Where to find the essence of Bali in 2023

Bali is bouncing back with Meliᾶ Bali leading the charge. If you’re looking to find the essence of Bali in 2023, start with this trailblazing Nusa Dua resort.

Arriving at the expansive, alfresco lobby of Meliᾶ Bali is like being dropped onto a Bali film set.

Set in the island’s south-eastern pocket of resort ritz, it delivers acres of marble, teak beams, a pyramidal roof that reaches for the stars and a ceiling famous for its storytelling Kamasan paintings. Meliᾶ Bali is a microcosm of classic Bali, rich with architectural detail, stone fences, temples, sandy beaches, palm trees, Balinese dancers and gamelans-in-waiting.

The opening of Bali’s borders to international tourists brought with its energy and purpose. Occupancy ricocheted from two to 90%. Now in 2023, Bali is back and is better than ever.

Reclaiming paradise lost

Post Covid slumber resorts like Meliᾶ Bali are reclaiming paradise lost. And it’s a package of flowers, fruit, food, fitness, and all-round fabulousness courtesy of a colour palette that is a splash of purple and scarlet bougainvillaea, canna lilies in Hermès orange, creamy two-toned frangipani, and dragon fruit in Carnaby Street hot-pink.

Stay your way

Meliᾶ Bali has 494 rooms and suites and 10 to-die-for villas. Approach a stay here in one of several ways: a flat overnight rate; an all-inclusive package; or a more exclusive option called The Level, which offers a personalised service with luxury check-ins, private pool and beach access, à la carte breakfast, cocktails, and other perks.

© Meliᾶ Bali

Delicious dining

Meliᾶ Bali has five restaurants, specialising in Balinese, Asian, seafood, Spanish and Japanese food, whose chefs use ingredients from a flourishing kitchen garden. The recently renovated Sakura Japanese, where Chef Bayu executes peerless tenderloin teppanyaki, is hard to beat. There is a 24-hour dining, 24-hour room service and a beachfront café for coffee and cake. Your health improves by looking at a basket of Balinese bounty: honey mangoes, snakeskin fruit, pomegranates, mangosteens, and Kintamani oranges.

Delicious dining © Meliᾶ Bali
Delicious dining © Meliᾶ Bali

Access all activities

The to-do menu is equally exhaustive. Nurture your fitness at the gym or with tennis, squash, kayaking, yoga, boxing, or archery. There’s a golf simulator complete with a personal trainer, or you can practice your power swing at the Bali National Golf Club, just three minutes away by car. Recent additions to Meliᾶ Bali include a basketball court, badminton, and a soccer field, all set against a stunning bright mural.

Nurture your fitness © Meliᾶ Bali
Nurture your fitness © Meliᾶ Bali

But it’s not all about physical fitness. There’s mind food, too. Take up painting; experience a temple blessing; enjoy a theatrical Ramayana dance over dinner. At the YHI Spa, named after the goddess of light and creation, book a traditional Balinese or bliss-bomb foot massage or a signature facial using rose quartz.

YHI Spa © Meliᾶ Bali
YHI Spa © Meliᾶ Bali

Hope for soap

A typical 400-room hotel generates 3.5 tonnes of solid soap waste each year. The Soap for Hope program recycles it. This initiative, launched in 2013, has produced more than 24.5 million bars of soap, and one can be made in less than 10 minutes using a purpose-built cold press. Locals involved in Soap for Hope earn money through sales, plus their communities have access to free soap bars.

During a beachside workshop, we combined the soap pieces before pressing them with shredded orange zest and coffee grounds for a more exfoliant bar, and with a beautiful result. And a fantastic souvenir to bring back to my home bathroom.

Hand making soap bars at Meliᾶ Bali © Susan Skelly
Hand making soap bars at Meliᾶ Bali © Susan Skelly

Live like a local

We head to the Tirta Empul Tampaksiring, a holy spring, for purification, and the Uluwatu Temple, with very cheeky monkeys and is known for its dynamite sunset. It’s part of a wellness side-trip that takes us to Ubud, 40km away, on a road that’s a tangle of traffic but full of temptations, including artisan furniture, art galleries, cafes, and restaurants.

We lunch at the Dragonfly Café, set high amongst rice terraces, its specialty organic and vegan dishes. The curtain-raiser is a plate of raw fresh spring rolls with creamy cashew sauce.

Eat, Pray, Ubud

At the Liyer Spirit House in Ubud, Nyoman Latra is beaming fit to burst. His warm hands hold mine, his face creased with happy lines. Nyoman is the son of the late Ketut Liyer, the medicine man featured in Elizabeth Gilbert’s bestseller Eat, Pray, Love.

The Liyer Spirit House is like a tropical Addams Family mansion, with uneven, creaking floorboards and cages full of slightly fearsome creatures such as the black-casqued hornbill, a Brylcreemed crow, and two black and white birds my bird app identifies as ‘Pollen’s vanga’.

Ubud is known for its healing houses © Susan Skelly
Ubud is known for its healing houses © Susan Skelly

I’ve gone to Nyoman Latra for a palm reading. He pronounces me happy, healthy, hard-working and sociable. I have a good heart, a lucky line, and the promise of a long life. I will probably notch up 91 years. Just like Nyoman! Just like the truth-seeker who’s next in the queue! Two husbands will be enough. I should focus on happiness and holidays and not worry about money.

Back at my home away from home, my Meliᾶ Bali suite, with its swim-out pool, marble bathroom, and a basket of colourful fruit, I agree – I have little to worry about. Except for my impending departure.

Getting There

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin fly direct from Sydney to Ngurah Rai International Airport (Denpasar International Airport) daily. Australians need AUD$50 for a visa on arrival.


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