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Bali is a tiny, beautiful and culturally intense island. It is paradise, no denying it. It has all the hallmarks of a dream. Exotic temples, phenomenal landscapes, stunning beaches and friendly people who practice a mainly Hindu religion, laying floral offerings and incense to their gods at almost every turn. It is also the nearest "foreign" place to the mighty continent of Australia. As such, it has become a bit of a magnet for a certain type of Australian holidaymaker and a less than salubrious reputation has emerged as a result. Denpasar, the capital city, is beyond hectic. Away from the tourist hot spots though, where the rowdy Aussies congregate, notably Kuta beach, it is still the enchanting nirvana that so captivated Elizabeth Gilbert in her best-selling memoir "Eat Pray Love". The book has brought a new flock of literary followers to Bali, hoping to emulate the success of Gilbert in finding the great love of her life. These women make a beeline for Ubud.

Ubud has always been a hippy-dippy hangout, up in the hills, sculpted into terraces by rice paddies that are still worked by oxen. For yoga, ayurvedic medicine, massage and spiritual enlightenment, Ubud has long been the mecca and more so than ever, thanks to "Eat, Pray Love". It is described as an artist's colony, though much of the art on sale is of rather dubious quality and along the Monkey Forest Road, the main thoroughfare, there are some seriously tacky souvenir shops. The authentic Bali is a bit more hidden away from these obvious commercial centres and top end developers have recognized this with the growing rise in seriously 5 star remote resorts.

One of these is the awesome Alila Villas in Uluwatu, a multi-award winning haven of sumptuousness. Each villa has its own pool and its own private butler to attend to guests every whim. Its situation, perched right at the very edge of a staggering escarpment, makes for exceptional views over the Indian Ocean. Watch the sunset in a Balinese bronze cabana poised on the cliff like a bird about to take flight, with a chilled cocktail. Truly heavenly -this is eco-tourism at its best where all local materials have been used in construction, all water is desalinated and recycled and luxury does not come at any cost to the environment or the local economy.

Head into the interior to sample the centuries old way of life before hotels, surfers, all night drinkers or ladies looking for love had even heard of Bali. The village of Tenganan is so fiercely guarded by its remaining 300 inhabitants that you need to get special permission to go there. Deep in the jungle of exotic fruit trees, like durian, papaya and mangosteen, the steamy air smells of the spices which are also luxuriant – cinnamon, ginger and vanilla, a heady mixture. Here is where they make cloth by hand, the same way they have since the 11th century and every piece of fabric takes 2 years to complete. It is so rare and sought after that some of the wealthiest people in the world have trekked here to buy some and it is on display at many major museums.

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