Enjoy the link below to my story in Just Urbane about climbing Mount Agung in Bali. About six hours up and let’s say about seven hours coming down.
This active volcano is visible from anywhere on the island of Bali. While it may be a while before we can get back to this amazing island there is nothing wrong with dreaming about it and doing a little bit of planning.
For two families, comprising four adults and four children, our holiday to Bali has been much anticipated.
This is my family’s second visit to Pan Pacific Nirwana in Tabanan and on arrival I’m met by Riske, a member of the concierge team we met last year.
I tell her the kids are in the Sunset Lounge and she heads straight there. Before I catch up I hear the cheers and then I see the hugs.
There are not many places you stay where hospitality becomes friendship and these are the only places I return to.
Our days at the resort are defined by as much time by the pool as possible.
I’m there one morning with my daughter Matilda when general manager Guy Owen and staff member Romy Mansoer come over to introduce themselves. Matilda’s drawing of a turtle has been chosen as a logo for the Pan Pacific turtle conservation program and poster that appears around the resort.
They invite us to be blessed at the Tanah Lot temple so we dress traditionally and are given an offering of flowers and food to take. Tanah Lot attracts hundreds of locals and tourists each day, many drawn by the sunset.
Crossing at low tide, hopping between rock pools, we climb the steps to the temple which perches on the top of the island. We sit down, facing the main temple. After a blessing with holy water, we receive rice for our forehead. Rice is the seed of life and signifies a blessing by a priest for happiness and prosperity.
We’ve promised our friends a visit to Bali Treetop Adventure Park in Bedugul, in the north of the island, where the fun includes zip lines, rickety bridges, spider nets, flying foxes and Tarzan ropes suitable for all skill levels.
The quiet up in the jungle canopy is remarkable and is only pierced occasionally by an excited squeal.
After a couple of hours, we head to a hilltop overlooking Lake Bratan to enjoy a picnic lunch.
On the way back to the resort, we visit Melanting Waterfall and spend time looking at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple, on the edge of Lake Bratan.
There are horseriding adventures a short drive from Pan Pacific Nirwana and Matilda and my friend’s son Fallon enjoy a sunset ride at Yeh Gangga Beach, just to the north of Tanah Lot. The two younger kids, Tom and Saoirse, have a pony ride at the Bali Equestrian Centre and then get to brush and feed the animals.
Not far away, Splash Water Park at Canggu Club is a good alternative to Waterbom Park in Kuta. It’s not as big and there are no queues but there are plenty of rides and a lazy river, just right for a couple of hours with the kids. The club also has a Bounce Trampoline Centre, tenpin bowling and a day spa where a dripping dad and daughter got themselves metallic temporary tattoos. Unfortunately, mine didn’t make it through the day but Matilda’s gold tree of life motif lasted several days.
One of the encounters I’m most fond of on this holiday is the walk with the kids to the nearby Pop Mart for the necessities of life; chocolates, chips and toys.
Walking back along the resort entrance road, we’re hailed by a trio of travellers on a golf cart. Inviting us aboard, Tom and Matilda are up on the seat before I can even make a comment about accepting a lift from strangers. As it turns out, two of the buggy’s occupants, Eza and Umer, are getting married at the resort.
The resort hosts about 50 weddings each year, with a quarter being Australian couples. In 1998, Rebecca and I thought the Left Bank in Fremantle was very special for our wedding reception but if I had my time again a balmy Tanah Lot sunset and a village gamelan orchestra would be hard to beat.
That night I arrange for a small gift and note to be delivered to their room as a thankyou for letting us ride with them and wishing them all the best for their life together. The next day there is reciprocation when delivered to our room is a lovely letter and two packs for the kids filled with an assortment of treats.
Isn’t it wonderful how friendships are made? This has been everyone’s holiday and it has been a bit more. It’s been about friendship; travelling with friends, staying with friends and making friends.
