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Anantara Seminyak Opens in Bali
April 25th, 2008

The latest exotic Anantara resort has opened. The Anantara Resort Seminyak is located on the beautiful island of Bali in the Indian Ocean. The resort has 59 large suites with Balinese-inspired decor, floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows. Enjoy the ocean views from terrazzo hydro tubs from your own private balcony. Other features include dark Indonesian wooden floors, oversized built-in beds covered with 300 thread-count linen, a double-sized Hansgrohe ‘rainmaker’ shower, BOSE DVD player, a surround-sound system, 42 inch LCD TV, 80GB iPod with docking station, Wi-Fi internet and espresso machine.

The Anantara Penthouse suite has two bedrooms, a lounge, library, kitchen, bar and dining area in an open-plan style. Outdoors, it features a concept pool with glass roof, spacious sundeck with Weber BBQ area, loungers, daybeds and a Jacuzzi. This lavish suite comes with the service of a butler who can arrange spa treatments, private yoga and meditation sessions and prepare sunset cocktails prior to a
lobster BBQ on the private deck.

The resort includes several entertainment and dining destinations: Sunset On Six (SOS) is the rooftop bar and the resort’s bistro-style café next to the infinity-edge pool, PAON, is where to head for afternoon tea or a light lunch. The signature Thai restaurant, Wild Orchid, also showcases a line of customized tableware that was specially created, inspired by materials like local Balinese stoneware and Japanese bone china. In the rooftop Wine Room, wine tastings are hosted by a resident Wine Guru. There are three pools overlooking the Indian ocean and the resort has its own Surf school and a spa.

The resort just opened last month and is offering an open special through June 30 of this year with rates starting at $270.

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Australians greeted by new kind of Bali
April 23rd, 2008

As Australians increasingly make their way back to Bali, they are likely to find a slightly different place. These days, tourists are more likely to be harassed by someone selling timeshare than by hawkers flogging watches.

The party tourists still exist but they appear to have toned down their behaviour and dispersed from Kuta into more family-friendly areas such as Legian and Sanur.

And now Russian millionaires who are prepared to pay top dollar for the ultimate in luxury are the fastest growing tourist market.

But despite our haggling at the markets, Australians are still the favourites, and Balinese are slowly but surely welcoming back their long-lost neighbours with a Bintang and a Gday, mate.

DINNER ON THE BEACH
For a truly beachfront dining experience head to Jimbaran Bay, where you can indulge in a seafood meal while massaging your toes in the sand and watching fishermen haul in the next nights dinner.

Jimbaran has undergone a massive transformation. Years ago, more than 80 makeshift market stalls would cook fish over burning driftwood and coconut husks, and visitors would squeeze on to long, plastic tables. Staff had to work hard to fan away plumes of smoke from their barbecues.

Now the food is just as exquisite and the setting more conducive to a romantic night out. Twenty-four restaurants are spaced widely along the beach, each with more than 20 tables on the sand.

All seafood is sold fresh from the bay and is displayed in tanks for diners to hand-pick meals.

Dozens of Balinese boy bands serenade diners, in return for tips. Most can play well-known hits in up to five languages.

The bands which frequented my table were able to meet requests for songs by Robbie Williams, Joe Cocker, John Denver and Madonna. Then they went on to sing in Japanese.

UBUD
Jetsetters like Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall chose Ubud as their Hindu wedding destination because it is one of the most beautiful places in the world.

For only 150,000 rupiah ($17.50) and 90 minutes in a taxi, visitors can move from the chaos of Kuta to the tranquillity of the islands cultural centre, taking in winding roads, ancient temples, steeped rice fields and the areas lush surrounds.

I can recommend whitewater rafting along the Ayung River with the Sobek group, which has a faultless safety record, for US$79 ($85).

While no self-respecting adrenaline junkie would call the rapids exciting, the scenery makes up for it by offering a rare insight into traditional Balinese life.

Whitewater rafters can watch old women washing clothes in shallow embankments and daring farmers scaling steep cliffs along the river to cut long grass.

A few women may surprise you by appearing at random waterfalls with eskies of cold soft drinks and beer for sale. As they say, service in Bali is second to none.

Rafters are provided with a simple but tasty lunch at the end of the trip.

