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Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, Bali

Island of the Gods

When Holly and Greg Abrams of Orange Valley, Ohio planned their September, 1996 wedding, Greg arranged a surprise honeymoon and told his fiancée to pack for the tropics. However, it was not until the day of the marriage that he revealed that they were going to Bali. The night after checking in at the Four Seasons they joined the Captain's Table, along with other guests, to feast on Rijsttafel, a Dutch-inspired Indonesian banquet, in the resort's Taman Wantilan Restaurant.

Although the Abramses had just arrived, they concurred with San Franciscans Mike and Jane Bohlig, travelers who had been to many little-known and exotic corners of the globe, and their other dining companions that the island and the hotel, despite the distance, had been a superb choice. Conversation centered around how much, albeit its relatively small size, there is to see and do in Bali.

Kooje Van Loon of Amsterdam commented on the uniqueness of the resort, noting that not only is the architecture Indonesian— many vacation compounds also mirror their surroundings — but that the Four Seasons is infused with local culture. "I've heard," she said (could she have been thinking of the newlyweds?) "that some guests hardly leave their villas, but even if they rarely do, I think that they will, nevertheless, have had a consummate Balinese experience."

Village Chiefs, Four Seasons

A sense of place and of people has been created here. In the resort activity book General Manger Neil Jacobs describes the fabric of Indonesian heritage in a welcoming note to guests by mentioning that "many of the wonders of Bali's ancient and fascinating rituals continue to take precedence in the daily activities of the community." Jacobs adds, "The Hindu-Balinese way of life is governed by divinely inspired philosophies." Hotel employees are encouraged to integrate those practices into their work.

The G.M. refers to Bali as "this magical Island of the Gods." Resort, location and folkways are inseparable, ranging from the presence of religious symbolism, such as 500 shrines and temples, to the celebration of festivals and ceremonies. One thousand on premises offerings (gifts to the gods) are made every day—house crews prepare three at each villa before they ever begin to make up the rooms.

The resort's layout is based on the traditional organization of a Balinese village with a courtyard, square and lanes. Within those villages, of which there are seven, are 20 to 25 individual units. Every compound is headed by a chief who oversees his own group of workers and guests.

Each of 147 villas has a gate and garden and is enclosed by a three-sided high wall for maximum privacy. The fourth and open side faces Jimbaran Bay and contains a plunge pool, guarded by a dragon sculpture fountain, a living/dining room and a terrace. Brass-handled and painted carved wood doors open onto an enclosed sleeping/bathing area, revealing a king-sized canopied bed, draped with sheer curtains. The room is separated from the balcony by sliding doors that can be parted for a view of the sea. An oval tub is deeper and larger than those found in most hotels and a separate shower stands beyond a marble divider. An outdoor bamboo pipe shower provides the ultimate in sensuous bathing.

Utilizing indigenous materials like local stone, marble, teak and bamboo, regional craftsmen built the sumptuous accommodations. Roofs are thatched and sloping. Native products found in the rooms are woven baskets, wooden bowls and ikat and batik fabrics for robes, directory covers, slippers, backpacks and pillow coverings.

Since everything is designed to de-stress, even the doorbell hums softly when someone buzzes. A kul kul (cowbell), with its pleasant wooden sound, summons guests to parties and celebratory functions. A kul kul also hangs above every villa door to defuse the light bulb hidden within so that soft shadows illuminate the way at night.

The arc-shaped resort is built on the sloping side of a hill rising from the edge of the beach and there are several ways to explore it. You can take a buggy (really a golf cart) and ask to be driven around the grounds, passing the pool with the infinity edge, waterfall, covered bridge, tile-roofed village headquarters, Boutique, Gallery, village temple and Spa. Or you might buy "The Garden Book," an illustrated primer that describes in photographs and text the landscaping of the resort's main areas, and use it as a guide for a walking tour.

Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Denpasar 80361 Bali, Indonesia. Tel. (62-361) 701010. Central reservations 800-332-3442. Rates start at $425. www.fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay

What To Do At The Four Seasons

Daily and weekly sporting and cultural events are listed on the roster of things to do at the Four Seasons. Sports include tennis and tennis clinics, bicycling, supervised dive trips, beach walks, yoga, aerobics, weight training and the use of equipment at the water pavilion, such as a catamaran, canoes, windsurfers, surfboards and boogie boards. Golfers can tee off at the nearby Bali Golf & Country Club, to and from which regular shuttle service is available.

Cultural highlights feature dance performances and the observation of dance instruction, massage classes and garden and temple tours.

