Dr Elaine Kim discovers a perfect paradise in Bali.
Bali’s Alila Villas – Sleek, Stylish hideaways for the Perfect Escape
There is this picture I once saw of Alila Villas Uluwatu in a magazine – a cabana floats upon the dark surface of an infinity-edged pool, which drops off the cliff towards an endless blue ocean. The cabana, a minimalist structure of wooden strips criss-crossed in an aesthetically-pleasing assymmetry, is cantilevered off the limestone cliff, hanging over the water.
I have a passion for architecture and this design stirred something in me. The resort is the work of Singaporean architecture firm WOHA, which has won numerous accolades and awards for its striking buildings and cutting-edge designs across the region.
Here, on this elevated plateau hundreds of feet above the Indian Ocean, they helped to plant this luxury hideaway resort, where sleek open-plan villas sit between dark reflecting ponds, and deep blue pools with limestone-tiled edges are surrounded by sleek cream-upholstered daybeds on timber decking. This is all set within 14-hectares of lush tropical savannah, and WOHA took pains to reflect the surroundings in the architecture: through the use of local plants from the Balinese ecosystem, employing locally and sustainably-sourced materials and accenting the interior décor with traditional handcrafted Indonesian woodwork and custom Javanese furniture. And of course there were the signature wooden-slatted cabanas like the one I’d seen in the picture, which added a modern touch to the general theme of seamless, flowing transitions between outdoor and indoor spaces.
My family was staying in the three bedroom cliffside villa, an incredible 30,000 square foot residence that must be one of the most breathtaking in Bali. In a beautiful enclave perched on the ocean cliff, the villa is thoughtfully spread over the immense space, comprising water courtyards, gardens and pavilions and open-plan living and dining areas, kitchen and 3 bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms complete with his and her vanities, indoor and outdoor showers and deep soaking terazzo bathtubs. It’s wonderfully spacious and luxurious, and clearly thoughtfully designed, with lava rock roofs, bamboo ceilings and airwells in the courtyard allowing the sea breeze to drift through the villa, and well-placed loungers and cabanas to luxuriate in the views all around.
When we first arrived, the butler led us through the corridor of sleek white stone flanked on either side by a dark reflecting pool, pointing out bed and bathrooms to the left and right , and then leading us through an archway. Here a long private pool ended with an infinity drop over the limestone cliff on which our villa was perched, and the azure water of the pool continued into the blue of the ocean. This was one of the most beautiful views to be had in a private villa.
This remote, dramatic backdrop on the rugged cliffs of Uluwatu “the rock at Land’s End” sets the scene for a blissful retreat to escape to. The resort is plenty equipped - there's a yoga pavilion, gym, a myriad of cultural excursions to go on, and for the absolute indulgence , the spa is sublime. There’re also plenty of excellent dining, whether gourmet Western fine-dining at CIRE, deliciously authentic Indonesian cuisine at Warung, or for the ultimate romantic dinner, a private candle-lit dinner at sunset in a cabana hanging on cliff edge. But mostly the resort is designed for idle relaxation - luxuriating in the comfort of your villa with the ocean stretching out in line of sight, floating in the infinity pool, reading a book on the sunbed, drifting off to sleep on a hammock in the bale. Alila villas is made for blissfully lazy days that you never want to end.
Alila Villas Soori
Across the island the sea-cliffs of Uluwatu give way to the terraced rice cliffs of Tanah Lot. Here Alila Villas Uluwatu's sister Soori sits elegantly among rice paddy fields. Where Alila Villas Uluwatu rises high above the blue sea with white walls and modern geometric accents, Alila Villas Soori lies low within the valley with ash-grey stone and hits of dark Balinese wood accents , yet both in equal are understatedly beautiful in architecture.
Yet another of Singapore’s most highly acclaimed firms is behind the architectural beauty of Soori – SCDA. In fact, Chan Soo Khian himself, the immensely talented and accoladed founding principal of SCDA, is the owner and designer of Alila Villas Soori. Soori’s 42 stylish, contemporary-Asian designer villas are flanked on one side by lush, emerald rice fields and a misty Mount Batukaru in the horizon, and by striking beachfront and the vast Indian Ocean on the other. Every single villa has its own private pool, along with courtyards, garden pavilions and a view of either mountain or ocean. Our 3 bedroom villa was an extravagant residence with stylish bedrooms furnished in gorgeous neutrals set around a water courtyard, a spacious living area that leads out to an ocean-facing infinity pool and adjacent stone-clad, teak-decked pavilion, and one floor below, had its own sleek kitchen and dining room.
Should you be drawn out from your tranquil private villa in search of a little adventure, there are Segways ready to take on a thrilling ride through the rice paddy fields, surfboards to ride the ocean breaks, and horses to mount on an exhilarating gallop on the coastline. Alila Villa Soori's beach is quite remarkable. Where other beaches pride themselves on how white their sand is, Soori beach is proudly black - a broad swathe of deep, dark volcanic sand that is soft as powder and glitters beneath your feet. When the sun sets, this same stretch of sparkling beach serves as the backdrop for a dinner of freshly-caught seafood, cooked on a sizzling grill at the beachfront restaurant Ombak.
The crowning jewel on the resort is the 10-bedroom residence Soori Estate, which I had a chance to see when Soori’s General Manager, the capable and affable Marco, kindly invited us to a private dinner within. The villa stands alone on the promontory over the ocean, set over more than 50,000square feet of sprawling beachfront.
A flight of stone steps leads you into the lobby of the estate and into a lofty, expansive living area, dining room and library, all gorgeously furnished. Out through the wall of glass doors, a large bonfire burned in a sleek stone pit on the stone terrace, by the candlit table where we were to dine. A dark, still infinity pool stretched across the length of the terrace and a perfect, unbroken view of the ocean lay beyond.
The sun was setting, and the orange reflected on the mirror-black of the pool, against the blue and green hues of sea and sky. It was an absolutely enchanting setting. I had just stepped into Soori Estate and I was already planning how I might return, this time to stay. Gather a group of friends perhaps, to celebrate some occasion - we would get to be amongst the privileged few guests of Soori Estate to experience these magical sunsets, in this beautiful residence. As the last rays of amber disappeared beneath the horizon, we sat done to dinner, ready to savour our last dinner of the journey. But it wouldn't be the last time dining on this terrace, I decided. Just a matter of time, I'd be back.
For more info, visit alilahotels.com
AUTHOR’S BIO: Dr Elaine Kim is a doctor in palliative care, and looks after terminally-ill patients in their homes with HCA Hospice Care. Outside of medical work, she is a partner at designer boutiques Trinity Bridal in Hong Kong and Trinity Gallery in Singapore, and is also the co-founder of CRIB, a social enterprise that empowers women to become successful entrepreneurs. Travelling often for work, leisure and volunteer missions, she writes about her trips, regularly contributing tatler_tatler_stories to various publications. Elaine is a mother of 2 young boys, Kyan and Luke, and is married to venture capitalist John Kim. You can follow her on her travels via Instagram @elaine_kim.