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Crowd-pleasing villa rentals and wisdom for worry-free holidays with kids

The Ultimate Bali Summer Events Guide You’ll Need

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No matter what time of year, expect a holiday in Bali to be bustling with activity. But in the months of July and August, when the days are sunniest and the weather is driest, the island turns into a veritable party island. A wealth of activities are on-hand. Whether you’re travelling with friends, family, or your significant other, expect to be flooded with choice. Festivals, concerts, events and conventions are aplenty. These are the months Bali is most alive.

In September, as things die down, there is still a plethora of activities – what with less traffic and cheaper airfare. Everyday is a discovery, but with less people populating the streets.

Whichever month you choose to come to Bali, an elite haven will always be waiting for you. Grab your suitcase and head to the Island of the Gods!

JULY
Surfing Contests

The sponsors and activities change every year but you’ll find top international surf contests being held throughout the summer. It’s not just peak tourist season but also peak wave season! Surf to your heart’s content!

When: July and August

Where: Padang Padang Beach, West Sumatra

Gypsy Land

Equivalent to Burning Man – but in Bali – Gyspy Land is an art-filled techno festival in Seminyak. Three hectares of land are flooded with revelers dressed in outrageous gear and costumes that will make your eyes pop. There are two themes to explore: Alice in Wonderland and Mad Max.

When: July 13-14

Where: Seminyak

Bali Blues Festival 

Does the smooth sounds of the Blues titillate you? Then this is where you need to be. The Bali Blues Festival is back for its fifth year, featuring musicians from around the globe.

When: July 13 – 14

Where: Peninsula Island, Nusa Dua

Makepung Race, Governor’s Cup

Makepung is a tradition from the agrarian livelihood of the island and the race of water buffalo is a wonderful spectacle. The racing course is about 2 kilometres and the farmers come to race for honour.

When: July 14

Where: Jembrana, West Bali

Tulamben Festival

This event highlights exhibitions and a fantastic art and culture parade.

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Inspiring Art-Filled Villas in Bali

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One of the best things about private villas in Bali is that none of them are the same. Forget uniform lobbies, drab bedding and boring white walls. Think fascinating artefacts, colourful furnishings, amazing art and unique design from around the world, all representing the heritage and lifestyle of their owners. To give you an idea of the delights on offer, we’ve scoured Bali for ‘art-full’ villas that will win over the heart of even the most sophisticated art connoisseur.

Villa Asada, Candidasa

Villa Asada is a contemporary expression of Balinese style, filled with antiques and comfortable furnishings. In every corner is a spot of simple elegance and luxury, lovingly strewn with Oriental decor.  Buddha and other characters in Asian history take centre stage. Little pockets of space prove that in decorating, as in life, less is truly more. 

Villa Canggu, Canggu

Indonesian contemporary artists turn Villa Canggu into a living exhibition that could easily compete with many art galleries around the world. Eddy Susanto’s visual interpretation on the heritage of the Mayan people, who scandalised the world with their 2012 Armageddon prediction, is displayed here just around the corner from Yudi Sulistyo’s interpretation of modern-day life: a hanging metal spaceship entitled “World Without Sea”. Ronald Apriyan’s series of three paintings represents how modern-day women can choose to be whatever they want to be. Grab a glass of wine and start exploring.

Kaba Kaba Estate, Tabanan

For more than 20 years, the owners of Kaba Kaba Estate have been avid art collectors, and the villa serves as a showcase for their beloved treasures, which range from fascinating antiques to contemporary works of art displayed throughout the gardens and pavilions. These include Cai Zhi Song’s Ode to Motherland #5, a striking 2013 bronze of a male figure, inspired by an ancient image of a Qin dynasty warrior, to Sohan Jakhar’s Untitled (2009), which hangs above a guest bedroom headboard, and Hannes D’Haese’s sculpture Just a Dog, a pink resin bulldog that, along with its yellow counterpart, guards the entrance to the guesthouse. 

Then there’s the surprisingly recent (three decades old) 8-foot-long Indonesian carving of paddlers in a boat, displayed above a puckish Dodit Artawan oil on canvas depicting Barbie dolls and liquor bottles; Dadi Setiyadi’s White Goat, a 2011 canvas that reimagines Caravaggio’s John the Baptist as a loincloth-clad figure festooned with swirling Dayak tattoos,

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Sri Lanka National Parks and Wildlife Sanctuaries

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Birds at Kalametiya Park

Famed for the historic Galle Fort district, tea industry and pristine family-friendly beaches, Sri Lanka is also known for its several national parks, animal reserves and wildlife sanctuaries.

When holidaying on the south coast, don’t miss the chance to visit at least one of the protected wetlands or other animal habitats. Day trips are fun for the whole family and easy to arrange ahead. Road trips around the country require a bit more planning. Why not start now? Here are a few of the most popular animal attractions in Sri Lanka.

 Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

Established in 1938, this is one of the oldest protected wildlife parks in Sri Lanka and is celebrated as one of the best eco-birdwatching destinations in the entire world.

