Our search for much-needed calm, relaxation and revitalization ended earlier this month in Bali, Indonesia, where we spent two blissful weeks.
If you, too, want to give your weary body and mind a complete vacation, head to Southeast Asia where they really know how to do luxury relaxation well. They understand design; they set the trends. Some of the most luxurious resorts we have experienced have been in this region.
We’d seen the huge amount of media coverage of two Alila Villas properties — Alila Villas Soori and Alila Villas Uluwatu — and we wanted to experience them first-hand. We were not disappointed.
This is how to really experience Bali: Start at Alila Villas Soori for three nights to rest off your jetlag and get used to being relaxed. Then head to Central Bali’s Ubud and stay three nights at Four Seasons Sayan - Ubud. A few days’ stay at Ubud is a must for the bike tours, monkey forest and rafting experiences. Then continue your blissful vegging for another three or four nights at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
The best time to visit this region is from July to September when the weather is absolutely perfect.
We recommend skipping South Bali’s Seminyak although that is where all the shops, restaurants and bars are located. We found it to have the atmosphere of an adult school spring break with a few too many drunken tourists in hair braids. If you do go, enjoy dinner or lunch at the Fire Restaurant at W Hotel Bali or Sarong Restaurant or Metis Restaurant and experience the incredible massage services at Jari Menari the home base of many of the massage therapists that work at the resorts as well.
Our first stop was Alila Villas Soori, located a 90-minute drive from the Ngurah Rai International Airport. When you book with Soori, they will email you a confirmation to personalize your stay.
This includes everything from what kind of foods you don't eat to what kind of music you would like in your room to what experiences you would like to include in your stay.
The bliss starts on your arrival at the airport where a Soori concierge will greet you, take your luggage off the carousel, zoom you through express customs and whisk you to a car with fresh cold face towels and nibbles on your way to Soori. You feel like a rock star minus the noisy fans.
The images in this post are exactly how Soori looks like. Designed by Soo Kian Chan of SCDA Architects, the hotel’s contemporary villas are designed in a way you’d like your home to be designed. Alila Villas Soori’s setting is breathtaking, yet the villas feel like beach homes.
The resort’s harmonious design combines cool, grey and black volcanic stone and polished teak. The interiors are dramatic but understated.
The 48 villas are spacious, all with perfect postcard views, private pools and a fabulous outdoor deck. The villas’ standard equipment includes an Apple TV, iPod and a Nespresso machine, dramatic bath for two, an indoor and outdoor shower and linen sheets. Each villa is assigned a butler/host who will look after everything. We recommend the Ocean pool Villas.
The beach is covered in glittering black sand that looks as if fairy dust had been sprinkled on it. The waves are extremely strong which makes it virtually impossible to swim in the ocean, plus at night it can be quite loud so ear plugs are necessary if you are a light sleeper.
The ten bedroom Residence (pictured above and below) offers a sense of tranquility in seclusion with its lavish indoor and outdoor spaces spread over two levels, surrounded by West Bali’s pristine coastal beauty showcasing uninterrupted views of the Indian Ocean. Two master bedrooms and adjoining suites are on the upper level, each with its oversized Jacuzzi, in and outdoor shower and walk-in closet. Landscaped gardens within living spaces open onto the pool area creating generous living and dining spaces, which lead out to a private library, all interwoven with pavilions, and a 20-metre infinity pool, fronting an endless ocean beyond.
The massages and spa treatments are some of the best we experienced in Bali! Book one the moment you arrive to get you super relaxed.
We loved the breakfast menu that changed daily offering small servings of delicacies. The fresh juices are amazing as was the omnipresent Mangosteen fruit.
This is the kind of resort you don't leave or explore purely due to its location because everything is at least one hour away - (UBUD - Seminyak). You arrive, you sun bake, you read, you have spa-treatments, you eat, you switch off - you just enjoy it for what it has to offer. - Bill Tikos
Best time to visit Bali: July - Septemeber
Eco luxury does not get any better than this. The Singapore based Alila brand has a firm grasp of what it takes to do it right. It is a brand to watch in the coming years with 20 new properties launching in Asia as well as Portugal.
We are most excited about Alila’s Alila Villas properties. Having just spent time at their sister hotel Alila Villas Soori, we were expecting the same level of luxury and care at Alila Villas Uluwatu.
Uluwatu is only 30 minutes from the airport (depending on traffic) and does indeed have the same WOW effect as Soori.
