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Milestone Birthday Trips: Celebration Inspiration

in Tips by
Bali party villa Umah Daun Umalas

We know what you’ve been doing in our villas and we like it. Your birthday parties are fabulous. The surprises, the laughs, the photos – incredible. We can’t think of a better reason for a memorable holiday in our villas, or a better way to celebrate a big birthday.

Are you (or someone you’d love to celebrate) approaching a 30th, 40th, 50th or 60th birthday? Planning a destination event to celebrate is easier than you might think.

James, who just turned 30, planned his Bali Birthday by himself and was very pleased with how it turned out.

“I’ve loved every minute of this holiday and that’s because of the fantastic Villa Umah Daun and Elite Havens team. Thanks for making my 30th birthday my best yet!”

He started planning his birthday trip about one year in advance, when it occurred to him that the big 3-0 was a good excuse to bring people together for a holiday in Bali. The hardest thing about coordinating a group holiday – picking the date – was done. Before calendars filled up with too many other appointments and occasions, James’s 30th was penciled in.

For his friends and family in Australia and New Zealand, the travel distance to Bali was feasible, so the invitation to his special ends-in-an-0 birthday was hard to turn down. A group of twenty agreed to join James for his milestone birthday trip, and the rest quickly fell into place.

They chose two Elite Havens villas – Villa Umah Daun and Villa Surya Damai. Both are five-bedroom villa rentals in Umalas (smack between the tourist haunts of Seminyak and Canggu).

Bali Birthday Party at Villa Umah Daun

According to the B-day boy, everyone was blown away by the size of the villas, their amenities and the personal service they received from start to finish. James reserved the villas directly with Elite Havens, so our team were aware of his birthday and his preferences before arrival.

A milestone birthday trip means your fête will exceed the 24-hours of your birthDAY. You don’t have to choose between having a daytime pool party or a barbecue or a dinner party or hire a band or go out dancing – you can do them all.

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Blissful, Beguiling and Back in Business

in Tips by
Sri Lanka map

The first time I visited Sri Lanka there was a war on. Twenty years, 40+ 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 thanks to a series of newly paved and widened roads.

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.

Take your time, slow down to Sri Lanka speed

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. 

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Visiting Galle? Do Not Miss These 5 Attraction Sites

in Tips by

Galle in Sri Lanka is a perfect example of the fusion of European and Asian styles. Its natural beauty, superb archaeological location and rich heritage have made it an outstanding coastal city of Sri Lanka.

It is hard to believe that a city that is buzzing with business activities has managed to successfully preserve ancient heritage in such an amazing manner. If you are travelling to Galle for the first time, include these 5 attraction sites into your must-visit list.

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1.The UNESCO-Listed Galle Fort

The Galle Dutch Fort is a rare historical jewel protected by dark, thick stone walls – with the endless ocean on one side. It was built first in 1588 by the Portuguese, then extensively fortified by the Dutch during the 17th-century from 1649 onwards. Even after more than 428 years, the roads inside the Galle Fort have hardly changed, like the squares on a chess board crisscrossing in regular patches. Straight and narrow lanes branch in and out inviting the visitor to a delightful walk into the 17th century. The fort is big enough to feel a tiny bit lost at times, but small enough to explore on foot.

No.39 Galle Fort is tucked along Lighthouse Street in Galle Fort. The historic heritage house is airy, spacious and charming. Ideal for families and a group of friends looking for an easy access to the many iconic attractions on this historic locale – Galle Fort’s iconic landmarks are only footsteps away.

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2. Galle Fort Lighthouse

Another fantastic landmark is the Galle Lighthouse, Sri Lanka’s oldest light station, dating back to 1848. The original 24.5-metre-high lighthouse (built by the British) was destroyed by fire in 1934. Standing tall at 26.5-metre-high, the current lighthouse was erected in 1939 to replace it.

Come here early morning and you might catch the fishermen on their stilts, or late afternoon to see the sunset. A relaxing walk on the fortification along the sea is highly recommended.

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3. Japanese Peace Pagoda

Built by Nipponzan Myohoji monks, the Japanese Peace Pagoda is one of the most tranquil attractions of the city and exudes a sense of calm. If you came to Galle seeking for spirituality and inner peace, this is the place to be.

The Pagoda is only a short walk from/to the Jungle Beach.

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24 hours in Batu Bolong

in Recreation by

Having settled into your exquisite villa on this island paradise, it’s time to head out and explore Bali’s hippest ‘hood – Batu Bolong.

