Having spent a few days in Bali in the midst of cosmopolitan Seminyak and the hustle and bustle of Kuta, I longed for an experience that would recharge my batteries. Bali has long been regarded as the “lost paradise” on Earth,for many years, the development of tourism has made certain areas of the island extremely overcrowded. Yet, as I headed towards the Bukit peninsula, just 40 minutes south of Kuta, a sense of that lost paradise began to resurface as I spotted the marbled cliff top landscape and panoramic turquoise blue Indian Ocean. Those, I was told, were two telling signs that I had nearly arrived at the Bulgari Resort hideaway.
Slowing driving down an off-road dirt track, all I could see were the glistening water-filled paddy fields and intense green coffee bean plantations, growing alongside a peaceful portrayal of local village life. Children were playing around freely, while the adults were getting on with their day-to-day errands, without a sense of stress or urgency.
I eventually arrived at the resort after passing through an understated gated entrance, and its globally recognized brand was nowhere to be seen. However, checking-in at the arrival lounge, I began to catch the smells, colors and elegance of what Bulgari has been renowned for since it was founded in Rome, as a luxury jewelry maker in 1884. The well-recognized neutral palette of brown, beige and blacks were represented through a simple, yet towering Balinese thatched pavilion (bale), built out of locally sourced materials, such as mahogany wood, bamboo, white coral stone and palm leaf straw.
Shortly after the check-in formalities were completed, my butler arrived in a buggy to accompany me to my villa. As we drove down the cobbled stone pathways, it was remarkable to see how the resort has been built to accommodate the steeping terrain, an iconic representation of nature which this particular part of Bali was named after – Uluwatu (“Ulu” meaning “land’s end” and “watu” meaning “rock“).
My gaze towards the vibrantly colored gardens that delicately beautify the entire surroundings of the resort was already forming juxtapositions in my mind. White Jasmine and water lilly infused the soft-blowing breeze, creating a sensation that I was being bathed in the Bulgari fragrance Mon Jasmin Noir, while the vivid blossoms of the Frangipani trees and glistening green tropical foliage could be compared with the eclectic mix of precious emeralds, amethysts and turquoise of Elizabeth Taylor’s entire jewelry collection. It’s incredible how such an exhibit of artful naturalism gave me an instant overwhelming sense of tranquility and well-being.
The idea that “beauty will always enrich people’s lives,” is one that Bulgari strives towards in all aspects of its luxury brand empire, especially when it comes to its hotels. The search for the extraordinary is a key factor when it comes to location. It was the first to develop a hotel in Uluwatu, a place with a noteworthy history, and still remains the only luxury fashion brand to have a presence on the chic island of Bali. Originally used as the hunting grounds of the Balinese royal families, Uluwatu is also home to Pura Lahur Uluwatu, which means “temple above the rock.” Situated only ten minutes by car from the Bulgari resort, the Hindu temple is believed to have been created by a holy man called Empu Katuran, who came to Bali from Java in the 10th century. At 90 metres above sea level, Uluwatu not only offers visitors a spiritual insight to Balinese Hinduism, it also displays the most magical of sunsets, which infuses the temple with a richness of golden light – a breathtaking display that makes this part of Bali such a special place to experience.
The Balinese architectural style of the Bulgari Resort, created by Italian designers Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel and Partners, has been very much respected and it replicates a similar village concept that was first introduced within hotel design in the 1970s by renowned architects, such as Peter Muller and Geoffrey Bawa. However, it’s the blend of Balinese indigenous tradition, mixed with contemporary Italian elegance, which gives the resort its own distinctive ambiance.
The 59 villas, subdivided into banjars, offer a secure feeling of extreme privacy, as if they were tucked away n a secret hideaway, and yet unprotected enough to capture the beauty of the south-facing ocean scenery. Applying a single beige color scheme alongside black mahogany furnishings, the simplicity of the design forms a perfect synergy with the intricate Balinese craftsmanship. There is a bedroom and equally spacious bathroom, an open-air living room, plunge pool and sun loungers. Everything has been created to instill a sense of sanctuary, with in-villa dining available 24 hours a day for guests who are keen to relish the utmost privacy. Towards the westernmost part of the resort, on a slightly higher position, stands the Bulgari Villa. At 1,300 square meters, the luxurious space offers three bedrooms, two living rooms and a kitchen, surrounded by a garden hosting a 17-metre long swimming pool, an extensive terrace and small pavilions where you can eat and live in the open.
Though it was difficult to leave my villa, I was keen to discover more about Indonesia’s heritage, which I discovered was just a buggy ride away towards the central part of the resort. A spectacular display of antiques, which are available to purchase, are presented in a gallery, thanks to the Indonesian art expert and curator Bruce Carpenter. Having worked with the Bulgari Resort since its inception, his selection is a mix of antiques and traditional contemporary arts by Indonesia’s and Bali’s talented artists and artisans – all based on the symbolism of love between man and woman.
Among the pieces that caught my attention were a pair of Large Double Spiral Silver Earrings (padung) from the Batak Karo people of North Sumatra, that symbolized fertility and dated back to the Indonesian Bronze Age. A wood carved Loro Blonyo wedding couple from Java was also an essential part of the marriage rituals of Javanese royalty. These images represent the god Vishnu and his wife Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice, and it was believed that they assured the happiness, prosperity and fertility of the newlyweds.
Continuing to the easternmost side of the resort, I was able to savorr the taste of traditional Italian cuisine, and where better to start my culinary experience than the aperitivo. The cliff-side lounge bar was the perfect backdrop to receive an exquisite selection of intricately-prepared bites, which provided the perfect starters for my evening dinner at the resort’s signature Italian restaurant – Il Ristorante. Although minimalistic in design, the alfresco setting and suggestive soft lighting created a seductive ambiance that was fitting for a perfect romantic evening. Its contemporary take on traditional Italian cuisine formed a colorful array of flavorful dishes.
Although only open for dinner, the resort’s other restaurant, Sangkar, serves an equally-matching menu of Asian and international specialties throughout the day and evening.
Whichever way I wanted to enjoy my day – whether it was staying in my villa, marveling at the antiques, or taking a yoga class in the spa – it was impossible not to be taken in by the spiritual surroundings of Uluwatu, while also being pampered in true Italian style.
The Bulgari Hotel in Bali is located on Jalan Goa Lempeh, Banjar Dinas Kangin Uluwatu. Tel: +62 3618471000