Romance is not just votive candles and soft music — it is an attitude and almost a feeling of being blessed to be alive. It is also when everything around you is “just right” because a few discordant notes (like being hassled on a perfect beach or hearing raucous noises beneath your balcony all night) can ruin the whole composition.
So what are the specific qualities that make Bali my number one choice for romance?
Gorgeous scenery and intriguing opportunities on any given day
From Ubud to Seminyak or Nusa Dua or dozens of other places there are flowers, verdant hiking paths, gorgeously set meals and intriguing shops. Sure Bali is much more touristy than it used to be, but it’s easy to become immersed in true village life even one lane off the busiest tourist section. For example, in Ubud, where there are genuinely fine shops and galleries to interest the most ardent shopper, you can go just one row behind all the shops and find village paths and dance rehearsals and religious ceremonies.
There are places like Sura Villa in Seminyak (a busy beach village near Kuta Beach) where fifty or sixty bucks a day will get you a charming room, an outdoor kitchen and dining room, and a sunken bathtub — plus breakfast. Sura Villa is not fancy — but the small swimming pool and garden atmosphere is lush and private, and the outdoor rooms and simple breakfasts are an intimate setting and a perfect way to start the day.
If, however, you want luxury, you cannot do better than the Aman resorts. All of the expensive hotel chains, the Ritz-Carlton, the Four Seasons (and a luxe Conrad in Nusa Dua) have superb views and beach access, but in terms of sheer amazement its hard to surpass the Amans in Ubud, Candidasa and Nusa Dua.
For exotic locations, I don’t think you can beat the Ubud Aman. Balanced over a valley of intensely green and orderly rice fields, and organized into little hideaways secreted behind traditional stone doors, the creation of a private world is topped off by leaving your shoes at a door you can reach only by stepping carefully on rock pads placed over water. The rooms themselves are huge, airy and created by native craftspersons. To top it off, a good many of them have a private pool.
The other Amans are also spectacular — and the romantic touch I love the most are the way they have huge vases of tuberoses arranged so that their sweet perfume just about knocks you off your feet when you walk in.
Inexpensive and expert massage
In every hotel and in every town, there are inexpensive massages that are so reasonably priced you might want one every day (I have found them for as low as $35). You can have one masseur or masseuse or two if you want to splurge. Many of them are in rooms that face out to the sea or to fountains and the sound of running water.
I have never been in a place where so many people could give extraordinary massages at such reasonable prices. Some years ago I had one massage holding hands with my honey while each of us were worked on by two wonderful masseuses. We started out with an outdoor shower and afterwards had an outdoor bath in rose petals. Seriously romantic.
The people make Bali special. Your hotelier will suggest breakfast or lunch in a bale (a four poster “bed” that is meant for outdoor lounging and relaxation out of the sun). The people who take you to your bale or on a hike or check you in are all honestly interested in you. Whenever I met someone for more than a short while they almost invariably invited me home to meet their family!
But even if you are just watching them practice their beautiful dancing or painting or carving, they are hospitable rather than just polite. I think this spirit is also a part of most hotel staffs, and the concierges I have met in Bali have all been kind and more than superficially helpful. Ruth Zimmerman at the Conrad is exceptional and an easy person to consider a friend in about five minutes of conversation.
So there are my reasons for my first pick for most romantic place in the world — just writing about Bali makes me feel romantic…. There are many places I have visited that deserve the word “paradise” — but among them, for me, Bali is number one.