On our last morning one of the staff, Paramitha, comes over to see Tom. She has been so attentive of Tom, making sure he is always happy. She has a gift for him, a substantially sized Barong statue. This knocks him over like nothing I’ve seen before. He knows he has a friend and gives her a big hug, forgetting he’s climbed out of the pool and is dripping wet.
Other holidays have opened my eyes to more history, adventure and spectacle, it is friendship that has made this one the best of all.
On Perth’s best talkback radio station, 6PR, I recently discussed with my fine friend and colleague Chrissy Morrissy some options for luxury abroad; the magnificent Apurva Kempinski in Bali and the distinguished Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur.
A bit closer to home I spoke about day trips through the Avon Valley, from bakeries to canola crops, from Bentley Blowers to the history of this beautiful part of Western Australia.
The featured image for this post is the Apurva Kempinski Bali, located in Nusa Dua. The inspiration for the design are the classic and iconic rice terraces found throughout Bali.
Above: The sumptuous lounges of the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur are perfect for high tea, gin and tonics or just resting between shopping sprees.
Above: What makes a beautiful resort that you will return to again and again? Water slides for the kids? Restaurants? Waterfront views? Rooftop bars? Maybe. The Kempinski has all of these things but I think it’s the people who work there that are the greatest influence on your enjoyment. Tom is holding a soft toy of the Bali Myna, an endangered local species of bird that the Apurva Kempinski is working hard to protect.
Above: The Library at the Ritz-Carlton Kuala Lumpur. Come for the atmosphere, stay for the food. An enchanting and refined menu full of passion for the flavours that represent the melting pot culture of Malaysia.
Above: The Avon Valley has rolling hills filled with wildflowers, rolling fields of canola crops and great towns with bakeries, museums, galleries and pubs.
A wonderful way to spend a Sunday afternoon is to listen to Chrissy and Chris on 6PR 882, Perth’s only commercial talkback radio station.
For this chat, I described how luxury travel can be exciting and affordable.
We talked about the all new Apurva Kempinski in Bali and how its architecture sets the heart racing with awe and how there is so much space to hide away and relax or strut your gut in front of other guests if that’s your thing. Most of the Kempinski rooms have their own private plunge pool or access to small lagoon pool while there is also a massive lagoon pool and another good sized pool that includes a water play are for kids, including three waterslides.
ABOVE: APURVA KEMPINSKI NUSA DUA, BALI. ARCHITECTURE INSPIRED BY THE RICE TERRACES AROUND UBUD.
We then talked about my experience at the Ritz-Carlton KL, located in the heart of Bukit Bintang. With a level of refined luxury, complete with crooners and jazz bands around every corner, this hotel reminds you of travelling on a 1920’s ocean liner with its sumptuous lounge chairs and library restaurant.
ABOVE: THE RITZ-CARLTON KL, FULL OF SUMPTUOUS LOUNGES FOR DRINKING, EATING OR COLLAPSING IN AFTER A DAYS SHOPPING IN BUKIT BINTANG, JUST A MINUTES WALK AWAY.
The food options at the Ritz-Carlton’s renowned Library restaurant provide some of the best food available in Kuala Lumpur.
ABOVE: RITZ-CARLTON LIBRARY RESTAURANT EXECUTIVE CHEF WAI COMBINES MODERN AND TRADITIONAL CULINARY TECHNIQUES AND DEVELOPING FLAVOUR PROFILES THAT ARE FRESH AND LUXURIOUS.
If you’re considering a luxury experience, take advantage of offers that pop up on popular websites and I always recommend then contacting the hotel/resort yourself and making yourself known and maybe negotiating some of the inclusions. Maybe you want more golf and less day spa time. Maybe you’d like to give up the fine dining vouchers for pizzas and chips around the pool for your kids. Try making a relationship on your own that provides the inclusions that are important to you.
I recently spent a brilliant evening on Radio Melayu chatting about my recent adventures and how we all need to find a way to get packing and escape winter by getting overseas or embracing winter and snuggling into a gorgeous resort down south.
