IN SEARCH OF ZEN
Two very different Alila properties in Bali bring forth the best of the island’s unassuming charm, writes julie yim
Alila brings out the best of Bali
It’s nIne In the mornIng when I make my way down to Pura Dalem Segara, also known as Temple by the Beach, trying not to stumble over my sarong clad ankles. Though the day has yet to begin, there are already plenty of activities going on at the beach. Early risers include runners clocking in an extra lap around the beach and dog-walkers in tow. Sequestered ingeniously in the centre of Alila Seminyak’s vast lush grounds, you’ll be hard-pressed not to notice the 1980s sacred site
amidst the hotel’s contemporary architecture and infinity pool. Leading the way is young Dewi, an Alila employee clad in a similar sarong and kebaya, who will act as my guide for the day as part of the Alila Experience the hotel has thoughtfully arranged.
Originally constructed as a fisherman’s shrine, the ancient Balinese temple is just metres away from the crashing waves of the Indian Ocean. Inside the temple, we’re surrounded by Hindu statues draped in black and white sarongs and Dewi beckons for me to join her on the straw mat. She lays out a multitude of young coconut leaves and bamboo sticks, which we will use to craft the Canang Sari offerings filled with fresh flowers and beautifully decorated fruit towers known as Gebogan. The offerings are placed daily on the ground in front of shops, houses and temples, while the fruit towers are offered as a symbol of gratitude to the gods. “Very good,” Dewi smiles encouragingly at my handiwork, though I’ve never been one to ace arts and crafts.
When we’re done, she hails a buggy ride to the Petitenget Temple located just next to the hotel, where we present our offerings and undergo the Balinese prayer ritual known as Melukat. I’m instructed to recite the prayers in my own language and interpretation, while Dewi asks for the gods to spare blessings on me throughout this trip. For Dewi and her peers, though complex traditions and rituals have been simplified over the years, they remain an integral part of the local Balinese culture.
The ubiquitous experience is part of a carefully curated list of concepts under Alila Experience, which offers a unique way to discover Bali through tailored activities that appeal to your individual personality. You may opt to while your days away with scenic bicycle rides around the paddy fields of Pererenan, take in the tranquil sights with car cruises in a fully-restored vintage 1980 Volkswagen Kombi or embark on a spiritual healing session with a temple priest under this unique Alila Experience.
A staple destination retreat among society’s upper echelons, Alila Seminyak is nestled on the quieter end of Bali’s southwest coast on a tranquil 200m stretch of beachfront. Here you’ll find a crowd of hip, urban tourists subscribing to designer labels and tropical minimalism, ushering an eclectic international scene to the hotel grounds. The staff are dressed in finely-pressed linen bearing warm smiles that showcase true Asian hospitality, eager to assist at any request. Check-in is seamless though it’s done the conventional way in the breezy open-air lobby. Fortunately, this allows one ample
time to either take a moment to savour the sweeping view of the Indian Ocean or squeeze a quick afternoon refresher, utilising Alila’s very own in-house range of amenities including copious amounts of sunscreen and face mist.
The ultra-modern architecture designed by Gaurang Khemka at the award-winning Singapore architectural firm URBNarc is distinctive on its own, boasting a harmonious blend of contemporary design with abundance of green spaces. Over the years, the resort’s architecture has garnered a reputable place in the heart of Bali’s sophisticated Seminyak district, enough to warrant recognition from fellow friends on an Instagram post I’ve shared just seconds ago. The resort itself is separated into four-storey blocks, offering eight types of accommodation including an impressive penthouse. Infinity pools (there are five in total) glisten under the midday sunlight, cascading into the glimmering ocean below. Materials and craftsmanship are sourced locally, injecting a sense of local pride and soul into the contemporary setting.
