There is something magical about Made. That’s the only explanation. How else does he know I’m going to need a coffee before I’ve even thought it, or that today I’d like to listen to Mozart when yesterday it was Lady Gaga? Or that a visit to a temple is bound to suit my mood tomorrow? Yes, our butler is clearly an accomplished mind-reader but this kind of thing is commonplace at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
I feel like Alice Through the Looking Glass. I’ve stepped out of the every day and into a parallel universe. Welcome to ‘Uluwatu World’, a strange and wonderful place where everything is beautiful, whims are met, senses indulged and relaxation is an absolute requirement.
It all started innocently enough…
Alila Villas Uluwatu’s buildings and terraces are creamy in the moonlight when we arrive at one of the new three-bedroom Cliffside Villas, perched high above the Indian Ocean on a limestone cliff on Bali’s Bukit Peninsula. Its late and we are tired but Made picks up our sleeping eleven-year-old son (no mean feat this kid is sports-obsessed muscle) and spirits him away as if he were light as a sarong, to sleep somewhere in the inner sanctum. Behind the heavy wooden door a series of pools and bridges and a corridor glowing with lights tempts us in too. We walk through archways, past carved doorways and a glittering glass dining pavilion, until we are drawn out into the garden and the warm air of a Balinese night. Waves sigh on the shore far below us, the stars do a perfect twinkling act and the scent of Tropical-Flowers-for-Tourists has clearly been sprayed on the breeze. And that’s it – we’ve been sucked through the vortex into Uluwatu World.
The next morning I get more of a chance to look at our surroundings. This is quite simply one of the most beautiful resorts I’ve stayed in. Of course I’m not the first person to notice this place has style, its infinity pool runneth over with design awards too numerous to mention. Alila has successfully combined luxury and sustainability and along the way it’s blown some of the more traditional Balinese design out of the water; forget temple-inspired thatch and heavily carved volcano stone, here all is as cool and white as linen.
As I wander down to breakfast, staff in long cool robes flit along the corridors and under archways which frame them like portraits against the blue sky. They’re all beautiful too, dammit. What is this place?
It is not the wow factor (although that too) but the Whoa factor that helps make this resort something special; project architects Woha Designs, Singapore run by Wong Mum Sum and Australian Richard Hassell are known for their innovative and sustainable designs, which obviously married well with green ethos of Alia Resorts. Bukit’s dramatic savannah landscape is the inspiration.
The Time/Space continuum works differently here in the vortex. Sometimes hours seem to go by and apparently I’ve done nothing more than swim a desultory length of our private pool and then hang at its infinity edge staring down at the little birds darting in and out of the jungle that curls down the cliff-side. Dragonflies hover over the abyss and far below the waves are ripples on a chiffon scarf.
I’ve stepped out of the every day and into a parallel universe. Welcome to Uluwatu World, a strange and wonderful place where everything is beautiful.
Away to my right slats of recycled wood and bamboo create an extraordinary cabana. It’s as if a prehistoric bird had come and made its nest right on the edge of the cliff, perched in here we can see for kilometres down the coast. The birds have been busy all over the resort; the most magnificent eyrie of all is the Sunset Cabana which hangs over the cliff at the side of the resort’s main pool. As the name suggests it is the perfect place for an evening cocktail as the sky turns the same colour as your watermelon daiquiri.
Our butler is ever solicitous of his charges. If we need him he appears in a telepathic instant like a genie in a puff of smoke, if we want to be alone by the pool he silently dematerialises. Spa treatments, dinner reservations, excursions, movie DVDs, lost contact lens (me), philistine request for tomato sauce with everything (my son), possible golfing venues (my husband) are all dealt with by the miraculous Made.
One day we decide to take a walk to the local village. “But what will you do if it rains” says Made looking dubiously at the sky.
“I’ll take an umbrella”.
“But who will carry it?”
A dilemma I confess.
Days pass in a haze of good food and indulgence (did I mention the villa has its own private spa treatment room?). The Warung restaurant serves spicy Balinese at its best. At CIRE chef Stefan Szijta serves Western delights; marinate mackerel, seared king prawns… and the chocolate pudding is imprinted forever on our memory banks.
One evening we head to the famous Temple of Uluwatu to watch a traditional Kecak fire dance. However the temple monkeys don’t seem to realise we’re travellers in Perfect Land. Tired of its usual bootie of cameras and handbags one of them yanks at my shoe and nearly manages to run off with it. I see its partner in crime hanging off a statue of Siwa happily chewing on someone else’s Havaianas flip-flop.
Clearly even in Uluwatu World monkeys dance to their own beat.