Heron birdwatching at Kalametiya Bird Sanctuary

THINGS TO DO Birdwatching, photography, kid-friendly rock climbing, early morning or afternoon paddle boat cruise

WILDLIFE Over 150 bird species including Indian Reef Heron, Sri Lankan black-capped purple Kingfisher, Glossy Ibis, Jungle Fowl, Black Bittern, Slatybreasted Crake, Watercock, 20 mammal species, 40 types of fish, 40 exotic reptiles

BEST TIME TO VISIT Kalametiya is home to several local bird species, and more migrant birds come to roost and nest each year between November and March

LOCATION 20 km from Tangalle city, the sanctuary is near the village of Hungama on the south coast of Sri Lanka

GETTING THERE Via train or private transportation, the exit for the sanctuary is clearly marked on the A2 near the 214 and 218 km posts

WEBSITE kalametiyabirds.lk

Minneriya National Park

The site of The Gathering, a world-famous elephant spectacle, Minneriya is a protected 8,890-hectare reserve within Sri Lanka’s famed Cultural Triangle. Critical to the biodiversity in this habitat are its natural wetlands, water tanks and irrigation systems.

The Gathering at Minneriya National Park

THINGS TO DO Jeep tours; Wildlife photography

WILDLIFE Approximately 200 wild (Asian) elephants, various migratory and aquatic bird species, wetland mammals

BEST TIME TO VISIT The dry season, usually late August to October is when groups of elephants congregate here

LOCATION Less than 10 km from Habarana on the Colombo Polonnaruwa road

GETTING THERE Entrance requires a permit from the Ambagaswewa wild life conservation office, so guided tours are the way to go

Bundala National Park

Made up of brackish lagoons,

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Blissful and Beguiling Sri Lanka

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The first time I visited Sri Lanka there was a war on. Twenty-plus years, 40-plus visits and a beach house later, how things have changed! In 1997, tourists were restricted to the southwest corner of the island – from Bentota through Galle round to Yala National Park. Now the whole of this aptly named “island of serendipity”, is open for business, and what a delight it is to explore.

“Journeys are long although the distances are short,” was the mantra of my loyal driver, Lucky, back then. And he wasn’t wrong.

To get to Colombo from the UNESCO-listed Fort at Galle (only 125km) you had to endure a 4 to 5-hour journey of hair-raising overtaking along an inadequate coast road. Traffic would grind to a halt on the approaches to Colombo, and crossing the capital to reach the airport was a war of attrition.

Now, a sparkling dual carriageway whisks you from the airport to downtown Colombo in 30 minutes and Galle can be reached in just over the hour. The delightful south-coast bays of Weligama, Dikwella, Matara and Mirissa (of whale-watching fame) are in easy reach. The Cultural Triangle, with its ancient cities of Polonnaruwa and Anuradhapura, and the historic centres of Dambulla and Sigiriya, are also much more accessible.

The hill stations of Nuwara Eliya, Ella and Horton Plains are still not easy to reach by road, although the train is a popular, more relaxing alternative. But once there, the stunning tea plantations and panoramic trekking country make for a magical setting. Sit back in a planter’s chair, sip a G&T and enjoy the colonial splendour.

Pasikudah, Trincomalee and the Jaffna Peninsula were pretty much off limits to all but the brave and/or foolhardy until 2009, so visiting the stunning beaches of the east coast was nearly impossible. Gravel tracks, frequent check points, mine sappers and curfews made travel long and arduous – our worst east-to-west-coast road trip took staggering 17 hours at the height of the conflict. Today, seeing 300 wild elephants watering at dusk in Minneriya National Park should be on everyone’s bucket list, as should the spice gardens around Kandy and the crystal clear waters of Nilaveli Beach running up to Pigeon Island. 

Wilupattu National Park was closed during the war to prevent Tamil insurgents reaching Colombo and Bandaranaike International Airport.

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An Amazing Thai Christmas For You and Your Whole Family

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How do you plan to celebrate Christmas this year? Imagine idyllic beaches, gentle sea breeze, swaying palm trees, and gourmet dining. Add to that, a touch of culture with traditional Thai dances and stunning views that reach for the horizon. A stress-free holiday where you can laze in bed until noon and lounge under the sun all day. Beach volleyball, a swim in the pool and sunset cocktails to end the day. Do we have your attention? You can have all this, and more, if you head to an elite haven in Thailand this Christmas.

 No more sweating it out in the kitchen to prepare a Christmas meal. Sit back as your villa chef arranges the most exquisite feast. Wine and dine with your nearest and dearest, and say cheers to ending the year on a high note. You’ll want for nothing in Thailand.

Phuket

If you decide to go to Phuket for the holidays, Baan Paa Talee is a magnificent and modern estate set on top of a cliff. The villa can fit up to 20 guests and there is a wealth of activities you can do nearby, including exploring the Andaman Sea aboard a luxury yacht charter, scuba diving or snorkelling to explore the enchanting underwater world. The beautiful sights of Phang Nga Bay, Raya Islands, Similan Islands, Koh Phi Phi and more are all within a day’s sail. You can delve into Phuket’s decadent brunches, DJ dance parties and romantic sunset dinners or discover the rich history and get a glimpse of local life on a cultural tour of Phuket Old Town.

Or if you prefer, you can simply stay in the villa and enjoy the dining room which can accommodate up to 20 guests, play a game on the pool table in the games area, have a karaoke party and or just lounge at the bar by the pool deck. Events with up to 80 guests can be arranged, so get your Christmas party-planning on. Make it a trip to remember.

If you’re looking for a cosy villa by the ocean for your Christmas holiday, try Villa Malee Sai. Discover the true meaning of Christmas as you spend time with your family or friends in this private and charming villa.

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