Planning for a Bali Christmas
If you fancy doing something a little different this year, why not spice up your festive season by opting for a Balinese Christmas? Although spending the festive season on a Hindu island may seem like an odd choice, there is no need to worry, Bali has, by now, fully embraced the Christmas spirit and you will find plenty of opportunities for carols, present buying and stuffing yourself with more food than seems humanly possible!
Where to stay?
Bali is full of great accommodation options no matter your budget, the only difference with being there over Christmas is that its a good idea to book up early as this is a popular time and places fill up quickly.
Despite being a relatively small island, the different parts of Bali are very diverse when it comes to atmosphere, so its a good idea to work out what sort of holiday you are after and book accordingly. As a rough guide: Kuta is very much a party scene, you will find some nicer bits, but expect to see a lot of Bintang singlets; Seminyak and Legian are a little more sophisticated but staying there will still keep you very much at the centre of things; Canggu is like the more laidback little sister of Seminyak, plenty of great shops and bars, but a slightly slower pace of life; for a great family holiday, you can’t go wrong with Nusa Dua, Jimbaran or Sanur, all three have beautiful beaches and some world class resorts; Ubud is considered to be the cultural heart of the island, its not the place to go for a beach holiday but gives great access to some amazing cultural sites, has some beautiful places to stay and is surrounded by stunning mountain scenery.
Where to shop?
There is always time for a bit of last minute Christmas shopping and Bali has not gained its reputation as a shopper’s haven without good reason. Although prices have risen somewhat over the last few years, there are still plenty of great bargains to be had, if you know where to look.
Seminyak is the first place that springs to mind when it comes to shopping in Bali. Although it is at the higher end of the scale price wise, there are some truly beautiful homeware shops and more designer clothing stores than you can shake a stick at. The centrepiece of the Seminyak shopping experience is the Seminyak Village Mall, a high end shopping centre that always pulls out all the stops when it comes to Christmas. Last year they had a ‘Christmas spirit celebration’ which included costume competitions, facepainting, carolling, reindeer games and a chance to meet Santa.
The Beachwalk Mall over in Kuta is another great option for anyone seeking some festive retail therapy. Here you will find a few familiar shops, such as Zara and H&M, mixed in with some Bali staples like Bamboo Blonde. The Christmas festivities are always great, plenty of decorations and Santa in residence. As an added bonus, the beach is only a couple of minutes walk, so if you, or any little ones, fancy a change of scene the salvation of sun, sea and sand is always close at hand.
Whilst there are benefits to shopping in department stores and high end shops, not least the fixed prices, if you really want to get the most from your money you need to hit up some of the local stalls and art markets (many of the department stores have their own internal art markets, which can be great if you are in a rush, but expect to pay at least 2 – 3x what you would pay outside for the same items).These are great places to buy gifts for friends and family – think local craftwork, colourful fabrics and funky souvenirs. Even better, as long as you have learnt the art of haggling, they can often be had for only a few dollars.
Where to eat?
You can’t have a proper Christmas without a truly epic Christmas dinner. Its always a good idea to check your hotel restaurant for any Christmas specials as many places will put on their own festivities for guests, but, in case you do feel like going out, here are a few suggestions:
Jemme has got itself a bit of a reputation as one of the places in Bali to enjoy a traditional Christmas lunch. The restaurant itself is stylish and sophisticated and, if you are after turkey (and all the trimmings), mince pies, roasted chestnuts and mulled wine with Christmas pudding and a yule log to finish, then this is the place to go.
Ji is generally considered to be one of Canggu’s best restaurants and cocktail bars. The venue is spread over three floors of a 300 year old temple and has some fantastic views over Canggu and the Indian Ocean. Last year’s celebrations consisted of an asian inspired ‘Christmas Under the Stars’ held on their roof top terrace – maybe not one for the traditionalists, but for those willing to experiment a little, it could turn out to be an unforgettable experience
A meal at the St. Regis is always worthwhile whatever time of year it is, but, at Christmas they really push the boat out. The buffet lunches are to die for (come for the chocolate fountain and stay for, well, everything else really!)
The food here is not cheap (although with the amount I usually manage to eat at the buffet, that is arguable), but you will not find better quality. The resort has two restaurants to choose from, Boneka, home of the aforementioned buffet, along with a live jazz band and Christmas choir and the elegant beachfront Kayuputi where you can expect plenty of fresh seafood and bubbles to wash it all down.
Finn’s Beach Club:
Finn’s is a beach club in Canggu, that has world class sports, spa, dining and drinking facilities and this year they are partnering up with the Jodie O’Shea Orphanage to put on a full day of Christmas celebrations. The fun is set to really get going at 11am when the brunch buffet opens up (although the club’s waterpark opens at 9am) and continues throughout the day with carols, sung by the orphans, jumping castles, presents from Santa and a Christmas movie for all the kids.
At the end of the day …
For the perfect end to your tropical Christmas, head down to the beach, or find your nearest rooftop bar, and see out the day with one of the island’s many firework displays.