Stunning views, cliff-top balconies overlooking the ocean, beautifully designed villas with their own pool and decking, indoor and outdoor showers and just space, so much lovely space!
This is one of the reasons why the Southeast Asian luxury is so incredible: They understand space. They design spaces that make you immediately feel you are not “in Kansas” any more. It is unlike anything we run into in our everyday lives, or even in our customary luxury moments.
They make you feel that you are somewhere special and the fact they use sustainable materials in their design makes you feel smugly happy about splurging a bit.
The service at Uluwatu is on a level you seldom see. You are greeted by name throughout the resort. The staff at the restaurants knows you preferences, dislikes and allergies but makes no big show of it. It is like a great host, a close friend would treat you.
Everyone was extremely well trained and that, we believe, comes from managing director, Sean Brennan, the Aussie who has spent the last 13 years in the hospitality industry in Asia and who is a force of nature on his own.
Over our years of staying at hundreds of hotels, we have seldom, if ever, met a hotel manager like him. Sean is the type of hotel manager you would pouch for your own hotel if you had one.
He is more hands-on with guests and staff than anyone we have observed. He greets guests personally on arrival, shows them around, offers drinks, and sits with them at lunch and dinner, literally moving from table to table making sure the guests are enjoying themselves. He is a pleasure to watch, as he clearly loves what he does.
Just like Soori - the images here show exactly what the resort looks like and these last three images were taken by my own camera.
And guests become quite giddy and silly about their dramatic surroundings and service. Guest with their $10,000 cameras with super zoom lenses took pictures constantly posing by the pool, by the cliff, in the villas, complete with costume changes every few hours. It was hilarious to watch.
We would like to help introduce you, too, to Alila Villas Uluwatu. Mention TCH and you will receive a 90-minute complimentary spa treatment per guest. - Bill Tikos.
Best time to visit Bali: July - Septemeber
Retail interiors by Chikara Ohno of Tokyo-based architecture and interior firm Sinato are often characterized by elegant simplicity and smart use of light. A great example of this is organic store and restaurant, +green. It is located on the ground floor of a basic concrete-frame apartment building in a residential section of Tokyos Jiyu Street, close to one of the city’s largest parks, Komazawa.
The 111.5 square meter (1,200 sq.ft) space is exceptionally high (about 4.4 meters or 14.4 feet) and much of it is underground but customers — and light – can move freely between the three levels.
The take-out, popular by park picnickers, is on the ground floor. In +green, Ohno has used clever partitioning, neutral materials and subdued colors to create a space that appears both intimate and large, and despite its underground location, has a refreshing, airy feel. - Tuija Seipell.
Preachers Rock, Preikestolen, Norway
Blue Caves - Zakynthos Island, Greece
Skaftafeli - Iceland
Plitvice Lakes – Croatia
Crystalline Turquoise Lake, Jiuzhaigou National Park, China
Four Seasons Hotel - Bora Bora
Ice skating on Paterswoldse Meer, a lake just South of the city of Groningen in the Netherlands.
Marble Caves, Chile Chico, Chile
The Gardens at Marqueyssac http://www.frenchmoments.c
Ice Canyon - Greenland
Capilano Suspension Bridge, Vancouver, British Columbia
Valley of the Ten Peaks, Moraine Lake, Alberta, Canada
Multnomah Falls, Oregon http://en.wikipedia.org/wi
Seljalandsfoss Waterfall on the South Coast of Iceland
Petra - Jordan (at night)
Verdon, Provence, France
Wineglass Bay, Freycinet National Park, Tasmania, Australia
Norway Alesund Birdseye of City
Benteng Chittorgarh, India
Keukenhof Gardens - Netherlands.
Sky Lantern Festival - Taiwan.
The Wave is on the slopes of the Coyote Buttes, which are in turn located in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness, on the Colorado Plateau, Arizona.
Mount Roraima - Venezuela.
Restaurant near Sanyou Cave above the Chang Jiang river, Hubei , China.
Lucca, Tuscany, Italy.
New York City.
Photographed a place we should include in Part 5 of Amazing Places? - get in contact
We'll be publishing Amazing Places as a book in late 2012
Most hotels are decidedly kid-unfriendly, and even more so are hotels such as Jerusalem’s David Citadel Hotel, known as the home-away-from-home for the world’s celebrities and political leaders.
Hay is responsible for the interior and furniture design of the 100 square-meter (1076 square-foot) space that has activity areas for little kids and computer desks for bigger ones.