The link below features descriptions for a few of my new favourite things, including Bali’s spectacular new resort the Apurva Kempinski Bali, Hong Kong Star Ferries and markets, Hong Kong Disneyland, Pullman Bunker Bay Resort and amazing airlines for travelling with children, including Malindo Air, Batik Air and Cathay Pacific.
My son Tom and I recently travelled with Batik Air to our favourite island in the world, Bali, to experience a new resort, Apurva Kempinski. It was promised to us as a ‘new era of first class hospitality’ and without doubt the level of luxury is absorbing from the moment you arrive.
The soaring spaces of the reception area set the scene for the essence of Balinese culture that ebbs and flows seamlessly throughout a visually stunning resort that is located on the south eastern tip of Nusa Dua, just a quick fifteen minute drive from the airport.
While I get busy writing and talking about this experience in more detail, sit back and enjoy a few photos of an experience that is perfect for couples of all ages, families of all ages, those who want to get married and even just a boy and his dad finding quiet spaces to chat, noisy spots to play and lots to discover in between.
Batik Air are a wonderful family friendly airline who love opportunities to ensure that children have good flying experiences.
Kempinski Hotels around the world are famous for their concierge Ladies in Red. While Tom loved his Ladies in Red he also loved meeting our special friends Kadek and Danti who made sure every experience and moment was special.
To listen to my chat about Mount Agung on the attached link, scroll the timer forward to about the 40 minute mark.Saturday mornings on the ABC are always a great way to start my weekend. This chat was about my amazing old friend who can’t seem to stay out of the news; Mount Agung. She’s been blowing smoke and shaking the ground since November last year and now she’s throwing up heavy ash and lava.
We know she causes ‘holiday havoc’ but who is she? How big is she? How important is she to the Balinese? What’s it like to climb her and look into that gaping crater that last exploded in 1963, barely a twitch of the eye in geological times.
The title pic shows my friend Wayan Gede Yudiana on my second climb of Mt Agung in 2016. We took a team of his staff from Pan Pacific Nirwana up Mount Agung as a team building exercise. In the background is Mount Batur, an easier climb but not half as much fun!
She is an old girl. She is the Old Girl. She is over 3000m high. That’s nearly a kilometre higher than Australia’s biggest mountain, Mt Kosciuszko, and about two kilometres than Western Australia’s biggest peak, Bluff Knoll.
In my discussion on 6PR’s Perth Tonight with Chris Ilsley, we discussed my fears in climbing this volcano (twice!) and the view from the top and just what it means for Mount Agung to be a member of the Ring of Fire.
In the picture above, I have reached the summit and the pyramid shape you can see is the shadow of Mt Agung projected onto the clouds and ground below.
Agung…again. In 2013 I wrote an article about climbing Mount Agung, an active volcano in Bali.
I began that account by making a statement about my style of family holiday to Bali, “It has to be more than just waterslides and sitting at a swim up bar.”
Since then, the waterslides have become more important to the kids and the swim up bars have become less important to me, as I seek the perfect family resort.
In 2014 I found it. Pan Pacific Nirwana. The best resort slide in Bali, the best pools, the best staff, just the best of everything.
One afternoon I was talking to my new friend Romy Mansoer who worked at Pan Pacific Nirwana and we discuss the motivations required for getting fit. Romy was a fan of the golf buggy as a means of travelling around the resort and I advised him to start walking and have an aim. We decided he and other Pan Pacific Nirwana staff, should climb Mount Agung, visible from just about everywhere in Bali and regarded as a very spiritual location for the Balinese.
At 3031m, Mount Agung is high and a very challenging. The holiday paradise reputation that Bali has is deceptive when attempting this adventure. Many people don’t make the summit and even more, like me, require considerable work afterwards to repair weary muscles.
Romy never got around to taking up this challenge. Admirably, he gave up the golf buggy and walked his way to fitness but he also found new opportunities that took him away from Bali.
The challenge for the staff, however, remained. In 2015, I met with Wayan Yudiana, Director of Human Capital and Development at Pan Pacific Nirwana. ‘Yudi’ is also a very motivated leader of a fitness group and always looking for a challenge and normally singing as he does it.
