IN SEARCH OF ZEN

Two very dif­fer­ent Alila prop­er­ties in Bali bring forth the best of the is­land’s unas­sum­ing charm, writes julie yim

Prestige (Malaysia) - - Con­tents -

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

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