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Bali: A mini-moon in Manggis and Ubud

 

When you live abroad, flying back home for your own wedding leaves even less time and money for the traditional two-week honeymoon bliss in the sun. And when you’re already living in a honeymoon destination portal like Singapore (with Bali and Thailand on your doorstep), the temptation to go on several spaced-out mini-trips in lieu of one long one does have a certain practical, not to mention indulgent, appeal.

Enter the mini-moon.

Our first mini-moon was really far too mini – four days in all; mostly lost to recovering (albeit happily) from the ceremony butterflies, wedding-party adrenaline and return-flight jetlag.

And so, a few months on, when we’d properly recuperated mind and body, and (partly) recouped time and wallet, the idea of a second mini-moon seemed that much more justifiable.

Mini-Moon Two
Stepping out of Denpasar airport into a throng of blue uniformed taxi drivers, we asked each one in turn if they’d take us to east coast Manggis, a small village near Candidasa. Each driver repeated the destination with surprise a few times before concluding “too far, too far”, and turning to those heading to more obvious destinations like Kuta and Seminyak.

Grabbing bags and hats, we determinedly set off into the night to find a ride. An hour-and-a-half and a heart-stopping Ferrari experience later, at two in the morning, we were deposited into the candle-lit lobby, met by a warm pot of ginger tea, and led, still jittering, to our room.

Alila Manggis, “Old Bali” on the east coast
There is something magical about being whisked down unfamiliar roads and arriving at a new destination in the dead of night. Pulling back the blinds in the morning to let in the light, we surveyed our kingdom. The rooms at Alila Manggis were modestly yet tastefully furnished, the bathroom on the small side, but the real beauty awaited outside. A large inverted pyramid pool glittered from directly outside our room, bordered by a soft green lawn with the sea as a backdrop. Stunning. Overlooking the small black beach, a bale set with low tables and cushions made for a relaxed, romantic scene.

Four nights at this beautiful and peaceful spot felt like a lifetime away from everyday life in Singapore. The overall feeling was that of being thoroughly treated  – from seaside yoga sessions to the beautiful breakfasts, to the complimentary papaya sorbets offered mid morning by the pool.

The staff were kind, ever smiling and always eager to help. There was actually someone employed to plump the sun lounger pillows and make sure the ice-cold water glasses didn’t dip below halfway! Free banana smoothies were also offered (think pillowy-marshmallowy-thick smoothies and you’re not even close), not to mention afternoon Balinese snacks and tea (with freshly bashed ginger, spices and honey), and the use of mountain bikes to explore the nearby villages of Tenganan (surprisingly quiet and “undiscovered”) and Candidasa (postcard-perfect lily-pond centre, arty cafes and restaurants).

The treats continued at the Alila Spa where an expert massage in the lovely outdoor bale soothed knotted muscles to the sound of thrashing waves; the treatment ended not with the usual sobering herbal tea but with a Balinese lime sorbet.

The accompanying price tag for all this was a fraction of the price of an all-guns-blazing top-end resort and with a much more memorable boutiquey experience.

Down a side street in Ubud
Next stop, Ubud. After a few chilled days in the slow lane, Ubud was a shock of crammed pavements, traffic, scraggly backpackers, tourists, people trying to sell, sell, sell and of course that incessant call that became a kind of greeting from each and every local on the streets: “Taxi?”

Komaneka Bisma, the newest of hotel group Komaneka’s four Ubud properties, was our second stop. It’s hidden down an unpaved lane, past rice paddies with scrabbling ducks (soon to become “dirty duck”, the Balinese deep-fried specialty).

A beautifully designed lobby overlooked the sleek pool and terraced river valley where the staff learnt our names and greeted us back to the hotel after each day with “Welcome Home”. The rooms were stunning with their own balconies, huge freestanding tubs, an Apple TV, and other thoughtful touches like turning down the beds each night with his and hers linen pyjamas, traditional slippers and a bedtime story left on our pillow.

Three more days were happily spent market-hunting for incredibly cheap vanilla pods and spices, afternoon yoga, rice paddy trekking, ticking off restaurants and guiltless lounging by the pool. A couples’ massage on the last day was the final indulgence before our transfer to the airport and the trip home. Komeneka Spa is perched on the side of the terraced valley where the therapeutic sound of water this time came courtesy of the thrashing river below.

I imagine that smoothing the knots out was much less work this time around as we were completely relaxed, our bodies recharged. The fact that the blissful week felt much longer than it’s seven days was final proof (not that we needed any) that a mini-moon, although only half the size, could give a regular honeymoon a run for its money anytime.

Especially if you get to do it twice.
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