Sunset cocktails and candlelit dinners might all be very well for Valentine’s Day — off the island of Bali. But here, on the island, dear Don Juans and Mae Wests, you’ve really got to show a little more imagination: Cocktails and candlelight are de rigueur every day of the year here, after all.
Woo your lover with your mind by thinking up something a little out of the ordinary to do. If something below isn’t actually on the day itself, give a little hand-made voucher pledging to redeem it when the time is right; and then, of course, offer cocktails and a candlelit dinner.
1) Set sail while the sun rises
Hire a colourful local sailing boat from one of the bowl-helmet clad boatmen along sleepy Sanur beach to enjoy the pastel-coloured sky as the sun peeks behind distant, white-cliffed Nusa Penida. Pack a thermos of coffee and a few croissants to munch on as you and your beloved enjoy the views. The insect-like traditional boats will use sail if there’s enough wind, otherwise you’ll chug along using the engine. Another fine spot to watch the big sky’s baby pinks and blues melt away is from Amed. With Lombok in the distance, watch your boatman trawl for fish as you tell your lover you’ve already snared the catch of the day. Wherever you head, organise the boat the day before, so you can be sure your boatman will be there right before dawn. Negotiate the full price and length of time you’ll be out beforehand, too. For Sanur, expect to pay around 200,000 rupiah per hour, though of course it all depends on your negotiating skills. Amed should be slightly cheaper.
2) Get physical while the sun sets
Impress your beau with your knowledge of Bali’s best beaches and head to Balangan on the Bukit for a sunset walk, heart-to-heart and a back-to-basics beer at one of the half-dozen or so bamboo warungs. This excellent surfing beach has long been on surfers’ maps but it still feels like an adventure to get here. These days it’s quickly changing. You’ll be able to head back one day, say after your first child is born, and reminisce about back-in-the-day. Alternatively, ride into the sunset along Batu Belig beach on a couple of horses booked ahead of time from Umalas Equestrian Resort. The pounding of hooves into the volcanic sand, the vivid sky, the thundering surf… you get the idea. A 2-hour beach tour will set you back $72 per person.
3) Have a “whirl”wind romance
Bali is amazing at ground level, but even more so viewed from above. To really knock the socks off that someone special, charter a helicopter to whisk you both away into the big blue. Get a completely different perspective on those dramatic volcanoes, enamelled lakes and paddies, beaches, ancient temples in impossible locations and towering white cliffs. Air Bali has charter flights starting at US$990 for a 30-minute flight down to Uluwatu, for a maximum of four people. At that price, you may want to make it a double date, but either way you’ll be conjuring a priceless memory to last a lifetime. You may want to progress to one of the quieter suggestions on this list if you’re thinking of popping that lifetime question though, as it’ll be a little too noisy on board for whispering sweet nothings. And of course, make sure ahead of time that you check on whether the object of your desire is afraid of heights.
4) Learn about the birds and the bees
Lace up your hiking boots (or not – the boss does these walks in bare feet) and head to the breathtaking hills of Ubud with Victor Mason and his eagle-eyed sidekick Wayan Sumadi. Binoculars and lover in hand, wander with the pair on an enlightening walking tour through the paddy, wetlands, plantation and remaining old-growth forest jungle, pointing out birds, butterflies, dragonflies, interesting plants and all sorts of intriguing natural oddities. Revive along the way by sipping a young green coconut via a hand-fashioned straw. British-born Victor and Balinese Su have been running the offbeat walks since 1993 and their banter and exhaustive knowledge of the area will impress, well, whoever it is you’re trying to impress.
5) Listen to the sounds of silence
Yes, you’re in love: Gaze adoringly into each other’s eyes, not even murmuring words of endearment but simply, silently floating on air… well, maybe you’re floating in water. Buddy up with your beau and take the plunge diving for a date with a little drama. You’ll need to have appropriate certifications to go on a scuba dive to any of the truly interesting dive sites, so either take an entry level course if you haven’t got your card or try an introductory dive, which allows you to glimpse the underwater world under the watchful eyes of instructors. If that all seems like too much effort, consider snorkelling — when that big scary fish glides past you’ll have the perfect excuse to hold hands. Scuba Duba Doo offers snorkelling safaris, introductory dives as well as the PADI open water course.