At the Spa, Balinese practices are also an integral part of the program. Beauty treatments apply the products and techniques that island women have enjoyed for generations. The Lular Royal, a Javanese ritual that was designed as a wedding preparation, lasts almost two hours and is the one that gets the most kudos. Beginning with a coconut oil Balinese massage in the privacy of one's own villa, it continues with a scrub that blends turmeric and other spices with sweet and sandal woods. The body is then coated with yogurt. After a quick shower the procedure ends with a long soak in a petal-filled, warm water tub and a jamu herbal drink for detoxification.

Bali Golf & Country Club, 18-hole championship course, Nusa Dua Beach. Tel. 771797.

Dining At The Four Seasons

Great cuisines generally depend on four elements: fine ingredients (the island's land is rich), trade with other peoples, a highly evolved civilization and a refined palace life. Executive Chef Kenji Satz notes that Indonesia lacked one of these components. It did not have a court cuisine. Therefore, he developed his own version of how Balinese food should be prepared. He calls his menus "sassy food" because they combine "excellent flavor, festive appearance and nice height in presentation for maximum impact." His food is not as hot as some other Asian cuisines and curry, ginger, peanuts and grated coconuts are his cooking staples.

The three places to eat are all open to the breezes and the bay. The Pool Terrace Cafe, the most casual of all the restaurants, along with Pantai Jimbaran (or PJ's) serves Indonesian and American fare. Pastas, pizzas, main dish salads, fresh fish and other internationally inspired foods also come out of the kitchen. Taman Wantilan Restaurant offers mostly Indonesian dishes although variations of satays, seasoned rice, noodles and vegetables, which are mainstays of the local diet, can be found in all of the dining spots. Black rice pudding is a breakfast favorite, but with its rich sweetness it seems much like a dessert.

For a taste of a dozen and a half Indonesian specialties, sign up for one of the aforementioned thrice weekly Rijsttafels. The peanut crackers and fried tempe are the most addictive items on the buffet. Ask to join one of the group tables; it's a good way to meet other guests.

Attractions In Bali

The Four Seasons is located at the southern tip of Bali and every excursion taken from there will be on roads so colorful, so packed with people and activity that the ride to the destination is as pleasurable as the outing. On this most crowded agricultural space, there is, instead of misery, a mood of mirth and piety. Women with baskets on their heads smile as they tread down the roads in the many lively small towns. People in native dress, carrying large instruments, are on their way to temples to take part in festivals. Families preparing for cremations consider them celebratory occasions since, "Heaven is just another Bali." The houses, temples and other structures are no taller than three stories for by law they can not be built higher than a coconut tree. Striking architectural elements are red bricks, tile roofs and carvings.

White water rafting on the Telaga Waja River, in the region of Karangasem in East Bali, is, perhaps, the apex of any junket on the island. Bali Safari Rafting calls for participants at their hotels and drives them into the interior. Since the trip in the van is as equally exciting as the one on the water, it's like getting two tours for the price of one.

The thrill of rafting (level four) competes with the pull of the scenes along the river— the steep and lush incline that banks the Telega Waja; the terraced rice fields and the irrigation; the laughing children waving to every raft; and the natives bathing, washing clothes and hacking bamboo. The two-hour, 14-kilometer stretch in the river is crowded with boulders, requiring concentrated paddling. A few natural Disneyesque touches add to the paddlers' exhilaration. Midway during the journey, the raft goes under a long waterfall and near the end, it tumbles down a dam backward at a 45-degree angle.

The WakaLouka Land Cruise transports visitors on the Tabanan-Denpasar Highway, as well as on less traveled and bumpy dirt roads, to the rain forest deep in the heart of the land. Lasting eight hours, it features an ever-changing tableau of wonders, such as tropical vegetation, ravines and bamboo fields, and an itinerary designed to show the yet unspoiled parts of Bali. The midpoint break is at WakaLouka Camp where lunch, accompanied by music played on reed instruments, is served in the open-air Zatiluwih Village Restaurant. Along the way there are spans of roads in uninhabited areas that are bursting with rainbow arrays of flowers. In some hamlets, red and gold homes are clustered together and in one stretch of streets called "temple row," small teakwood temples are sold.

Should any of the group say "photo op," the driver will pull over for picture taking at temples and other sites. Scheduled pauses along the way include visits to a small plantation where cloves, coconut, ginger, snake fruit and other produce are grown and to a hot mineral spring where water buffalo dwell.

