With a welcome mango-rose drink in hand, the warm aromas of the mahogany surround me, and on the walk to my room, the soothing sounds of the pool instantly calm me. Beyond the amazing towel art, the room features a giant granite bathroom, a king bed, and a view over the pool and the Tanjung Benoa beach area. I’ve never visited Bali before, and the first surprise is the incredible cuisine.
After a bit of unpacking, I head down to Pasar Market Cafe where I chat with Arif, the restaurant’s assistant manager, who talks me through the dishes I sample. After lunch, I meet the sous chef who is teaching my cooking class. I’m learning to make satay lilit, a traditional Balinese dish that is a mixture of many different spices, herbs and minced meat pinched around skewers of bamboo or lemongrass. I love learning how different flavours are heated and crushed and chopped to make such a fragrant and fresh dish.
The next morning awakens me with a magical sunrise, and I’m ready to meet activities coordinator Yousef for some yoga by the pool. The sounds of the water lapping, the ever-changing sky and the relaxing poses make for the perfect start to the day. I’m not the only one up; already there is a big group of smiling children headed for the circus-themed kids’ club. They can expect a day full of dress-ups, digital and hands-on games, a slide, a ball pit and cooking and craft classes – and they are ready!
Holiday Inn Bali Benoa is focused on families and couples looking for a relaxing and happy family experience. Kids stay and eat free here, and the kids’ club runs until 9pm, which gives parents that bit of extra down time, knowing that their children are safe and having fun. There are family suites available with underwater themed kids’ rooms – there is even an online booking service prior to arrival so that the kids can choose which themed bed linen they would like! It really feels like a home away from home – no detail is missed, and there are even stools in the bathrooms so kids can reach the sink.
A trip to a Balinese temple, one of the biggest family temples in Benoa, is a fantastic cultural experience. I’m dressed in a beautiful Balinese sarong with lotus flowers in my hair and I’m taught about the Hindu traditions of this ancient and peaceful culture. Because I’m lucky enough to be here for a full moon celebration, I am shown the process of making and giving an offering at the temple, and I feel a deep sense of calm and respect.
Before returning to the hotel, it’s time for a meal at Bumbu Bali. The food is authentically Balinese and is so fresh and colourful, with incredible flavours. The chefs scour the local markets to source the ripest fruits, garden-fresh vegetables, and fish caught locally each morning. Another cultural highlight is the Devdan Show at the Bali Nusa Dua Theatre. It’s a mixture of dance, acrobatics and stage effects that takes us on a trip all around Indonesia, showcasing the regions and rich culture that exists here.
The next day it’s definitely pool weather, so I spend my morning at the hotel, moving from poolside lounger to beachside lounger to in-pool bungalow. Every now and then I doggy-paddle over to Dukes, the swim-up bar, and order a refreshing guava-orange-passion juice. I even have time for a poolside fruit-carving lesson. And as I pack to leave, I notice my room has another little visitor... a new towel-art creation!