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 you pay for some physical readjusting upon return from your ‘vacation’. Or the second, more preferable option, is to book an economic flight and splurge on a stunning hotel or splendid resort. This way you’ll be inclined to enjoy the venue’s facilities and amenities a lot more, possibly even saving some money in the long run.
We drove to Ubud from Denpasar airport, immediately having flown in from Lombok, and while some might feel flustered coming and going in a matter of hours, I’ve got to say this has been one of the most laid-back, enjoyable trips to my destination that I’ve ever experienced in Indonesia. The transfer from the airport to Samsara Ubud took less than the expected hour-and-a-half drive. Way faster than the last time I’d visited Ubud when I was travelling from Seminyak.
Samsara is a short drive from the centre of Ubud and close to the hub of authentic Indonesian artisanship. Ubud itself home to Bali’s traditional artisanry – pottery, glassmaking, wooden furniture – and it is also the heart of Indonesia’s medicine manufacturing (indeed, the name Ubud actually translates to ‘medicine’ in English). 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.
If Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali, Samsara is its regal quarters. You’ll feel like a king once you step foot in Samsara Ubud Resort, which sits mid-mountain amid surrounding forests and above blankets of trees below.
The resort has specifically been designed to allow guests to reconnect with nature, their loved ones and, most importantly, with themselves. And after a couple of days here, my partner and I did indeed feel more grounded. From the get-go we were treated well, from being offered delicious refreshments at reception to the short and sweet tour of our villa.
Architects and designers have maintained a modern aesthetic but with surprise traditional Balinese motifs at every turn. Acclaimed Balinese architect, Popo Danes, said they designed the resort to be in complete harmony with nature and this they have successfully done.
While enjoying a dip in our private infinity pool, we’d be greeted by bright butterflies, or spot the occasional cute frog or lizard lounging in the sun a metre below the pool’s edge.
While each of the villas reveal a modern-meets-classic touch, they’re certainly equipped with state-of-the-art mod cons: en-suite bathroom as well as outdoor shower; quick-to-cool air-conditioning; Wi-Fi and device dock; flatscreen TV and more.
The architects have also adopted sustainable design strategies, such as seeing that the shower water outside is dispersed into the surrounding plants and trees, while aesthetically, the multi-level and layered architecture is a tribute to Bali’s centuries-old rice terraces, providing all villas with views of the lush tropical jungle. The interiors were inspired from a bygone era of Bali when organic materials – such as andesitic lava stones and rosewood – were plentiful and used to build temples and palaces.
Each villa is luxuriously fitted in a mix of contemporary Balinese décor, rich teak furnishings and exotic fabrics. Our villa boasted a four-poster bed draped in sheer linen; comfortable sofa and ottoman separating the bed from the entertainment area; flat-screen television; mini bar and so on.
Each villa is luxuriously fitted in a mix of contemporary Balinese décor, rich teak furnishings and exotic fabrics.
But it’s the expansive bathroom space I’ve really got to brag about, the basins made of Makassar marble and features including double vanities, a soaking tub and (yes, well worth mentioning again) those separate indoor and outdoor showers. 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.
We attempted to tick as many boxes as possible. A trip to Ubud centre for a spot of knick-knack shopping? Check. A bike ride through nearby Kelusa to soak in a little local culture? Check. (Thanks for the selfie, Ngurah Ari).
A sunrise hike to majestic Mount Batur? Check. A visit to some of Indonesia’s largest temples? Check. And, finally, sampling a variety of traditional, exotic and contemporary cuisine? Check, check, check!
Samsara’s Kelusa restaurant named after the small village that borders Samsara Ubud – offers western fare with a slight Asian twist, while also tempting guests to sample traditional Indonesian (or ‘rijsttafel’) offerings such as Opor Ayam (a coconut curry chicken) or, for the more daring, pulled oxtail.
We enjoyed many dishes with a Euro flair, too. For entree a beetroot carpaccio; for main delicious whiskey-marinated pork ribs mounted on an Asian-inspired slaw. Every mouthful was an amazing array of tastes. In fact I let our waiter know that this was the best food I’ve had in all my travels to Indonesia (and I’ve visited over a dozen times). Executive chef Iwan Sutrisno insists on fusing fresh local ingredients with modern cooking techniques, resulting in a decadent display of colour, taste and texture.
On the beverage front, there’s an awesome selection of international wines and some very twisted cocktails, like the popcorn-infused vodka martini that I couldn’t get enough of.
Guests can also enjoy a Balinese High Tea ceremony, with refreshments served on a wooden dulang and including savoury canapes, fresh fruits and traditional Balinese sweets. Or a spot of dinner whilst enjoying movies under the stars in Samsara’s own version of ‘moonlight cinema’.
On our last morning we were treated to a floating breakfast. Now forget breakfast in bed; try breakfast in your infinity pool for sheer decadence. The menu is just as extensive as the usual breakfast offerings, only the meal comes to you in the comfort of your own infinity pool, surrounded by all the splendour nature has to offer.
Your every whim is catered for here, even special requests such as butler serviced in-villa dining or a ‘floating’ breakfast in your infinity pool.
The food at Kelusa is so impressive, the restaurant and Samsara Ubud are up for two major awards at the 2019 International Exquisite Awards: one for ‘Best Indonesian Restaurant’, the other for ‘Best Hotel Villas’.
On the subject of award-worthiness, the Chakra spa at Samsara is considered by many to be one of Ubud’s finest therapeutic facilities, with accredited therapists at hand to provide a variety of massage and relaxation treatments. Guests can opt to have a massage in the privacy of their villa or on the spa’s relaxation decks overlooking gorgeous forestry, with treatments including bamboo massages, Ayurveda therapy, reflexology and restorative body scrubs.
No doubt about it, Samsara confirms Ubud’s namesake of betterment through natural remedies, 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 ‘floating’ breakfast in your infinity pool, a forest trek or village bike tour. Now that’s an innovative way to appreciate the true heart of Indonesia!
Samsara Ubud is situated in Desa Kelusa, Payangan Ubud, Indonesia.
For bookings and information, visit www.samsaraubud.com or phone +62 361 209 1769.
Photography by Antonino Tati (except image top of story, courtesy Samsara Ubud)