Thursday, August 2, 2012

A party for Switzerland and a week in Bali

Four Seasons in Bali

Back to a rainy Manila on Tuesday night, it was also back to a Manila sort of Travelife. This meant closing our wonderful fifth anniversary August-September 2012 issue – what a fabulous issue this is turning out to be – and doing double-time on meetings and seeing people I haven’t met up with for a couple of weeks because of my never-ending Travelife.

On Wednesday, the Swiss Ambassador, H.E. Ivo Seiber, hosted a lovely party at the Peninsula Manila to celebrate Switzerland’s National Day. It was a very nice celebration with very good Swiss wines and all kinds of Swiss cheeses.


The most popular station was the raclette station that the Peninsula Manila had set up in the terrace. I indulged in several servings of raclette whenever I spied just a couple of people lining up, and each time I did so, I found myself next to some very prominent people. It was that sort of party.

After not seeing many people for so long – I’ve basically been away since the end of May, save for a couple of days in between trips – there was lots to catch up on.

Before I knew it, the Travelife team were among the last guests at the party, and we had lots of things to discuss among ourselves as I’ve been away from the office for a long time as well.

So what did we do? We sat down on one of the sofa sets in the ballroom and had an instant and impromptu meeting, to discuss schedules, priorities and business.

Carlo, our Travelife TV head, had just finalized a trip to Bali for the TV crew and the editorial staff, and so out came our Blackberries as we decided right there and then on dates and the members of the 10-person Travelife team flying to Bali.


As if I had any more dates to give away. I’m having trouble as it is, looking for a free weekend for a detox sometime this year, and now Bali had to get into the picture and complicate my already complicated life further. Not that I’m complaining, though, as Bali is one of those places I’ll visit for any reason and in any season.


The last time I was in Bali was about 18 months ago. I flew in from Singapore after the Tokyo earthquake.

Talk about a TRAVELIFE: Tokyo earthquake on Friday, gourmet wine dinner in Manila on Saturday, chicken rice lunch in Singapore's Chatterbox on Sunday, and Bali on Monday for an afternoon, before sailing out at sunset on one of the world's most beautiful ships, listening to a concert of Balinese music with a glass of champagne in hand.

So that was my last trip to Bali. I spent six hours on the island, flying in from Singapore to catch a ship out of Bali’s port of Benoa; and I’d spent a good part of that very short stay in Bali typing out a series of serious BBM messages to someone. When I think about it now, I have to smile.

I don’t think I even looked up once from the time I got into the car at Bali's airport, to the time the car rolled into the driveway of the port terminal. I was literally glued to the screen of my phone.


Four Seasons Sayan at Ubud
Photo from Four Seasons Hotels

The previous visit to Bali before this rush-rush six-hour visit made up for my lack of a holiday on my last trip, though.

Before that, I was in Bali about five years ago, and I spent two weeks on the island. I spent the first week at the very resort-like and tropical Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay, and then the following week at the modern architectural wonder that is the Four Seasons Sayan at Ubud, an hour's drive from the beaches of Jimbaran Bay.

Four Seasons Sayan at Ubud

Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay
This was before luxury boutique places like the Bulgari Resort had opened up. At the very top end then, there were really only two choices: either the Four Seasons hotels or the Aman resorts. Both had two hotels in Bali – one by the sea and one in Ubud, the cultural heart of Bali.

I remember that it was a tough call, looking at the merits of each. Both set of hotels were beautifully done, luxurious in an understated way, and they of course all offered unparalleled service. Great service is really important to me when I'm on holiday.

In the end I chose the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay and the Four Seasons Sayan as a tandem because they had a good package for guests that offered complimentary transfers and lots of freebies thrown in for those who were planning to stay in both hotels.

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Four Seasons Sayan at Ubud

Comparing the two Four Seasons hotels in Bali, lots of people like Four Seasons Sayan better because it’s really quite amazing from a design point of view. Many people raved about its modern but environmental-friendly design when it first opened.

Meanwhile, I remember booking the villa that was supposedly the local owner’s favorite villa, and it was really unique, contemporary and ultra-private.

With advance notice, too, you can even book the entire rooftop of the main reception area for a private dinner. It resembles a water lily in shape and the hotel prepares a very nice gourmet meal served al fresco with an incredible atmosphere -- being right by the river in the middle of a forest, under the stars -- by a private butler. What a dinner that was.

Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay

But, for some reason, I really enjoyed the Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay much better, even if I had a great time in Ubud as well.  The Jimbaran Bay villas are way more traditional and they're slightly smaller, but I really liked the fact that they opened up to wonderful views of the ocean. I think we ate dinner on our private terrace with the roar of the seas as entertainment as often as we could that week.

Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay

So those were my two trips to Bali in recent years. One long and luxurious, and the other basically a BBM pitstop for an afternoon. And now another Bali trip is coming up. I'm sure it will be longer than my last trip, and at least as enjoyable as the one before that. And this time I'll certainly make sure I'm not glued to my Blackberry, on BBM, while I'm there.


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