Bali daze and nights
The joys of a family villa rental at Jimbaran Bay
It’s 9.04am, the sun is already high in the sky over Bali’s sparkling Jimbaran Bay, and I am running late. What’s more, I am hopelessly, utterly lost. That in itself, perhaps, is not entirely noteworthy — this writer has the intercardinal capacity of a broken compass — but there is something genuinely remarkable about my current pickle. I am lost, for the first time in my life, in a house. Well, it’s a villa, to be precise. And if we really want to appease the gods of nomenclature, The Longhouse at Jimbaran Bay is a mansion. Labyrinthine, luxurious and large enough to have rendered me totally discombobulated.
The appointment for which I am four — now five — minutes overdue is an hour-long traditional Balinese massage in The Longhouse’s private spa room. The directions carefully given five minutes earlier from our wonderful villa manager Ruddy have evidently floated in one ear and across the 25m-long infinity pool and out to the 180-degree panorama before me. I imagine the masseuse, annoyed, looking at her watch. Flustered, I dash past the cinema, the gym, the guest elevator (there are three floors; make that four if we are to include the garage, complete with resident car and driver) and along a grand Roman-inspired 50m-long granite thoroughfare. I all but give up, and then I spy it, nestled in a modest corner of the building. Ah, the spa room, a peaceful indoor-outdoor frangipani-scented retreat, all soft music and warm, filtered light. I am almost 10 minutes late. The embarrassment is overwhelming. The masseuse smiles warmly, gestures for me to lie down. I check her arm. No sign of a watch.
The Longhouse is one of a small enclave of palatial villas and private homes that dot the arid hills high above Jimbaran Bay on Bali’s southwest coast. Designed by well-known Balinese architect Popo Danes, the six-bedroom, 1200sq m building is a grand architectural paean to tropical and European design, all Roman pillars and noble internal stone flooring, combined with traditional Balinese alang alang-thatched roofs and locally sourced and relevant objets-d’art. The Longhouse is, quite simply, breathtaking.
On the day my family of five arrives, we enter via the villa’s elevator to the third floor, where a phalanx of genial staff — chefs, maids, a villa manager and two butlers — waits expectantly outside The Longhouse’s restaurant-grade kitchen and dining area. We are welcomed with mile-wide smiles and virgin pina coladas, served in a fresh-cut pineapple. We sit, momentarily awestruck, only drinking in the view. The pina colada — and its inevitable more potent brethren — will wait. The home’s grand indoor/outdoor dining area faces on to the pool and stretches in glorious panorama over the village below, across the idle fishing boats of Jimbaran and the isthmus that separates the Bukit Peninsula from the rest of Bali and up to a family of ancient volcanoes that dwarfs all before it.
The Longhouse is a big statement, with broad views and grand ideals. But its true appeal does not trade on size; in fact, it’s the small details that set it apart. Its six bedrooms have each been named for — and have been geographically positioned facing — a different region of Indonesia: Bali, Lombok, Sumba, Sumatra, and East and West Java. Bali, the master suite, is about 30m long, and has an infinity pool, outdoor shower and garden retreat. It shares the same view as the dining area and is truly something to behold. Our three-year-old daughter’s proclivity for sleepwalking, however, and the room’s proximity to both pools means we decide to sleep in the equally luxurious Lombok downstairs; our two boys hunker happily down in East and West Java respectively. The villa’s owners have taken great care to decorate each room with bespoke furnishings from each correlating region of Indonesia. Wood carvings stare out from the walls; woven blankets match symbolic regional patterns on the walls; even bathroom tiles feature symbols of regional cultural significance. The boys, however, care for just one furnishing piece — the wide-screen televisions in their rooms.
Later the next day, in an ethereal daze, I return from another massage to find the children busy weaving traditional baskets from local plant material with Hepe, happily pronounced as “Happy”. They are transfixed, as she carefully teaches them to make canang sari, the daily ritual offerings made to the Balinese Hindu gods. They
The Longhouse at Jimbaran Bay, top left, and, clockwise from top right, the Lombok suite, spacious ensuite and terrace, and the villa’s living room
Infinity pool at The Longhouse; chef Iora in the restaurant-grade kitchen