After lunch, old women put muscly young men to shame by folding up the rafts, balancing them on their small and shrivelled heads, and then gliding with effortless ease up thousands of steep stairs.

Monkey Forest in the centre of town is also worth a visit. Some monkeys will sit on your shoulder in return for a banana. But the cheekier ones have been known to run off with cameras and watches.

The nights in Ubud are quiet. There are no discos or nightclubs, though there are a few quieter bars along Monkey Forest Road and in surrounding areas.

SCHOOL
Many tourists suffer a subtle sense of guilt about our divergent fortunes with our island neighbours. One way to do something constructive for the community is to donate to an orphanage or school for handicapped children.

The YPAC Cabang school in Denpasar relies on donations to help educate up to 50 students and accommodate up to two dozen with disabilities.

The government donates only 15 cents a day per child and full-time boarders must squeeze into airless dorms at night.

A group of Australian journalists were saddened to see bare beds without sheets or pillows, with a faded sticker of Britney Spears the only tribute to boyish energy. The girls dorm was just as dire.

The Accor hotel group, which operates hotels such as the Novotel and Mercure chain, has set up a program with its hotel visitors to collect small donations of clean, good quality clothes as well as toys, school and art materials and non-perishable foodstuffs for children aged three to 18.

It then ensures the goods are distributed to orphanages and needy children.

The Singing Tree bookstore in Cottesloe has donated $2500 worth of new childrens books, enabling the school to start offering its students English lessons.

ROOMS

As a guest of Sofitel, I was able to sample a range of accommodation. My favourite was Novotel Benoa, a four-star hotel overlooking the Tanjung Benoa beach, which is surrounded by a lush tropical garden.

It is famous for its beachfront massages. One visitor said it was a very sensual experience to have the soft ocean breeze waft over her body as she was massaged with aromatic oils.

The room prices vary to accommodate the budget traveller and those who can afford private villas.

The Mercure in Sanur is the resort for those who do not like resorts. Although there are several pools, a bar and a beachfront eating area, the hotel has a deliberately low-key approach to communal activities.

The Novotel Nusa Dua offers a week-long penthouse deal, with three couples paying significantly less for the penthouse apartment than for less luxurious individual rooms.

The rooms look on to a vibrant African tulip tree in the middle of an infinity pool which laps up to a bar lit up by electric blue lights. Its luxury fit for a Russian oligarch.

KIM MacDONALD




Twelve new springs appear around Buyan Lake, Bali
April 21st, 2008

Denpasar (ANTARA News) – At least 12 new springs have appeared suddenly around Buyan Lake, Buleleng District, which is located around 55 km north of Denpasar.

Local farmers are now using water from the new springs for irrigation, Bali provincial forestry service head Made Sulendra said here on Saturday.

Some 4.93 sq km wide Buyan Lake is one of four lakes on Bali Island which have become tourist attractions.

Sulendra said it was believed the new springs had formed thanks to the massive regreening programs launched by the Bali provincial administration last year. Bali planted at least seven million trees last year, including in areas surrounding Buyan Lake.

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Lion Air to open Singapore-Bali route
April 19th, 2008

Jakarta (ANTARA News) – The largest private airline company in Indonesia, Lion Air, is planning to open a route linking Singapore with Bali in the near future, the airline`s corporate secretary, Hasyim Arsal Alhabsi, said.

“We are planning to serve the route beginning next June or July after today`s opening of a Jakarta-Singapore-Vietnam route,” Alhabsi said here on Friday.

He said the route would be opened in order to offer Singaporean tourists comfortable direct flights to the Indonesian resort island of Bali.

Alhasbi said his company would serve the Singapore-Bali route with newest Boeing 737-900ER airliners which were expected to arrive in Indonesia on April 28, 2008.

“This plan is being made in line with the government`s Visit Indonesia Year (VIY) 2008 program,” he said.

He said at the initial stage, the flight frequency on the Singapore-Bali route would be once a day with an average load factor target of 75 percent.

The opening of the new route was also expected to support the newly opened Jakarta-Singaore-Vietnam route.

“So, passengers bound for Vietnam can take a flight from Jakarta or from Denpasar (Bali),” he said.

In connection with the opening of the Jakarta-Singapore-Vietnam route, Lion Air had flown 30 travel agents from Vietnam to Bali to make a direct observation of the Indonesian tourist island.