We love the inclusivity of the room that is divided by clear blocks of primary colors. It has both angular and rounded forms, open and intimate spaces, soft and hard surfaces, items to interest both boys and girls, activities to draw little and older kids, and low-tech items such as wooden toys mixed with higher-tech elements such as computer stations and flat screens.
In this decidedly modern playroom, Hay has incorporated also some traditional Jerusalem themes, including the lion – the emblem of Jerusalem – and a windmill, cave and the Mahane Yehuda.
The horseshoe-shaped, 384-room David Citadel Hotel, located within walking distance from the Old City, was built in the mid-1990s by local real-estate and hotel magnate Alfred Akirov. The building architect is Moshe Safdie and the hotel designers Chhada Siembieda & Associates. - Tuija Seipell.
New from our favorite French artist - Francoise Nielly
Standing out in Abu Dhabi takes more than clever gimmicks. Among the opulence of luxury hotels, lavish restaurants and all other forms of pampering and spectacular entertainment – including Ferrari World and a few breathtaking golf clubs – being merely great is nowhere near enough.
The legendary Cipriani Group is one of the brave enterprises that has recently entered the competition for the attentions of the demanding super-elite clientele.
The night club’s location is one such feature. Allure overlooks the water and extravagant super yachts of the Yacht Club. It is also connected by a bridge to magnificent five-star The Yas Hotel. But the most amazing part of the nightclub is the view. What you see from its balcony is a real Formula One™ race track.
Designed by Orbit Design Studio (Bangkok, London and Singapore), Allure is divided into The Main room adorned with gold leaf and bronze cladding, and The Terrace that overlooks the race track.
Orbit has also designed the Sound Phuket night club we’ve featured, the Bed Supperclub in Bangkok, and many other luxury bars, clubs and restaurants designers throughout Asia, the Middle East and Europe. - Tuija Seipell
Photography by Owen Raggett.
Dining in the sky is so last decade, but how about dining under water? And if submarine supper is your thing, wouldn’t you want to experience it in one of the world’s top diving destinations, the Maldives?
Anantara Kihavah Villas unique underwater restaurant, Sea, is part of a quartet of culinary experiences aptly named Sea, Fire, Salt and Sky — each with its distinctive cuisine, atmosphere and location.
Sea offers Mediterranean buffet lunches and a degustation dinner with stunning views of the sea life in the channel. Sea is also a wine cellar stocked with 250 labels representing 14 countries, and serving more than 20 labels by the glass.
The luxury resort is located on Kihavah Huravalhi Island in the Maldives, half an hour by seaplane from the Male International Airport. Anantara Hotels, Resorts & Spas is a group of 15 luxury properties in Thailand, the Maldives, Bali and the United Arab Emirates with near-future openings in Vietnam, China, Bali, Thailand and Abu Dhabi. - Bill Tikos
Simple ideas meticulously executed make a big impact in Glocal Design Magazine’s trade show booth presented at the May 2011 Habitat Expo in Mexico City.
The 258 square-foot (24 square meter) exhibit was created by Mexico City-based ROW Studio, a partnership between Álvaro Hernández Félix, Nadia Hernández Félix, Alfonso Maldonado Ochoa.
The sponsor of the construction and material for the booth was Masisa Mexico, a leading manufacturer of MDF panels in Latin America. Masisa was looking to showcase the versatility of its 15mm DecoMDF Masisa panel, covered on both sides with a decorative foil in a wide range of colours and designs.
We love the way ROW’s creative team of Luis Larumbe and Daniel de Leon used fluid and undulating forms making the hard material seem pliable and inviting. We also love the use of colour, and the cocoon-like enclosure – all fitting qualities for a design magazine. - Tuija Seipell
Pencil Fair Stand
Grazia Magazine Pug Balloon Stunt
Ideally, wouldn't we all like to live in a climate where outdoor living is possible year-round? And wouldn't we love to live in a space where the divide between indoors and outdoors is non-existent? São Paulo-based Fernanda Marques achieved this idealistic balance in her Loft 24-7 residence, presented at the CasaCor exhibition in São Paulo, Brazil.
In the 250-square-meter (about 2,700 square feet) space, Marques has erased the barriers by using "outdoor" elements inside and "indoor" elements outside and creating easy visual links between the two. Limestone, rough stone, steel, glass, wood paneling and furnishings that speak to the architect's modernist style, all create a harmonious, seamless environment where you are never quite in and never quite out.
Fernanda Marques is the chief architect at Fernanda Marques Arquitetos Associados that is involved in both residential and commercial architecture, interior design, furniture design and real estate. - Tuija Seipell.