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welltraveledbrit Jan 28th, 2015 09:27 PM

Madly Dashing to Bali - Hotel Report
We've been to Bali several times before and have seen a bit of the island. This time we were at the end of an exhausting trip and weren't interested in doing anything, really I mean nothing. We had been on the road for months, Rome, Ireland, Sri Lanka, Bangkok and Burma. You can understand why I called the trip "The Mad Dash Across Too Much" and by the third month I just wanted to sit by a pool and unapologetically laze around.

Yes, there's lots to see and do in Bali, temples, beaches, sights etc., but it's also a great place to find a nice hotel and to unwind. I think Bali offers some of the best value in hotels and the service culture is unmatched. if you care about aesthetics it's a great place to visit and we had a very relaxing time doing, you guessed it, nothing.

At first I worried about doing a trip report about “nothing" because normally my reports and blog posts are full of earnest advice about what to see and do. But then I remembered Seinfeld created a seminal tv show with the same premise! So, here's a shout out to relaxation, in fact I’m starting to think we should prioritize “nothing" more often. WE had a fabulous time.

We stayed around Ubud which is an inland city well know for its cultural traditions, artisans and folk art. I love Bali for the people, the crafts, the aesthetic, the emphasis on beauty and the lush vegetation. We first visited about fifteen years ago and it has changed considerably even in this relatively short time. I was glad we hadn’t planned to do anything because the traffic going in and out of Ubud was horrendous, and was that really a Starbucks I saw on the main road? Unfortunately the answer is yes!

Well I promised a hotel report and I should get to it...
There are plenty of very elaborate resorts in Bali ( Como Shambala, the Amans etc.) but with three plus months on the road we were looking for a combination of luxury and value. Mid-range lux, nice enough l but not too prohibitive. Overall, I think Ubud offers great value in hotels and often when we’re traveling I think how much more I could get in Bali . I suppose this, combined with the beauty and particularity of Balinese culture, is what will bring me back time and again. We planned a week in Ubud, with three days at The Royal Pita Maha and four days at the Komeneka at Tanggayuda. Here’s what I can tell you about each.

Royal Pita Maha - I first saw this hotel years ago when we stayed nearby. It’s an extraordinary place built into the hillside along the Ayung river, it’s a particularly lovely situation. The hotel is owned by the Balinese Royal family and the whole place has a very glamorous and yet local feel. Like many of the hotels on the river gorge the rooms are built up and down the hill. The whole place is completely over the top with magical walkways, pools and carved friezes. Essentially there are two types of rooms (or villas). My husband like the rooms at the top of the hill which have expansive light filled views across the top of the gorge. You can see birds flying at eye level.

I loved the “healing villas” which are right down at the river level, near the holy pool, yoga pavilion and the artificial lagoon. You get the idea, of course there’s also an organic restaurant down there too. One of the things about these lovely hotels in Bali is that often the pools are empty because the villas have there own private plunge pools. At Pita Maha all of the villas have private pools that are really quite large and so there’s nobody in the lagoon, or the cliffside infinity pool. It may also be because the whole place is full of Japanese honeymooners! Perhaps they are all in the rooms enjoying the heart shaped baths, or the outdoor showers!

With all the steps up the hillside this isn’t a place for people with mobility issues and you shouldn’t stay down at the river’s edge if you don’t want to hear the noise of the white water rafters who pass regularly. However, I loved our few days here. The spa was out of this world - previously run by Shishedo it is the most incredible facility I’ve seen and I still need to post some photos on my blog. The treatment room was in it’s own villa with a jacuzzi perched on the edge of the hill, magnificent.

I’ve written a post on the different types of rooms where you can see some pictures though I’ve been meaning to write something more general about the hotel. Overall, I’d say it’s eclectic, romantic and charming and a long way from the corporate chain options of which there are many in Ubud. This is a very Balinese hotel and I really enjoyed the few days we spent there. However, while the service is good it isn't seamless and the food could be improved upon..

After the Royal Pita Maha we headed to the Komeneka at Tanggayuda which is very highly rated on Tripadviser. It’s a less expensive option than the RPM and concommitently less expansive and luxurious. But it’s very well designed, they take advantage of every inch while creating privacy and maximizing the views. The aesthetic is modern but “ethnic” with lots of natural elements, stone, wood etc. I suppose I would describe our room as “organic modern” if that means anything to you design-y types. You can see lots of pictures on my blog, it really is lovely.

The room was far smaller than RPM but they seemed to fit everything in, including an enormous bathtub carved from a single piece of stone. The plunge pool overlooked the river gorge and had a beautiful small pavilion where we could enjoy their afternoon tea. one of my gripes about RPM was that they didn’t include afternoon tea which is a ubiquitous complimentary treat at higher end hotels in Bali, and I was thrilled to be spoilt at Komeneka.

Unfortunately I wasn’t enjoying the tea or the view once the chain saw started up! I asked what the noise was and it turned out that someone across the river was clearing out their land, and understandably the hotel had no idea when it would stop. Remember I said at the beginning that we were there to do nothing, well I meant it. That meant that when the other eager tourists left in the morning to visit the volcano, to see the water temple or head to see some crafts we were left there listening to the chain saw!

