Trust Mr Smith and me to arrive in Bali at the same time as a megastar. Indeed Megawati Soekarnoputri, the former Indonesian president, has chosen today, of all days, to kick off her party’s pre-election campaigning on the island, and she’s brought along quite the entourage. As is often the case in Bali, the traffic has come to a grinding halt, and we’re only a hundred metres from the airport. The happy-go-lucky nature of the Balinese means no one really seems to mind, but for this seasoned commuter, sitting in traffic is no way to start a holiday. Then I clock the giant posters of Mega’s face beaming down on streets lined with banners and flags – girl power! – and can’t help but smile back and surrender to the chaos. At least we have air-conditioning.
When we finally arrive in Ubud my cheery holiday vibe is restored: the Purist Villas define serenity. Set on lush tropical hills on the outskirts of town, there are just seven private villas, making this one of Bali’s smallest boutique hotels.
As luck would have it, Mr Smith and I are staying in the smallest hotel’s largest villa – an antique house transplanted from the island of Timor. Its carved timber panels have been extended upward to include a mezzanine level that is now the master bedroom, starring a king-size four-poster bed. As our butler Agus shows us around, it becomes apparent that the boudoir is not the only place suitable for a lie-down.
Every area of our Hill Villa has been designed to ensure maximum horizontal enjoyment, whether that’s lazing on a sunlounger on the deck overlooking the main swimming pool, or slothing on the more secluded day-bed by our own pool. Inside, the living room’s sofas offer the perfect vantage point for gazing up at the villa’s alang-alang roof, and the second bedroom, with doors that open to the private pool, has two single beds that scream ‘siesta’. Then, of course, there’s the indoor/outdoor bathroom with a stone tub, perfect for soaking beneath the stars. ‘We’ll be making the most of that,’ says Mr Smith.
With two days of intense relaxation ahead of us we set ourselves the arduous task of choosing a favourite resting place. In the heat of the day, that’s our private pool. As we splash about, Mr Smith declares a cocktail the only thing missing from this idyllic scene. Two mojitos are promptly ordered – it is mid-afternoon after all. Not so promptly, the mojitos arrive. We don’t really mind for we are now in total relaxation mode. While we sip contentedly, Agus asks us if we’re dining in that night, as anything from the kitchen must be ordered well in advance to allow the staff time to prepare.
The ingredients for almost every dish are sourced from the local market, which means produce that’s fantastically fresh, but it also requires anticipating your food mood and appetite up to three hours before you eat. With this in mind, I figure it wise to order another round of mojitos, too, correctly predicting an ongoing thirst.
Mandi Lulur might sound like the name of the latest teen sensation to storm the charts, but it’s actually the flower bath treatment Mr Smith and I have booked at the spa. It’s one of the hotel’s signature pampering pleasures, originally devised in the 17th century for royal Javanese brides-to-be. A double treatment room means our bodies are pummelled and tweaked in unison before being rubbed down with a richly spiced, house-made body scrub to exfoliate the skin. We’re then covered in detoxing yoghurt (mojitos, be gone!) before the session ends with a soak in a deep, warm bath topped with flower petals.
Muscles refreshed and skin silky-smooth, we return to our villa in a delightful daze just in time for dinner. We’ve decided to eat in the comfort of our new home (a wise move given our spa-sedated condition), but there’s also the option of heading to the Living Room, the common dining area. The food is amazing and keeps us alert until dessert has been devoured. We crawl upstairs and crash before our plates are cleared, falling into the deep, otherworldly slumber usually reserved for children and the recently massaged.
While I pick over breakfast in the sun the next morning, Mr Smith jumps straight in the pool. Between his splashes, we decide today is all about adventure and braving Ubud’s famed Monkey Forest. In fact, we are feeling so ready for action we resolve to travel there on motorcycles, exploring local rice paddies and villages along the way.
The thrill-seeking, however, is short lived. Channelling Casey Stoner, I give the throttle a few revs and drive straight into a nearby fence. Agus runs to my rescue, pulling off the bike and helping me from the ground. More amused than alarmed, Mr Smith tries to stifle his laughter, cursing the missed opportunity to capture the whole thing on film.
Cuts and bruises attended to, Agus arranges a driver to take us to the Monkey Forest. We spend the day communing with primates and exploring Ubud’s art and craft markets before returning home to the villa. Wonderfully weary, we slide into the pool, bottles of Bintang in hand, to escape the heat and watch the sun set behind jungle-covered hills.
‘We should come back to Bali next year,’ says Mr Smith. I give him an approving nod: ‘That should be enough time for me to get my motorcycle licence.’