Story and Photographs by Dewi Lestari
On our 6th wedding anniversary, Reza and I got the opportunity to have a short vacation at Alila Villas Uluwatu (actually for our family, with two children and the youngest being 5 years old, going on a vacation for 3 days and 2 nights is actually VERY LONG).
To be honest, I didn’t really have any kind of expectations on the resort at first. We even thought about planning to go for a half day trip to Ubud, looking for a place to eat at Jimbaran, and other things to do. We were clueless about the magic that awaited us.
There are those places that are able to trick us with beautiful photographs and videos, but when we arrive it turns out that the places are not as beautiful as it seemed. There are also those places that can’t be described with pictures and videos, and you need to go there to feel the magic yourself. Alila Villas Uluwatu falls in the second category.
Slowly but surely, Alila Villas Uluwatu enchanted us. The agile and warm staff waited for us at the airport to pick us up with a car that was fully equipped with amenities and the aroma of a combination of essential oils as well as cold towels. A morning trip to Uluwatu felt short and gleeful.
The check in process was very relaxing, and I suddenly found the first thing to highlight about this place. Alila Villas Uluwatu’s Host Manager, Novita Murad, welcomed us and invited us for a relaxing and warm conversation. Later I realized that this is the unique character of the staff at Alila Resorts, which of course is a result of training. They are trained to not be too formal but still be polite and be their own selves. Sometimes there is training at certain other places that makes the staff very friendly but stiff like robots. They lose their individuality and it feels like you’re interacting with the same person, but not at Alila. You can approach each one as friend and each person brings out his or her own personality.
The trip with a buggy from the lobby to our villa helped us to start to see the details of the design and amazing maintenance. There was symmetry and arranged composition everywhere we set our eyes upon and it’s the same story inside the villas. I believe places that are rated as luxury must have great, even stunning rooms. Alila Villas Uluwatu is no exception; private plunge pool, bath tub, pressure shower, outdoor shower, his and her amenities, walk-in closet, a large sized day bed that extends to the pool and finally a private gazebo with the spectacular view of the sea that can be seen from afar.
It was just as awesome as expected, although the most impressive thing for me is the smart design. On the roof of each villa, there is a volcanic rock overlay to provide strong air circulation. The cold air moves down, passing through the open room during the day, helped with the shallow water pool and the outdoor shower unit making the room temperature cool without the need to turn on the air conditioner. Outside, the day was so scorching hot that even the water in our plunge pool was warm, but I stayed in the room with a light sheet covering my feet.
As part of the experience organized by Alila, we were offered lunch at The Warung, one of the two restaurants at the resort. The Warung offers Balinese cuisine, and is one of the best Indonesian restaurants in Uluwatu based on the Internet survey that we checked before arriving. The food was exquisite, indeed. The kick from the spices is usually reduced when traditional food is being adapted into hotel dishes. This did not happen (although I feel their sambal matah could use a little more fire boost!). I can still taste the authenticity of each meal we had.
That afternoon, we spent the time at Spa Alila, I tried the Warm Stone Massage while Reza tried the Therapeutic Massage which was followed with Shirodara and Tibetan Sound Healing. Our spa experience immediately became the next highlight on my list. The spa setting was beautiful and spacious, and Alila’s spa products were premium. As someone who is very fond of Warm Stone Massages, I’ve tried some of the same services in other places but (Spa) Alila is simply the best so far. Through using a wide range of stones, the therapists were skillful and grounded and the receptionists were knowledgeable and friendly. Reza, who fell in love with their spa drink, was welcomed to have a glass each time we passed the Spa Alila. I brought home a recipe of their signature drink, a simple brew of ginger, lemon, and honey, which we now make every now and then at home.
