The butler did it
Christine McCabe and family are given the imperial treatment at a beachfront Bali resort
Culture club: A colourful festival ceremony in the gardens of the InterContinental Bali
Warm welcome: The resort’s main entrance
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.