Travel agent Joyce Krichman of Travel With Joyce K in Bali // © 2015 Joyce Krichman
Feature image (above): The Indonesian island of Lombok is among lesser-known islands recommended by Krichman. // © 2015 Thinkstock
Over the past decade, Joyce Krichman — a San Diego, Calif.-based travel advisor and independent affiliate of Cadence Travel Management — has visited Bali just about every year. The owner of Travel With Joyce K spoke to TravelAge West about what keeps her returning to the Indonesian island and what makes the destination so attractive for many of her clients.
What makes Bali stand out?
Physically, Bali is just gorgeous, with white beaches, lush vegetation and palms. It’s also very diverse and spiritual. It attracts surfers, those who just want to lie on the beach and travelers who want to embrace the local culture. The Balinese people are just incredibly gentle and sweet. It’s a magical destination.
What type of traveler do you send to Bali?
Honeymooners are certainly a good fit as well as clients looking for a memorable adventure. This place is very accessible to families, particularly if they like playing in the water. Bali is also terrific for divers and surfers.
What's the best route to get there?
I love Cathay Pacific, which has a nonstop flight both from the East and the West Coast to Hong Kong. Clients then fly to Denpasar International Airport (also known as Ngurah Rai International Airport), which is the main airport in Bali. Unfortunately, there’s no nonstop flight from the U.S. to Bali. From the West Coast, it’s about a 12-hour flight to Hong Kong. With the connection to Bali, you’re looking at another three- or four-hour flight.
How much time should agents give their clients in Bali?
I typically send people not only to Bali, which is huge island with so many different areas, but to other islands as well. Indonesia actually has thousands of islands, and lots of small islands that can act as hideaways. The Gili Islands and Lombok are just a short flight or speed-boat trip away from Bali. I plan for a week to 10 days on Bali and another island, and then maybe a stop in Hong Kong for two or three days. It’s a very different experience, and it doesn’t cost that much to stay another couple of nights in Hong Kong.
Do you have some favorite resort or hotel properties you suggest to clients?
The island is divided into many different parts, but let’s start with Nusa Dua, which is very popular with golfers. The St. Regis Bali Resort, for example, has one of the best golf courses in the region.
My favorite hotel in Nusa Dua is Amankila. It is so beautiful, and every villa has an indoor and outdoor bathroom. Something that’s very typical in Bali is outdoor showers, where you can shower among the bougainvillea, and no one can see you.
Then, for the hip and trendy, I like to recommend W Retreat & Spa Bali in Seminyak. It’s an edgy beachfront hotel that is very serene and offers great privacy. There are villas if you choose that category, but a room is certainly sufficient.
For a four-star property, I recommend Hotel Tugu Bali in Chengdu. It’s a very nice property, and compared to all the five stars, it’s a really good value.
Four Seasons Resort Bali at Sayan is unbelievable. You can arrange a lunch in the rice fields for a couple with the services of a private chef. Imagine seeing all of the terraces coming down from the mountainside while having lunch. And the staff there is terrific, paying attention to all of your needs, and they never say no. That is the kind of place I put people for two or three nights.
All of these properties are on the beach, and they all have children’s programs, more than one pool and accessibility to the ocean. Bali is very inclusive for families, children are welcome and it’s very common to see multigenerational families traveling together. Another thing I should emphasize is that elders are held in a very high esteem.
Are there elements of the Balinese culture you like to discuss with clients?
Balinese mythology is not written and is told via stories and dance. It’s beautiful to see how locals tell these stories. You often watch two people stomping their feet and clapping hands.
Anybody who goes to Bali needs to go to a performance like that. Travelers should inquire with the concierge at their hotel about when and where it’s done.
What's the food like? Do you have some favorite restaurants?
Because there are so many tourists, the cuisine is unbelievable in Bali. It’s a mixture of East and West, so you can have wonderful curries but with a fruit sambal or salsa made with pomegranate and melon. So it’s just full of wonderful, unexpected combinations.
I really love this restaurant in Seminyak called Mama San. Every time I’m there, I go back. They have spicy pomelo (grapefruit) salads, cold noodles and curries. It’s very edgy but also a beautiful place. Then, I like Kilo Bali, which is also in Seminyak. There, you can have rice wrapped in a banana leaf with spicy coconut and chili, and they can also stuff it with chicken, beef or pork.
There’s a restaurant I like in Ubud called Restaurant Locavore, which offers modern, new-age Balinese food combined with European cuisine. They do dishes served on beach shells, leaves or even driftwood. It’s really deserving of a Michelin star, and the wait to get in is about one month.