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Insider Guides

An Insider Guide To Bali With Kalita Al Swaidi

Bali has so much to offer: from enchanting rice paddies to breathtaking temples; beach sundowners to a surfer’s paradise. No wonder it served inspiration for Kalita Al Swaidi’s whimsical resortwear brand, KALITA.

Of her first trip to Bali, Kalita says,’“I arrived at Denpasar airport in Bali, knowing nothing about the island and armed with nothing but a dream.  My first real memory of Bali was the intense humidity in the air and the sense of magic.”

This sense of magic is imbued in KALITA: a delectable selection of beautiful and timeless organic silk, cotton, and linen dresses and separates, which make packing for your next far-flung trip a breeze. Kalita sums up the brand aesthetic as: “glamorous, timeless and ethical. KALITA is about effortless style – taking off your sky-high sandals and jumping barefoot onto a boat, still feeling beautiful. It’s salty, summer skin and late-night escapades.”

Pre-COVID, Kalita would visit Bali two to three times a year, where the garments are hand-dyed. “I would relish these trips as junctures of adventure where I could explore my creativity and passion for nature and design.”

Here, the designer shares her tips for an unforgettable trip to Bali.


Essential items to pack…

In Bali you can pack light: denim shorts, a white tank, a pair of flip flops, a killer swimsuit, and obviously an easy silk K A L I T A dress for balmy nights.

 

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The best time to visit Bali is…

May, June, and September.

Our first pitstop should be…

Grab a shower and then head to La Luciola to watch the sun go down with a cocktail in hand. The pink skies are world famous.

Your favourite hotel to check-in at is…

The Como Shambhala Estate is a dream, a kind of retreat to recharge all the senses with an amazing healthy restaurant. You also can’t go wrong at the Legian, which is located in the bustling Seminyak area. The staff at the hotel are fabulous.

 

COMO Shambhala Estate Wanakasa pool

COMO Shambhala Estate Wanakasa pool

For an early morning workout head to…

Nusa Dua beach is great for an early morning run, or head to Canguu to surf with the locals. Bali is very health-orientated, so you will find gyms with weekly passes and açai juice bars everywhere.

Where should we go for breakfast?

My two favourite places are the Corner House and Revolver. They both serve Revolver coffee, which is the best on the island, a cup of coffee is what gets you out of bed! If you enjoy sourdough with eggs and avocado, the breakfasts at Revolver are legendary.

How about for a long, lazy lunch?

If you want somewhere fun and silly with Tequila, you have to try Motel Mexicola – with live music and tacos, what could go wrong?  For a hedonistic adventure, try Omnia day club owned and run by the famous Mark Baker of NYC 90’s Lotus fame.

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And for dinner with friends?

Sarong in Seminyak is perfect for traditional Indonesian food with a warm candle-lit ambiance. Hujan Locale is the sister restaurant of Mama San in Ubud, and is a relaxed hangout with outstanding Indonesian food.

Your favourite restaurant in town?

My favourite restaurant is Baracca. The food is Italian, and just as good as you would get in your local trattoria. I always order the arrabbiata and a glass of red wine. I must also mention Pizzeria Italia Bali which has as close to authentic pizza as you will find on the island, and Wild Flour Bali, which is my favourite healthy restaurant. For my blow-out option it would be Metis, the restaurant has become a bit of a tradition for me; I always head there for my last meal before boarding the plane back to London.

A must try spot for date night is…

Possibly the two most romantic restaurants would be Sardine, which is set in a rice paddy field, and Merah Puti which rates on any interior designer’s checklist. The food is also excellent at both.  For a sexy vibe, I would head to Mama San, and sit at the bar.

Where should we head post-dinner?

Favela is awesome for after-dinner drinks and dancing and has a really fun vibe and crowd.

The drink to order at the bar…

A Caipirinha or a Caipiroska are very of the island. Order it with ‘sem acucar’ – no sugar.

The best place to treat yourself?

For a spot of shopping, go to the concept boutique store Cove Island Essentials which embodies present day Canguu in all its New-Age, free-spirited glory. Also, make sure you visit Bamboo Indah. It has an interesting combination of huge bamboo structures and gorgeous old Javanese bridal huts which has a real eco feel about it. I treated myself to a massage in their tiny spa there and it was magical.

The best place for people watching…

The bar at Da Maria, an amazing pizza restaurant in Seminyak, has a great ambience and often throws a party on a Sunday night. You can’t really go wrong sitting at the bar there and watching the night go by.

The cultural spot to rave about…

The Tirta Empul Temple is a Hindu temple famous for its holy water and bathing rituals of purification. If you can, visit on a full moon day as this is a very special time for ceremonies and festivities.

For great shopping head to…

The Ubud market/Sukwarti art market, which is a great place to find beautiful silk scarves, lightweight shirts, statues, kites, handmade woven bags, baskets or hats, and many other Balinese souvenirs.

The one place only locals know about… 

Located at the foot of Mount Lesung in Munduk, Tamblingan Lake Bali is a quiet haven in the North. Well worth a day trip with a guide.

Your favourite neighbourhood is…

Canguu is a lazy surfing village on the south coast where you will find local restaurants with amazing food and ambience, upcoming chefs, concept stores, and boutique hotels such as The Slow. It is the Indonesian equivalent of NoHo in New York city.

For a change of pace try…

Visiting the sleepy but beautiful tropical hills of Ubud where I would suggest renting a motorbike and exploring.

Great day trips include…

Take the boat to Lombok, where you can explore the beautiful waters and a far less Westernised part of Indonesia. You will think you are in Danny Boyle’s movie, The Beach.

For the best views head to…

I would say the best views can be found at Nusa Penida beach. Nusa is a paradise; however, it is very hard to access so you need a motorbike or a car to move around, and the roads are very poor. But the adventure is well worth it because the views are breathtaking.

A book to read before we go (or while we’re there)?

Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love has the last third of Elizabeth’s journey spent in Bali where even though she is not looking for it, she finds love. The book paints the scenery and customs of Bali extremely well and will get you adequately excited for your trip on the plane journey over.

How should we spend the final day of our trip?

If money was no object, I would treat myself to a spa day at the Como Shambhala Estate and walk down to the beautiful natural pools for a relaxing dip.

What’s your Bali secret?

The hidden canyon Beji Guwang is a tranquil natural destination in a hard-to-find locale with waterfalls and carved rocks – Bali’s best kept secret (until now!) and not full of tourists.

In a word, Bali is…

Magic.

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