Unlike tranquil Ubud or ultra-chic Seminyak in Bali, Kuta, with its crowds of wife-beater clad Australian tourists, tends to give off a more hectic vibe that has never really appealed. However, The Stones, a new hotel right on the edge of Kuta and opposite Legian Beach, is a slice of paradise where you’d least expect to find it.
On approaching the hotel’s long driveway, I worried that The Stones might just be another standard business hotel. But as soon as I entered the grand lobby and spotted their gigantic swimming pool, I knew I’d landed somewhere special! In fact, The Stones is part of Marriott International’s Autograph Collection, their group of “strikingly independent luxury hotels”, and the first of its kind in Asia.
My friend and I had strategically planned our two-night stay at The Stones around running the Bali Half-Marathon and we could not have been more spoilt. Having come from a small yet impersonal hotel in Seminyak where we struggled to communicate with the staff, the outstanding service we received at The Stones made our stay there totally effortless and relaxing – which, what with the marathon running, was exactly what we needed! It’s a huge hotel, with 308 rooms, including 22 suites and a 3000-square metre pool and entertainment deck, yet somehow the service remained personal throughout, with smiling staff calling us by our names at every turn.
After dumping our suitcases in our Deluxe Pool Room (complete with super-soft twin beds, a rain shower, giant bathtub and a balcony overlooking the pool and beautiful vertical gardens), we headed poolside for some serious sunbathing. We quickly found two sunbeds, which we claimed as ‘ours’ for the duration of our stay – they weren’t just within close proximity of the pool, they were actually in the pool; all we needed to do to cool our bodies from the hot Indonesian sun was roll over!
When our afternoon of sunbathing and complimentary fresh fruit skewers was interrupted by one of Bali’s unyielding rainstorms, we didn’t even complain – after all, two cosy waffle dressing gowns and cloud-like beds were waiting back in our room! Well, if you can’t veg out in a cosy dressing gown on holiday, when can you?!
Keen to make the most of Bali’s delicious cuisine, we dined at The Long Rice Table, the hotel’s innovative Indonesian restaurant, to fuel up the night before our big race. After dipping moreish rice crackers in a chilli soy sauce (which we crushed ourselves with a mini pestle and mortar!), we were served the perfect fuelling feast, beginning with a bowl of Soto Lamongan, a light, warming chicken soup loaded with tomatoes, potatoes, crispy shallots and rice noodles.
The main event of the meal came in the form of rijsttafel, a feast of small sharing dishes adopted during the Dutch rule over Indonesia. From steamed fish and steamed duck (both cooked in a banana leaf) to fish satay, chicken curry and beef rendang, plus three kinds of traditional sambal and two kinds of rice, this was truly a feast for both the eyes and the tastebuds! Our favourite was hands down the beef rendang, which was bursting with delicious Balinese spices and had the most incredible melt-in-the-mouth texture.
After our half-marathon the next morning (we both ran faster than our target times, thanks for asking!), we had planned to head to the Potato Head Beach Club before venturing to a dinner party later. However, once we reconnected with our sun loungers and instantly felt as relaxed as could be, we realised we had everything we needed right there at The Stones, so why go anywhere else?
We celebrated our run with delicious cocktails, which we happily sipped whilst soaking our tired muscles in the pool. We didn’t even need to leave the pool to eat our lunch of Caprese salad and fried seafood; we simply perched on underwater stools by the bar and gorged! My favourite part of the day was when, quite unexpectedly, one of the staff leaned over and asked “Miss Wilkinson, would you like me to clean your sunglasses for you?” I do believe that is what you call service!
I’ll be the first to admit that I judge a hotel on the quality of its buffet breakfast. I’ve been to hotels aplenty, so please don’t think it an exaggeration when I say that the breakfast buffet at The Stones was without a doubt the best I have ever had. With a spread including banana pancakes, fresh granola, a hand-pressed juice bar where you make your own unique creations, traditional Indonesian delicacies and even a – wait for it – ice-cream station, it was just incredible. The minute I saw a sign telling me it was OK to eat ice-cream for breakfast, there was certainly no hesitation on my part!
After breakfast, I was booked into the beautiful Celestine Spa for a Stones Art Movement Massage and Celestine Facial – making all concerns of a food coma melt away. Both treatments were utterly relaxing and an excellent release for my weary muscles; I’m rarely able to fully switch off and fall asleep during a spa treatment, yet here I had no problem at all.
Sadly after a couple more hours in the sunshine, it was time to bid farewell and head back to hectic Hong Kong. It’s good to know that somewhere within deepest darkest Kuta amongst the Bintang wife-beaters, The Stones is a little haven where you can escape and happily soak up incredible service, delicious food, and of course, rays of sunshine in a beautiful and peaceful setting.
Room rates at The Stones start from 160USD per night; see more information on rates and availability here
The Stones Hotel, Jl. Raya Pantai Kuta, Banjar Legian Kelod, Legian, Bali, Indonesia, +62 361 300 5888
Check out more from Ale on her fab blog, The Dim Sum Diaries!