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Singapore/Bali - 5 Star Luxury Trip Report

Singapore/Bali - 5 Star Luxury Trip Report

Old Oct 27th, 2003, 04:56 PM
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Singapore/Bali - 5 Star Luxury Trip Report

WARNING...THIS TRIP REPORT CONTAINS GUSHING REVIEWS OF LUXURY HOTEL PROPERTIES. PLEASE REFRAIN FROM FLAMES.

Singapore. What a lovely city. Fabulous hotels and fabulous food, and so much to see and do. My husband and I commented we wouldn't mind living there someday. We wish we had more time, as we were only in the country for one day and two nights - bookends on either end of our Bali trip. For people on a tight timeframe, we highly recommend the botanical/orchid gardens, but try to go early in the morning before the heat sets in!

RITZ CARLTON MILLENIA - SINGAPORE
We booked a marina view room and the pictures we took from our bedroom and bathroom windows were postcard-perfect! The city view is what makes this property a Ritz Carlton flagship. The rooms are large and beautifully furnished, if somewhat modern. The bathroom - well, what you've heard is true. Given our limited time at the hotel, we decided against the concierge level, but were pleasantly surprised by the Asian-influenced breakfast buffet in the Dale Chihuly filled lobby. The service was both friendly and attentive. Also, for a hotel of this stature, you'd be surprised by the great rates you can get if your timing is right.

HOTEL INTERCONTINENTAL - SINGAPORE
We booked a concierge level room at this hotel, expecting to be unimpressed and wanting to ensure we were in one of their better rooms. While the rooms were definitely smaller than the Ritz Carlton, they were quite lovely. A small foyer beckoned us into the room with a pattern of inlaid wood flooring, the bedding was fabulously down and the bathroom surprised us with a stunning blue/black/silver granite countertop like we?ve never seen before. For those on a budget, this hotel will give you a taste of the finer things. While the service lacked the warmth of a Four Seasons/Ritz Carlton/Aman experience, it was always prompt and efficient. The surroundings and restaurants were wonderful, and the rooms, hallways and public areas were trimmed in white wood, a very cool feeling in an always hot city.

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Bali. Truly magical - if wet. Turns out the rainy season came a little early this year, but the luxury accommodations more than made up for the dampness. Our impression of Bali is that it is a wonderful place for vacationers who like to experience many things, including ocean and jungle environs, mountain terraces and beautiful vistas of rice paddies, shopping, fabulous restaurants, snorkeling/diving, and a unique and beautifully ceremonial culture.

BALI HYATT - BALI
We spent one night at this property because our plane got in late and it was fairly close to the airport. Having spent one night and one morning in the Regency Club, we can make the following observations. The grounds, beach and ocean were very nice. The people were friendly and the concierge pavilion (where they served breakfast and cocktails) was lovely. But the rooms and public areas were dated, and the lounge singer that worked the bar in the evenings was singing all of the American lounge-like songs that we came to Bali to escape.

AMANKILA - BALI
This was where my husband and I became Bapak and Ibu (Mr. and Mrs.) Nelson. And, if you can?t tell by the length of this review, this is the property we consider the end-all, be-all of our trip, and the property that will someday draw us back to Bali.

We were picked up by private car and greeted by some of the most welcoming, warm people we have ever met. Taken immediately to our villa by multiple staff members for a more personal check-in experience, we were met with a full bottle of Moet & Chandon French champagne. Knowing that this property would have one of the more stunning vistas of our trip, we booked what our research told us would be the villa with the best view - the Indrakila suite. Unlike the rest of the property, this villa is only two years old. We had seen pictures of the villa and its view prior to our visit, and were driven to pay an unprecedented amount of money (for us) to secure the accommodation. Have you ever anticipated a place so much, that when you finally got there, you could be nothing but disappointed? This was not the case with the Indrakila suite. When the staff members left us, I remember turning to my husband and saying, "We'll never be able to top this." He agreed. The 180-degree ocean, mountain, temple and black sand beach view was pristine and breathtaking. Our oversized patio stepped down to a large, blue-tiled pool and a private bale, where we would take breakfast and after dinner cocktails. The inside of the villa was nearly as beautiful, with terrazzo tiled floors and sliding windows lined up to take best advantage of the spectacular scenery. All of our time in the villa was spent with gentle "selon ding" music playing in the background. We especially enjoyed leaving it to play overnight, with the sound of waves joining it in the background.

