Given how much we enjoyed our private villa hire last time, we opted to go down the same route this time. One thing that we had noticed whilst researching our first Bali trip is that most villas had at least 2-3 bedrooms. We really had to search a lot to find a good one bedroom villa and that villa wasn’t significantly cheaper than the larger options.
This time, we were able to look at some larger properties, which benefit from more staff, more space and worked out at a similar or cheaper price per person than our previous villa.
Given that we loved the wildly different regions of Uluwatu and Ubud so much last time, we didn’t want to miss out on showing them to our friends during this return visit. I thought that the best idea would be to incorporate a third region, somewhere totally remote, close to the ocean.
That way we would have jungle in Ubud, towering cliffs and horizon views in Uluwatu and time on the water’s edge in our third destination.
Lovina really appealed as it is far off the beaten track and has some absolutely amazing villas. Serious MTV cribs, tennis courts etc. villas for $300 per night, sleeping 10 people. Really crazy stuff. There are also opportunities for dolphin watching and a wreck which we enjoyed diving last time.
However, the three villas that we wanted were all booked up and we didn’t feel like heading all that way for our fourth choice, especially when something else had caught my eye.
At first I was a little apprehensive about this villa. It seemed too good to be true. A villa where each bedroom was in its own separate pavilion, giving us all the privacy we’d need, whilst sharing with our friends. A villa with a full complement of staff including groundskeepers, security guards, chefs, a driver and a full time butler. A villa that had all of that plus elegant decor featuring not only Balinese design but also artwork from around the world.
The website looks great, the communication with the owner was fantastic but nothing could prepare us for how good this place was going to be. I’m genuinely apprehensive about sharing this with people for fear of either the price going up or it being fully booked.
However, I figure the world is a big place and there is still a lot to see – it would be all too easy to just come back here and never try anywhere new ever again. If it gets super popular and I can’t return I’ll be compelled to keep trying new places instead, I’m young I probably need that
We were met at DPS by the villa manager, the ever smiling Gusti, in his souped up saloon car.
Whilst optically the location doesn’t look like it is too far from Tanah Lot temple, the reality is that this was a long drive through some very small and winding roads. I estimated that this drive would take a maximum of 1.5 hours but it ended up being closer to two and a half. By the time we arrived (as is so often the case on our travels) it was night time.
We were greeted by the full staff upon arriving at the villa. The butler, Dedung, handed each of us a welcome drink inside a carved cucumber and guided us towards the living room, whilst other members of staff took our bags to our rooms.
After we’d finished our welcome drinks Dedung handed us menus as well as a leather bound book of activities and information about the villa. We had pre-ordered dinner via e-mail for this evening but were told that we just had to let him know the day before, what we wanted each day and he’d ask the staff to prepare it for us. He also said that if we had any special requests, the staff would do their best to find whatever we wanted to eat and drink.
Finally he said he noticed we had duty free bags containing some Tanqueray Ten and some white wine. He asked if he should chill the white wine before dinner and perhaps bring out some ice, limes and tonic water so that we could enjoy a G&T before our meal.
It didn’t take long for us all to realise that Dedung is pretty much the best guy of all time. The man is so on top of his game that the mind boggles. I have never in my life experienced service on this level. Dedung is like a benevolent apparition, effortlessly gliding around the mortal world to improve the lives of others.
As each day went on he just seemed to get better and better, always anticipating our desires and making excellent and proactive suggestions to improve our stay.
After an excellent dinner (which I’ll cover in detail, in the food section of this review) we decided to take some post meal G&Ts down to the pool. Watching the twinkling lights of fishing boats in the distance and hearing the roaring surf just metres away, we knew that this was going to be good. Really, really good.
I was the first up in the morning and like an excited child on Christmas day, I ran around by myself trying to take it all in.
I hadn’t really noticed the two streams running along the entrance stairs, the previous night.
Looking towards K and I’s pavilion, from the bottom of the stairs.
The lounge area of our room, featuring sliding screens printed by a Japanese artist living in Ubud.
The decor was very tasteful. Kudos on the Eames office chair and iMac, a very comfy setup for catching up on FT
The Villa owner is French and has left little reminders of his home country throughout Bulung Daya. Here the vintage Hermes barometer sits next to some incredibly old pots from Papua (the villa brochure said that we should treat the villa as if it were our own, however these pots were thousands of years old and were the only truly irreplaceable items in the house)
Hidden away in the wardrobe next to these pots was our in room refreshment station, including an actual espresso maker.
