The Balinese are deeply spiritual and believe whatever goes around, comes around. Unfortunately, a firm belief in karma doesn't quite explain or help understand how even this beautiful tropical island, located just eight degrees nigh of the equator, could be the target of violent terrorism. On October 12, 2002 -- a Saturday night -- a bomb went through Paddy's Bar, a nightclub; a few minutes later, a car bomb exploded outside Sari Club, across the street. Between the bombings, the SARS outbreak and bombings at the Australian embassy, this area of the world has been hit hard. Businesses and tourism suffered, but things seem to be looking up. New boutique and luxury hotels are opening in geographically challenging locations (on a cliff and in a jungle), and a new airline, Air Paradise International, emerged to serve Japan, Seoul and Australia. According to the Bali Tourism Board (www.bali-tourismboard.com), nearly 1.5 million people visited in 2004, a 40 percent increase over 2003; about 40,000 of those tourists were Americans. Bali is part of the Indonesian archipelago and is an agrarian, largely Hindu-Buddhist society. Any place with such natural splendor -- rice paddies, rain forests, miles of beaches, lakes and volcanoes -- a reputation for good surfing, and a laid-back vibe is poised for tourism. Even with the influx of people who want to see this idyllic place, the Balinese stay rooted in their culture.
Go Today (tel. 800/227-3235; www.go-today.com) offers a slew of seven-day tours with departures from starting around $929 for double occupancy for travel until May 20. The Bali Special offers a range of luxury, too, up to $1,369 for the Westin Resort Nusa Dua. The all-inclusive package has airfare, airport to hotel transfer, seven nights, a full day Magic of Northern Bali tour, half-day tours of Oleh Oleh (shopping galore; this island is loaded with craftspeople), and what they call "unforgettable sunset." The northern part of the country includes Lake Beretan and the temple of Ulun Danu, dedicated to the goddess of water. Also in the north are volcanoes such as Pupuan and Lovina Beach -- a black sand beach. The rates rise slightly to $1069 for travel May 21-June 6; $1309 for travel June 7-August 15, drop again August 16-September 4 to $1,069; and returns to $929 through November 18, 2005. These great rates span the island's dry season, from April to October; it's still fairly humid it's not as rainy. Prices exclude airline taxes and fees and are based upon a Los Angeles or San Francisco departures. Other cities are available for additional fees; for Atlanta, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Boston, for example, add $350. For New York, add $510. The purchase deadline for these fares is April 21.
Asian Affair Holidays (tel. 800/742-3133; www.asianaffairholidays.com), in conjunction with Singapore Airlines, is running as special called Bali Spectacular, with five nights from $1,204, based on departures from the west coast and double occupancy. It includes round-trip airfare, airport-hotel transfers, breakfast every morning and five nights at one of several hotels: the five-star Nusa Dua Beach Hotel and Spa, the Oceanside Le Meridien Nirwana Golf and Spa, whose golf course is the only one on the island designed by Greg Norman; Melia Bali Villas and Spa, on South Bali; or the five-star Nikko Bali Resort and Spa, which overlooks the Indian Ocean. All of the hotels are located on grounds containing gardens, a pool, spa facilities, are close to or on the ocean, would easily fetch at least $100 a night, sans package. In terms of tours, one full-day Barong Dance and Kintamani tour are included, with lunch. Kintamani in particular, a mountain village, is believed to be the earliest known kingdom on the island and is known for various native dances related to a trance dance. It is also home to Lake Batur, the largest lake in Bali and, for the adventurous, home to Batur crater. The village of Trunyan in Kintamani is home to the Bali Aga, the island's native inhabitants who live a mostly secluded life. The price does include an insurance surcharge and airline fuel surcharge, but does not include taxes and other travel fees typically assessed. The tour is available from now until March 31, 2006. Departures in mid-May from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or Seattle, for example, can expect to pay around $1,204 per person; flights from New York, Chicago, Detroit, Miami or push the price to $1,324. Prices bump up a bit from June 6-30, to $1,464 for San Francisco or Los Angeles departures and $1,584 for New York. The most expensive to go during this offer other than December, around the holidays, is July 1-August 20. West coast departures cost $1524 to start; New York begins at $1,644. (For single travelers the cost is at least $200 more at all times.)
For accommodations only, a few deals popped up on the searchable, information clearinghouse website Bali Discovery (www.balidiscovery.com), based in Sanur, Bali. Located a few minutes from the artistic hub Ubud, the resort is in the traditional village Sangginan. Geared toward a private stay, say, for honeymooners or families, the hotel includes air conditioning, pool, Jacuzzi, and complimentary shuttle to the Ubud. The rates, which are good until September 30, are $124 per night U.S. dollars for either single or double occupancy in a deluxe suite and include breakfast, a fruit basket, a chilled towel and welcome drink, one spa treatment, afternoon tea and a gift upon checkout. The deal requires a minimum three-night stay and will add a high-season surcharge of $12 per room, per night, during the entire month of August. Their rates during the regular season, which runs until August 1, starts from $116 for the superior suite, which, including tax and breakfast, to or $181, for luxury suite. During high season, superior starts at $128, deluxe will cost $174 and luxury is $193. The Parigata Resport and Spa, with 42 rooms and three suites, is located in the Sanur beach area and designed to mimic a Balinese estate. They're offering an unbelievable rate of $39 per night for single or double occupancy, until October 31, 2005; from July 15 through August 31, though, tack on an additional $12 for high season rate.
For a tour package in which Bali is one of four stops in the Far East, SmarTours (tel. 800/377-7773; www.smartours.net/orient.htm) offers Best of the Orient. The fifteen-day excursion starts at $1,699, round-trip and intra-Orient flights included, if you depart from Los Angeles via Cathay Pacific Airways. (Add $100 for New York departures). As an extra incentive, couples who book by May 31 save up to $600. The tour includes first-class hotels, full buffet American breakfast, sightseeing tours with English-speaking guides. There are four departures between now and the year's end, and if you book by May 31 there are substantial discounts. The July 4 trip costs save $1,999; September 19 costs $1,699; the October 31 and November 21 trips both are $1,799. All rates are based on double occupancy and U.S departure taxes ($195) are not included. As for the trip itself, it begins in Bangkok with a stay in Holiday Inn Silom, a tour of Buddhist temples, a day of on-your-own exploring, a flight to Singapore for two days. Midway through the trip, you fly to Bali at the Melia Bali Resort in Nusa Dua beach area. Part of the time there includes a tour of local crafts, dances, a trip to Mount Batur, and a stop in Ubud. After this jam-packed day, there are two days of freedom, and on the fourth day you depart for Hong Kong.
If you're brave, adventurous and physically fit, there are hikes available on Bali's peaks that are part of the Ring of Fire (the series of volcanoes that limn the Pacific Ocean). Specifically, a rigorous hike is available to Gunung Agung in East Bali -- it can take you up six hours from Basakih, on the west slope, to ascend, and another four or five to descend. Pura Pasar Agung, on the south-south east slope, can take as long as five hours to climb and three to four to get down; both hikes are usually set for a midnight departure in order to see the sunrise at the summit. Click over to www.baliblog.com/05-04/hiking-a-volcano-in-bali.html for more information. A smaller volcano that is easily hiked without a guide is Gurung Catur -- it's also forested all the way up to the top. It will take about three hours up and two hours down; it's also free.
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