So, in 2016, with five Pan Pacific Nirwana staff, two guides and one imbedded travel writer, we set out to climb Mount Agung.
With Yudi and I are Udiana the Employee Canteen Manager, Riadi the Human Capital Manager and Dastera the Housekeeping Manager. Our guides Wayan Yasa and Ketut Kari are younger than expected and live at the base of Mount Agung.
For me, I anguished at my personal fitness which was far less than when I had done this adventure three years earlier. I also had the fear of knowing what was ahead rather than apprehension and nervousness. I had written three years earlier that I was prepared physically and with good equipment but, “…unprepared for the fear as I peer through the darkness trying to judge just where to put my hands and place my feet…”
Nothing has changed.
It can be dark and at times lonely. While this is a team effort, the nature of this trek is that the line can spread out and you can find yourself looking back and not seeing anyone and looking ahead and not seeing anyone.
Even with our headlamps on it is possible that beyond your own light all around you is complete darkness.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. During our rest breaks one of the most enjoyable parts of this adventure is putting your backpack under your head and lying back and just looking up at more stars than you could ever imagine.
We sit and rest, pass boiled eggs and lollies and top up water bottles from our guides.
Our rest periods are not for long. We need to keep moving because it is more than the accomplishment of the ascent, it is the sunrise we are seeking. To be on the summit as the world begins to waken once more.
100m before the summit and nearly 7 hours since we commenced our climb, we are ready to make our final effort.
There’s a problem though. When I did this in 2013, it was calm, it was peaceful and there was nothing to distract us from focusing on maintaining your balance on a very narrow path to the summit. On either side of this path are very steep slopes covered in fine pebbles and dust. Slipping here is not going to be very forgiving.
Our problem is the wind. The gusts are increasing in frequency and strength. While two of our group decide to remain in a small cave, the rest of our group make the climb.
On this part of the path, the surface is made up of soft stones that your boots can sink into with a bit of pushing. With the wind gusting unpredictably, there is a feeling that it wouldn’t take much to toss you from the path and we all dig our boots in with each step, trying to hold our ground while trying to move forward at the same time.
We reach the summit.
Three years ago my selfies show the pride I felt and I know I felt closer to those I had lost and felt a very spiritual connection to my achievement.
Standing on the summit on this occasion I had to marvel at the bravery of two of our members to remain 100m below us. To climb for so long but realise their limit was the conditions we were dealing with now took great strength of character.
We stand on the summit and group together for some photos, proving our accomplishment to the world. While we all want to make our way across the narrow ridge line to the western summit the wind makes our decision for us. It’s time to go down.
Before we go, we take a minute to look at the shadow of this mountain that is shown in the clouds behind us like an enormous pyramid.
We are above the clouds. As a group, we all made it above the clouds. We all made it.
For anyone who has climbed, trekked, crawled and embraced a mountain it’s at this moment that you realise the adventure is only half complete and in many ways, is even more difficult.
Weeks after this adventure, I still have black toes and I’m waiting for the nails to drop off. This was mainly because of the toes banging into my boots on the descent but not helped the following day when I saw Yudi and in a friendly embrace he trod on my sore toes.
Descents put a lot of pressure on knees and toes. Hot spots become blisters and muscles cry out for remedial creams and ointments. Finally, about 14 hours since we began, we are back. Beside the Besakih Temple I find a place to rest and enjoy removing my boots and allowing my feet to swell and distort.
I am proud I’ve done this again and proud to have been included with such a wonderful group.
We have shared stories and food together, sung songs and I was even invited to pray with them.
In 2013, my climbing party was a guide and a young American student. This time I feel a greater sense of accomplishment because I have been a part of group that has trained hard together to do this challenge and the reward is that feeling of teamwork from achieving a goal together.
Sometimes the challenge we seek is more than the end goal, it is working together along the way to encourage and make sure that everyone has an experience that is meaningful to them.
I would climb a mountain again, but only in the company of others. I enjoyed the company when I rested. I needed the company when I was tested.