Bali - all braided hair and Bintang singlets? SHE doesn't think so!

Sunset-066

Sunset over Kuta BeachIt seems Australians have a love/hate relationship with Bali. SHE's always interested in people's perceptions of the 'Island of the Gods': most sit firmly in one of two camps, and there aren't many who don't have an opinion one way or the other. "It's dirty, full of bogans in Bintang tshirts, the beaches aren't anywhere near as good as ours!" versus "beautiful Balinese people, stunning and surprisingly well priced hotels and villas, excellent food". Pretty diverse isn't it? SHE recently clocked up trip #13 to Bali. Now that might seem excessive to some, but when you consider SHE travels as part of the job, it's not really any different from taking a summer holiday along the Great Ocean Road or visiting the Gold Coast every year. The destination fits into the 'convenient, easy, affordable' categories and doesn't require too much effort to book and confirm. Bali just keeps calling and SHE can't seem to stay away.

Balinese girlSHE fell in love with Bali on the very first trip, aged 16, travelling with the folks and staying on the quieter Sanur side of the island. Since then, SHE's been back many times and each trip has revealed another layer, another experience to be treasured, another part of the island to be explored. The Balinese are, generally speaking, some of the friendliest SHE's met. Famous for their beautiful smiles and warm, welcoming approach, it's hard not to smile back.  And that's good for the soul.

SHE's seen many changes on the Island over the years: new hotel and villa accommodation is going up faster than you can say "I'll have a Bintang thanks". Pushing well into Seminyak and further out to such places as Canggu, the options can be overwhelming. And with high end accommodation come restaurants that rival those we frequent in Melbourne and Sydney. Now this isn't everyone's idea of a holiday, let alone in Bali, but if relaxing in the lap of luxury for half the price of the similar option in Australia sounds like you - then Seminyak is the place to be.

Bali VillaThe swankiest kid on the block is the new  W Retreat and Spa in Seminyak (more on this very cool hotel in coming weeks).  Great location, excellent views from the very spacious rooms, gorgeous staff, and typically 'W' with the bonus of Balinese hospitality. There's a host of villa options in and around this area, most offering serious value for money if you're travelling with friends. Onsite staff come with the package and who doesn't love waking up to a breakfast cooked just for you, just when you want it? No need to brave the breakfast buffet - it all happens at your dining table, by your pool...in fact wherever you want it served. What a treat.

Sunset at ku de taSHE loves eating and drinking in Bali, from a simple warung (restaurant) to the more sophisticated beach clubs that have popped up in the area. One of the originals is still looking pretty good: SHE dropped in to Ku De Ta - an iconic destination that's being playing host to the beautiful people for a decade now. A long lazy Saturday lunch turned into dinner as the sun slipped into the sea. The crowd seemed a lot more relaxed than all those years ago, a lot less focused on being seen and more interested in kicking back and enjoying the atmosphere. And that sunset! Fabulous!

Just up the road is the newest, trendiest beach club - Potato Head. Interesting name but very cool, very funky place to  hang out for drinks, lunch, dinner - whatever you want really. There's  nowhere like this in Australia - our licensing laws and restrictions just wouldn't allow it! It's like being at a giant pool party and it's big, big fun!

So if you're one of those people who hasn't yet visited the Island of the Gods, don't be afraid to give it some serious consideration. Sure there are the less-than-desirable Aussie tourists frequenting some of the local bars in and around Kuta, but there's much more to Bali than braided hair and cheap tshirts. Easily accessible by a number of airlines and around 6 hours from Melbourne or Sydney, it almost feels like going home.