The hotel is less than an hour from the airport but the last part of our journey is so rural, we start to think we have gone the wrong way. Rice fields stretch on either side and it is only when the road runs out that we know we are at our destination. And what a destination. The reception area and terrace sit up high, giving a panoramic vista of the Indian Ocean and a small headland jutting out to the right. This is the wilder side of Bali, and the sound of the waves crashing on the black-sand beach is overwhelming. I feel as though I am on a film set, and leave the staff to sort out the formalities while I sip juice and pretend to be Julia Roberts. After a while I notice that our butler, Herri, is waiting to show us to our villa. We are his first clients and he is bursting with enthusiasm.
Located on the south-west coast, it's only 20 minutes away from one of Bali's most-visited temples, Tanah Lot, but few tourists venture farther.
The property is divided by a road and guests have the choice of facing either the paddies and Mount Batukara or the sea. My husband and I are in an ocean pool villa decorated in a contemporary Asian style. It has an attractive open-air courtyard surrounding the infinity pool and, as is to be expected from an architect-owner, the interior is exquisitely designed. The living room, bedroom and bathroom are interconnected; with the doors open they form one large space. Even the pool can be accessed directly, if a little awkwardly, from the sitting room. Walls and fabrics are a mixture of creams, beiges and soft browns, the floors are marble and the furniture dark wood. The only drawback is the subtle lighting, which is so subtle that it is hard to put on make-up. Reading a book in bed is out of the question.
We were one of the first guests so were expecting a few hiccups but Alila's Dutch general manager, Marco Groten, has it all under control. The butler's room is not yet ready so Herri spends the whole day standing outside our villa in case we should need him. If we have any complaints it is that he is too attentive. When my husband asks him what route he could take for his early morning run, Herri says he would bring his trainers and show him.
The villas are built for privacy and guests hardly venture out except to go for dinner or to the spa and main pool. The nearest shops are about 45 minutes away, so there's nothing to do but relax. Many villas have two or three bedrooms, so many guests bring their own company.
There are two restaurants, Cotta and Coast. Cotta is semi-covered and close to the beach. The breakfast menu changes daily and is a mix of European and Balinese – lots of fresh fruit and variations on eggs and pancakes. Lunch consists of entrée-style salads, pizzas and local dishes such as nasi goreng. In the evening, the restaurant changes its mood with white linen tablecloths and classic Indonesian food. A small plate of prawns, chilli, galangal, tomato and lemongrass costs 240,000 rupiah (Dh99) and a large plate of mahi mahi, apple, coconut, chilli and lemongrass costs 280,000 rupiah (Dh103). Coast, the smarter restaurant, offers Aston's signature dishes. Both menus are driven by what fresh ingredients are available.
Sitting on the terrace of my room, watching the sun set, while one therapist gave me a pedicure and another a manicure. For 75 minutes of bliss, the combined treatment cost 700,000 rupiah (Dh290).
The black-sand beach is striking to look at, but less attractive to sit on and when the tide has gone out it is like walking on mud. The sea is also too rough to swim in. In truth, the thing I hated most was leaving – so we cancelled our next hotel reservation and stayed a little longer.
I love this hotel; it has a raw energy and is beautifully designed but those who want to be seen, shop or swim in the sea will be disappointed. However, as a bolt-hole, or for complete relaxation, I can think of none better.
The bottom line
A one-bedroom beach pool villa costs from US$623 (Dh2,288) per night, including taxes. Alila Villas Soori, Tabanan, Bali (www.alilahotels/soori; 00 62 361 894 6388).