Bali can be a disorientating experience for the first-time visitor. You can be whisked from the international airport at Denpasar to bustling Kuta and then find yourself in tranquil Ubud, home to the island’s devoted artisans, in next to no time. But 40 minutes south-west of Kuta is where you’ll find a true luxury experience, where an exclusive enclave of hotels draw on Bali’s rich cultural heritage and offer unparalleled views of the Indian Ocean.
I find myself in one such retreat. Banyan Tree Ungasan, Bali is a sprawling 71-villa resort set high on the cliffs near Uluwatu Temple. After a short wait in their lavish tiled and timber lobby with a traditional lemongrass tea and a refreshing cold towel, I am being driven to the front door of my villa in less than three minutes and I make a mental note to walk back next time to enjoy the exquisitely landscaped gardens (which I am told are centuries old) along the way.
The villa is, in short, breathtaking. At 315 square metres, the airy layout ensures guests enjoy a panoramic view of the ocean and gardens. An over-water path leads you in two directions, to the living area and bedroom suite; and to the 12-metre infinity pool that appears to spill straight into the Indian Ocean. Like all other villas in the resort, the aesthetic is influenced by Balinese architecture and design: high wooden ceilings showcase expert joinery and traditional bale-thatched roofs, which continue out to the daybed adjoining the pool. Indonesian batik and tropical leaf motifs feature on the bed covers and wall art.
The amenities only add to the relaxed-but-luxe aesthetic, Banyan Tree's reputable aproach to design. The marble bathroom comes with double vanities, a spa bath and dressing table; the outdoor rain shower in its tranquil nook surrounded by natural vegetation feels as peaceful as it appears. I struggle to start up the jet pool (there is a blockage, which is quickly fixed by helpful staff) but as far as tech features go, the suite’s lights, plasma screens (there’s a TV in the bedroom, too) and temperature controls are within easy reach and, thankfully, very user-friendly.
The next morning I wake up in my unbelievably comfortable king-size bed to the sound of trickling water, with the soft call of the ocean luring me outside (the direct pool access through the French doors of my bedroom is such a treat). You may never leave the beauty of your villa, but Banyan has much to offer with three restaurants on site, including Ju-ma-na, which offers Arabic-inspired cuisine that can be enjoyed overlooking the ocean; a boutique stocking handicrafts, jewellery and art created by local artists; and a spa that takes a holistic approach with its range of Asian therapies. Whatever your pursuits, the team at Banyan will provide you with an unforgettable experience, which is what visitors to this part of Bali have come to expect.