Will Bali be the slow and steady hare in the race to reopen Southeast Asia’s holiday islands? The island of the gods has welcomed a raft of exciting new destinations over the last year - these are top of our list.
Poolside sunrise breakfasts at Tanah Gaja, Ubud.
Nestled among the rice paddies of Ubud, Tanah Gaja, a Resort by Hadiprana, is a boutique 20-key property that was once the private family estate of Indonesian architect Hendra Hadriapana.
Last year, the property came back to the Hadriprana family and was relaunched as a Leading Hotel of the World.
Rich in culture, the resort boasts an extensive art and antique collection, while strolling the grounds is an immersion in Bainese art and sculpture.
The five-hectare estate boasts a spa with a view, a swimming pool with mythic ‘gajah’ (elephant) statues standing guard and traditional Ballinese style rooms with semi-outdoor bathrooms and plunge pools.
Dining space Panen Padi has stunning views over rural Ubud and is supplied by an organic veggie garden on the property. During the pandemic, the garden was replanted with fast-growing crops to feed the staff and their families.
According to Deasy Swandarini, general manager at Tanah Gajah, the property is well-positioned for welcoming post-pandemic guests. “We’ve noticed boutique properties are preferred by travellers, not just because they are more conducive to social distancing, but because they are more authentic and offer guests a unique experience,” he said.
Let’s hope we’re all able to enjoy Tanah Gajah’s hospitality very soon.
Stunning Balinese views from the Buahan's resort pool.
The first ‘Banyan Tree Escape’ resort is to open in Bali in September. Buahan, a Banyan Tree Escape is located in northern Ubud and will pioneer a ‘no walls, no doors’ concept, married with a sustainable design and build. Just 16 ‘balés’, or villas, will be available at the boutique property, set around open kitchen, living and dining spaces.
According to Ho Ren Yung, vice president of Brand HQ at Banyan Tree, the group has owned the piece of land on which the hotel has been built for more than twenty years.
The property embraces a zero-waste, farm-to-table concept in its dining space and the menu is 70% plant-based, with produce sourced within an hour’s drive. The Botanist Bar uses locally grown ingredients and botanicals infused into its drinks and the resort’s Toja Spa embraces an ‘open’ garden experience and wellbeing know-how from local Buahan village.
Many aspects of the interior design use recycling or local crafting, such as the repurposed Ulin ‘iron’ wood from boat jetties, along with hand-carved wooden headboards, hand-smithed copper bathtubs and natural dye soft furnishings.
The resort is set amongst rice paddies and jungle next to the Ayung river and waterfall, with sweeping views of the surrounding countryside and seven peaks. ‘Hideaway spots’ on and off the property provide quiet spaces for guests to relax and embrace the tranquility. There’s also a calendar of curated and self-led activities.
The local sociology, architecture and culture was researched over a four month period to guide the Banyan Tree team and ensure experiences immerse guests in the local area and complement the resort’s relationship with the local community.
Desa Potato Head's beachside village.
Desa Potato Head, a ‘creative village’ and hotel which includes the infamous Potato Head Beach Club, launched this summer.
Touted as the ‘crown jewel’ of the ‘desa’ (or village), the studios have been ten years in the making and offer an innovative hospitality experience that embraces working holidays and community living. Both short-term options and longer-term stays will be available - come for a week, or stay for six months.
The beach-side complex includes co-working spaces, a private conference room and ocean view guest rooms with adjoining offices. Plus, Indonesia has recently introduced a business travel visa which means international guests can stay for up to six months.
As well as work spaces, Potato Head Studios also has a menu of downtime, family-friendly activities, such as sustainability workshops aimed at both adults and children, a Potato Head streaming station which will broadcast talks and music programmes from local artists, a curated library, listening lounge and co-working centre, an ampitheatre and a swimming pool. The complex eventually segues into Petitenget Beach.
Further activities include beach clean-ups, Balinese prayers, morning yoga and there’s a spa and gym access. Dining spaces can be found at the beach club, pizza garden and restaurants Tanaman, Kaum and Ijen.
Health and safety amenities include a doctor on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week and PCR testing is available on-site.
In the clouds
Room with a view at Nirjhara.
Nirjhara on Bali’s southwest coast is designed around a cascading waterfall and surrounded by lush forests and rolling rice paddies.
And what’s more, you get to stay in a treehouse.
The secluded eco retreat is in the Tanah Lot region, close to Canggu and the mythical Tanah Lot Temple. It's a boutique property offering just 25 suites and villas, including seven treehouse Canopy Suites with spectacular waterfall, river, jungle or rice field views.
The family-owned retreat has been designed mindful of the surrounding environment; exteriors use reclaimed ‘hevea’ wood, stone and traditional sirap roofing. Inside, expect an earthy palette channeling Indonesian design with woven furniture handcrafted by local artisans, coconut panelling and contemporary art from up-and-coming local artists.
Ambu, Nirjhara’s dining space, takes a ‘slow food’ approach to eating and 95% of ingredients are sourced from the hotel’s veggie garden and neighbouring farms.
When you’re not relaxing and drinking in the views, head to the treatment rooms for a massage, body scrub, sound healing, reiki or reflexology, using natural products sourced on the island. Additionally, there are two Finnish saunas, a fitness centre and The Shala, a riverside bamboo-clad yoga pavilion overlooking the waterfall.
Or head off-site on a cycle ride through the rice fields, pick-up a surf lesson on the nearby beach or saddle-up for a sunset horse ride.
And this summer guests can also sail off into a Bali sunset on board Vela, a six-cabin yacht available for private charter.
The beachfront Raffles resort at Jimbaran Bay.