Idle in the lap of luxury at the Bulgari Hotel, Bali


View of the private villa.

View of the private villa.

If the gods should deign that I be stuck on an island, let it be Bali – specifically, the Bulgari Hotel in Bali. 

There’s something special about lying on a deck chair at the Beach Club, with the cool wind caressing your face and the sound of crashing waves numbing your senses. With a spectacular view of the Indian Ocean, the spot marks the halfway point from the resort’s beach front, a dangerously rocky stretch with strong undercurrents – enthusiastic swimmers are advised to be content to just enjoy the view. The walk up the stairs seems daunting, but you hardly feel the climb, not when you know you’re going to languish in your private villa at the end of it.

Surprisingly egalitarian, every 300sqm guest room comes with a private garden, a plunge pool and an open-air living room that overlooks thatched roofs and the ocean. Each one is different because of its location. The bathroom? Probably the size of my living room in KL. The black terrazzo floor adds an opulent feel, and aside from the bathtub and two showers – one inside, the other in the garden – it includes a desk and an armchair.

Built in September 2006, the breathtaking 59-villa property is regarded as one of the world’s most exclusive destinations – with three two-bedroom villas and a sprawling 1,300sqm two-storey Bulgari villa that comes with a 17m-long swimming pool. Located near the village of Pecatu and the stunning cliff-top site of Pura Luhur Uluwatu Temple on Bali's far southwestern tip, the unique setting – 160m above sea level – was specially chosen to match Bulgari’s exquisite design.

Architects Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners have ingeniously incorporated traditional Balinese culture and the natural elements of the area into their very contemporary design, all while conveying the distinctive Italian style of Bulgari. Constructed and furnished using hand-cut volcanic stones, rich exotic woods and refined fabrics, they also used natural lava and palimanan stone for the garden and interior walls, refined bangkiray hardwood in the villas, and natural green-coloured sukabumi stone for the outdoor showers, plunge and swimming pools.

Exotic Balinese antiques and art pieces embellish the resort, alongside ceramics and woven fabrics designed and produced by local artists and designers. 

The super luxurious Bulgari Villa.
The super luxurious Bulgari Villa.
The bathroom of each private villa is as big as the bedroom.
The bathroom of each private village is as big as the bedroom.
The entrance to private villas are akin to traditional Balinese courtyard houses.
The entrance to the private villas is akin to traditional Balinese courtyard houses.
Chilling at the beach below the Beach Club, only accessible via an inclined elevator.
Chilling on a Balinese shore below the Beach Club, accessible only through an inclined lift.
As you enter, the extravagant reception pavilion looks like the entry point of a medieval fortress – albeit an expensive one – with only the slightest hint of the Bulgari village that spans beyond. Venture to the second lobby and its full splendour unfolds. 

You can get around on foot, but no one will begrudge you if opt to travel by buggy as the place is quite expansive. At the heart of the hotel is the spa – and what Bulgari means by relaxation is that they do it with style. Set at the brim of the cliff, at the foot of a narrow valley, it's a nod to Balinese architecture that's reflected in its design. Like the antique Joglo house from Java that's been dismantled and relocated at the site. An indulgent spa menu serves facial and body treatments and rituals that ensure you lose touch with the outside world.

Boasting an almost 10m-high ceiling with bamboo cages as lamps, the elaborate interior of The Sangkar provides a casual dining experience, including what’s probably the most expensive nasi goreng in the world. Seems that this fried rice comes with wagyu beef and lobster. Hey, this is the Bulgari Hotel after all.

Executive chef Andrew Skinner does also cook a vast array of refined Asian and international dishes, using local delicacies like mango blossom honey and Eastern Balinese sea salts. The Indonesian restaurant is also home to a stunning 9mx1.5m artwork made of solid teak wood planks and over 100,000 copper “nails”, especially created for Sangkar by Balinese artist Made Wianta.

The adjacent II Ristorante, which overlooks a reflection pool, is open for dinner only. Italian chef Maurizio Bombini gives a brilliant interpretation of his country’s cuisine with his constant research for new colours, tastes and presentations. And there’s a cliff-side lounge bar that offers a stage front view of Bali's magnificent sunsets. Reminiscent of the black resin bar of Milan's Bulgari Hotel, this has its own stone bar sculpted by the forces of nature.

There’s also a Bulgari boutique, the first and only one in Bali, offering jewellery, watches, accessories, fragrances, and a special collection of resort wear like silk shirts and swimming suits. The neighbouring pavilion houses the arts and crafts store featuring Balinese traditional artefacts like stone carvings, ceramics, handwoven textiles and jewellery.

But it’s not all fun and games at this designer playground: there are function rooms and business facilities with full secretarial services available for the hardworking guests. For the faithful, housed within the resort grounds are a Hindu temple and a chapel that's being built to accommodate future weddings.

Pampered in such private and luxurious surroundings, it’s hard to believe that you’re just minutes away from the hustle and bustle of civilisation – 20km from the airport to be exact and 40 minutes away from Kuta, the touristy lure of Bali. Day trips to neighbouring islands, volcano visits by helicopter and local market tours can be arranged, but why leave the hotel when you’ve found heaven?

Managed by Bulgari Hotels & Resorts, the hotel is a joint-venture between Bulgari and Marriott International's Luxury Group. For reservations, go to bulgarihotels.com, or email infobali@bulgarihotels.com, or call +62 361 847 1000.

The reception pavilion of Bulgari Hotel Bali looks more like a medieval fortress.
The reception pavilion of Bulgari Hotel Bali looks like a medieval fortress.
Sangkar Restaurant boasts 10m ceiling and unique birdcage lamps.
Sangkar Restaurant boasts a 10m-high ceiling lit by birdcage lamps. 
A view of the bar and the ocean skyline from Sangkar Restaurant.
A view of the bar and the ocean skyline from Sangkar Restaurant. 

> This article was originally published in Life Inspired, out every second and fourth Sunday of the month, and distributed exclusively with The Sunday Star to selected areas in the Klang Valley.

Bulgari , resort , designer