There wasn’t any point complaining as they couldn’t do anything about it. However, at breakfast the manager appeared and they offered us their best suite, followed by an immediate offer to transfer us to their sister resort. I hadn’t complained, but they preemptively wanted to ensure we were happy, it’s what my husband calls psychic service. I was really impressed, they even provided a car and driver to take us over to the other resort, Komeneka at Bisma.

Once I’d seen the room over there (and listened to the quiet) I was sold. The Bisma villa was lovely, modern and private with a long narrow pool fronting the room. It was fabulously luxurious with an indoor and outdoor shower and a claw foot tub. The service was impeccable and I can be fussy. The room was so lovely that we did what we wanted which, you guessed it was absolutely nothing. I wouldn’t recommend the regular rooms at Bisma which are built in a large modern block but the pool rooms are highly recommended. Lots of photos on the blog...

Well that’s it for Bali, sorry no sightseeing or driver recommendations, no trip report even, just three hotels and lots of nothing!

Here are links to the original Fodor’s trip reports and my blog posts on Burma and Sri Lanka for anyone who is interested...

I may never take a long trip again, mainly because it takes me SO long to get around to sorting out the photos, the reports and blog posts. If I ever get round to talking about KL and Penang this whole opus will be over, I can't wait!

Smeagol Jan 28th, 2015 09:36 PM

Fabulous info, thank you. I have made a mental note of the hotels as they sound great and I too wouldn't mind going back to Bali to do nothing ( in fact we did something similar last Sept.... )

Kathie Jan 29th, 2015 08:18 AM

Wonderful trip report! I love your candid reviews of the hotels. This will be helpful when we next decide to go to Bali.

welltraveledbrit Jan 29th, 2015 10:19 AM

Glad it was helpful!

rhkkmk Jan 29th, 2015 12:20 PM

as always, well received

rje Jan 31st, 2015 06:18 PM

I agree with you on many points, particularly about how well the Komeneka people run their hotels. We stayed at Komeneka at Tanggayuda for 5 nights at the beginning of October, and loved the Valley Pool Villa, which provided a very quiet stay. But we also ran into the curse of the chain saw when we stayed in a private villa farther out in the countryside. So I had sympathy pains reading about your experience! And I agree that the more expensive rooms there are oddly more sterile and less appealing than the valley pool villas.

I had also been interested in the Royal Pita Maha, and how it is built on the steep hill, but that created a problem for us, as my wife is partly disabled. I had corresponded with them, trying to figure out how complete their elevators are, which turned out to be "not very", so we had to pass. Too bad, as a lot of older people with money also have knee problems, and I can't understand why they'd go to the trouble and expense of building elevators but not connect them to all floors.

The Como Shambala looked exquisite, but like you we were on an extended trip, which made the rates there too rich for our blood!

welltraveledbrit Feb 1st, 2015 09:24 PM

So glad our assessment jived with yours, particularly regarding the sterility of the more expensive rooms at the Komeneka at Tanggayuda. I'm opinionated by nature, but I sometimes worry about writing candid reviews. As Kathie said they are appreciated, but sometimes others have an entirely different aesthetic sense or a contrary experience, so it's confirming to hear you agreed on a number of the points. Thanks for posting.

You did indeed make the right decision to skip RPM if your wife has mobility issues. AS you suggested there are two elevators and you have to walk between them. Then, when you get down to the lower level you have to walk some distance to the rooms. However, for us this distance worked in our favor, because I think a lot of people staying at the hotel don't even bother to make use of the river level area - particularly those staying in villas at the top of the hill fairly close to the reception. IT's just a lot of coming and going.

I've just finished a general post on Royal Pita Maha which gives a sense for the hotel...

I think the reason the elevators don't connect has to do with the geography of the site and the fact that their audience is predominately honeymooners which means they are looking at a different demographic.

flyingbaran Apr 29th, 2015 06:41 AM

I'm trying to plan a longer trip and adviced that I have read is that long trips can be tiring. It's obvious but at the same time you're too excited to think about it! Heck you're hoping the adrenaline from new experiences will keep you going.

I'm eyeing a couple places where the scenery will compel me to do nothing. I'll be looking into Bali as an option to rest up. :)

welltraveledbrit Apr 29th, 2015 10:00 AM

Hi Flyingbaran,
Over the last few years we've done a couple of longer trips and recently we've been staying in one place for longer periods, currently in London for three months. What we've found is that it helps to lengthen the stay, or to go to places where you're not compelled to do anything, either because you've been there before (Bali for us) or because the sites, while lovely, aren't an absolute necessity to see.

So, for example we loved having a month in Lisbon because we could really relax and explore the neighborhoods. A month in London would feel quite different because there's so much I feel I should be doing or seeing, theatre, exhibitions, museums etc.

After a while the adrenaline from the new experiences drains you ( though this is a real luxury to be complaining about) so it's good to make a longer stop somewhere or to head to a beach were there isn't too much to do.

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