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The Grand Mirage: The Playful Side of Paradise

Bali is a couple’s paradise.  With its inviting blue waters, friendly locals, white sandy beaches, spicy cuisine and fascinating cultural and religious dimensions, it has forever won a place in our hearts.

Inside the lobby at the Grand Mirage: a waterfall.

Inside the lobby at the Grand Mirage: a waterfall.

The Fighting Couple spent lot of time fighting about where to stay on our first visit to the Island of the Gods.  On one hand, the cultural and handicraft mecca of Ubud called out to us.  On the other, the remote northern part of the island seemed to offer off the beaten path peace and tranquility.  In the end we decided to spend the majority of our time in tropical paradise of Nusa Dua beach, in the lively village of Tanjung Benoa.

Our next task (see fight) was picking the right place to stay.  A location with outstanding ocean front views was non-negotiable. We also wanted a place that had everything: world-class accommodations, amazing food, and of course a spa!  Bali vacations fit the bill perfectly!

The Grand Mirage Resort offers a number of different stay options including a VIP all-inclusive, bed and breakfast, or lodging only.  Simply pick the one that best meets your budget.

The Grand Mirage has two sister properties in the area, the Club Bali Mirage and the high-end Samabe Luxury Villas.  The entire resort system offers a price point for everyone from a pensioner to a princess.

Getting There:

Nusa Dua overlooks the Indian Ocean on the southeast part of the Island and is roughly 30 minutes away from the airport in Denpasar.  You can easily take a taxi or arrange for a private transfer with the hotel.   This is Bali: almost everything is affordable with the favorable exchange rate from the States or Europe.

If you chose to drive, please check out our 7 Steps to Driving in Bali.

First Impressions:

One would be impressed with just the lobby of the Grand Mirage without ever looking at the turquoise saturated ocean, tropical pool area, or spacious and well decorated guest rooms. The open air, three-storied lobby with marble floors accented with intricate inlaid flower designs, anchored by a waterfall in the center of the building, is a showcase. When you enter, you know you are somewhere special. The staff is attentive and kind. In fact, there is more staff than rooms. We felt welcome at once. At the Grand Mirage, every need, every experience is ready to be met.

The Grand Mirage is its own community. You never have to leave the resort.  Board games, pool, indoor theatre for movies, karaoke, kids club where little ones can engage in fun activities sans parents, elegant spa, restaurants, are all on site. It’s a place to make friends or spend alone time as a couple. You literally never have to or want to leave.

A room with a view!

A room with a view of the pool and the ocean!

A Room With A View:

Our room at the Grand Mirage was nicer than our home. The corner room showcased two balconies with views of the ocean on each corner perfect to watch the sunrise and sunset. The rooms also overlooked the pool area. The entry way was framed with Balinese sculptures with low-level spot lights. There was a living room, bar area, and separate bedroom with two beds. Hooray for two beds on vacation! The bathroom hosts a giant soaker tub big enough for two and a mosaic tiled walk in shower.

I want a bathroom like this at my house.

I want a bathroom like this at my house.

Follow the Grand Mirage:

twitter:  @GrandMirage

Facebook: GrandMirageResort

Outdoor Activities:

During our stay, we enjoyed several of the activities. The entire Nusa Dua area is a watersports playground.  You can take out a sea kayak on your own or join one of the many sea kayak tours offered by the resort. (Don’t forget to pack the sunscreen!)  If sitting by the beach and enjoying the sea breeze is your deal, you will not be disappointed.  The resort offers lounge chairs and seaside cabanas with drink service if you wish.  These do tend to fill up quickly, you may want to stake you claim early, or have them hold one for you. Grand Mirage offers tennis courts, an aptly equipped workout facility, bike rental, yoga, beach volleyball and every water sport imaginable. Every day there is a list of activities for the guests to enjoy. Don’t know what to do? Just look at the activities menu! During our stay, Luci walked the beach, while Mike played tennis. Don’t worry if you don’t have a partner. The Grand Mirage has an excellent tennis player on staff who would love play with you!  Mike’s backhand has now been proven ineffective on two continents!

Mike lost again.

Mike lost again.

