The most of the coast
ROOM AT THE INN
FOR the best elevated view of the sacred Hindu sea temple of Tanah Lot, on Bali’s southwest coast, stand at the seventh hole on Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort’s golf course. The surf-pounded holy site, as improbably majestic as a stage set, seems close enough to touch.
This 103ha property, with award-winning Greg Norman-designed 18-hole course (including three impossible-looking cliff-to-cliff tee shots), is satisfyingly removed from the bustle of the main tourist precincts. Hunker down here and you get a sense of the Bali that existed before the spread of Seminyak’s villas, Kuta’s clubs and daft things such as fish-nibbling pedicures, Bintang beer massages and shop signs boasting ‘‘100 per cent genuine fakes’’.
A staff member tells me the resort employs more than 900 gardeners. The reach of the estate is a tremendous parkland of flowering bushes, palms and pandanus, koi ponds, rice fields, scattered temples adorned with offerings and amusements such as three-tiered swimming pools and, yikes, a 54m water slide.
A $US10 million refurbishment completed in December 2011 covered the 278 balconied guestrooms and suites set across several wings, lovely pool villas and eight restaurants and bars, including TLC, a chic cafe and tapas bar overlooking the seventh hole (grab an espresso and a beanbag on the lawn).
One of the best innovations is a series of 10 family rooms that feature a cosy nook with bunk beds close to the parents’ sleeping area, pint-sized chairs and play tables and Nintendo Wii video consoles. The expertly staffed Kids Club is set amid gardens and offers shallow pool, adventure playground and activities that include pottery, Balinese dancing, cooking classes and a weekly baby sea turtle release program.
Without children in tow, and admitting to no interest in the roughs and hazards of golf, my stay is altogether idle, spent haunting the excellent Nirwana Spa, which has 24 treatment salons, steam and sauna facilities and yoga room. (The last appointment at Nirwana Spa is at 9pm. Should there be a lawful limit on how many massages or ‘‘refreshing tomato body scrubs’’ a guest can have in one day? Just asking.)
The most movement I muster is a rush for the nasi goreng on the breakfast buffet at the big and breezy Merica all-day dining room and a sprint to the Sunset Lounge for a ringside perch to watch the reddening sun sink over Tanah Lot (theatrically enhanced with a lychee or pear martini in hand).
Canadian-born and Australian-trained executive chef Brad Froehlich joined the resort in August last year and his Pacific Rim degustation menus could include pomegranate and papaya salad with ginger and chilli dressing; braised beef and truffle ravioli with porcini sauce; and peanut butter parfait with vanilla meringue, seasonal tropical fruit and pomegranate puree. Froehlich has brought new flair to the resort’s food-and-beverage offerings, including more produce harvested on site and a revamp of the semi-alfresco Pool Grill.
My room 340 is in the spacious Pacific Club category, with teak floors and silken finishes, garden and pool views, butler service, unlimited WiFi connectivity, two free laundry items a day and 24-hour access to the Pacific Lounge (all-day snacks and services).
A clifftop bale (pavilion) with a perky terracotta coronet on its thatched roof, floaty white curtains, mattress and bolsters is a marvellous daytime option for lying down. The horizon is broad and clear, little black butterflies and red-beaked finches zip past on the breeze, and Tanah Lot sits like a stony galleon defying the crash-boom of the surf.
A waiter appears with some cool refresher towels and encouraging offers of fresh pineapple juice or a head-and-shoulders massage. The free shuttle bus for Kuta and Seminyak leaves in about 10 minutes, but guess who won’t be on it.