Tucked away on the eastern side of the island of Bali is Manggis, home of Alila Manggis, a secluded resort on a wonderfully tranquil beach. It's not far from the village of Candi Dasa in the Karangasem region. Set amidst a coconut grove, the resort is beautifully located between the ocean and the majestic Mount Agung, Bali's most sacred mountain.
Its 54 rooms and corner suites are housed in traditional two-storey thatched Balinese pavilions, reminiscent of a village wantilan or meeting hall. All face the ocean, across the straits to Nusa Penida.
Superior rooms, which are on the lower floor of each of the four blocks, have a private terrace and deluxe rooms on the upper level have a balcony with day bed. Suites have large balconies suitable for outdoor dining and sundeck.
The blocks are built around a palm-fringed pool, a central feature of the resort. It is designed as an inverted pyramid, which creates shallow waters around the edges and deep water in the centre. After a day of relaxing around this oasis, Mandara Spa offers traditional Indonesian and Balinese treatments, from facials to aromatherapy massage.
A neighbouring organic salt farm was the inspiration for the name of the resort restaurant, Seasalt. It is in a traditional Balinese pavilion on a lotus pond and serves contemporary as well as Indonesian and Balinese favourites. It is also an integral element in the Alila Manggis cooking school.
This offers the only East Balinese specialty program on the island. The experience begins with a visit to the morning Klungkung markets, which just burst with fresh produce and spices. Half the lesson is spent cooking and the other discovering Bali from a culinary and cultural point of view. Learn to prepare everything from satays to sambals to traditional sweets, while learning about local pastes, sauces and curries. They offer half-day sessions, two and five-day programs. Part of the appeal is that lessons are not held in a stark kitchen, but a gazebo in a lush garden. You even get to take home notes and recipes so you can impress friends with your new talents.
Water sports abound in this part of the world and the resort has wave skis, snorkel masks and fins for hire. They also have an outrigger which takes guests to the Blue Lagoon, a colourful reef teeming with marine life. East Bali has some spectacular dive sites, all close to Alila Manggis.
The resort offers walking tours, taking in sights such as Mount Agung's mother temple at Besakih and spectacular terraced hillsides. You can also arrange to see the traditional Bali Aga village of Tenganan, water palaces of Tirtagangga and Ujung, the weaving village of Sidemen, the Kerta Gosa Palace of Justice at Klungkung and various Balinese temples. A knowledgeable local guide can take you on treks to Gumang Hill, Kastala to Tenganan, off the beaten track through verdant rice paddies or Mount Agung to view a spectacular sunset. Treks range from two to six hours.
Why not visit a most interesting local while you are in Manggis? Nyoman Mandra is the foremost painter and leader of the younger generation of traditional arts painters and carries on the tradition of the creation and understanding of the astrological Balinese calendar. During a visit to his house and with the help of a translator from Alila, Mandra will give guidance about special events, planning, purchases and your everyday life.