Some say this island is over-cooked, a paradise that has lost its way. But really it has just evolved, transforming from a low-key hippie haven to a soulful big hitter where you can stay smart but still find a barefoot vibe
Bali is abuzz. It has been for quite a while. This is where Charlie Chaplin came to party with Noël Coward, after all. But now more so than ever, and in a different way. You can see it from one end of the island to the other, though nowhere more so than in Seminyak, on the coast to the west of the capital, where the hotel, bar and shopping scene has gone from simmering to stratospheric. It is a magnet for creative people from all over the world, those on a mission to opt out of the rat race and take their chances here. You don’t have to arrive on a one-way ticket to buy into this new vibe. The point is that, despite the grumbles about over-development, Bali continues to have huge appeal.
The government is now putting greater emphasis on the environment by tightening building rules, and in terms of sustainability and economic growth, parts of the island, such as the laid-back town of Ubud, have proven that the two can go hand-in-hand. Elsewhere, several big hotel brands have set up spectacular sandcastles. There’s The Chedi Sakala, on the south-eastern coast, and the Fairmont, on 200 metres of white sand in Sanur. Alila will open its fifth outpost in Bali later this year, in red-hot Seminyak. The people behind the hit Potato Head Beach Club are launching all-suite hotel The Katamama, and Philippe Starck his much-anticipated The Stairs. Meanwhile, Four Seasons has given its Sayan property an eco-sensitive refurb; the various Amans remain standard-bearers; and the COMO Shambhala Estate, high above the Ayung Gorge, is sitting as pretty as ever – as is the cliff-top Bulgari on the Bukit Peninsula, 150 metres above the Indian Ocean.