It took me three visits to Bali to understand what all the fuss was about and it took this, my third visit to Ubud, to actually find the town itself! Maybe I’m not a good explorer and have been happy enough on previous occasions just to stay around the various resorts and chill.
My first visit to Ubud many years ago was to the art and craft shops, staying in the most fantastic villa overlooking a deep ravine in Alila. Next was to the Four Seasons, also in a spectacular location; I wandered the streets looking at more art and craft shops, thinking it was all Ubud had to offer: while it didn’t seem particularly exciting, it was a creative hub with wonderful vistas and rustic accommodation – the real Bali.
This time we got a great deal on KLM, $221 – normally it’s between $250 and $350 which is still very good. Do take note that when packing, the weight is not assigned cumulatively. Don’t do what I usually do and pack one big heavy one – in this case, for myself and my two girls – or you will have to pay excess.
The flight arrived in the early evening and after getting picked up in a brand new people-mover, we wound up through the little streets followed by a short journey through open fields before arriving at The Viceroy. In the open air reception area I wanted to ask them to adjust the air-con as it was so cold… and then realised this was winter in Bali!
The Viceroy reminded me of a small Italian town – the kind you would see in a movie with people chasing each other on small mopeds. The owners are actually Australian and co-owner Anthony Syrowatka is around quietly as a host should be. It’s peaceful and private. Our garden villa was a wonderful mix of indoor and out. Within the external walls were an outdoor living area, plunge pool, daybed and bathroom. The bedroom was sealed with full-length windows looking onto the bath, although thankfully the loo was separate. Definitely more for couples than a mum and two daughters but we loved its luxury and style. We bumped into a classmate of my eldest daughter and her mother who were more than happy with their choice of accommodation and very willing to recommend it to my readers so I thought that was a good sign.
The pool, spa, bar and restaurant are set dramatically above the ravine. The view is lovely and it’s so peaceful. You don’t often run into the other guests; tables at the restaurant are spaced so that you can’t hear others’ conversations. It’s very tasteful. My steak was exceptional and the whole dinner – admittedly at Singapore five-star prices – was just fantastic. It’s not hard to see why it’s been voted Indonesia’s Best Restaurant for exceptional cuisine and service every year from 2007 to 2010 by American Express and Indonesian Tatler. The staff, especially on the F&B side, were way above average, and many of them are long-term employees from the area.
The Viceroy’s own Lembah Spa is fab. We had massages and where other spas have a couple of flowers for you to look at through the hole in the massage couch, here it was a glass fish bowl with a single colourful fish and a silver shell – a beautiful combination. After a perfect massage we had a traditional flower bath. The next day I also indulged in a traditional crème bath for my hair – the Indonesians have a way to make you feel like a princess.
You can get a yoga teacher for a personal session and with a backdrop like this one it would be inspirational. However, we chose to go shopping and elephant riding. I had never been to the Bali Elephant Park before. We had a half-hour elephant ride (I do like elephants; they’re so clever), a nice lunch and then a short bus trip round some interesting countryside. The park is also Australian-owned and is definitely worth a visit, with or without children.
Then we discovered Ubud town. After all these years, I felt rather dumb that I had missed it. All the way along Monkey Forest Road and the main road there are lots of different boutiques; even Biasa and Skin from Seminyak have outlets in Ubud now. It was peak Australian holiday season when we were there in early July so the main road and the markets were teeming. Not the best time to go but it is nice and cool!
I would definitely recommend The Viceroy, especially the Terrace Villas. They’re totally private with an outdoor pool and bale overlooking the Petanu River Gorge. Our indoor pool was pretty chilly and I would have liked to have seen more of the view and be in the sun while still being at my own villa. The resort has been around since the 2005 but some brand new terrace villas have recently been added and they look fantastic. And, like all exclusive places, there is wi-fi internet, complimentary pick-ups and drop-offs to town, the staff will organise any tours you want to do, and the service is personal and professional.
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