The bed was perfect. Really comfortable with some super high thread count linens.
Some more iconic chairs flanking the view at the foot of our bed.
We tended to keep the wooden dividing screens open during the day and drew them shut at night to make two separate cosy rooms: a lounge and a bedroom.
Both Pavilions featured incredible views from the beds themselves as well as the outdoor terraces.
The view from the far end of our pavilion down to the unspoilt beach below.
Mr and Mrs R’s pavilion containing their bedroom and the living/ dining room.
The living room
Mr and Mrs R’s bedroom
The second bedroom’s bathroom
View from the shower to the rice terraces. Our visit fell during the tail end of the dry season so the usual green had given way to a more arid landscape.
Whilst the pool looked like an ethereal alien landing strip at night, during the day it played second fiddle to the surrounding natural landscape.
At 33 metres long, this pool is bigger than the ones at a lot of resorts in Bali.
Plenty of space for some front flips
Underneath Mr and Mrs R’s pavilion and next to the pool, was an area which could be converted into a third bedroom.
This area also contained the gym.
There was also an additional bathroom as well as a cinema room with a large projection screen, which we never got the chance to use.
Continuing down the path in front of the cardio machines, you reach the beach.
Bali is not really a beach destination. The water is warm but the currents and waves can be savage. Great for surfing but not so much for regular swimming. The sight, sound and smell of the ocean were captivating though.
We rarely saw other people on the beach, although those that we did see were definitely not tourists!
One of the many activities on offer at the villa was making use of a photographer for half a day. I knew that Mr and Mrs R had been looking to get engagement pics taken so I arranged for them to have a photoshoot and afterwards the photographer stuck around to take pics for K’s blog:www.euriental.com as well as taking some shots for this TR. The cost for half a day was around $150.
As well as the photographer, the villa offered numerous activities and experiences. Including fishing, tours of the local area, massages and spa treatments (around $10 per hour).
We enjoyed massages every day but other than that we spent most of the time relaxing in the villa.
The only time we left was to show our friends Tanah Lot temple. The drive took an hour each way.
We took up our usual spot at the bar at the top of the hill, facing the temple, and enjoyed some fresh coconuts and pork satay whilst watching the sunset.
This evening was made particularly magical by thousands of birds flocking in the area above the temple complex.
Food and Drink
Given the remote location of Bulung Daya, we were totally captive to the kitchen staff. The quality and variety of the food could conceivably make or break the experience at this villa. Thankfully the food was plentiful fresh and absolutely delicious.
Fresh fruit to begin breakfast and end lunches and dinners
Spicy chicken with mixed vegetables and garlic rice
Deep fried banana with ice cream
Fresh garden salad
Pandan pancake with fresh coconut and palm sugar
Homemade garlic bread
One day Dedung mentioned to us that he could get us fresh lobster if we wanted. We thought that sounded like one hell of an idea. It was only a day later that he let slip; this involved him and Wayan the chef going down to the beach at 4am and personally hauling back fifteen of these pristine creatures!
Another one of Dedung’s many talents. He knows how to fold napkins into precisely twenty four unique styles.
Mr R enjoying his spicy chicken on lemongrass skewers
As well as the regular meals, the villa offers some more extravagant dining options. For our last evening I figured we might as well go the whole hog, literally. Our final dinner was an entire spit roasted Balinese pig (Babi Guling) served poolside, with local musicians to entertain us. Pretty amazing for $50 per person.
Wayan stands proudly next to his creation.
Dedung wowed us with his most extreme creation to date: the polo shirt!
During this meal we also found out that the mild mannered and gentle Dedung (pictured), also sports and enormous dragon tattoo on his back. Seriously. After the meal we shared all of the leftover meat with the staff but Dedung let us know that he had reserved us a small plate of ‘drinking meat’, to enjoy with our cocktails after dinner.
Best. guy. ever.
The warmth and hospitality of the Balinese people is incredible. We had experienced this in the past but this time it was on another level. The whole staff were not only generous, friendly and helpful but also incredibly proactive and slick. A lot of them had experience in resorts and cruise liners and it really showed.
This amazing service, coupled with the dramatic location, enormous pool, beautiful decor and delicious food, made for one of the best experiences of my life. It was incredible.
The cost? $550 per night. For the entire villa including breakfast and all staff services, including the driver.