A cooler blend of culture

Bali High

Cream tests two alternative places of accommodation in Bali, each distinctively different but impressive on all fronts: from fine cuisine to major comfort factor, dayspa services to distance from the main hubs of Ubud (in Central Bali) and bustling Seminyak. By Antonino Tati

Ubud’s ultimate retreat

Okay, you can do Bali one of two ways. The first, more common way, is to score some cheap accommodation that’s been fused into the flight package and will probably have you sleeping in uncomfortable conditions, likely having to pay for some back-fixing upon return from your ‘vacation’. Or the second, more preferable option, is by booking an economic flight and splurging on a stunning hotel. That way you’ll be inclined to enjoy the venue’s facilities a lot more, perhaps ultimately saving some money in the long run.

For an establishment that is just 30km away from Denpasar town, yet close to the hub of authentic Indonesian artisanship, you cannot go past the Viceroy in Ubud. Before going into detail about this magnificent place of accommodation, a little about its artistic precinct’s background: Ubud kicked off Bali’s cultural and artistic community back in the early 1900s when a group of ex-pats, namely Walter Spies, Willem Hofker and Rudolf Bonnet, began gathering artistic talents from all over Indonesia and encouraged them to ‘set up shop’, as it were, in the heart of Bali. As the city centre, quite literally, Ubud is also home to Bali’s traditional medicine making, its name actually translating to ‘medicine’. Located amid picturesque emerald green rice fields, along the edges of a long flowing Petanu River, the town covers a mere nine square kilometres of land, most of which is best trekked by foot or bicycle.

Now if Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali, the Viceroy Hotel is its castle. And you’ll feel like a king once you step foot in this place. Architects and designers have maintained a traditional Balinese aesthetic throughout each of the villas and deluxe suites, and their surrounds but equipped them, too, with all the necessary modern amenities from en-suite bathrooms to outdoor splash pool, air-conditioning and fan to iPod dock and WiFi.

The suites alone are luxuriously fitted with an oversized king bed, long sofa that separates bed from entertainment area, a 47-inch television, stereo system, mini bar, and espresso machine. Indeed, you might be tempted to stay in your villa or out on the private pool deck for your entire stay. But rest assured there’s plenty else on offer at this establishment.

“Nearly all our staff are Balinese and come from the Ubud area,” tells General Manager, Anthony Syrowatka. “Behind the scenes we fully embrace the Balinese traditions and culture, and there are many daily rituals carried out, as well as big ceremonies on special days which guests are more than welcome to take part in.”

Syrowatka tells me that the resort is family owned and run and that while he and his folks “get caught up in our work and lose sight sometimes of how special our surroundings are, we sometimes get the chance to join our guests or friends in the hotel for dinner or a drink at the bar and that magic comes back to us.”

Having done much travelling themselves, the Syrowatka family have made a conscious effort of making their guests’ stay truly memorable, unique and excellent value for money.

“There are things we’ve liked and disliked when we’ve travelled and we have created an experience of staying with us that we would expect when we travel but don’t always get… Things like extra bathroom space, 24-hour internet access, non-alcoholic mini bar, car and driver to take guests to the greater Ubud area, breakfast, and many other things, all being complementary during your stay.”

One component of the Viceroy that Syrowatka is justifiably proud of is the Viceroy’s in-house restaurant, CasCades, which although offers predominantly western (notably French) fare with a slight Asian twist, invites guests to try a traditional Indonesian ‘rijsttafel’ menu peppered with amazing, authentic Balinese dishes. Set amongst reflection ponds, and stunning timber finishes, CasCades is arguably one of Bali’s better dining spots: its breathtaking views as romantic as its cuisine is delectable. It’s no surprise that it has won Best Restaurant every year, from 2007 to 2010, as acknowledged by Indonesia Tattler and American Express.

Further on the subject of award-worthiness, the Viceroy’s opulently built spa, Lembah, is considered by many to be Ubud’s finest therapeutic facility, with both local and accredited Swiss therapists at hand to provide a variety of massage options. Guests can opt to have treatments carried out in the privacy of their villa or on the spa’s relaxation decks that overlook the gorgeous Petanu Valley.

No doubt about it, the Viceroy confirms Ubud’s namesake of betterment through natural medicine, while reiterating the area’s artistic sensibilities. Your every whim is catered for here, even special requests such as butler serviced in-villa dining or a volcano tour via helicopter. Now that’s an innovative way to appreciate the true heart of Bali.

The Viceroy is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World. Visit www.slh.com/viceroy or phone 1800 251 958 for booking information. Visit the resort’s website directly at www.viceroybali.com. Also, for special offers click here. And for other travel benefits become a member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World Club (it’s free!) at www.slh.com/club.