Come morning, I wake up in a Deluxe Ocean Suite to the soothing sound of waves crashing on the beach. The balcony doors extend over to an unparalleled view of the perfectly-manicured lawn and Indian Ocean, ideal for whiling away lazy afternoons. However, I spend most afternoons either taking refuge under the sun-drenched umbrellas lined by the poolside or unwinding with a deep-pressure Balinese massage at the spa.
Sunsets are best appreciated at the Beach Bar while sipping on a glass of #AlilaMoments, an enticing concoction of passion fruit puree topped with bubbles. As dusk approaches, sink into one of the plush armchairs, ring for another round of aperitifs and revel in the moment as the last rays of sunlight fade into the horizon.
The balcony doors extend over to an unparalleled view of the perfectly-manicured lawn and Indian Ocean, ideal for whiling away lazy afternoons.
While Seminyak may boast its share of hip dining establishments across town, Alila’s latest dining addition Seasalt warrants a visit at least once. Championing fresh local seafood with a dash of Japanese infusion, Seasalt which is helmed by Chef Vivian Vitalis aims to showcase the natural flavours of the ingredients, paring down dishes without any fancy tricks. Neighbouring fishermen and local suppliers proudly showcase their best catch on the plates at Seasalt, part of the resort’s commitment to support the local industry.
But alas, after soaking in Seminyak’s vibrant charm brimming with cafes and bars which has been the main focal point of Bali’s attraction, I opt for a brief phase of temporary solitude, departing for Uluwatu. We go through numerous small windy roads without much hint of any population in sight before finally arriving at the spectacular property of Alila Villas Uluwatu. Upon arrival, I can’t distinguish between the bright shade of cerulean blue on the infinity pool and the sky, as the resort is poised on 100-metre high cliff that sweeps down to the ocean.
Unlike Alila Seminyak, the beach is far from reach, 600 steps down the stairs to be exact, but the infinity pool juxtaposed against the bold blue sky more than makes up for it. Simplicity and contemporary minimalism reigns as the main theme throughout the resort, oozing a sense of laidback bare luxury that makes this retreat a treat on its own. All 65 villas are equipped with a private pool and cabana, designed in an openplan layout with plenty of sunlight streaming into the breezy space. The vast space is designed in a contemporary manner complemented by touches of wood, water, stone and rattan, abiding by the resort’s pledge to cultivate eco-friendly concepts through environmentally-sustainable design principles.
When dusk falls, opt for drinks at the Sunset Cabana or simply ring up the concierge to arrange for a car to Omnia, Bali’s latest dayclub destination. Dinner is at The Warung which serves up wholesome traditional Indonesian and Balinese fare. An array of at least 10 different types of spicy sambal are served as appetisers to pair with crispy crackers, a delicious local snack to fire up your appetite. Second helpings are absolutely mandatory, paired together with local fare such as sate lilit on charcoal fire, ayam bertutu, ikan bakar Jimbaran and bebek goreng, its aromatic flavours chock-full with spices.
My sleep is interrupted at seven in the morning by the doorbell, but it’s only the resort’s housekeepers who have thoughtfully prepared a birthday cake to be sent to the room. And when the time comes to leave the resort, all I can think about is how beautiful it would be to celebrate Nyepi – the Balinese Day of Silence here, nestled amongst the Milky Way stars, meditating and self-reflecting on the incoming year, a hidden retreat you’ll want to keep close to the heart.
SUNSET CABANA AT ALILA VILLAS ULUWATU
DELUXE OCEAN SUITE AT ALILA SEMINYAK
ALILA VILLASULUWATU IS POISED ON 100-METRE HIGH CLIFF
ALILA VILLAS ULUWATUABIDES BY ENVIRONMENTALLYSUSTAINABLE DESIGN PRINCIPLES
INFINITY POOL AT ALILA SEMINYAK
SEASALT AT ALILASEMINYAK
A HARMONIOUS BLEND OF CONTEMPORARY DESIGN
TWO BEDROOM POOL VILLA AT ALILA VILLAS ULUWATU
BEACH BAR AT ALILA SEMINYAK