Our mouths drop at the sight of our villa; a private pool jutting from the embankment, outside comfy sofas and dining area edged by greenery, and inside the villa another deluxe lounging space, canopied bed, huge soaker tub, shower, plus a rustic spout on a deck for a cooling spray amid leafy surrounds – in total 2,152sqft of sumptuousness that has my husband Rick commenting, “Hey, we almost need walky-talkies.” I can’t even begin to imagine the 10,000-plus-sq-ft Royal Villa where Julia Roberts puttered about in between her jaunts into nearby Ubud to sit in the magical aura of medicine man Ketut Liyer while filming “Eat, Pray, Love”.

We are at Bali’s Four Seasons Sayan Resort & Spa, deep in the island’s dense jungle interior. Our usual budget-mode of travel is thrown to the soft tropical breezes – after all, our week in Bali includes our Wedding Anniversary, and we’re ready to lavish ourselves in luxury in this hide-a-way renowned for its ultra- pampering.

A dip in our tepid pool water under a canopy of azure sky is an apropos beginning and end to each day, and oft in between. We enter another realm – in that our usual “average” accommodation is a place to crash after a day of sight-seeing – while now it is difficult to pull ourselves away from our little slice of paradise.  Well… except to be drawn to a larger slice in the resort’s many walkways sided by lush terrain, mini-rice paddies, and to sit and ponder life with a cool brew at the Riverside Café while keeping an eye out for river rafters being jostled along the Ayung River below.

The most taxing decision of the day is what will be our culinary delight. One superb choice is Sate Lilit Bali with selection of Satays; seafood skewered on sticks of sugar cane, chicken on lemon grass sticks, and beef on bamboo, with dips of peanut and tomato sambal (chilli-based) sauces. This appetizer is followed by Pepes Ikan – melt-in-your-mouth red snapper grilled in turmeric leaves, with a sensational blend of wok-fried seasoned vegetables.

Another frontal-lobe workout is to narrow down what spa bliss to choose from Sayan’s inner-focus treatments, incorporating chakra, Balinese Ayurvedic practices, yoga and meditation. I finally go with “Tiger Grass Cooler” that promises to hydrate and tone my outer skin, as well as rebalance my internal constitution. My masseuse Ita scrubs my skin with organic “kola” (tiger grass) and walnut body polish till my skin tingles, followed by a warm oil massage of long strokes which soothes core-deep. It was on to my bath scented with frangipani flowers, before a final moisturizing kukai nut body rub. I drift out of the spa as light as a feather feeling calm, cool and rejuvenated.

It is a good day to follow in Julia’s footsteps to the culturally-rich town of Ubud to visit the many temples, bustling markets, and to witness the antics of Balinese Macaques in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. We then follow paths leading to craft villages each with their own specialty – from wood carvings, to batik cloth making, to silver jewellery.

To encapsulate the best of both Bali worlds, mid-week we move on to our next Shangri-la, the Four Seasons Resort & Spa nestled beside the ocean on Jimbaran Bay. The design of our Jimbaran villa is slightly different in its over 2,000 sq ft design, but every bit as good at addressing all our creature-comforts. Moments after arriving, Rick and I look at each other and grin, not needing words to concur that a dip in our private pool with an ocean view is first on our agenda, after which we are drawn out of our private cocoon in order to explore more delights of this beach resort.

Following the meandering paths we check out the half-dozen restaurants, the elaborate spa, gym, and small art gallery.  Ending up at the Pool Terrace Café, we don’t even attempt to resist taking a quick dip in the sizable infinity pool that appears to flow into the faultless blue of the Indian Ocean.  From the pool we plunk onto chaise lounges and sip cappuccinos which I can’t ever remember tasting so good, while Rick voices my thought, “Can life get any better than this?”

We are delighted that a group from the nearby village will perform classical dances in front of the resort temple to the beat of “gong” music (a traditional collection of musical instruments nearly all percussion).  A dance of welcome by three tiny girls, a Balinese warrior waving a dagger, and a temple ceremony entrance us with displays of intricate hand, feet and beguiling eye movements.

A day in the town of Kuta is spent browsing through funky shops, sipping cool beverages in neat cafes with surfer dudes and sun-browned tourists, and lingering until Mother Nature performs her sensational sunset extravaganza.

Our Anniversary morning starts with a dip in our villa pool (of course) followed by decadent nut pancakes with pineapple commode, fresh mango juice, and several cups of full-bodied locally grown coffee.  A short stroll to the resort’s Coconut Grove Beach is filled with dips in the deep blue sea and sitting under umbrella lounges to sip, munch, read and people watch the day away.

A romantic dinner arrives at our villa with precision at 6:30 p.m. on trays hoisted by young servers, who adorn the table with candles, batik place mats, linen napkins, and silverware…then lift covers with a flourish off steaming hot delicacies before disappearing, leaving us encased in tantalizing odours while we toast our special occasion with ice-cold Bintang (beer being our choice beverage with the warmth of the evening).  We savour the mahi-mahi medallions brazed to perfection, and the sautéed mushroom, cheery tomatoes and asparagus that we coax from underneath the ample fish portions.  A separate dish of oh-so-good potato gratin with parmesan, and addictive freshly deep-fried peanut crackers are soon history.  We sit back content in the after-math of this exquisite feast and exceptional day.

Bidding farewell to this utopia, we pat ourselves on the back for thinking up this outstanding week and decreeing such an ultimate experience will become our Anniversary tradition.

Photo Credits: Rick Butler

More Info:

– Visa-on-Arrival is valid for 30 days.

– Air – international and domestic airlines fly toBali.

– Bus/Ferry – numerous bus companies have daily bus & ferry combo packages from major cities in Java toBali.  Ferry services also run between other major islands andBali.

Four Seasons Sayan Resort & Spa

http://www.fourseasons.com/sayan/

Four Seasons Jimbaran Resort & Spa

http://www.fourseasons.com/jimbaranbay/

Irene Butler’s website:  http://www.globaltrekkers.ca/