Bali is a difficult subject for me to discuss. It feels like a love-hate relationship due to its rapid changes. I love Bali for its culture, nature and food, plus the fact that I have plenty of friends there. However, I also hate Bali because its nature is more and more disappearing, and the locals are becoming more money-oriented than ever, though it is not a generalisation.
Having said that, I still would like to give this island a chance to show me that it is worth visiting. On a recent visit there, I tried to find some peace of mind, and to my surprise, I found not only one but instead two places that really gave me bliss!
Think Pink Nails: More Than Just A Nail Salon
Nestled amid paddy rice fields in the Batu Belig area, Think Pink Nails is easily the best nail salon on the island. Owned by a fabulous lady called Arvyanti Arief, the four-year-old Think Pink Nails (TPN) is a true haven, not only for nails, but also for the body and soul. In this New York City-style nail salon with most advanced manicure chairs, bold wallpapers and fabulous chandeliers, one can have a complete manicure and pedicure treatment, nail extensions and reconstruction, waxing, eyelash and eyebrow extensions, foot reflexology and even facial treatments using Kiehl’s products.
The largest of its kind in Indonesia, TPN is an exclusive salon and making a reservation is mandatory. Getting an appointment can be as difficult as getting a table at Massimo Bottura’s restaurant, however it is worth the effort. At TPN, the nail technicians are not only well trained and award winning but they also understand how to put confidence back on one’s nails, not to mention maintaining the highest hygienic standards.
“We start our treatment with sterilizing our equipment, then hand sanitize both the nail technicians and the client. We pride ourselves in precision nail filing, super clean cuticle care and full and perfect nail polish coverage, be it normal or gel polish. We also offer acrylic and gel nail extensions, which are big sellers at our salon. We can also reconstruct broken finger or toe nails with nail sculpturing so that they look perfect again,” she says. A repatriate who spent almost 30 years living and working in Manhattan, Arvyanti had two absolute passions in life: nail polish and shoes, specifically Manolo Blahnik.
“Throughout my college years at Parsons, I’d rather eat mac and cheese -or not eat at all- and buy more nail polish and Manolos. In Bali, as we all know, spas are a dime a dozen, however I have never seen an exclusive high-end nail salon, hence the idea of opening up a nail parlour started to form in my head. I wanted a very opulent salon, so I could go to work wearing fabulous outfits. You see, I miss getting dressed like I did in New York on daily basis,” she says.
TPN boasts an impressive 2,500 different nail polish bottles. You won’t be able to find a collection as extensive as this in any other place –not even New York, London or Paris. At TPN, one can easily discover various brands ranging from the normal OPI range to Chanel, Dior, Tom Ford and Gucci, all the way to the terrific Christian Loubutin –this particular nail polish was flown in from Paris the same day it was released. During my visit, I was introduced to the new ‘Private Room’ dedicated to two persons. Here, customers can enjoy nail care in a beautifully intimate alcove, being spoiled by the highly skilled nail technicians and enjoying Billecart Salmon champagne while watching Netflix entertainment selection on a large TV screen. This so-called “Nails n’ Netflix” package is recommended for couples or two friends who simply want to have a great time together.
Think Pink Nails has expanded its facilities recently in order to be able to accommodate more clients. This new expansion also includes the newly opened hair parlour where fulltime hairstylists wash, colour, cut and blow clients’ hair in addition to their manicure and pedicure session. Aside from the state-of-the-art facilities, I was also very impressed with the all-round 5 star service from the entire staff as well as Think Pink Nails’ complimentary pick up and drop off service within the areas of Seminyak and Canggu. Every time I travel to Bali, visiting Think Pink Nails ranks on top of my to-do list. It not only gives me peace of mind –it also makes my nails look simply fabulous.
Think Pink Nails
Permata Ayung Private Estate: Where True Nature and Luxury Meet
Finding a true haven in Bali is still possible, especially if you travel to the north of the island towards Ubud and farther. On a recent trip to Bali, an invitation from Permata Ayung Private Estate raised my curiosity. The website, though beautifully presented, remained modest in its approach, thus I came with no expectations. Passing by countless coconut trees and paddy rice fields, we finally arrived at the slightly hidden entrance to the resort. We were greeted by a beautiful Javanese joglo house, and then suddenly, voila! I was in awe, looking at the stunning scenery of endless paddy rice fields separated by a cliff, and the calming sound of the water of the Ayung River was the only sound I could hear –the sound of nature itself.
The beautiful Balinese landscape blends harmoniously with the surrounding nature. The resulting feeling was almost too overwhelming. For a second, I thought that I had arrived at Bali’s lost paradise! Luca Hauben, the estate’s charming General Manager who hails from Belgium, informed me that this five-hectare private estate features eight houses that can accommodate up to 25 guests. Each traditional house is an antique from Java, and they all have their own unique design, open terraces for fresh air as well as a spectacular view to the surrounding serene rice fields.
Unlike other resorts, Permata Ayung Private Estate prefers to rent out the entire place to a guest booking in order to be able to provide ultimate privacy to its guests. Nevertheless, the management is also open to those who just prefer to pay for one of the houses every now and then. It was Dutch businessman Mr. de Vries who first built this estate as a private haven for his family and friends. His journey to find a small piece of paradise eventually came to an end here when he found this beautiful property. Many of the antiques and houses on the estate had come from his private collection. Staying in this private estate gives you the feeling of being Robinson Crusoe in a luxurious set up. The pastoral antique houses are equipped with very well designed custom-made furniture that also provides modern comfort. One of my favourite houses was Winong Pati – as one of the grandest, it is also the master suite of the estate. Divided into two floors, the semi al fresco living room on top floor is filled with beautiful antiques bric-a-brac and sofas, leather chesterfields and a grand piano. Connected by a wooden staircase, the private bedroom downstairs is dominated by a four-poster bed, a lounge, a huge double terrace perfect for a soiree and a large bathroom featuring an outdoor shower as well as a stunning bathtub carved on a boulder stone.
The uniqueness of the estate doesn’t stop there. Perched beautifully by the edge of Ayung River, you will find a building echoing a cathedral as the wellness centre. Designed by Elora Hardy, this magnificent building is crafted entirely from bamboo. It includes a bamboo tent in the middle of the river where you can have your massage or simply relax with a book and glass of champagne. Other highlights include a glorious breakfast by the river on a wooden deck, quiet moments in an outdoor stone bathtub filled with spring water by the riverside and a visit to the organic garden. This is the type of place where you could (or should) stay for at least a week. Permata Ayung literally has it all: peaceful nature, great food, a cool bar, endless spa treatments and even a private cinema room. It is not a surprise that this estate has become a favourite among moguls like Richard Branson, Donna Karan and the crown prince of Dubai Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum. It really is worth every penny!