WakaLouka Sail and several other cruising companies offer trips to Nusa Lembongan, a small island across the Badung Strait. You can snorkel, swim, tour the coral reefs by glass-bottomed boat, stroll the quaint village, visit the caves and inspect a seaweed-making factory.

Dancer walking down to beach, Four Seasons

Another suggested outing is a trip to Ubud, the art center of Bali and a place that has always been the favorite village of artists. Opened in 1996, the Agung Rai Museum of Art houses an impressive collection of local work. The building is designed to exhibit it in spacious, well lit and appropriate surroundings. ARMA also functions as a hub for the creative arts and features performances, classes and workshops. The complex's Kokokan restaurant serves very good Thai food. However, you might, instead, like to try Cafe Lotus on Main Road because of its unusual lily pond.

Sunsets are spectacular in Bali and two locations from which to observe them are the grounds of the Subak Tabola Inn and the Uluwata Temple. Go to the inn in late afternoon, stay for a typical dinner and observe the peaceful ambiance from high up in the hills. A picture of life after dark can be seen during the drive back, when people are out and about and many small family shops stay open to sell sundries and drinks.

The Uluwatu Temple, near Jimbaran Bay, is one of the most important temples in Bali. Set on a sheer cliff high above the ocean, the view makes visitors linger before turning their attention to the carvings and to the playful resident monkeys.

Kuta, the second largest city, is also close to the Four Seasons and is popular for shopping, restaurants and night life. It is easily reached by a regularly scheduled hotel shuttle bus.

Bali Safari Rafting, Jl. Hayam Wuruk 88A. Tel. (0361) 221315. The fee includes transportation, lunch, snacks, showers, towels, insurance, river ride and equipment.

WakaLouka Land Cruise, Jl. Imam Bonjol 335X. Tel. (0361) 426071.

WakaLouka Sail, Benoa Harbor. Tel. (62)(361)723629 or 722077.

Agung Rai Museum of Art, Ubud, Gianyar 80571. Tel. (0361) 74228.

Kokokan, Puri Indah Garden, Jalan Penegosekan, Ubud. Tel. 96495.

Cafe Lotus, Main Road, Ubud. Tel. 975660.

Subak Tabola Inn, Desa Sidemen, Karagasem. P. O. Box 119, Klungkung. Tel. (0366) 23015.

Pura (temple) Uluwatu, East Coast of Bali's southern peninsula, the Bukit.


The Boutique at the Four Seasons has a carefully edited assortment of merchandise. Seventy five percent of the items on its shelves are exclusive to the shop. Among the beautifully crafted goods are authentic Indonesian antiques, clothing, baskets, silver and gold jewelry, handbags, shoes, hats, accessories and decorative pieces for the home. John Hardy, an artisan known for his silver objects, sells his work here.

If ikat, the traditional Balinese fabric, captures your fancy, the place to see it being made is at the Pelangi factory in Sideman, where every part of the process is demonstrated for visitors. High quality shirts, table runners, sarongs, belts and cloth can be purchased in the showroom.

Galleria Nusa Dua, located close to Jimbaran Bay, has two shuttle services, one maintained by the Duty Free Shopping store in the mall, and the other by the Four Seasons. Uniquely Balinese shops fill the complex. Among them are Keris, a handicraft center, and Uluwatu, purveyors of mostly white embroidered and lace clothing, table linens and pillow slips.

The towns of Ubud and Kuta are also good places to shop. Boutiques in Ubud deal largely in collectibles, carvings, artwork, batik and ikat, silver and crafts. In Kuta the stores sell mostly fashion and accessories.

Markets offer a chance to observe the locals buying and selling. Ask the concierge for a list of them. And don't forget that many of the stores, particularly the ones with no tags on the merchandise, do not have set prices so bargain, bargain and bargain some more.

Pelangi, Sidemen, Karagasem. Tel. (0366)23012.

Galleria Nusa Dua. Tel. 62-(0)361-771662/3.

Duty Free Shopping. Tel. 62-(0)361-772165/6 or 772202/3/4/5 for the shuttle bus

Flying To Bali

It is not possible to fly directly to Bali because of the long distance from the United States. Flights arriving at and leaving from Ngurah Rai International Airport connect with several major Asian cities. We flew Malaysia Airlines with a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. The airline has a good reputation for service, food, passenger satisfaction, space and comfort level. Malaysia Airlines flies from Los Angeles to Kuala Lumpur five times a week. The National Transportation Safety Board reports that there have been no accidents involving the airline from 1985 on, the years for which it has records in its database. Tel. 800-552-9264. www.malaysiaairlines.com.my

Spring 1997