It was surprisingly windy despite the humidity. The sun was about to set, the colour of the sky slowly turning into a mesh of warm orange, pink and purple shades. I sat nursing a rather tall glass of a gin-based cocktail. They called it Rockatonic, one of the signatures the menu read. Who was I to argue with the logic? My sister had told me one thing before I left the humidity of Delhi for the warm, tropical weather of Bali: “Go wherever you want, but you must have drinks at Rock Bar.”
She of course was referring to AYANA Resort and Spa Bali’s famed bar on the rocks (literally), where everyone wants to go and be seen at. It is rather unique—carved on a cliff face along the Jimbaran coast, with views of the striking blue namesake bay for miles. It opens in the late afternoon and makes a sundowner worthwhile in the age of social media. There are certain places that have gained immense popularity over the years, where a ‘check in’ or photo-validation has become mandatory almost—Shakespeare and Company, the quaint bookstore in Paris which opened in 1922 at its current location; Illiterati Café in McLeodganj, which often finds itself at the top of every must-go-to café list in the hills; The Elephant House in Edinburgh where JK Rowling wrote about the ‘boy who lived’. Such is the case with Rock Bar. In fact, a friend who has never been to Indonesia told me about her plans to go and have a drink there at sunset sometime this year.
Sitting at the VIP Round Deck where the DJ console is, I understood why my sister insisted I pay a visit. I had one of the best views, but then, it wasn’t so bad for the other 800-odd guests either. The DJ’s beats kept everyone tapping their feet or nodding their heads; the staff, dressed in black, were extremely courteous, going from table to table; the waves beneath crashed against the rocks to create a unique atmosphere. It definitely was the start to a lovely evening.
Bali is a unique island in Indonesia. Unlike all others in the country, the moment you land, a sense of easy living overtakes your much-hurried soul. A feeling of peace, a tropical sense of mind, and eagerness to get a holiday started gets you excited.
Extremely diverse with forests, rice paddies, temples, beaches and dramatic cliffs, Bali is probably the most popular holiday destination in the country.
Remember Eat Pray Love? The book or film is often on one’s mind when the island’s name crops up in conversation. With a majority Hindu population, the smell of frangipani is everywhere. The Balinese plant jepun trees in their households to offer the white-yellow flowers in daily religious matters.
At the AYANA Resort and Spa, you come across a massive frangipani garden before making your way to your choice of stay. Did I mention the property is absolutely gigantic (think approx. 90 hectares) with three stay options inside the premises? On this trip, I was staying at AYANA, not Rimba or The Villas. However, this resort is unique in the sense that all three are integrated with an easy flow of movement. The total numbers after integration are staggering: 775 rooms and villas; 19 restaurants and bars; 12 swimming pools and a private beach; 10+ gorgeous wedding venues, fitness centres, shopping and salon points. One can eat breakfast at The Villas, swim at one of the pools, have lunch at AYANA, enjoy a leisurely massage or a session at the Aquatonic seawater jet pool (I’ll highly recommend it), have a drink at Rock Bar and end with dinner at Rimba.
AYANA isn’t a new property. Rebranded in 2009 (it was earlier Ritz-Carlton Bali), it is a destination in itself. One can experience traditional Indonesian culture at AYANA, with Balinese art on the walls and gorgeous wooden furniture; a more cutting-edge modern style at Rimba; and laidback luxury at The Villas. Your preference and budget will dictate the holiday. While Chinese and Australian guests are seen aplenty, the number of Indian visitors is growing considerably.
I’m usually an early riser, but I had no plans of letting go of the snug comfort of the blanket or the canopy bed in my Ocean View suite.Turning towards the glass doors that opened up the balcony, a clear blue sky greeted me. I sighed. Staying in bed would be a crime so a quick shower and coffee later, I headed for The Villas. After a leisurely breakfast of duck steamed buns and watermelon juice at Dava, accompanied by the chittering of birds, I made my way to Kubu beach. Well, technically on the antique-styled tram shuttle that ferries guests from one location to the other around the property. The frangipani smell follows you everywhere across the curated landscape, incense and cold towels to mop up the sweat freely given.
I love beach days. Living in land-locked Delhi, sea and sand is much appreciated. There’s an elevator that can take you close to the bottom, going down the edge of the cliff, or if you like exercise, there are stairs to reach the beach. A quick splash and I went to the beach club on the other side. The day was so lovely that sipping a fresh mango-lemongrass drink with the blue water in front made for great memories. I was recollecting the enactment of the Ramayana at Kampoeng the night before, complete with a local Balinese buffet. It was exciting and immersive at the recreated mini-Ubud, drawing much applause for the cultural experience from guests.
One can be spoilt for choice at AYANA. There’s something for every palate: local, Asian, global, you decide. I chose the sashimi platter at HonZEN. The freshness of the fish was impressive. They mostly source locally, I was told, as I devoured eel, tuna, salmon and mackerel with gusto.
If getting a table at Rock Bar isn’t possible, the integrated property has plenty of locations to enjoy a sundowner, including the Rooftop Bar, Unique.Overlooking lush greenery, it serves a mean kaffir gin cocktail.
Coming back to the evening at Rock Bar, the sun had set by then. The DJ had given way to a live band, yellow lights had lit up the cliff face to make the setting mellow, and I was done with my cocktail. I didn’t think I would be hungry, but there’s something about being so close to the water that never satisfies your appetite. Wolfing down freshly steamed clams with herbs, and prawns with tomato and feta, I sighed. It had been a very good day.
The property has 775 rooms and villas.