It feels strange to write about one holiday while I’m on another. I’m writing from Islamorada in Florida Keys at the moment, and while I normally don’t write on holiday, I’m going to be travelling for the next 6 weeks, so I need to pace myself and try and combine some of my normal life into this trip, else I’ll get worn out quickly.
If you follow me on Instagram and Twitter, or if you buy the Sunday Independent, you will know that in April I went on a Far East trip hosted by Club Med, who have recently launched a city stopover package.
When faced with deciding where to go on holiday, there isn’t a more difficult choice than having to pick between a relaxing island “do nothing” break and exploring a buzzing city (which leaves one more in need of time out on one’s return than before!)
Both have their pros and cons, and I never seem to get the balance right – I get bored spending day after day on a beach chair, but am equally exhausted after spending endless hours on foot,touring a city.
Thankfully, Club Med makes that choice quite easy, with its new City Stopover offering, which allows travellers to experience the buzz and excitement of a metropolis combined with the luxury of a resort holiday. Long haul, multi- destination flights are particularly taxing, so I opted to stop over in Hong Kong (accessible direct from Johannesburg), before visiting Club Med Bali. Other enticing stopover packages include time in shopping paradises Dubai or Abu Dhabi before travelling to the relaxing Kani resort in the Maldives, or combine a visit to Miami or New York with a stay at the Club Med Mexico Cancun resort.
If you detests red tape and admin, this arrangement works perfectly. No need to navigate your way through the airport to find a taxi – your transfers and accommodation in Hong Kong are sorted out for you as part of your package, as is your entire Bali experience. I’ll write about my time in Hong Kong in a separate post, but in this one I want to focus on Bali.
Having been to Mauritius, Mozambique and Seychelles, I imagined that Bali would be more of the same. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
The island is modern and developed, while retaining its natural beauty. Rice paddies stretch for hectares, and houses take the form of temples. The architecture will have you staring out of the taxi window for the duration of your journey.
Club Med Bali is 15 minutes’ drive from the airport, which was mollifying after having to wait two hours in the “visas on arrival” queue at immigration (tip: pay the $25 (about R270) for an “express visa” – it’s well worth it). Situated in the Nusa Dua enclave, Club Med neighbours a host of other luxury properties – all of which share a 500m stretch of beach, perfect for a sunset stroll.
There’s plenty to do at the resort itself – we chatted to a honeymoon couple who didn’t venture out for the entire 7 days of their trip.
The resort has 14hectares of gardens, featuring bougainvillea, hibiscus and banyan trees, complementing the Balinese architecture.
The only let-down for me were the rooms, which were extremely basic and somehow did not live up to the rest of the resort.
Catering equally well for families and couples, the resort has a “connecting” room option – two interleading rooms, each with its own entrance – so your kids have their own space, but are also close by. You can use the “adults only” pool or take your children to the busier main pool where aqua aerobics are held every day.
If you’d prefer some time out, head to the Mandara spa and let Club Med entertain your kids – the resort has activities throughout the day, supervised by passionate staff, for young ones between the ages of 2 and 17. My favourite was the Flying Trapeze Academy, also available for adults. This – along with a host of other activities, such as snorkelling, windsurfing, tennis, golf and kayaking – all come included in your package.
All Club Med resorts work on an “all inclusive” basis, meaning that after you’ve paid for your trip, all your resort expenses are covered, including all meals, unlimited drinks, plus entertainment and ac- tivities. It was great not having to calculate exchange rates while on holiday and to feast to our hearts’ content.
The main restaurant, Agung, offers the most expansive selection of food I’ve seen at a buffet. The combination of international cuisine, local specialities, health food and live stations, with chefs preparing fresh salads while you wait, ensures there is food to anyone’s taste.
If you prefer a sit-down meal with waiter service, Batur is an a la carte speciality restaurant, which also comes included in your all-inclusive package. I was initially concerned about eating lunch and dinner at one of just two restaurants for a week, but the menu changes daily so there was no opportunity to grow tired of the cuisine.
The resort is quite well organised, so you won’t be left bored for long. Immediately after dinner, you are invited to proceed to the theatre, where there’s a different show each night.
I was surprised on my first night when, during the circus show, I recognised several of the reception staff, whose talents extend to the stage. I was soon to find out that most of the staff get involved in the shows after dark, and collectively have a multitude of talents, ranging from gymnastics to singing and dancing.
Once the evening entertainment is over, the party moves to the Kintamani bar, where you can dance the night away. It became clear quite quickly that the resort promotes a fun, exciting atmosphere, with staff who love what they do – their infectious energy easily passes on to guests.
While it would have been day to spend the entire time at the resort (we chatted to a honeymoon couple who didn’t leave at all for the full 7 days of their trip), we did quite a bit of exploring. More on that in my next post.