JIMBARAN RE­JU­VE­NA­TION

A re­turn visit to the Four Sea­sons Re­sort Bali at Jimbaran Bay re­veals a clas­sic reborn.

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Al­most a quar­ter of a cen­tury ago, any­one walk­ing into the newly opened Four Sea­sons re­sort on Bali’s Jimbaran Bay would have been as­ton­ished by what they saw. In­stead of a con­ven­tional ho­tel building, there was a thatch-roofed lobby that led—by porter-driven golf buggy no less—through wind­ing coral-stone-walled lanes to in­di­vid­ual guest vil­las, ar­ranged around seven squares in an em­u­la­tion of a tra­di­tional Ba­li­nese vil­lage. In­di­vid­ual vil­las! It was a first for Bali, and pos­si­bly the world: though Phuket’s Aman­puri had ar­guably pi­o­neered the con­cept with its 40 stand­alone “pavil­ions” in 1988, the Four Sea­sons, which opened five years later, lays claim to be­ing the first large-scale lux­ury villa re­sort, and cer­tainly the first to out­fit each of its ac­com­mo­da­tions with a pri­vate plunge pool. Never mind the gor­geous Ba­li­nese gar­dens and sweep­ing views of Jimbaran Bay—this was a game-chang­ing prop­erty, and one that helped ce­ment the is­land’s rep­u­ta­tion as a bona fide lux­ury des­ti­na­tion.

I was among its first as­ton­ished guests, and I have re­turned sev­eral times since. It’s still one of my fa­vorite places in Bali. But as time passed, the Four Sea­sons ad­mit­tedly lost its edge: other re­sort vil­las mush­roomed in the re­gion, of­fer­ing big­ger pools and more mod­ish in­te­ri­ors. The Four Sea­sons’ “mod­ern Ba­li­nese” that had seemed so fresh even a decade ago be­gan to look a lit­tle fusty.

No longer. Thanks to the largest ren­o­va­tion in the re­sort’s history, most of its vil­las have been dra­mat­i­cally over­hauled, ex­pand­ing the bed­rooms with the ad­di­tion of a liv­ing area and, in the Pre­mier cat­e­gory, in­creas­ing the size of the plunge pools by a third. Gone are the rat­tan fur­nish­ings, Ba­li­nese paint­ings, and mar­ble tiles, re­placed in turn by stream­lined teak set­tees and work spa­ces, carved stone pan­els, and gleam­ing wooden floors. Sheer white bed canopies now hang from a square frame rather than a disk, adding to the sense of spa­cious­ness, while wall-length slid­ing glass doors on two sides fill the vil­las with light. All the beds (now with heat ab­sorb­ing mat­tress top­pers and pil­lowy du­vets), soft fur­nish­ings, and fit­tings are new, as is the in-room gad­getry, which in­cludes big flat-screen TVs for those who need them. In­deed, the only relics of the past are the bath­rooms’ free­stand­ing soak­ing tubs—a long­time guest fa­vorite —which have been thought­fully re­tained.

Mind you, the best part about these vil­las has al­ways been what’s out­side: a court­yard-style walled gar­den with a thatched pool­side and un­ob­structed views of the flat blue ex­panse of Jimbaran Bay. As I gaze out from the edge of my plunge pool on a bright day in April, I’m re­minded that there are worse ways to while away an af­ter­noon than play­ing spot-the-plane as jet­lin­ers de­scend to­ward the air­port across the wa­ter. And that’s one thing that will never go out of fash­ion.

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