Check in to the Viceroy Bali for a relaxing bolthole you don't need to leave.
Hotel Insider: Balinese hideaway with a European-style twist
Located off of an unassuming sidestreet in Ubud, the Viceroy is a hidden enclave. A comfortable and quiet drive awaits those who elect an airport pick-up with the hotel's service; our Balinese driver was friendly and extremely knowledgable about the island - a plus on the 40-minute drive northward from the packed streets of Denpasar.
Built into the slopes of Petanu valley, the Viceroy is revealed in downward layers upon entrance to the lobby. An open, marble-laid foyer reveals a waiting area thatched in traditional Balinese style and accented with intricate carvings depicting scenes from the Ramayana. Jonathan, the guest service manager with a booming voice honed through years of newscasting, greeted us with a warm welcome and an informative rundown of the hotel and its surroundings.
Situated on a sidestreet off the busy Jalal Rayan Andong thoroughfare, the Viceroy's proximity to town allowed us to wander down from the quiet surroundings of the hotel's location on Jalan Lanyahan into Ubud city centre, and drivers are on hand until 11pm to shuttle visitors to and from the hotel. Scooter rental from the hotel or downtown is also available, ideal for those interested in exploring the rice paddies of Nagi village next door.
As a family-run enterprise, the Viceroy is a tight ship. Otto, the Australian-Austrian patriarch who lives on the premises, is often up early, ensuring that services go smoothly. Margaret and Anthony, his wife and son, are also fixtures on the landscape, quick to answer questions and offer advice.
The Balinese chaffeurs and concierge team are flawless in their breadth of knowledge about the island and are always ready to help. Pick their brains for information on local customs, traditions and where to go in town for prime tourist attractions.
The most impressive service is the Lembah Spa, which occupies two floors of the hotel and looks out over a pristine forest vista. The top deck is fitted with a circular infinity fountain and arresting views, while the downstairs contains a Jacuzzi and lounge area.
The "Standard-in-Villa" package - a mundane name for a unique series of scrubdowns - includes a 40-minute massage followed by a lulur scrub, yoghurt covering, shower and a bath in flower petals. Not one for complicating relaxation, I asked to maximise the massage time and skip the bath - although I couldn't escape the cold slap of yoghurt after my relaxing and masterful massage.
Our Deluxe Terrace Villa was one of the 14 new villas recently added to the premises. The highlight, of course, is the terrace that faces the forest - it features a small infinity swimming pool as well as a traditional bale, or pavilion, to relax in.
The villa is ideal for a couple: there are his-and-hers sinks, and naught but a curtain separates the bathroom from the main room. But the amenities are enough to want to make anyone stay indoors all day: we took advantage of the complimentary soft drinks, Illy espresso machine, DVD collection and surround-sound stereo that offers iPod/iPhone docking - great for playing music while doing yoga or swimming.
The Viceroy seems more a haven for honeymooners than a family or singles' destination, but the clientele was mixed when we arrived. The first night brought with it a pleasantly surprising concert put on by students from the Singapore Conservatory of Music, who performed in the hotel's only restaurant, CasCades. Service of promised canapés and drinks was slow and sparse, but the concert proved an electic mix of classical pieces and lively gamelan.
The award-winning CasCades is the only restaurant in the hotel. It offers a European menu buttressed by Indonesian specialties that have been taken over by a new chef recently appointed from Dubai. The breakfast menu is a la carte and features everything from camembert and cranberry sauce omelette to traditional nasi goreng. Seared foie gras, quail in vine leaves and lobster in bisque sauce make rich lunch and dinner selections, while vegetarians like me can enjoy zucchini ribbon salad, artichoke soup and pumpkin ravioli. Life revolves around the restaurant because the pool is adjacent. Most socialising occurs on its dining terrace or around the bar area, where settees afford a relaxing place to watch the sun set. Meals are a formal affair - you won't find a buffet table anywhere in sight.
The unbeatable view - uninhabited landscape is becoming increasingly rare in Bali these days, and the Viceroy has carved out an exquisite panoramic niche for itself. The aesthetic is also beautiful - inlaid Balinese statues and carvings from nearby Singapadu pay tribute to the island's rich history and legacy of craftsmanship.
Small quibbles: try and book a pool facing the sun, or the water will be cold all day. Restaurant service could have been faster.
Best for couples seeking a European-style enclave in a Balinese landscape.
The bottom line
A deluxe terrace villa costs from US$380 (Dh1,395) per night, including breakfast and taxes. Viceroy Bali, Jln. Lanyahan, Br Nagi, Ubud, Bali (www.viceroybali.com; 00 62 361 971 777).