The welcome is like entering a Mayan temple, but in Bali. White stone walkways stretch away to the left and right, running parallel with lotus flower pools. There are no doors - the entrance way merges with the lobby. All eyes are drawn to a remarkable traditional stone carving at the far end near which two Balinese men play soothing tunes on their gamelans. Receptionists in white dresses bow and invite you to sit next to bowls of frangipani flowers while you check in.
The neighbourhood. Seminyak is Bali's hippest address and The Legian is on the beach and right in the thick of it. This is not backpacker country but a destination for sophisticated travellers. Down the road is the famous Ku De Ta restaurant and nightspot, with alfresco dining and dancing. The other direction takes you to the superb Living Room restaurant.
The service. The Balinese set the benchmark for hotel service. Always good, always smiling and always prepared to go the extra mile. The Legian typifies that high standard. I must have stayed here at least half a dozen times and it always delivers. If you can afford to get one of the private stand-alone villas in the hotel's special Club at The Legian compound over the road, then you get your own dedicated butler too. He or she will unpack, wash and iron everything, serve all meals in the privacy of your villa, advise on all things practical and cultural, organise dinner reservations, reconfirm or reschedule flights, then pack your bags before you check out.
The rooms all share the hotel's signature dark wood floors, sandy terrazzo bathrooms (reminiscent of a hammam) and uncluttered decor. Not minimalist but not far off. If you can bag one of the suites you'll get lots more space and a big balcony complete with day bed where you and your beloved can while away the afternoon and toast the sunset.
Ask the concierge. What The Legian's concierges are particularly good at is giving you directions and advice for local Balinese religious festivals, of which there are hundreds. They even have one celebrating metal objects like spoons and motorbikes. The concierge can arrange visits to temples and advise on appropriate clothing and etiquette.
The scene. The Legian is big with honeymooners, especially the Japanese. Europeans are also in attendance and quite a few Australians. It can also be a family hotel but not really suitable for those with little ones - pram access is not ideal. It is blissfully unpretentious and has retained a loyal and respectful clientele. Above all, people come here to shut down and chill out. The main infinity pool is too cool for words. Swim up to its oceanside edge and you'll find a second pool beyond into which you can flop.
Loved the days spent reading, sleeping, sunbathing and swimming, and then being stirred gently by a waiter around 5pm and presented with a complimentary afternoon tea of sticky rice cakes and ginger tea. Then, emerging from my room showered and dressed for dinner, floating down to the poolside restaurant and ploughing into an Indian feast, directly from the tandoor oven.
Hated the fact that you are within yards of a warm ocean but treacherous currents and dumping surf make safe swimming a rare privilege. Never mind - there's always the pool.
The verdict The Legian is hotel heaven. Still Bali's king of hotels. Deeply romantic and atmospheric. Ideal for honeymooners and those celebrating anniversaries. Perfect for all ages and families with older kids.
The Legian Hotel, Jalan Laksmana, Seminyak Beach, Bali 80361, Indonesia Tel: + 62 361 730 622 www.ghmhotels.com Doubles from Dh1,650.