Pool Party:

Luci’s favorite part of the resort was the pool. Surrounded with lush vegetation, the pool is shaped like a figure eight with varying depths. The kids side, separated by a bridge, features a basketball hoop and shallow wading areas. The other side has a waterfall where guests can sit and feel the refreshing water fall upon your shoulders. It’s a perfect place to spend the day swimming, drinking, swimming, reading and basking in the Bali sunshine.

The beach view

The beach view

The Thalasso Spa:

We saved the best activity for last.  Connected to the hotel is a little part of paradise, the spa.  The entire spa menu revolves around the sea.  The hallway floors within the center are covered with sand and small stepping-stones lead the way to the 16 tastefully decorated themed treatment rooms.  Even the ceiling has an ocean motif.  The moment you walk in, you feel you are peacefully drifting on a warm wave.  The spa menu has both depth and breadth.  The highly trained staff offer a number of modalities including: Swedish, Balinese, and Thai.  Check out this amazing spa:  www.thalassobali.com.

Grand Mirage Spa

Entry into the stress free paradise!

What to Eat?

Buckle up!  There are a host of great food options.  The resort puts on a wonderful spread of breakfast items every morning.  They offer a wide array of fresh fruits and veggies, meats, salads as well as made- to-order omelets. The pancakes, French toast and four types of accompanying syrups were our favorite. There are five restaurants on property for every taste at any time. The Grand Café is where guests have breakfast overlooking the pool. Other options include the Jukung Grill which offers fresh seafood and Australian barbecue; La Cascata with mouth-watering Italian; eat at Chopsticks for Chinese or swim up to the Coconut Bar in the middle of the pool.

Couples Retreat:

Bali is made for couples.  The resort offers an on-site, on-beach wedding chapel.  Where you can tie the knot or renew you wedding vows.  There are even full-time staff members who can assist with all the details from securing a photographer to capturing the picture perfect moment to finding the freshest local flowers.  The Thalasso Spa also has as special room for couples!  Why not splurge for a couples massage or do like we did and try the couple water treatment? (Loved it!).   What is more romantic than a moonlit stroll on the sandy beach?  The hotel can also arrange a picnic lunch if you wish to head off on your own adventure.

Our short stay in Bali was truly made an impact on us.  We are counting the days till our return.  If you have questions about Bali or the Grand Mirage resort, feel free to drop us a line. We highly recommend it!

Lobby of the Grand Mirage

One more view of the lobby, because we loved it that much!

We partnered with our good friends at this Bali resort during our recent visit.  Does this change our opinion of their great service and rates?  Nope.  Not one bit.

Our 7 Hints for Driving in Bali 

Driving in Bali is a choice and rewarding experience reserved for the brave and the bold.  Understanding traffic in Bali, you must understand their driving pedigree.  The Brits brought the whole, “driving on the wrong side of the road” bit.  The Dutch left a legacy of confusing signs and directions.  Regardless of foreign influence… driving in Bali is still uniquely Balinese.  After our recent visit to Bali, we put together a few helpful hints that will aid you as you begin your four wheeled journey and keep you safe!

1)  Be Choosy

Our first couple of suggestions starts at the rental car counter. First, pick the right car.  If you are a first timer to Bali, why not rent an automatic?  I know, this is a direct insult to your driving prowess.  Trust us, one less thing to do while you are driving is a good thing.  Car selection is also something to be choosy.  Bigger is not better when it comes to the narrow roads of Bali that make quaint English roads look like super freeways.  Air conditioning is a must, must, must.

We booked our car through carrentals.co.uk.  We found some great rates for the island.

2)  Get the Assurance of Insurance

Ok, you picked out the perfect car for your Balinese adventure.  Don’t leave the rental counter quite yet.  Open that wallet back up and pick up a lot of insurance.  If they offer it, buy it.  Driving in Bali is in close quarters.  Parking lots are tiny. Scooters surround you (the concept of keeping in your “lane” if a foreign concept here).  The chance of getting a scratch, bump of nick is better than average.  With amazing luck, we escaped without a scratch.  The other reality of driving in Bali is the number of people on scooters and motorcycles.  Some scooters have an entire family on board while other scooters are carrying cargo. Seriously.  The chance that one of these drivers makes a mistake, and heaven forbid you collide, you will want protection.  As a visitor to Bali, the idea of exploring their judicial system would be less than pleasant.  If you spend a few bucks and get the coverage, you have a guaranteed pro by your side should something unfortunate happen.

woman with wood on head

You will see a little bit everything driving in Bali.

