Oh. My. Giddy. Aunt. That is the only possible reaction to an arrival at Alila Villas Uluwatu. Although you could squeal like the Japanese lady.
It’s as if you’ve stepped onto another planet in another solar system in another time – not just one giant leap, but three. All at once. It’s like the Pond’s Institute has landed on a cliff in Bali. Beautiful young people waft about in white outfits spritzing face mist, smiling – always smiling – and moving without a sound. If it wasn’t so nice it might be just a little bit creepy.
All this has been observed from the lobby, which is, of course, to lobbies what Tiger Woods is to golf – and the ladies – a whole different league. The ‘lobby’ has the most perfect sight lines to the 50 metre infinity pool and the Indian Ocean beyond. It is one of the smartest pieces of architectural design you will ever see, simple as that.
Once you re-gather your senses, retrieve your jaw from the floor and stop mouthing profanities, you are escorted around the property by one of the beautiful quiet people. But when you walk into the oft-photographed ‘stick’ pavilion jutting out over the ocean, your breath is sucked away again. If first impressions count most, this has been quite the start. And we’re not even close to our room yet.
And so to our one-bedroom Pool Villa. Maybe the stats can give you a rough idea: a 300-square-metre footprint, larger than average plunge pool surrounded by decking and two enormous day-beds, indoor/outdoor shower, iPod dock, flatscreen TV, espresso machine… You get the picture. But until you are there it’s just a picture. In real life it is soooo much better.
The room is stunningly modern with lots of white (something of a recurring motif), dark timber and quite a few large mirrors – perhaps beautiful people like admiring themselves more than us fatties do. ‘Product’ abounds: product for him, just for her, for face, for hair, for shower, for mosquitoes, for after shaving, before sleeping and post sunbathing. And everything is just so beautiful. Begrudgingly I have to admit that the soap ‘especially for him’ knocks even the great Cussons Imperial Leather for a metaphorical six. Never have I smelled so sweet as I did for those two days.
More great design is evident in the shape and placement of the rooms to best catch the local zephyrs and reduce the need for air-con. Oh, yes, this place is green, the greenest ever built in Bali, and while not strictly a health resort there are daily yoga classes and lots of literature on ‘life journeys’ and ‘holistic wellbeing’ for your quiet contemplation. There is no alcohol in the minibar, but you have a butler at all times to answer your late-night whisky and Bintang calls. Thanks, Wayan. The overall mood is one of ‘young’ and ‘now’ and ‘of its time’. This is new-age luxury at its very best.
Mrs Smith and I settle in for the afternoon and find ourselves the only guests by the infinity pool. With villas as enticing as the ones on offer here, replete with pool and butler, I imagine more than a few guests never actually emerge into a public space after check-in. It’s their loss.
Our favourite encounter of the trip occurs when we inquire, quite sheepishly, if there might be a game of Scrabble we could borrow. The beautiful, smiling young man we ask looks thoroughly bemused and replies, verbatim: ‘We have Wii and Nintendo DS for your room if you like.’ We have arrived in the future. About four hours later the same white-clad, smiling, beautiful boy glides over as we leave dinner clutching the freshest, newest Scrabble box and claiming he ‘found it in another villa’. His exuberance and service standards are world class, although I suspect that someone was sent into Denpasar, the capital, to buy it. Which only makes us love the place even more.
On either side of the pool are the resort’s two restaurants. There’s the Warung, a casual, elegantly designed Indonesian, and Cire, the more upmarket international offering. For us, the hands-down choice was the Warung, where the food is fresh, local, indigenous and fantastic. For all its charms we think Cire might need to try a little less hard. The food is most certainly ambitious and the service is first rate, but, as the adage goes, sometimes less is more. If I want crazy French meets Indonesian cuisine adorned with every zeitgeisty ingredient under the sun, I have Sydney for that.
Alila is about a 15-minute drive from Uluwatu Temple, which is worth a visit at sunset for gorgeous dancers and thieving monkeys. Otherwise, there is not much nearby in the realm of Bali life as such. Seriously, though, you probably won’t think about leaving the grounds once you’re there. If you need something to do, you can always indulge at the rather special Spa Alila. The therapists are wonderful (and beautiful and quiet) and the products they use, as explained by Mrs Smith in language I would understand, are like the Macallan compared to your standard Johnnie Walker Red Label. Ergo, they are good.
The Alila group is still young and things might not be quite as polished as at, say, an Aman, but you just know they will get there sooner rather than later. Early evening drinks in the sunset cabana (ie, the stick pavilion) are almost fantastical – just expect the soundtrack to be more Ministry of Sound chill-out than Balinese bamboo xylophone.
And be prepared to be the least attractive person in the place. Unless you are beautiful, of course. Which you probably are, so you’ll feel right at home. In the best home you ever had.