Seminyak’s new Wow factor 

Time to show off. I’ve had the pleasure of staying at various W Hotels around the world, each with their unique aesthetic attributes that pay tribute to the cities that surround them, be it Hong Kong, Sydney (sadly now taken over by the Blue Hotel), or New York (having shacked up in both the Times Square and Lexington Avenue venues out of the four Ws in NYC). In my taxi going up the long cobble-stoned drive to W’s newest addition in Seminyak, Bali, it didn’t look like a hotel lobby I was heading towards, but instead some sort of futuristic space station. The foyer itself is massive with a welcome bar at its centre and many more staff at reception than at your average hotel. From this central hub sprawl the establishment’s many suites and retreats (158 in total), with each wave of rooms looking like the giant tentacle of an octopus when viewed from the air, I’m sure.

Inspired by retro chic architecture of the 1960s and ’70s, mixed in with hints of traditional Balinese design, architectural firm AB Concept have done such a magnificent job in blending the traditional and the classic with the contemporary, that the word postmodern doesn’t even begin to describe it. Straight stepping profiles, typical of traditional pagoda temples, have been reinterpreted in the resin contours of the bar, a focal point of the W Lounge. The lobby’s ceiling features a gorgeously intricate henna design in keeping with Bali’s Hindu tradition, while the steps leading down to the pool take their design cue from cascading layers of rice paddies that are so ubiquitous in Indonesia.

But while tradition has sneaked into the hotel’s pragmatic design, vibrant colour also plays a part, with mood lighting greeting you at the lifts, and a host of hot pinks and purple furnishings capturing the vibrancy of a Balinese sunset.

Says Co-Founder and Director of AB Concept, Ed Ng, “In designing W Retreat & Spa Bali – Seminyak, we set out to redefine what a Balinese resort looks like. We wanted to create a unique property unlike anything else on the island. Although we’ve taken inspiration from the local culture and architectural forms, we’ve added a bold, modern twist to these conventions.”

Once in your room, you’re greeted by aquatic greens and blues that bring to mind the sea that is just a hundred metres away. A bathroom skylight provides natural sunlight and floor-to-ceiling windows take full advantage of the gorgeous ocean view.

Noticing all the nifty gadgets and amenities in the retreats and suites, including Bose sound system, iPod docking station, flat-screen TV, high-speed WiFi, and deep soaking tub, it becomes obvious that this W will appeal to the sophisticated traveler who is design-conscious but pragmatic in their accommodation decisions.

In a place like Bali, visitors are pretty spoilt for food. For a few thousand rupiah you can enjoy traditional Indonesian cuisine that tastes great and is good for you. For this reason, the food and beverage team at the new W have insisted on keeping the prices at the hotel’s two restaurants – Fire and Starfish Bloo – very affordable, boasting menus of a clever east-meets-west fusion cuisine. Headed up by Aussie chef, Ian Lovie, Fire offers guests the best fire-cooked prime meats and seafood, and an array of enticing appetizers like Crispy Confit of Duck, Jimbaran Market Calamari Risotto, and Carpaccio of Australian Grade Kobe Beef. Starfish Bloo gets even more experimental with Chef de Cuisine Jack Yoss delivering an adventurous Pan Asian menu night after night. Voss, like Lovie, is insistent on capitalising on the island’s bountiful seafood, exotic fruits, and native herbs to create dishes he refers to as “raw, rare and naked” (but yes, of course many of his dishes are properly cooked).

After dinner, it’s nice to enjoy a cocktail at the WooBar while the DJ plays the coolest of chill-out tunes that soon segue into electro-dance, and if you want to party on, such Seminyak hot spots as Potato Head, 66 and Mixwell are only a short distance away (Potato Head is right next door, actually).

Now there is a reason the W likes its newest addition to be referred to as a Retreat & Spa and that is because it’s spa facilities are state-of-the-art and out of this world. One of the few resorts in the world that offer around-the-clock services (that is, 24/7), myself and my travelling guest couldn’t resist a midnight massage. We were offered oxygen to begin with that got us in a blissful state, then a choice from one of three fabulous sounding massage menus: ‘Serene & Soulful’, ‘Glamour & Glitz’, and ‘Fit & Fabulous’. We opted for the first one, and let’s just say the menu might well have its name changed to ‘Heavenly & Heartfelt’. I swear I almost cried after my hour and half treatment; it was as though the therapist had soothed the aches and pains in practically every muscle, bone and nerve.

It’s a brilliant idea having a 24-hour spa in a resort. After all, it’s after the hard partying or heavy shopping that most people want to detox and relax. Blissful treatments and glorious cuisine aside, it’s the little touches that make staying at the W Retreat & Spa in Seminyak a magical experience. Things like the message on the welcome mat in the elevator suddenly changing at dusk; the mini bar looking more like a maxi bar; the wooden façade that rolls out to reveal a giant TV; the statuette in your toilet that humorously reads ‘Take your time, I like to watch’; light fittings that look like something out of a Lady Gaga video; and high tea in the lobby that Alice would find more vividly memorable than Wonderland. It’s these kind of details that make me look forward to my next stay here, knowing there are a lot more surprises to discover I’m sure.


W Retreat & Spa is situated Jl. Petitenget, Seminyak, Kerobokan, Denpasar Bali.

Visit www.whotels.com/baliseminyak  or phone +62 361 738 106 for rates and enquiries.

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