When I arrive at Orient Express’ Jimbaran Puri Bali resort on the narrow strip of land between mainland Bali and the island’s southern Bukit Peninsula, there’s a wooden tray of fruit awaiting me in my room. I easily recognize an apple, a pear, and a mangosteen, but the fourth teardrop-shaped variety with red textured skin is one I’ve never seen before.
Thankfully, a book about tropical fruits has been propped up behind the tray, open to a description of a lychee – the accompanying picture perfectly matches the fruit before me. As I bite into its sweet white flesh, I read, “The name is derived from the Chinese word lee chee which means ‘one who gives the pleasures of life.’”
Indeed, it feels all too fitting for my first taste of this pleasure-giving fruit to take place at the resort – where the pleasures of life are never far away.
The minute my taxi turns off the main drag from Denpasar’s international airport and heads down a side road to the resort, the melee of motorbikes and scooters seems to instantly melt away into the balmy afternoon air. In their place, I am ushered into the oasis that is Jimbaran Puri Bali with a wooden walkway lined with ferns and frangipani trees, a large pond of delicate pink lotus blossoms, and even three white ducks promenading on the lawn.
The only thing stronger than the scent of hibiscus and heliconia blossoms is the sense of peace I feel here almost immediately. Thanks to the cold towel and sweet-smelling bouquet that a woman named Rostini kindly hands me, as well as to a thirst-quenching welcome drink of guava, lime, and pineapple juice served in a spherical cup, layers of worries and stress soon begin to fall away from me – one by one, sip by sip.
Within hours of arriving at the resort, I fall in love with its intimate atmosphere. There are no hotel buildings here, housing floor after floor of rooms. Instead, the resort features 42 cottages and 22 villas, which can accommodate a maximum of just 180 people. Each villa or cottage is detached from the rest, set back from the world behind its own walled courtyard. It isn’t hard to imagine you’ve stumbled upon your own private paradise – one that you happen to be sharing with a few other people.
My deluxe pool villa is just that – a little sanctuary of understated luxury complete with individual terrace and plunge pool. The spacious lay-out of the villa itself allows separate living and sleeping areas (not to mention an outdoor shower), all connected with cool white marble floors and thatched roofing known as alang-alang, made from natural fibers woven around bamboo. At all times, modern comforts are enriched by such tributes to local Balinese tradition.
When I ask the resort’s resident manager, Marie-Hélène, what she feels sets Jimbaran Puri Bali apart, she answers without hesitation: “It’s the only place on the bay where you can have lunch or dinner with your feet in the sand.” While breakfast on the patio of Tunjung Café may not have me wriggling my toes into the beach, I’m not far from it – the only thing between the bay and me are a few coconut trees towering overhead. Breakfast itself is the kind I’ve come to look forward to from Orient Express; where classics are available – omelets, cereal, yogurt and the like – but local flavors always woven in.
Each morning, I’m drawn like a moth to a flame to what Marie-Hélène calls the “coconut corner” of the breakfast buffet. I load a plate up with short glasses of young coconut juice, decadent coconut financier cakes, and rolled-up dadar coconut pancakes – for a coconut-lover like myself, this is heaven. But it wouldn’t be fair to ignore the other tropical fruits, and I carry a second plate to my oceanfront table piled high with jackfruit, papaya, passion fruit, tamarillo, and dragon fruit. It seems that first bite of lychee was only the start of my tropical-fruit education here on Bali.
It’s one of those things I’d heard of but never quite knew much about – a Balinese massage. So on my first morning, my belly still full of jackfruit and coconut juice, I follow the path from the restaurant to the Beach Spa – appropriately named given its open-air terraces, or bales, sit right on the sand, mere meters from the shore.
Although treatments like warm stone massages and Ayurvedic therapies are available, having a Balinese massage while on Bali seems the natural choice. When in Rome, right? Face-down on the massage table, I delight in the treatment’s key techniques: long strokes, lots of thumb and palm pressure, and even more stretching. “It is good for relaxing,” my massage therapist Mariana tells me, and it’s all I can do to rouse myself from my serenity-induced stupor to agree with her.
Despite the presence of a few big-name resorts, Jimbaran Bay is refreshingly undeveloped. Wander to the right of the resort at dawn and watch traditional fishermen – known as nelayan in Bahasa Indonesian – haul in their day’s catch, which will then be sold at the fish market. “It’s still a fisherman’s way of life here,” Marie-Hélène shared with me.
And at night, turn left and get another taste of Balinese culture – local women digging for tiny clams, vendors selling freshly roasted corn on the cob, and groups of boys kicking footballs into homemade goals – just two skinny sticks stuck into the sand. Soon you’ll come to a row of outdoor restaurants. It’s al fresco dining at its best: wooden tables lit only by candles, waves occasionally tickling your feet, and the seafood on your plate served straight from the sea in front of you.
With many thanks to Orient Express for their hospitality at Jimbaran Puri Bali resort in Indonesia. For more information visit: