Shopping, spa-ing, sunsets, sipping cocktails …
There are certain things that will bring women together. I call them life-affirming hobbies. Others may call them interests.
Whatever you call them, these “S” words brought 12 women together for a girls’ shopping escape to Bali that will be remembered for all of the above as well as a few “F” words – (new) friendships, fabulous food and a whole lot of fun.
When Mrs Woog and Lea from Hello Me Escapes contacted me last year to see if I’d like to get on board with a hosted Bali trip with a shopping and styling focus, I hesitated for approximately 2.36 seconds.
I love Bali (this was my third visit), love the people and loved the idea of being able to explore some of the shopping options in Seminyak with a small group of likeminded women.
Likeminded women were just what we got. Some women were travelling solo (I love that these hosted trips make that possible); four women knew each other but all lived in different parts of Australia; and there was also a mother-daughter team (thank-you Georgie for putting up with all our old-lady banter all week!).
No matter where they came from, each woman brought with her a positive attitude – and that’s the number one thing you should pack when heading on holiday.
That and sixty billion kaftan and swimsuit cover-ups. More on that below.
Lea (and partner Geoff) made sure EVERYTHING went extremely smoothly. It was like travelling with a personal concierge team who second guessed your needs – even before you realised you had that need.
I want to pack them up and take them on every trip I do from this day forward.
13 tips for a girls’ shopping escape to Bali
1. The weather is hot and humid all year round. It will be stickier from October to April as that’s the rainy season. The rain generally doesn’t go all day, with storms whipping through super quickly. Go prepared for this and never venture more than two hours away from aircon and/or a pool and you will survive.
2. Care not what happens to your hair in such conditions. It’s a battle not worth fighting, my friends. I (stupidly) always pack my straightening iron and promptly never use it. If you stay permanently wet in a pool, no-one will be the wiser that the slicked-back look is unintentional. Do pack a conditioning treatment and use that instead of a conditioner. If your hair is long, embrace the top knot. Whatever your length of hair, distract from the frizzy situation with big earrings.
3. Plan for three clothing changes each day. Ok, if you don’t intend on leaving this pool, this doesn’t apply but if your days go a little something like this, it will. Rise, head to breakfast with swimsuit under cover-up; swim in pool; shower and change into “day” clothes for shopping out; sweat up a shopping storm before returning to accommodation for more swimming; shower and change into “evening” clothes for sunset chasing/dinner out. You could pack all these changes, or take advantage of local laundry services, or shop for your extra outfits.
Big thanks to Adrift Clothing for supplying our Team Kaftans …
And Sequins and Sand/Capriosca for making us feel confident in our swimsuits …
4. Keep hydrated. With water and cocktails … and Bintang if beer is your thing. Just don’t drink from the taps.
5. Help your gut out by taking probiotics before, during and after your trip. I was “lucky” to not succumb to Bali Belly until about an hour after I arrived safely home. This isn’t the post-holiday detox/cleanse I’d recommend but it did beat missing out on a couple of days of our holiday, like two in our party did. If you do get sick while in Bali, don’t hesitate to call the doctor. Your travel insurance should cover you.
6. Take out travel insurance. This should be a no-brainer but it’s an essential for any destination. For Bali, make sure your travel insurance covers any delays caused by the ash cloud.
7. Book a trusted driver. If you’re travelling to Bali and are looking to hire a driver for airport transfers and tours, I can highly recommend my driver, Dewa. We met Dewa almost four years ago and I loved being able to introduce him to the women on this trip. He’s extremely great at answering his Facebook page, so contact him there for more info and prices. For general travel around Seminyak, a taxi will work – you’ll pay less than $10 per trip. Your hotel may also have access to “local transport” drivers and you can agree on a set price for your trip before you start.
8. You will feel like a millionaire. Literally. One million rupiah equals $100. The notes are large in size so take a larger wallet or small zip pouch/clutch to handle them.
9. Plan your shopping attack. In the case of this trip, I mapped out a plan for our group over two sessions, with spare time at the end to go back and re-visit shops missed or ones that needed a second look. Seminyak shopping is not about super cheap bargains. It’s boutique shopping – but boutique shopping at Bali prices. In most stores (that sell their labels into Australia) you’ll pay less than in Australia. This can be 30-40% less so very much worth it.
Remember, it’s not a bargain if it’s a garment you won’t wear once you are home in your real life. Don’t just buy for wearing on holidays.
There are two main sections to Seminyak shopping – the streets leading to and around Seminyak Square – and also along Jl Raya Seminyak. Don’t try to do it all in one day. Spread out little “escapes” across your stay.
Fave fashion stores
Mist: Beautiful summer frocks in hand printed fabrics of the softest rayon. You have to try this fabric to believe. Perfect for a hot summer.
Biasa: Italian-designed floaty cottons in statement cuts that scream quality.
Sancerre: have longed loved their boho collection as well as bamboo slips and basics.
Frockk: Another Australian brand based in Bali, frockk’s signature style is all about effortless elegance through cotton/linen blends. Expect to pay about 30% less than in Australia.
