Landing in Bali for our Christmas break, I felt a little apprehensive. Would it be the idyll I remembered from my childhood. The smell and the heat as I stepped off the plane was familiar but as we headed out from the airport, it soon became apparent this was a very different Bali to the one I had known. Not necessarily better or worse, just changed.
The first thing I noticed was the unbelievable traffic, no road rage however just lots and lots of motorbikes seemingly coming from all directions. The development was also immense but as we drove past Seminyak and started to arrive in Canggu - a sprinkling of rice paddies came into view and any worries I had about Bali started to disappear.
Seminyak is a bustling, vibrant place with fantastic shopping and a strong cafe culture. There are some super chic bars and restaurants catering to all tastes. One of my favourites would have to be Petitenget. Set on a corner, it has an old school colonial feel and the Australian Chef, Simon Blaby creates absolutely delicious food.
However, personally I preferred staying in the slightly quieter enclave of Canggu. A surfers paradise, it has a more laid back feel and the further out you go, the greener and quieter it gets. A favourite breakfast spot would have to be Crate - the coffee was delicious and we have been trying to re create the poached egg, feta, avocado peas and spinach ever since!
Another place I would recommend would be Old Man's. A beach bar/restaurant perfect for chilling out with a sundowner or dancing the night away to a live band. This place is great for all ages and our kids really appreciated their own menu. It has a relaxed, surfer feel - you can keep your board here if you are in the know. Plus there are showers for those straight in off the beach.
One advantages of being in Bali was being able to meet my wonderful manufacturers Linda and Nina. I was lucky enough to be taken around the printing factory which also seemed to sell birds! It was fascinating watching the screen printing process being manually created and I loved knowing that amongst all the screens were my personal Honor Beach ones.
Another highlight of the holiday was a trip to the Gili Islands. It really felt like stepping back in time and off the beaten track. We stayed on the quietest of the three islands, Gili Meno. The Seri Resort only opened last year and was the right side of rustic chic. Beautiful interiors with accents of navy and white were stunning and the staff could not do enough to help. The owners, Eddie and Jane have really created something special and I am sure it will only get better. My advice would be to go soon before the prices go up!
I could write endlessly about our time in Bali and I guess that is the beauty of the place. There is so much to see and and so much to inspire you. For example, the incredible Green School near Ubud. Teaching conservation from a young age can only be the way forward especially here with a booming population and a dire waste management problem.
The idyll is still here to be found when you look for it and paradise is never far away. Bali has it all covered. However, for me, the one stand out point still has to be the wonderful people. This is the part of Bali I will remember most from my childhood and still found there today.