We had our dinner at Cire, the other restaurant in Alila Villas Uluwatu. Cire’s food feels more like fusion, a mix of the West and the East. The ambience was delightful yet peaceful. The position of Cire is adjacent to the main pool and there are some gazebos (cabanas) that face the ocean. From the menu, we found many surprising elements in Cire compared to The Warung. Although both are equally amazing, at Cire we experienced more culinary adventures. One of the desserts we had, the Lemon Yuzu and Peanut Butter Ice Cream, was especially fantastic. The meeting between the zest of lemon and the sweet-savory peanut butter was something we raved about throughout the night.
The serenity didn’t last long though. In the afternoon, a family with three little children stayed right beside our villas. At six in the morning on the next day, they were already swimming in the pool and shouting joyfully. I have two kids of my own, so I could understand their excitement, yet me and Reza planned to ask the management if we could move to another villa. So after the superb breakfast we had at Cire, we went to Novi and told her our request. Novi promised to inform us about the availability of the villa substitution before lunch. We felt hopeless, even though it seemed that we couldn’t be moved, at least we tried.
Close to noon, there was a knock at our door. Novi appeared and asked us to go with her for a buggy ride. She found the villa, but she wanted to make sure we were okay with the place. She drove the buggy way, way up to the top of the hill and, in a big parking space, the buggy stops. Novi took us to a big 3-room villa. It was a full-blown house-size villa, with a real size infinity swimming pool facing the Indian Ocean. Novi asked us the almost unfathomable question, “Are you guys okay with this?”. For a moment, Reza and I were lost for words. We literally stood there with our mouths open. Half an hour later, a kind butler named Edi was packing our stuff and moved it to the new villa. We left our old, charming room with gratitude, sending thanks and blessings to the noisy kids next door.
Our anniversary dinner at Cire was unforgettable. We reserved one gazebo/cabana, and to our surprise the gazebo was nicely decorated with lines of tea candles. Mbak Puspa, our favorite waitress, was making sure we had all the recommended food from the menu. She was even sweet enough to give us extra peanut butter cookies that we loved so much. When we were back at our room, we found two kissing swans made out of towels with confetti of rose petals on our bed. Next to it was a box of chocolate with a greeting card from our butler, Edi, congratulating us for our anniversary. The silver moon lit the swimming pool as we took our last dip before closing the perfect night.
Our plan to go out from the hotel was successfully ruined, for three days, we actually didn’t go out at all. We found it extremely difficult to part from our swimming pool, from the delicious food both at Cire and The Warung, from the photogenic corners of Alila Villas Uluwatu, and their adorable staff.
On our last day, we requested a late check out and had our lunch at the dining room of our villa. Separation anxiety started to kick in. We took time to say proper goodbyes to the staff. I promised Novi one thing, to send a full collection of all of my books to the Alila Villas Uluwatu library (yes, they have a cozy and pretty library). It may not mean much, but I sincerely wanted to extend my appreciation. They had been such lovely hosts on our most special day. Their service extended to the airport, where a stand-by staff was ready to welcome us upon arrival and handle our check-in process.
After our visit, I fulfilled my promise and sent Novi this.
A few weeks after, we received a package from Alila Villas Uluwatu. A bag full of Alila Villas Uluwatu amenities. Such a good choice! A whiff of their scents would immediately bring us back to a sweet memory:
In her letter Novi wrote: “We received the books. Thank you so very much for your beautiful gift. However, I need to warn you, all of the Alila Villas Uluwatu Team is now queuing outside my office and begging me to lend them some of those books; obviously my answer is NO. I promised them that they could take the books from the library and read them in my office… LOL.” I couldn’t hold back my smile.
It has been two months since our anniversary, and at least once every few days Reza and I still mention Alila Villas Uluwatu in our random conversations. When we went to another spa a week ago, Reza suddenly said, “I miss Alila.” When we had a hectic and a long day, we would say, “We need to go to Alila.” The name was like a new phrase in our dictionary and, yes, we are determined to go back.
When a place that we temporarily stay at can be transformed into being like a friend, when the memories of it suddenly fills your heart with warmth, that’s what I think of as the highest accomplishment, and, Alila Villas Uluwatu manages to achieve that.