As our complimentary transfer vehicle turned off the main road leading into Ubud and began to wind its way through a series of lush rice fields towards Alila Ubud’s 5.3 hectare property, we knew we had officially arrived in ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ land. Local workers in the rice fields beamed at us as we cruised by and wild ducks in flocks of hundreds stood huddled together on the wet terraces. The tranquility and seclusion of Alila hit us immediately – and boy was it a welcome feeling.
We had been looking forward to checking out one of Bali’s most raved about eco resorts for what felt like forever, and when the opportunity arose to spend a night in one of Alila Ubud’s premier villas – the Terrace Tree Villa – we leapt at the opportunity!
Nestled high up on the edge of the verdant Ayung River valley, in the traditional Balinese hill village of Payangan, Alila’s Ubud resort is touted as one of Bali’s most sustainably built – and there is no doubt that it epitomizes eco-luxury through every single element of its design. The walls are built entirely from rocks sourced from the nearby Ayung River and the roofs constructed from pillars of coconut wood and wads of dried ‘alang alang’ grass from the neighbouring valley. Amenities are packaged in stylish containers crafted by local artisans, verses the traditional plastic throwaway bottles, providing both livelihoods to locals as well as encouraging re-use of the containers. 80% of the 188 staff are from the local community, the place is decked out with LED light bulbs and timers to deactivate unnecessary lights, there are countless waste and water management programmes in place (sadly this is a rare thing in Bali) and the entire resort has been designed to maximise natural ventilation, making air con unnecessary in many parts of the resort. In fact its efforts led to Alila Ubud being named one of the first resorts in Bali to obtain Green Globe and EarthCheck certification back in ’07.
But Alila’s appeal doesn’t lie only in its incredibly thoughtful practices. The secluded hillside retreat just OOZES style, from the crushed rock terrazzo, to the thatched wooden roofs, to open plan living and the natural earthy colour spectrum. Designed by world-renowned architectural firm Kerry Hill Architects, the resort has won countless awards for its contemporary yet authentic Balinese design, including ‘16 World’s Best Outdoor Bathtubs’ by Forbes in 2016, ‘Top 5 Best Hotel Pools In The World 2015’ by Smith Hotel Awards, ‘20 World’s Best Hotels (Asia & Indian Subcontinent)’ by Conde Nast Traveller UK 2012, and ‘World’s 20 Coolest Hotel Pools’ by Forbes 2011. In other words, they’ve kind of nailed it design-wise.
Alila Ubud offers five kinds of rooms, ranging from Terrace Tree Villas which come in at the priciest at over US$560 night during low season, to superior rooms which start at US$220 a night. The Terrace Tree Villa, which we were lucky enough to call home during our stay, is 120 sqm of pure, private luxury perched atop a rich jungle canopy. Integrating the surrounding hillside into its design wherever possible, the one bedroom villa comes with a beautiful private balcony, King four-poster bed, closet, living area, kitchen area and possibly Asia’s most beautiful hotel bathroom. A standalone granite bathtub sits in a bay window, with jungle surrounding you at almost every angle. I don’t think it requires any explanation as to how incredibly magical it is to see families of monkeys playing in the trees beside you as you bathe in locally produced bath salts (exotic combinations of which can be purchased at any time of day by dialing 1 on your room phone – you’re welcome J).
The Alila team has thought of everything, from the handmade Alila gourmet chocolate selection in the minibar, to in-room iPod docking stations, complimentary delicious Indonesian snacks & chutney on arrival, to a nightly “turndown service” that includes the lighting of incense, candles and mosquito coils. The bathroom is thoughtfully split into ‘his’ and ‘her’, with vanities, amenities and even straw hats and hotel-wear designed specifically for you and your significant other.
The Alila property is laid out like a traditional Balinese village, with each room offering a pretty phenomenal view over the magical Ayung valley. The Pool Villas and Valley Villas offer spacious walk-around decks, in-door showers and outdoor bathtubs that sit surrounded by fish-filled ponds (and what more does a girl need than that!?), and the Superior and Deluxe Suites offer courtyards with outdoor bathrooms, WIFI, a small terrace or balcony, and His and Her amenities.
By the end of September 2016, Alila Ubud should also have a whopping 20 new villas, including a number of 2 bedroom private pool villas, perfect for a family holiday or a super special weekend away with girlfriends.
I’m salivating just thinking about our two meal experiences at Alila – which says a lot about the kitchen and menu! We were lucky enough to be dining at Alila on the night of a ‘Spice Market’ feast, which meant that we could savour the local cuisine while taking in a traditional Balinese dance show, backed by the soothing sounds of an Indonesian band. There were local artisans scattered about the open-air restaurant in a market-style setup, and a mouth-watering buffet was the eye-catching centerpiece of it all. We guessed we were in for a treat when the chef brought out a ‘babi guling’ (suckling pig) to be spit-roasted in full view of the guests 6 hours before the dinner. And the final result did not disappoint.
The gado gado was delicious, the traditional ‘bakso’ soup; authentic, the suckling pig; succulent as ever, the satay skewers; the best we had tasted in Indonesia. My partner and I were full to the brim but found it within ourselves to try every single thing on offer – and boy were we glad that we did. Each dish was spiced to perfection, each flavour boasted that perfect Indonesian combination of sweet, peanut-infused, salty goodness. Finger-lickingly good. And dessert – the Indonesian sweet pancakes, a gooey layer of chocolate wedged between two layers of pancake – was cooked to order right in front of us by two beautifully dressed Balinese waitresses. Sticky coconut rice in banana leaves, ‘es campur’ – a shaved ice dessert with condensed milk, fruit and jelly, and sweet potato pudding were also among the mouth watering selection of desserts on offer.
Complimentary cocktails and canapés in the gallery before the meal was a nice touch and allowed guests to mingle, something which is sadly not too common in luxury resorts these days, where everyone seems as determined as ever to “switch off” and socialize only with their iPad or smartphone (ironic isn’t it?). It gave us a chance to befriend the staff who would become our closest allies over the next few days, too. The complimentary afternoon tea, served daily by the pool, also offered guests a delicious selection of local Indonesian sweets – we just couldn’t get enough of the sticky coconut rice balls with sweet condensed milk and coconut pancakes (‘pulung pulung ketan’). Yum!
Breakfast was equally as unforgettable. Guests are able to choose as many or as few dishes from an exotic variety of local and international breakfast dishes as they wish. They arrive in taste-sized portions, allowing you to savour as many as you wish, washed down with taste-sized portions of either a rejuvenating “healthy juice”, cinnamon and banana smoothie, or Balinese coffee. We couldn’t help but try everything on the menu since it all looked so good! Pastries are baked fresh onsite each morning, and I must admit I’ve not ever appreciated my morning croissant quite so much as I did sitting there, hearing the echoes of monkeys playing in the trees of the surrounding jungle, coating my hot, fresh pastry with the in-house Alila specialty; smashed organic banana and walnut jam.
If my above words don’t speak loudly enough, then hopefully this will. GO. JUST GO. If you ever have the opportunity to stay at an Alila property, go, I promise you will not regret it. From the stunning contemporary design, to the unexpected hospitalities, doting service, unforgettable cuisine, luxury onsite amenities and sustainable practices in place across all Alila properties, you would be hard-pressed to find a more luxurious resort with such an environmental conscious. For a guilt-free taste of luxury living, I know where I’ll be heading for my next holiday…
Alila Ubud, Desa Melinggih Kelod, Payangan, Gianyar, Bali 80572, Indonesia www.alilahotels.com/ubud