6) Scream and shout and then make out
Bali Treetop Adventure Park at Bedugal is set amid towering – you guessed it – trees. Corporate groups use the Park for team building exercises but individuals can also strap on the safety gear and get high – as high as 20 metres. You’ll flit from tree to tree using suspended bridges, spider nets, flying foxes, swings and other tortuous looking devices. It looks a lot easier than it actually is, so you’ll probably have a few arguments working out how to get to the end of the course – think Amazing Race, without the cameras – but then you’ll have the rest of the evening to make it up to each other. Walk-in cost is US$20 per person. Too daunting? Sedate strawberry picking at one of the Bedugal farms might instead bring out your best inner Jane Austen character.
7) Picnic in the park
Pack a picnic hamper of wine, cheese, breads, dips and pastries (a one-stop shop such as the Bali Catering Company or Bali Deli will do the trick) and dine al fresco, sans sand. That’s right, forget about the beach and head instead to verdant Bedugal Botanical Gardens for a spacious spread of lawn as well as an array of exotic plants. A world away from paddy and surf, this cool spot is popular with picnicking locals but is so sprawling you’re bound to find a quiet corner to yourselves. If you do insist on a beachside picnic, hire an open-air VW with a driver, don scarves and sunnies and zip over to tucked away Whitesand Beach (Pasir Putih). Volks World offers full day trips for 450,000 rupiah, including driver.
8) Get wiped out
Of course, your lover already metaphorically wiped you out when you met, but how about experiencing the real deal together? Surfing after all is at heart all about the romance: the romance of the ocean, the romance of the crashing waves, the romance of being all alone when you catch that perfect tube… Rip Curl School of Surf offers a range of learn-to-surf classes, including private lessons you could arrange for two (one 75-minute class costs US$100 for one person). An alternative wipe-out might be white-water rafting on the Ayung River in Ubud. You’ll need to join with others for your adventure but amid the scenery – slicing through volcanic foothills draped with rainforest – and the adrenalin rush, you’ll only have eyes for you-know-who. Sobek organises two-hour class 2 expeditions costing US$79 per person.
(http://www.schoolofsurf.com, 0361 735 858) (http://www.balisobek.com)
9) Beat a retreat
Ingredients: One small bag, one lover and one cleansing, spiritual hideaway. Directions: Mix for several days, with dashes of yoga, swimming and massage. Recipe for: A truly reconnected couple ready to face the world united again. Magical Desa Seni, an array of individual houses shipped from around the Indonesian archipelago nestled in the rice fields of Canggu, offers regular yoga classes as well as an array of spiritual classes and retreats listed on their website. Their food is mostly organic, mostly vegetarian, and much of it comes directly from their garden. Spend time unwinding, retuning your bodies and getting in touch with each other again. A lower budget option but in the same vein is mountainside Prana Dewi, which offers regular yoga and meditation retreats along with organic food.
10) Let the love flow free
Forget boring old ordinary sensual massages at spas overlooking the sea… Take an intelligent approach to massage and use it to unblock any energy bottlenecks in your body, helping not just your romantic life but your holistic self. Ketut Arsana, a Balinese Mahatma therapist, is the founder of Ubud’s renowned Bodyworks, where physical, mental and spiritual healing is the order of the day. Book well ahead of time for consecutive half-hour massages including chakra healing with the master himself for 550,000 rupiah. Chakras are energy centres in the spine, with each of the seven chakras representing major areas of life as well as physical reactions in parts of the body. Chakra healing will clear any blocked energy, allowing the chakras, and therefore the person, to function as completely as possible. Read between the lines, people!