3) Be Guided

Ok, the last thing to purchase at the rental desk.  Rent a good GPS.  Our first fight on Balinese soil was when Mike forgot to add a GPS unit to the purchase.  Off we went to try to navigate the busy city of Denpasar.  We didn’t get very far before we were having a full  typhoon level “disagreement” on which way we were going!  We hadn’t even left the airport parking lot. We spent 45 minutes trying to get out of the city, only to give up and drive back to our hotel before we forgot how to get back. We called our kind rental company representative and added the GPS to our package.  Crisis averted. But having an electronic friend isn’t the only navigator you should have: use a human too. Luci spent much of the trip as a Grand Prix announcer yelling things like: Brake! or “There’s a bike with a baby on your left, car on your left, scooter going the wrong way on the right shoulder!”

4)  Hitch a Ride

Our next tip about driving is not about driving at all.  There simply are some places you just shouldn’t drive.  Case in point:  We were planning on having a suit made for Mike in Denpasar.  We had done our research and  many people had commented on the quality of the suits and the difficulty in finding this exquisite tailor.  What was to be done?  We ditched the car, called the tailor to send us a car.  Boom.  There was no way that we would have found this place.  Time was saved by not wandering the back roads of Denpasar and Mike is looking rather dapper in his new duds.  Most fine metro restaurants in Bali are happy to send their car service to pick you up and back.  It’s very common for businesses to come pick you up and bring you back to your hotel. Why waste the time?  Hitch a ride.  Then head to the beach!

swimming pool bali

Spend more time here instead of stuck in a car.

5)  Distractions

A word about distracted driving in Bali.  It is dangerous!  For first timers, like we were, it is so easy to let your eyes wander from the road.  Distractions are a natural hazard in Bali.  The pressure of driving, following the GPS,  dodging farm animals, scooters, and other cars is a lot to take in. Leave the phone off.  Turn the radio off.  Driving in Bali is not for the faint of heart, all kinds of things are going to come at you from all directions.  Keep you focus on the road. It’s a full contact sport. Mike has driven all over the world: Turkey, Italy, South Africa, and Bali was the hardest country yet. There are no rules in Bali. First of all, they drive on the left hand side so us Yanks struggle with going the opposite directions. That’s the first challenge, but not the hardest. Cars don’t stick to their lanes, you can see the scooter driver’s nose hairs they are so close to your car. One way roads aren’t really one way, as scooters drive the wrong way towards you frequently. There are also few traffic lights and speeds are fast.

6)  Take the Back Roads

Regardless of all of these do’s and don’ts …  Bali is a beautiful place.  People say that about a lot of places.  Sometimes they really mean it.  With Bali, we really mean it.  It is seriously one of the most stunning couple travel destinations we have ever set foot on. It’s like a carnival to the eyes.  A few times during our visit we took they back roads, granted, a few times we got lost, but what we were able to see was worth the fight.  The picture below is one we took when we took a wrong turn.  We came across some folks harvesting rice.  If we hadn’t gotten lost, we would have never been treated to this scene.

rice bali

Take the back roads!

7)  Follow the Flow

We saved our best tip for last.  This one is really difficult to describe.  Bali has a traffic vibe.  You get into a groove once you have driven a day or two there.  You gain an expectation of what the other drivers are going to do and when.  When it clicks for you the fun begins.  Balinese are very courteous drivers if you “follow the flow.”  When you upset the flow, you may get a little beep, beep from behind.  The easiest way to “get the groove” is to imitate what you see for most of the drivers.  You are always going to see some crazies out on the roads, but just follow what the crowd does.  You will be fine.

Those are our handy tips for making you driving holiday in Bali both safe and peaceful.

We partnered with our good friends at carrentals.co.uk during our recent visit to Bali.  Does this change our opinion of their great service and rates?  Nope.  Not one bit.