It does feel almost like routine now, to jump into a taxi north from Denpasar airport, and then don’t stop until reaching the valleys of Gianyar and Ubud. As we just know where exactly we want to be in Bali. So again we are back on the ‘Island of the Gods’, only this time to celebrate our wedding anniversary, as it is now 6 years since we first married in the same valleys of Ubud. But this time there is a change of venue, staying at the rather inspired and luxury HOSHINOYA Bali resort, found perched over the valley’s edge of the sacred Pakerisan River (one of Bali’s UNESCO world heritage sites).
A True Slice of Paradise
One of the most fascinating experiences in our travels has to be the canopy walk in the primary rainforests of Borneo (Brunei). When we woke at 06:00 AM to trek through pitch-black jungle before climbing 50m-high scaffolding, to listen to the morning call of nature. Well, at HOSHINOYA Bali it is quite similar, only we just have to walk to the perimeter of the resort where we can look down from above. And while it may not share the same abundance of nature as the deep Bornean jungles, it no doubt shares the same sensation when you are welcomed by a siren of birds, lizards, and jungle beasts, as nature recites its choruses throughout the day. An experience which just cannot be shared through imagery.
The Bulan Pool Villa
So there are three categories of villas at the resort; the Jalak (Garden Pool Villa with Terrace), the Soka (Garden Pool Villa, Maisonette), and, where we stayed in the Bulan (Garden Pool Villa). And I am immediately drawn to the rather special backdrop of carved wood behind the master bed. And, apparently, every villa at the resort has a completely unique design, each with individual impressions and carvings, which showcases the legendary craftsmanship of the surrounding Gianyar regency (named a World Craft City for having the world’s longest craft industry). And while the villas are no doubt uniquely Balinese, they also share a simplicity and the immaculate finish known from Japanese design. They even have robo-toilets (washlets) in the bathrooms.
A Tropical Water Village
I didn’t realise at first that the master suite is in fact just part of the top tier of the villa, as a set of steps leads down to below where we have our own private pool area. Along with outdoor showering facilities and some super comfy sofas to lounge around by the waterside. This pool then connects to one of three canal-like swimming pools that link to each villa throughout the resort, and it’s like the entire compound is connected by these pristine pool waterways. And it seems that everywhere you go you are surrounded by water, be it the tranquil meanders of the water village or the mighty gush of the sacred Pakerisan River passing below.
Inspired Balinese Eats
I did know before arrival that I would be breaking one of my only travel mantras: “to always eat what locals eat”. But knowing the Japanese connection with HOSHINOYA, there was no way I was leaving without at least sampling their Japanese fare. However, they do help alleviate my guilt, with a rather inspired Japanese take on contemporary Balinese cuisine, and it has to be the first set menu I have seen (10-course) with both sashimi and rendang on the list. And while the delicate flavours of Japanese cuisine may seem unlikely to compliment the rather explosive spice of Balinese fare, at HOSHINOYA they somehow come together perfectly. Although the highlight was definitely the ‘wagyu beef tenderloin with three types of Balinese sauce’ which had me questioning “have I been eating steak wrong all my life?”. Also, below is our 2nd meal, a ceremonial dish called Ayam Betutu, which is a whole chicken steamed in banana leaves with Balinese spices.
Air Gazebo Breakfast
I can say that very few times have I been so excited for breakfast, although this is not so much due to hunger, as it is the venue at HOSHINOYA Bali. Where breakfast can be served to the resort’s air gazebos which kind of float midair over the surrounding canopies of the rainforests. And it is a truly unique experience best savoured with sunrise and the dawn chorus of the jungle beasts below. So the menu here is slightly different from the resort restaurant, instead, with a take on the traditional Balinese dish Terang Bulan (Balinese pancakes) along with fruits, salads and other goodies. It’s a bit like a picnic. But the traditional breakfast at the resort restaurant should not be missed either; with rather fantastic set meal options including both Balinese and Japanese fare. (Note, the air gazebos are free to use throughout the day with an optional food and drinks menu).
To reach the Spa at HOSHINOYA Bali there is a mini-funicular (or cable car as it would be called in Japan) which scales down the steep canopy towards the river valley. And while it is only 100feet or so lower than the resort itself, it does feel somewhat separated in a lower tier of the trees. Where it is surrounded by the gushing torrents of water of the sacred Pakerisan River. So would be Fanfan’s time to treat herself, with a choice of either the Body Relaxation or Spicy Body Revitalizing packages. Where she sides with the Body Relaxation because she “really wants a flower bath”. And the treatment takes 2-hours in total with a traditional Balinese massage, a body scrub and wrap, before the flower bath, and I may have been a slight bit jealous of her pampering (full spa options here).
Inclusive Cultural Experiences
The real value at HOSHINOYA Bali has to be in the all-inclusive (free) activities that continue through the day and all guests can take part in. Which you should do. Including 3 unique yoga classes each day, as well as various Balinese cultural activities that change on rotation through the week (daily at 10:00AM, 14:00PM and 17:00PM). So we of course joined along for each of the day’s activities starting with the morning temple offering where we were taught to build ‘Canang’ palm-leaf baskets before we offered them to the onsite temple. The midday activity is then the Indonesian Tea Experience where we are shown how to make traditional teas and medicinal drinks like Wedang and Jamu. In the evenings it is the traditional arts performances including Balinese Dance and Gamelan.
The Daily Yoga Routine
Yoga is one of the central themes of the resort, where it is possible to join (for free) or take private yoga classes throughout the day. And these start at dawn with the Sunrise Yoga, then it is Aquatic Yoga (in the pool) during the hotter hours of the day, before Moonlight Yoga at night. However, despite my 8 years now in Southeast Asia, this would be my 1st ever time joining a yoga class at HOSHINOYA. Which I can say was surprisingly therapeutic, partly due to the breathing exercises, where the sense of relaxation felt quite similar to that first beer in the morning (only much healthier). But what I found really fascinating at the resort is the multi-talented staff, where, after joining the sunrise yoga, we later met the instructor taking on all sorts of roles. And there are around 5 trained yoga instructors in the HOSHINOYA team. So one minute they’ll be teaching aquatic yoga, or leading crafts and ceremony, and the next they will be conducting housekeeping or waiting tables. All with impeccable friendliness and everlasting smiles.