again... but inside too. Coming from Europe, I've never experienced such architecture. Beautiful. The contrasting design between jungle-like nature and extreme-luxury is exquisite.
We had decided to have a relaxed day for our first one in Bali as we had anticipated travel fatigue... Cue the 60-minute full body Balinese massage and flower petal bath (yes). All without having to leave our villa. The masseuse arrived and arranged the massage bed next to the pool in the shade of garden, as the sun was nodding itself off to sleep for the day, smudging the sky with spectacular pastel hues of pinks, purples, oranges and blues. The relaxation music set the mood and this absolute wizard began to work her magic. Meanwhile other staff members were arranging the flower petal bath so that after my massage, I could sink into it as a new version of myself. Stress-free, pure blissful ease. The little ocean of pink petals parted ways to make space. My gaze turned upwards, the ceiling of this elegantly designed outdoor bathroom now the star-speckled night sky. A lullaby of crickets and geckos singing to each other across the great dark expanse filled the air while the flowers floated from side to side, gently caressing the water top... I have never felt so zen in my entire life.
Morning graces the villa with a soft knock on the bedroom door, 'Sorry to disturb you, breakfast is ready!'. I'm up and at the the dining table in seconds. Equipped with our ordered requests the night before, the staff had been cooking our breakfast in the villa's kitchen while we were sound asleep. The table is a delicious array of culinary-art. The tropical fruit platter is a bright splash of colour, cut and crafted with care. Pineapple sliced and shaped to mirror the sun, a dragon fruit acting as a bowl for the passion fruit, mango arranged to decorate the plate. Then the pastries and teas and coffees and freshly squeezed juices and cereal and non-dairy milk alternatives upon request and... the star of the show, the actual breakfast meal itself. From the unbelievable menu, I had made the impossible choice of just choosing one - the janni bowl. A smoothie bowl with all the best bits from bananas to avocado and spinach, strawberries, coconut and granola topping it all off, to start the day the right way. Life just could not get any better than this...
We have the temple experience booked to learn more about Balinese culture. Two of the female staff spend the morning teaching me how to weave an intricate basket, made entirely from natural materials, which we fill with local flowers and incense - some also add food and even money! We make our way over to the nearby Petitenget Temple on the scooters (the only way to get around Bali) that we're renting directly from Chandra - they really do do it all! We are rapidly transformed into the traditional dress (a colourful sarong tied around our waists) before making our way up the steps, in absolute awe of the incredible 15th Century Hindu temple, built to ward off the dark forest spirits. We are taught how to pray, with rice ingrained into our forehead, representing the third eye to thank the Gods for the rice and life. The moment is divine, yet humbling.
We return to our home away from home and are welcomed with a lunchtime grazing platter. Another piece of art to feast our eyes - and our taste buds on! Luxurious delicacies from thick slices of melting brie, sweet moreish dates, crunchy nuts, vegetable crisps, tiny oranges with all the citrus zest, coconut bowls filled with pumpkin puree and avocado dips and hummus and just so much more. We have difficulty controlling ourselves to save space for dinner, bursting at the seams, the staff can tell we are in need of rescue and tell us that they can arrange for a yoga session in the villa's garden... however we all agree that we couldn't possibly and instead, an afternoon nap will just have to be the remedy.
Dinnertime and we head to the beach. One of Chandra's recommended restaurants is La Lucciola and we've made it in time for sunset. Greeted with the enthusiasm, kindness and warm smiles that we have discovered to be a fundamental trait of the Balinese people, we smile and make our way in. The chairs are pushed in to meet us with minimal effort and we order from the extensive menu. This restaurant prides itself on not having social media and it really doesn't need it. Bravo! We can't help but take our own photos to post up to Instagram though. The view is picturesque. Beyond the four great palm trees that are lit up and swaying on the beach in front of the restaurant, the deep orange sun who has worked so gloriously all day is slowly pulling a duvet of glistening sea over his weary eyes. We all clink our wine glasses and cheers to another day in paradise.