Denpasar airport hums with heat and hustlers, and sweaty people hauling suitcases. You shunt in a taxi into a traffic jam. Motorbikes splutter and TVs howl from street-side food stalls. Don't worry, your ordeal ends shortly. Your journey is like one of those old tales in which you must pass through three gateways to reach your goal.
When you get there, you can cast off your Earthly worries. Soon enough, you'll be floating in a pool as the leaves of banana trees rustle in a gentle breeze. Frangipani flowers are pink splashes against a blue sky; blossoms twirl down. Stick one behind your ear and flop on a daybed. Paradise has arrived.
The first gateway is built of red brick, with ornate mouldings and prancing Hindu goddesses. It leads you into the gated enclave of Nusa Dua, and it's the first of the transformations. Loud nightclubs and cacophonous cafes are banished in this corner of Bali. Stately avenues lined with palm trees lead you into a lush, quiet world of erupting orchids and discreet beach resorts.
The second gateway leads into Amarterra Villas Bali Nusa Dua. It slides open soundlessly and your taxi purrs into a courtyard with a pond and a ziggurat of steps that looks as if it might be a set for Tomb Raider. Don't expect violent action, though. A receptionist glides towards you, splashes a daub of water on your forehead and ties a Hindu string around your wrist. It feels comforting, as if you've passed a mysterious test that allows you entrance to a special place.
And Amarterra Villas is special. Garden pathways curl between lush clumps of bamboo and tropical trees that drop fat orange blossoms like a blessing. Around the main swimming pool sit big wicker pods in which you can curl up and dream. Yellow parasols hung with tassels recall Balinese temples. In the mornings, the quiet bonging of a xylophone soothes you over breakfast. At lunchtime, the agreeable clank and scrape of woks lures you to a lunch of sambal prawns and braised duck leg.
There's only one restaurant, but you'll have no reason to go looking for more. It overlooks the pool, where in the evening globe lights in the trees are reflected in the water as little bats flit. You can have a romantic dinner for two, starting with grilled slipper lobster and shredded chicken with coconut and ginger. Pork belly is rich with the aromas of sweet soy, star anise and cinnamon bark. Dessert is stewed bananas with sweet red rice that will leave you satiated.
You haven't yet reached your ultimate goal, however. The third gateway leads into your own private villa compound, and perfect contentment. There are 39 villas, most one bedroom. Each has its own garden, outdoor lounge and pool. The colour palette is muted, leaving the turquoise water and verdant tropical lushness to take centre stage. You're serenaded by the splash of a water spout, the twittering of birds and rustling of leaves. You inhale the smell of thatch and jasmine.
Three frangipani trees along the pool edge leave a procession of petals on the deck in the morning, as if luring you out for a swim. You could spend all your time here and never grow discontent, but the beach is a shuffle away if you need a change of scenery. Ten minutes' walk will have you on the raked sand, with hotel staff serving you drinks. A long, paved promenade runs for kilometres beneath coconut palms. Maybe you'll get that far. Or maybe the siren appeal of Amarterra Villas will lure you back, through the magic gateways and into a Bali of pure indulgent peace.
Brian Johnston was a guest of Amarterra Villas Bali Nusa Dua – MGallery Collection.
Virgin Australia flies to Denpasar from most major Australian cities. See virginaustralia.com
Villas at Amarterra Villas Bali Nusa Dua start from IDR 3,740,000 a night. See amarterravilla.com