Text by Julia Freemantle.
Bali has re-emerged as a nexus for both high-end on-the-pulse design destinations and quirky spaces unique to the island’s culture – no doubt a result of merging cultural influences, rich craft heritage, unbeatable scenery and an upswing in luxury hospitality.
Alila Villas Uluwatu and Como Uma Canggu
Como Uma Canggu and Alila Villas Uluwatu are two new jaw-droppers on the island’s south coast. Trademark Balinese sunsets are best enjoyed at Como Uma’s penthouse, which overlooks the famous surf, while Alila Villas is perched on a dramatic cliff edge. Located on Echo Beach, Como Uma is one of the newest five-star establishments to join Bali’s hotel scene. Its beach club, designed by none other than Paola Navone, has serious decor chops and elegantly fuses local and European influences. The bells and whistles come as standard, from yoga (considered a religion in itself in Bali) to a spa. Alila Villas boasts sensational sea views and features private pools, cabanas and 24-hour butler service. The one-, two- and three-bedroom villas are the epitome of secluded luxury.
Visit alilahotels.com; comohotels.com
The Slow, Canggu
The Slow, which is the brainchild of fashion-designer-turned-hotelier George Gorrow and his partner Cisco Tschurtschenthaler, redefines our notion of ‘hotel’. A hybrid place where you can eat, sleep, party and shop, it’s got style in spades and is frequented by the Canggu in-crowd for its all-day restaurant, live music, achingly cool gallery and boutique. The 12 stunning Brutalist-inspired suites are almost an aside, given how much the spot has to offer visitors. Located just 300 metres from Batu Bolong and its popular surf spot, Old Man’s, The Slow brings together culture, fashion and food in a cool concrete envelope. A profusion of timber and creepers countering the concrete makes for an unpretentious and understated open-air space, the ideal backdrop against which to enjoy the cosmopolitan menu.
The Island Houses, Seminyak, Gili Meno and Bingin
Owner Annelies Audureau wanted The Island Houses to be a complete departure from the cold and impersonal experience at some big hotels. Bringing together personal elements and natural luxury was crucial to its success. Inspired by her own quirky, personality-filled travelling experiences, Audureau drew on a combination of Balinese craftsmanship, culture and eclectic influences to give each villa a unique, inimitable identity – from the exotic Indian-themed Desu House and the eponymously named, earthy Africa House, to the castaway fantasy that is Robinson. One thing they all have in common is a sense of seclusion, privacy and total escapism. 8 theislandhouses.com
Hoshinoya Bali, Ubud
Hoshinoya Bali was designed around water, which is a sacred element in Balinese Hinduism. It’s one of the most peaceful places you could imagine, surrounded by the sight and sound of water and enveloped by jungle vegetation. The Zen-inspired suites are minimalist without compromising on luxury. A contemporary take on Japanese simplicity adds to the sense of refuge, and the suites even have their own courtyards and outdoor pavilions. The service is unobtrusive but never-miss-a-beat, its fine-dining menu pays homage to Balinese culture, and there are various on-site activities such as yoga at dawn and lessons in making traditional kwangen and canang sari devotional flower offerings. The spa overlooks the river, so a flower bath taken post-treatment, followed by a cup of warming turmeric tea, is bound to cement itself in your memory. Likewise, a picnic basket enjoyed on the pavilions, suspended above jungle sounds and rising mist, is unlike any breakfast you’ve had before.
Eco Gypsy Houses, Seseh
The Eco Gypsy Houses are a passion project of Electra Gillies and her partner Lorenzo Sannito, an idea borne of Gillies’ travel magazine and offshoot fashion line. The traditionally handcrafted hideaways are an extension of her ethical craft-oriented approach and are located in the sleepy fishing village of Seseh close to Canggu. Each joglo (vernacular Javanese house) is carved by craftsmen and is a tranquil and otherworldly eco-escape in which you can lounge, barefoot and carefree.
Bambu Indah & Green Village, Ubud
Fifteen minutes west of Ubud, on the banks of the Ayung River, Bambu Indah is an eco-lifestyle boutique hotel designed around the community-centric concept of a village. A combination of antique homes from Java and handcrafted creations made mostly from bamboo, they are immersed in their surroundings in a way few places are. Designed by the same architects and equally as awe-inspiring in its embrace of vernacular architecture and materials, Green Village is a case study in contextual design. The bamboo houses illustrate how out-of-the-box thinking coupled with an eco agenda can create something special.
Visit bambuindah.com; greenvillagebali.com