While Canggu is a cool collection of gorgeous green tropical tracts of rice paddy with smatterings of sacred cows, Batu Bolong is blooming into the hottest locale for chic bohemian lifestyle.

Think organic market and chichi yoga meets beach-bum couture accessorised by celebrity-anointed designers. The food is fab too.

Secure that chauffeur-driven car and kick the day off with a tres authentic French breakfast at the holy shrine of Monsieur Spoon, or graze on the most amazing Nagu Bomb breakfast bowl of sweet local fruit, coconut milk and granola at Betelnut Café. Cool cafés are a growth industry on this strip, so check out the super buzzing Crate, the uber healthy Avocado and the recently opened Bro – an intriguing mash up of ‘awesome Chinese and authentic French’ – while you’re here.

Machine-porn at Malamadre is where custom-created motorcycles are produced from a tiny workshop, while over at the epic Deus ex Machina they are customised alongside surfboard shapers, a barber, live music and food.

Artist types longing to embrace Bali’s creative realm will adore silver smithing at the House of Alia where professionals share their painting and jewellery-making skills at workshops for small groups, including kids from age seven.

If the main game is retail therapy, the starting point is near the ‘Deus’ intersection.

Twentyone/Degrees stocks swimwear, jewellery and clothing ranges, while Flow & Yonder is a smokin’ hot surf-wear institution up some super-steep steps.

Puravida has non-resort-style women’s casuals while Asmara offers fashion with a Balinese spin. Nearby Horn has concept street-wear while a hop across the road to Bottle Avenue will secure some grape-based libations and vinyl music is sold next door.

Kiki’s Kloset has gorgeous beach-bum wear and smashing dresses. Blak is for the little ones and The Berawa Art House is worth inspecting, while opposite is Moon Rocks and 69 Slam – famous for teens.

Batu Bolong blooms restaurants like so many flowers, with a clutch being the chilled siblings of swank Seminyak outfits.

Kitchen Rustica offers classic Italian take-out made with love while inside the pod of shops at Love Anchor is the Roman restaurant Pinsology, dedicated to dishing pinsa – a type of pizza from Rome – plus tiramisu.

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Friday night on the tiles: bar hopping in Bali

in Wellness by

Everyone deserves to let loose at the weekend – even more so when on vacation. From stunning sunset views in cozy beach bars to distinctive tapas and cocktails in chic surroundings here’s where we love to kick off a Bali weekend.

5pm sunset cocktails at La Laguna

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With its beachfront locale and vintage décor showcasing shabby-island-chic, this place is the new hot spot for sunset drinks attracting expat crowds and visitors alike. Cozy up on colourful cushions and sip yummy cocktails to the chill-out beats or mingle up by the bar. 

Address: La Laguna, Berawa beachfront

6-8pm canapés at MÉTIS Lounge 

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Comes Friday, the trendy MÉTIS Lounge hosts Aperochic evening where a top-notch sound system and the best local and international DJs create a chic atmosphere for aperitifs with friends. In addition to great cocktails using only high-end liquor brands like Beluga Vodka, Patrón Tequila and Dom Pérignon, a Mediterranean-oriented tapas menu with a touch of Japanese flavour based on the ‘sharing is caring’ concept is served. Dress to impress.

Address: Jalan Petitenget no.6

9pm cocktails and Asian bites at Mama San

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By this time we are craving some more food and head to the upper level of Mama San where leather club chairs, ottomans, a plump banquette with scatter cushions and Raja palace lights, chandeliers and candles twinkling softly create the perfect ambience to chill-out with tasty cocktails and amazing Asian bites by the famous chef Will Meyrick.

Address: Jalan Raya Kerobokan No. 135 

10.30pm it’s champagne o’clock at Red Carpet Champagne Bar

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Boasting Indonesia’s largest selection of Champagne, this Seminyak icon is cozy and intimate, with a sexy splash of course. As one might expect of a Champagne bar, there is an exclusive feel – yet the atmosphere remains light, playful and casually fun.

Address: Oberoi Street 42C

12am dance the night away at Mint

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Mint is Bali’s most renowned and respected house music club, known for its credible history of guest DJs, state of the art sound, lush interior and world-class cocktails all within a club that’s set to impress: rich timbers, marble floors, a backlit glass bar, big comfortable sofas and private VIP lounging.

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