Indonesia

Ultra modern luxuries in old Bali

A Special Lunch Correspondent

“Splash, splash, slosh … slosh, slurp.’’

The first splash is me diving into my private pool in my private pool villa at Alila Villas Soori on Bali’s south coast.

The secondary splashes were the water sloshing over the side into one of the captive gardens surrounding my private pool in my pool villa. I do a couple of lazy laps, underwater, then a few on the surface, then just for a change soak my bonce under the fountain trickling musically into the pool.

A private splice of heaven... Alila Villa
A private splice of heaven… Alila Villas Soori

It’s 7.32am. The day is very warm, but not seer. I hoist myself out of the pool pivoting nicely, with maximum pressure at the height of the turn, and sit with my back against the doorjamb where my villa’s living room meets the pool edge, taking a sip of icy cold mineral water. A picture of relaxation if ever there was one.

I am the Deepak Chopra of chilling out, the Tony Robbins of repose. Why, I could take the most driven alpha-type personality and within two days he would be contemplating chucking it all in to live in Bali and say things like: “Woah, gnarly waves dude’’.

My villa is ultra modern and is very serious about the amenities – rain room, outside shower, bath big enough for three. Then there is the rest. The bed is the size of a baseball field and there are seven lazing around options (I counted) including an inside daybed, an outdoor deck, and cabana with daybed and dining area – all of which get a workout during my stay.

Where old meets new... Bali
Where old meets new… Bali

Ultra modern, yet set amid ancient rice paddy fields. A two-metre path is all that separates me from working fields. In the middle distant rice terraces rise up a small ride. Far away what seems to be an actual cloud-capped volcano dominates the horizon.

General manager Marco Groten, who single handedly carved the resort out of the jungle agrees: “Our biggest point of difference is our location.’’

“You are in the real Bali. In the Bali a lot of people have seen 20 to 30 years ago. The rice paddies, the beach, the nearby village with a beautiful temple,’’ Mr Groten tells Lunch Magazine.

“We are in a corner of Bali that is very quiet and very traditional.’’

The classic newer-than-next-week design and the resort’s clean lines are also a big focus.

“It is very modern but a lot of Balinese materials were used. So because of the black sand beach we used black and white and greys to blend in with the property, which is camouflaged further with the landscaping.’’

And the food is also authentically local and 90 to 95 per cent sourced locally.

“There is always one restaurant that has Indonesian or Balinese food.

Carving out the jungle...
Carving out the jungle… Marco Groten

“We want people the have the opportunity to eat as the Balinese do so sometimes it can be a bit spicy. I can be a different on the palate, but we want you to eat as authentically as possible.’’

He says there is a feeling that the old Bali has been lost.

“We see a lot of negative things in the press, but there is still magic in Bali.

“We still want to offer the luxury that travellers look forward to.’’

Among those things, you can indulge yourself in Alila Spa, whch is getting a separate review.

If you are hard up for things to do – inconceiveable I know – there are things like horseriding along the beach or a wander through the nearby village and Tanah Lot Temple.

There are too many dining options to try them all during my short stay. Among them are the beach picnic, where they take you to a deserted part of the coastline with a picnic hamper and some wine – for thirst is a dangerous thing.

Or your personal butler – did I mention the unobtrusive butler or host (available if you press “host’’ on your house phone) will organise a chef to come to your cabana and fire up the barby. Then there are the three restaurants, Cotta, Ombak and the Reading Room, or regular in-room dining.

Ombak is the Villas’ signature restaurant. The night we dine there executive chef Dwayne Cheer cooks up a storm of dishes. The highlights are a seafood dish lifted with a prawn bisque and pate de foie gras with melt in your mouth eel.

Then the next night I try Cotta and hit them up for the Balinese set menu. About eight dishes in miniature banana trays. Ranging from fiery curries, fish kebabs, to more subtle jungle flavours. My waiter indicates where to start and stop.

I keep my servers running back and forth to the kitchen fetching alternately, more chilli and, surprisingly perhaps, more beer, which come out in individual ice-filled coolers – for beer can get warm in the tropics if you’re not careful.

Only go to Alila Villas Soori if you are after the ideal combination of a romantic getaway that gives you the authentic flavour of Bali with great food, excellent, unobtrusive service and total privacy in an unbelievably exquisite tropical setting.

The website is below. I’d get online right away if I were you.

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