Alhabsi expressed hope that the Ministry of Transportation would give priority to domestic airlines in granting additional flight frequencies rather than to foreign ones.

The Ministry of Transportation has previously granted Singapore Airlines additional flight frequencies from four to seven flights daily for Singapore Airlines.

The granting of the additional flight frequencies was aimed at making the Indonesia Visit Year 2008 a success. During the VIY 2008 it is expected that seven million foreign tourists would arrive in Indonesia.

The decision to grant additional flight frequencies was reached in a coordinative meeting led by Vice President Jusuf Kalla with Transportation Minister Jusman Syafii Djamal and Tourism and Culture Minister Jero Wacik.(*)

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Bali receives another tourism award
April 18th, 2008

Bali has been recognized by a distinguished travel magazine as the best island in the Asia-Pacific region for 2008.

The resort island has garnered 20 travel and tourism awards since 1998.

“Praise God that Bali is still charming to tourists. We have to keep it this way by improving and developing tourism spots on the island,” head of the Bali tourism agency, Gede Nurjaya, told reporters Tuesday.

In response to the award, he said the agency had planned to include new destinations along tourist routes, adding that some areas in the eastern part of the island had been considered for further development to balance those areas located in the southern and western part of the island.

He said the plan would also involve tourist agencies on the island.

“We will encourage tourist agencies to create or modify tour packages to include the new destinations,” he said.

One of the locations targeted as an eco-tourism spots is the coffee plantation area of Blantih, in West Kintamani, he said.

“We must let tourists know that Bali is full of surprising tourism ideas, including new areas that I believe will rejuvenate their perspective about the island,” he said.

The award was the second handed over by the Hong Kong-based travel magazine Destinasian. The same award was given to Bali in 2006 and was presented to the Indonesian embassy in Hong Kong.

He said the agency had also planned to retrained its human resources sector to increase the comfort level on the island, which in turn would support the island’s tourism industry.

“We will urge people to support public order, which in turn will bring benefits in the form of an increase in the number of tourists visiting the island,” he said.

Bali has seen a promising increase in the number of tourists visiting the island in the first three months of this year; in March, as many as 151,000 tourists had visited Bali, which indicated an approximate 25-percent increase from last year’s 120,000 visitors.

Around 434,000 tourists have visited the nation’s favorite tourist destination this year, with most tourists coming from Asian countries like Japan and China.

“It seems that we will easily pass the target that was set earlier this year,” Nurjaya said.

The Bali tourist agency targeted around 500,000 tourists for 2008.

The Jakarta Post

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Bali`s 30th arts festival to be held next June-July
April 15th, 2008

Denpasar (ANTARA News) – The 30th annual Bali Arts Festival (PKB) will be held on June 14-July 12, head of the local cultural office Nyoman Nikanaya said on Tuesday.

“The number of local and foreign participants is increasing, showing that the event has got national and international recognition,” he said.

He said this year`s theme would be “Citta Wretti Nirodha” or a self-controlling behavior toward the balance and harmony.

Some 22 provinces and 12 arts troupe from eight countries have conformed to participate in the event, he added.

The festival was initiated by the late Prof Dr Ida Bagus Mantra in 1978.

This year festival will be held in conjunction with the province`s 50th anniversary and the 100th of the National Awakening Day as well as the Visit Indonesia Year 2008. (*)

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Indonesia to expand cooperation with Mongolia
April 14th, 2008

Beijing (ANTARA News) – The government of Indonesia represented by its embassy in Beijing will expand cooperation with Mongolia in view of the still many untapped potentials.

“We are trying to explore cooperation in politics, economy and tourism between the two countries as these potentials are existing and open to investors,” Indonesian ambassador to China Sudrajat said here in Sunday.

Since the end of 2007, Mongolia, previously covered by the Indonesian embassy in Moscow, was also covered by the Indonesian embassy in Beijing.

According to Sudrajat, he had explored possible diplomatic and economic cooperation with Mongolia such as in the field of politics and tourism.

Sudrajat said he planned to visit Mongolia to discuss possible cooperation between the two countries in various fields.

The visit would be very important and strategic to improve the diplomatic relations between the two countries following the transfer of authority to the Indonesian embassy in Beijing, he said. (*)

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