Saturday, October 30, 2010

Bali has long been one of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations

Taking the healthy option in Thailand
GO HONEYMOON: After a hectic tour of honeymoon hot spots around the world, DENISE and MARK DUFFIELD-THOMAS – winners of the Ultimate Job in Ireland – chill out in Bali and Thailand

SUNBATHING under palm trees, sipping from cold fresh coconuts and testing hammocks on the beach . . . our life as the honeymoon testers is definitely living up to the promise of the job description. What a way to escape the approaching winter!

After a crazy four months of road trips, airports, a serious Guinness addiction and more than 70 wedding renewals, we needed a change of pace. We’re on our way to breaking the world record for Most Married Couple, but the champagne and wedding cake diet has taken its toll. Not that anyone is going to feel sorry for us, but a serious side effect of this job is our rapidly expanding waistlines and spotty (although admittedly smug) faces.

We desperately craved something to soothe the soul, calm the mind and most importantly, detoxify the liver. It was time to get serious about our health, but we still had honeymoon duties to perform. What to do? Solution Bali!

Bali has long been one of the world’s most popular honeymoon destinations, loved by everyone and suitable for every budget. It has incredible beaches, fresh tropical fruit and exotic spicy food, calming architecture and beautiful, friendly people. It also happens to have some of the best health and wellness resorts in the world.

Lifestyle Retreats, our hosts in Bali, own of three, very different and beautiful resorts which were just what the doctor ordered. Far from being austere or boring, the resorts combine the best of enjoyment and relaxation with an ethos for healthy cuisine, a variety of fun activities and welcome body pampering.

The Amala Wellness Centre in the heart of Bali’s trendy and vibrant Seminyak is an oasis with just 12 private villas, 24-hour butler service and a harmonious appreciation of nature. Our hidden villa had a private pool and sun loungers in our open-air lounge room, and every meal can be delivered in-room without extra charge, which made leaving our sanctuary very difficult.

The combination of luxurious villa appointments and living within nature was breathtaking. A less romantic admission is that I angled the large flat-screen TV so I could watch a trashy gossip show while taking a midnight swim under the stars.

The menu at the Amala is gorgeous – healthy salads and juices (the famous quinoa salad is unbelievable). Combine the faultless cuisine and calm atmosphere with a daily yoga class and we left feeling positively virtuous.

Within five minutes’ walk of the Amala, there are plenty of bars and restaurants as well as the best shopping on Bali, particularly clothes, furniture and artwork. It’s very easy to ship larger items home, but every shop will carefully wrap art pieces for the plane.

We’d love to come back with a giant crate to pick up a beautiful Balinese bed, outdoor furniture or a giant sculpture. Newlyweds could furnish their whole house here in one afternoon.

NEXT WAS A visit to the 700sq km West Bali National Park for a very different perspective of the island, far away from the typical tourist beaches. Combining a native bush retreat, adventure park, honeymoon oasis and beach hideaway, the Menjangan Resort is perfect for nature lovers, families and couples.

If you want complete seclusion, an unspoilt white beach and world class diving then we recommend exploring the secret Menjangan.

The park is home to thousands of unique flora and bird species, as well as wild monkeys and the resort’s stable of beautiful Australian horses. A ride through the park and onto the beach is completely memorable and not to be missed.

Our most unforgettable experience at the Menjangan was kayaking around the bay to a tiny island and watching the sun go down. No honeymoon would be complete without a special Balinese dinner on top of the Bali Tower, one of the tallest buildings on the island with a spectacular view at sunset.

Last but not least in the Lifestyle Retreats family was the truly stunning Balé resort in exclusive area of Nusa Dua, Bali. This impeccably designed and romantic resort is a maze of blinding white walkways, calm water features and chic chill-out restaurants. It’s a rare gem, perfect for the most stylish of honeymoons.

Our stunning villa boasted a luxurious outdoor rainforest shower, steps leading from the bathroom straight into the outdoor pool and our own backyard chill out area. Staff arranged a romantic candle-lit dinner outdoors with fairy lights strung from our own frangipani tree. Once again, we struggled to leave our own special compound.

Luckily, the restaurant was spectacular with a great combination of extremely healthy meals and local seafood. The local beach, just five minutes walk away, was the best we found on Bali, definitely worth leaving your private pool for.

BALI WAS A great start towards relaxation and rejuvenation, but we were ready to take it a step further. How about a seven-day yoga and detox retreat in Thailand? Yes, please!

The Samahita Wellness Retreat on the gorgeous tropical island of Koh Samui was an incredible experience and is recommended for anyone needing a pick-me-up from a busy or stressful lifestyle.

The retreat includes twice daily yoga classes, a simple diet of juices and salads and a customisable detox programme including colonic hydrotherapy and reflexology. There’s nothing like a coffee enema first thing in the morning to wake you up!

Set right on a stunning white sand beach and surrounded by palm trees, the Samahita resort was the perfect haven for relaxation, contemplation and rest. Your diet and wellness therapies are tailored to your health goals and can even be used to treat specific conditions or imbalances.

Our special diet involved cleansing raw salads, detoxifying vegetable juices, nourishing soups and two beautiful fresh coconuts every day.

Rather than just a simple detox programme, we joined a retreat with nine other guests meaning even when our energy levels were low and pre-liver flush trepidation was high, we had a lot of support and laughter.

It was a truly intense experience at times but we were supported by daily seminars and group meetings, and the end result was worth it. We were both thrilled to drop a couple of pounds and my skin has never been softer.

We were lucky to be able to “recover” from our detox and stay on Samui for another week in style at the beautiful Tongsai Bay, the original five-star hotel on the island.

The resort is built within the mountains surrounding the bay, with a fantastic green policy and relaxed luxury. We stayed in the Hideaway Cottage with an incredible wrap-around balcony. With a palm tree jungle behind and glistening ocean horizon in front, we were truly hidden away.

We filled the Jacuzzi with cold water to cool down from the incredible weather when we couldn’t be bothered heading down to the stunning quartz sand of the private bay. We also loved the games room where I kicked Mark’s butt at pool. All good honeymoons require some healthy competition!

Chef Chom’s restaurant serves absolutely beautiful authentic cuisine and the staff really personify the friendliness of the Thai people. Make sure you say hello to Jee for us, the cheerful juice and fruit lady who will scream with delight when you arrive for breakfast every morning. The Tongsai Bay was so welcoming; it was a perfect place to conclude our time on wonderful Koh Samui.

What a life-changing month! We feel light and cleansed on so many levels now. What a difference a healthy lifestyle makes. We also added another five wedding vow renewals to our record attempt and we only need 10 more.

Next up we’re staying at the Paresa Resort in Phuket and then the exclusive Sukhothai in Bangkok. What should we do? Get in touch and give us your tips at and see our full reviews of each place we have stayed.

* Mark and Denise Duffield-Thomas’s trip to Bali was supported by Lifestyle Retreats and China Airways, and organised by honeymoon and destination wedding experts, runawaybrideand

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