Toko Emporium: Aussie expat Janet curates a fabulous collection of decor items, accessories and some clothing – you won’t be able to leave the store without buying something.
Drifter Surf: Mr SY loved this indie surf store and cafe. Awesome coffee and wi-fi and a refreshing addition to the big name surf brand stores which dominate the island.
69slam: I bought all the boys bamboo boxer shorts from here and they’ve not stopped raving about them. The vivid prints are a whole lot of fun too.
10. Chase sunsets. All that shopping can work up a thirst. It may be an east coast Australia thing but I can’t get enough of sunsets over the water. Seminyak offers up extremely good sunset-chasing venues. Venues that let you swim in their pools, drink cocktails and avail yourself of the bar snack menu.
Fave sunset venues
WooBar at The W: Settle in on a lounge under the lanterns and watch the sun set behind the W sign. Order the tacos and thin-crust pizza, washed down with Lemongrass Ginger Collins or Passionfruit Mojito.
Potato Head Beach Club: You’ll need to be early to secure a poolside lounge but it’s worth it for the most chilled way to appreciate a Seminyak sunset. Must-try drink: Millionaire Martini (vanilla vodka and fruit liqueur are shaken with passion fruit pulp and homemade organic vanilla sugar. Served straight up and accompanied by a Champagne chaser – layered with passion fruit foam)
Ku De Ta: Ku De Ta installed a pool since my last visit. Much appreciated. Don’t leave without trying the signature Watermelon Crush cocktail (vodka, watermelon, pink ginger beer, cinnamon and honey) and the lobster and pork gyoza.
Moonlite Bar: Conveniently located on the penthouse level our hotel (see below), this was also our breakfast venue each morning. Start your evening in the bar watching the sunset from above the water and head into the restaurant for amazing Asian food. We enjoyed a five-course banquet and thankfully had to only roll down the lift to our room afterwards. I don’t think the band – nor the couples having a romantic dinner – will ever recover from our collective dancing effort.
11. Re-charge in a spa. Shopping and sunset-chasing are indeed taxing. Best get yourself to a day spa. Stat. The original Seminyak day spa is Bodyworks – loved my visit there on our first trip to Bali. There wasn’t much time to linger post-treatment but it’s worth a booking. The Anantara Spa at our hotel was too convenient for us on this trip – plus our package included two spa treatments. I upgraded those treatments to a 90-minute Thai massage and an Elemis Pro-Collagen Quartz Lift facial. LOVED the Thai massage but, in hindsight, I would have been better choosing two massage treatments. Massages are what the Balinese are really good at. The facial experience also wasn’t ideal with my therapist leaving the room twice for quite some time (leaving the door open) to find missing product. Nearby Anantara, members of our group also tried Spa Bali – a great option offering an extensive range of treatments, with massages starting at $11 for 30 minutes.
12. Dine out on some of the best food in the world. Some of my top dining experiences have happened in Bali. The produce is fresh and the flavours everything you’d hope from Asian cuisine.
Faves dining venues
Sarong: One for the grown ups and up there with some of THE best dining experiences I’ve ever had. Still dreaming about the soft shell crab salad.
MAMA San: From the same family as Sarong, enjoy lunch or dinner of amazing Asian treats. My hot tip – try everything on the starter menu. Book ahead.
Motel Mexicola, Seminyak: Go for frozen margaritas, grilled corn with chipotle mayo and braised beet rib tacos.
Revolver, Seminyak: the big difference I found in the three years since visiting Bali was that good coffee was more plentiful. This was a favourite and also very much worth a breakfast or brunch stop.
Sisterfields, Seminyak: This Aussie-influenced cafe always has a line up outside – make it a must for breakfast, brunch or lunch.
13. Book accommodation that makes you feel like a (shopping) queen.
On my previous trips to Bali, we stayed in villa accommodation. This very much suited our needs at the time. This was my first time staying in a hotel – and a beachfront hotel at that. I’ll be hard pressed to give up that ocean view on any future visit.
The Anantara Bali is about five years old – and it has just 59 rooms/sorry SUITES, plus one penthouse. The suites are enormous – think dressing room, king-size bed, a bathroom with a rain shower and huge bath – and oh, there’s a bath on the balcony too.
Anantara fronts on to Seminyak Beach, with the main pool overlooking the beach – and beautifully shaded most of the morning. Only Aussies appreciate that, yes? The Europeans didn’t come out to play until it was in full sun. There is also another courtyard pool and some of the rooms have views of that. Others again on the bottom level at the front open directly on to another pool.
Me? I was lucky enough to score an ocean-view suite on the third level (fourth level is highest) and loved watching storms come through and waking up to the sound of the ocean.
What really made the stay at Anantara Seminyak all the more special? The staff. Whether it was bringing us drinks poolside, finding out whether I could buy a replacement cord for my laptop anywhere on the island, fetching me bandaids after an unfortunate toe and door incident on the first night, or greeting us by name each morning in reception, nothing was too much trouble and everything was done with a trademark Balinese smile.
So tell me, what tips can you add for anyone travelling to Bali on a girls’ shopping escape?
Interested in future trips to Bali with Styling You and Hello Me Escapes? Please email [email protected] to express your interest.
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