The Ubud Hanging Gardens Hotel
When you think of Bali, what do you think of? I think of the beautiful beaches, the 5-star resorts, the ancient temples. I think of the disorder of the Denpasar airport, the shittier beaches covered in drunk assholes, the poverty you have to drive through to get to your resort. The incredible foods and foliage. The beautiful paintings and carvings. Bali is a complex animal that I both love and hate.
I've yet to travel through Bali's huge new airport, but if it's run anything like the previous one, it's a mad house full of stores selling typical tourist crap--sir, would you like a carved wooden penis?--with no food options. I hope it's not. The old Denpasar airport was hot and crowded with chairs you had to share with roaches.
I would break down Bali's main tourist areas into four parts:
Seminyak: Nice resorts and small houses in town. Good restaurants nearby, as well as some shopping. My recommendation for where to stay if you're visiting. The W Hotel is awesome. Pretty close to...
Kuta: Kuta is the party zone and home to an army of drunk Australians.
Nusa Dua: Bali's original tourist area, away from everything else. Lots of resorts all right next to each other in a blocked off area. The most touristy area for sure. Staying here doesn't feel much different than staying in Florida, Hawaii, etc. I don't recommend it.
Ubud: A few hours inland is Ubud, my favorite place in Bali. You're in the jungle surrounded by ancient villages and temples, as well as some of the best artisans in all of Bali.
We started our trip in Ubud. Wanting to making sure that the trip was as memorable as possible, we decided to throw down and stay at the Ubud Hanging Gardens. The people of Bali are so friendly. I can't think of a single place I've gone where everyone was nicer. Our driver from the hotel was no exception, even with his limited English. After two and half hours, we arrived at our hotel, which felt a lot like arriving at Jurassic Park. Strangers in a strange land, surrounded by an overwhelming jungle full of dinosaurs (okay, maybe not that part). The Hanging Gardens are famous for how romantic they are with their hillside villas and private pools. Knowing this, I made sure to remark in my reservation that I was traveling with my brother and that we would need two separate beds. We may be from Missouri, but we're not that Missouri.
"Hello Mr. and...Mr...Pernikoff," the check-in woman said a bit quizzically. She was probably looking through her notes to see if we were there for a romantic couples trip or otherwise. Then we were told that the twin bed villa we requested wasn't actually available at the moment. Great. Nothing like spending 3 days cuddled up in bed with my brother.
In an amazing twist, they apologetically told us we'd be staying in largest option, the family villa. Well, okay then! We were taken down the little hillside tram (funicular) to our "room". Now I know what it feels like to be P.Diddy. We had a two story villa overlooking the valley below. The upstairs had a huge master bedroom with windows looking out over our pool, a gigantic bathroom, a huge deck and a private pool. The downstairs had another deck, twin beds and a separate large bath. Not too shabby for one unemployed college kid and his awesome older brother.
Our time at the resort was incredible, even with the heavy rainshowers we had to endure. The food was spectacular, the staff were delightful and I didn't have to cuddle with my brother (but I did it anyway).
The only negative thing that happened was a humongous spider decided to hang out just outside our shower window, making every shower a horrifying experience.