The but­ler did it

Chris­tine McCabe and fam­ily are given the im­pe­rial treat­ment at a beach­front Bali re­sort

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

Cul­ture club: A colour­ful fes­ti­val cer­e­mony in the gar­dens of the In­terCon­ti­nen­tal Bali

Warm wel­come: The re­sort’s main en­trance

Check­list

HECK­ING into a ho­tel brings with it forms to sign and a sense of an­tic­i­pa­tion. Will the as­signed room live up to its brochure cre­den­tials? What about the view and the qual­ity of the tow­els? Do the bath­room soaps bear the in­signia of a fa­mous de­signer?

Sea­soned trav­ellers live in hope not only of glam­orous bath­room toi­letries but that most un­ex­pected and de­light­ful sur­prise: a room up­grade. The inn — or rather the Club wing — is full when we check into the beach­front In­terCon­ti­nen­tal Bali Re­sort at Jim­baran Bay, not far from Den­pasar air­port. For­get straw beds and stables: our ex­tended and slightly di­shev­elled fam­ily unit is be­ing up­graded to a suite. This thrilling news is de­liv­ered as we are ush­ered into a vast room where the op­u­lent fit­tings bring to mind Dal­las does Den­pasar.

While we search for the check-in desk, the as­sis­tant man­ager trail­ing be­hind with puz­zled brow, it sud­denly dawns on our mot­ley crew (the ap­pear­ance of a tray of cock­tails is a give­away) that this is not re­cep­tion but the down­stairs liv­ing room of the Im­pe­rial Villa. And that word im­pe­rial un­der­states the case. We could cram a man­sion into the main bed­room where the desk is dis­posed to meet the needs of a world leader. The be­he­moth bath­rooms are lit­tered with Bulgari lo­tions and po­tions, an enor­mous la­goon swim­ming pool with foun­tains wraps around the gar­den ter­race and our pri­vate lift flies be­tween down­stairs lounge and up­stairs bed­rooms. So enor­mous is the villa that we would feel all at sea, not to men­tion some­what fraud­u­lent, if it were not for the kindly min­is­tra­tions of Wawan and Lak­sana, our but­lers and soon-to-be­come firm friends.

Things get off to a shaky start when I refuse to al­low Wawan and Lak­sana to un­pack (thoughts of sec­ond-rate smalls and $2 mar­ket T-shirts make me hes­i­tate) but they do so furtively un­der the cover of dark­ness, fold­ing ev­ery­thing with mil­i­tary pre­ci­sion. Mean­time a pot of per­fectly brewed English break­fast tea helps set­tle nerves as our sons emerge from their 485th trip in the lift.

With chilled tow­els and canapes ever at the ready, the but­lers shadow us 24/7. We are re­turn­ing from the beach when Lak­sana pops out from be­hind a palm tree with a tray of per­fumed tow­els and fruit-based bev­er­ages; late at night, as we emerge from the ho­tel’s ex­cel­lent KO Ja­panese Restau­rant, Wawan is there to es­cort us home. Most im­pres­sive is their dis­creet main­te­nance of a magic pud­ding box of cho­co­lates; no mat­ter how many we eat, the box is al­ways full.

The Im­pe­rial is the flag­ship of a pre­mium col­lec­tion of rooms at In­terCon­ti­nen­tal Bali, in­clud­ing five cat­e­gories of suites de­signed to repli­cate the villa ex­pe­ri­ence that has be­come so pop­u­lar on this In­done­sian hol­i­day is­land. Th­ese suites are lo­cated within Club In­terCon­ti­nen­tal, a col­lec­tion of 110 el­e­gant rooms that op­er­ates as a ho­tel within a ho­tel sup­port­ing its own man­age­ment, house­keep­ing and en­gi­neer­ing teams.

Club ser­vice be­gins the mo­ment you touch down in Bali, cour­tesy of a spe­cial air­port lounge with ded­i­cated Cus­toms clear­ance. Room rates in­clude 24-hour but­ler ser­vice, 4pm check­out and ac­cess to the very stylish, around-the-clock club lounge, which serves com­pli­men­tary break­fast, high tea, cock­tails and late-night snacks.

The club rooms are set within a sep­a­rate wing of the re­sort ar­ranged around a pri­vate swim­ming pool with ac­cess to a re­cently up­graded child­care fa­cil­ity. And while break­fast is gen­er­ally taken in the club lounge, guests are equally wel­come to dine in-room or at one of the re­sort’s other restau­rants.

The new-look gue­stroom decor (the ho­tel was ren­o­vated last year) fea­tures in­dige­nous tim­bers and batiks, gor­geous mar­ble bath­rooms, flat-screen tel­lies and all the lat­est whiz-bangery. The value-added na­ture of the club is pop­u­lar with Aus­tralian trav­ellers; it’s ex­cel­lent for fam­i­lies, given the free kids’ club, beach­front lo­cale and enor­mous com­plex of swim­ming pools. But the re­sort is just as de­light­ful for cou­ples, who can en­joy the pri­vacy of the Club wing.

Opened in late 1993, the 14ha re­sort has set­tled ami­ably into the pop­u­lar Jim­baran Bay land­scape. Charm­ing Ba­li­nese gar­dens fea­ture me­an­der­ing la­goons, moss-flecked stat­u­ary and long lawns spilling down to the care­fully swept sand. Next door a clus­ter of ca­sual beach­front restau­rants serve cheap-as-chips seafood, with rov­ing mu­si­cians pro­vid­ing en­ter­tain­ment.

The re­sort is ac­ces­sorised in 21st-cen­tury style with a hand­some day spa, 24-hour fit­ness cen­tre, shop­ping gallery and a choice of cuisines across sev­eral restau­rants. But if you are in­stalled in the Club wing, you’re un­likely to wan­der far­ther than the pool bar.

Come check­out time we are ut­terly bereft. The boys em­brace Wawan and Lak­sana, hold­ing on for dear life as they pre­pare to suc­cumb again to their mother’s en­tirely in­ad­e­quate care, while I stare down the bar­rel of a chal­leng­ing new house­keep­ing regime, largely built around the daily re­frig­er­a­tion of hand tow­els. Chris­tine McCabe was a guest of In­terCon­ti­nen­tal Bali. In­terCon­ti­nen­tal clas­sic rooms are priced from $US305 ($467); Club rooms from $US485; suites from $US700. The Im­pe­rial Villa costs $US4500 a night. Check for sea­sonal spe­cials and value-added deals. More: www.in­tercon­ti­nen­tal.com.

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