I guess I’ve become a born-again Baliphile. After more than a half decade of not visiting this idyllic Indonesian island, I’ve been there three times this year and am already planning a fourth trip. S’s and my wedding anniversary is next weekend. But because we’re going to be tied up with a whole lot of work, we decided to celebrate early. I wanted to bring her somewhere not too far away; after all, if you only have the weekend, then the least amount of time spent in a plane the better. My first idea was to bring her to Langkawi. Business class tickets on Silkair are cheap and I thought she’d enjoy eating the weekend away at Bon Ton, one of my favourite places in the region. Unfortunately, the resort was full (of course, bad husband that I am, I only started planning the trip earlier in the same week we wanted to travel). Plan B was Bali. And fortunately, one of my two fave places there, The Gangsa, a gorgeous, secret retreat in sleepy Sanur, had space.
We flew in late Friday night. The resort is just a quick 25 minute drive from the airport. Off a narrow lane in Sanur, The Gangsa is made up of 11 private pool villas, an excellent Balinese restaurant called Gong, and a small spa. Compared to some of the more well-known and trendier villa resorts on the island, The Gangsa is fantastic value for money. The villas are large and well-appointed, with big outdoor bales, good sized pools and high walls ensuring total privacy (perfect for skinny-dipping with one’s spouse). The service here is also top-notch, which makes it a pleasure to visit.
Waking up late on a weekend is always nice. Waking up late, jumping into one’s large, private pool, and having an incredibly delicious breakfast served to you is paradise. And that’s just how we started our Saturday, with a wonderful brekkie of fresh juice, warm croissants, and a mouth-watering bowl of nasi bubur (chicken porridge) for me and an awesome plate of mee goreng (fried noodles) for S. After breakfast, we lazed around for a bit, enjoying the villa’s open-air pavillion. Then it was off to Seminyak. We grabbed a very light lunch at the small and charming al fresco cafe around the back of the Bali Deli. We spent the afternoon exploring the shops in Seminyak, checking out some cool furniture and accessories stores as well as the occasionally well-stocked fashion boutique. One particularly cool place that I’d urge anyone visiting Bali to check out is the Biasa Art Space, a very cool gallery, run by a local fashion brand, committed to showcasing exciting contemporary Indonesian art. We caught a really cool exhibition called Fetish, curated by Erin Supriyanto. That night, we dined at Kafe Warisan, an oldie but always goodie. I had a gorgeous seven-hour-cooked lamb mechoui served with Oriental couscous. I was also especially pleased with our table, perched at the end of the restaurant, overlooking the rice paddies.
Sunday, we rose a little earlier. I had the same breakfast but S ordered an avocado shake with some nasi goreng (fried rice). Once again, we chilled out for a while in our bale before venturing forth, this time to Ubud, where we had what must be one of the booziest lunches of our lives. I’ve written before about how good Naughty Nuri’s is. Let me reiterate. Nuri’s serves the best and strongest martini in Southeast Asia (and, we discovered, some bloody good and dangerously lethal margaritas as well). Over a couple of fuzzy hours, we threw back three vodka martinis, two margaritas and a diet Coke. Plus two orders of ribs, a plate of mee goreng and a side of fries. It was a great meal, especially because of the cool company: a Korean couple who shared our table and Nuri’s’ co-owner Brian, who sat with us for almost an hour. Post-lunch, we tipsily hit a few shops in Ubud, picking up a present for some friends and a small bauble from one of my favourite Bali-based artisans, Jean-Francois Fichot. Smartly, we had booked two-hour massages for ourselves back at The Gangsa that evening. While the spa is small, housed in a three bedroom villa, the therapists were fantastic and sadly, our 120 minutes of bliss flew by all too quickly.
We returned to our villa around 715pm and were totally blown away. On Saturday, we had pre-ordered a roast suckling pig (babi guleng) and an order of bebek betutu (a duck roasted in banana leaf and local spices). The chipper young woman we met with suggested dining via candlelight in our villa. Of course, we agreed. While we expected a few tealights around our table, we didn’t expect every possible inch of our villa’s grounds, including the pool, to be covered in candles. And yeah, sure, maybe the whole candlelight thing is a tad cliched, but it sure is pretty. Our meal was equally beautiful. We had a lovely, spicy, chicken starter, followed by two different soups, one chicken and one pork rib. This was followed by a light pineapple sorbet, after which the main courses came out. The pork and the duck were awesome. The pork’s skin was deliciously crispy. The meat was soft and juicy and eaten with the spices, lovely and savory. The duck was even better. The meat was full of flavour and very tender. In all, it was a gorgeous, delicious and very nice way to celebrate our anniversary.
I can’t think of a better place to spend a romantic weekend in Bali than The Gangsa. The villas are large, luxurious and romantic. It is close enough to Seminyak or Ubud to make quick shopping or dining trips, but discretely hidden away in Bali’s quietest district, Sanur. The staff are all very attentive. The spa offers great treatments. And the Balinese food is fantastic. Now, if only every weekend were like this!