Putting views and luxurious accommodations aside, the most amazing thing about Amankila was the staff. They knew who we were and where we were at every moment. They learned what made us happy and they shared that information with each other. They knew when we were out of our room and when they could get into it without disturbing us. Each staff member was equipped with either a cell phone or a radio - groundskeepers, too. When we would leave our room, the groundskeepers discretely reported it to the front desk, the front desk would then conversationally find out, from us, where we were going and report that to the staff members in our path. The result was an absolutely blissful, if eerie, experience where every staff member we ran into (even the person in the gift shop) was anticipating our arrival and knew our name. Amankila also kept a computer record of our likes and dislikes. They only asked my husband once how he likes his martinis. And a week later, when we had dinner at Amandari (while staying at the Four Seasons Sayan) the people at Amandari knew our names, knew we had spent time at Amankila, and knew how to make my husband's martini - they didn't have to ask!

Every moment of our stay was special. The hotel had arranged a gamelan band and a charming children's ceremonial dance, even though there were only 6 couples at the property that night. And when it rained, there was a staff member ready for us with an umbrella before we even knew it was raining. Each day, two young local girls would sit on their mats and create welcome crafts/gifts for the villas. Referring to one of the crafts that a girl was working on, I said, "That's beautiful." The young girl smiled genuinely and replied, "So are you." There was the ever-so-private dinner on the beach, where the chef spoke to us at length about what we would like him to prepare, and the not-to-be-missed Indonesian afternoon tea. And, when it came time to leave, my husband had to return the book he was reading to the Amankila library. He hadn't finished it, and knowing that he had a birthday coming up, I decided to contact the hotel to find out the title. I asked them to check their records, telling them that he was reading something war or battle related. It turns out, they did not have a sign-out record, so they emailed me digital photos of their war and battle book covers so that I could identify the book by sight! Needless to say, my husband had a happy birthday surprise.

If we weren't Aman junkies before, we certainly are now.

FOUR SEASONS SAYAN - BALI
This property is, quite literally, an architectural masterpiece, having won many worldwide architecture awards. To stay here is to stay in the middle of a jungle! We booked a riverfront villa (#20), which the Four Seasons claims is their best and most private. The villa was outfitted with obscene amounts of teak, both inside and out, and had an enormous bathroom with a bathtub that was filled with frangipani on our arrival. There were great expanses of outdoor living space that made up 2200+ sq. ft., including a living room, dining area, plunge pool and deck - but be warned - if it is raining when you go, as it was for us, you will find out how small a villa of that size can feel when you are confined to the bedroom. After 3 days of solid rain, we asked the manager for a reprieve, that is, a transfer to the Four Seasons Jimbaran, which reportedly receives more sunshine since it is by the ocean. Management came through for us (actually apologizing for the weather!) by securing us an oceanfront room on Jimbaran Bay. The food at the Four Seasons Sayan was wonderful, as was the nightly singing of the many frogs. The twice-weekly mosquito spraying was a blessing. The service was a bit awkward at times, and after just coming from Amankila, being asked our room number over and over again felt like a slap in the face, but this seemed to be just a drawback of a larger hotel.

FOUR SEASONS JIMBARAN - BALI
This was a very pretty hotel, mimicking a Balinese village with charming stonewalls surrounding each villa. We had one of the better oceanfront villas at this property, but an ocean view at this property also comes with an airport view, and the planes took off across the bay several times a day. Our villa compound had lovely outdoor and indoor living spaces. Our outdoor dining room shared a thatch roof with the outdoor dining room of the villa next door to us - which gives you an idea of how close together the units are to one another. Our villa was relatively quiet while we were there, but I would hate to be there when the hotel was booked to capacity. Our plunge pool had a darling spitting cherub fountain, and frangipani trees were strategically planted next to each villa?s plunge pool so that the flowers would gracefully fall into the water. Unfortunately, the villas were starting to show their age, not inside (polished marble ages well), but in the plunge pools, where we found an aged scaly substance floating in the water. It was enough to keep me out of the plunge pool during our stay. The food was great, and the weather was as kind to us as the staff. However, we could tell this was a larger property with the way that we were occasionally, if unintentionally, forgotten. Example: at check in, when showing us our villa, one of the staff members asked what my husband's favorite fruit was so that he could refill our fruit basket. My husband told him, but the fruit never came.
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Old Oct 27th, 2003, 06:45 PM
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This is an excellent review of hotels.It tells us things brochures or websites dont. I was deliberating staying at Four Seasons Jimbaran next month but will save my money and stay at the Ritz Carlton instead.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 05:40 AM
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But please don't forget about Amankila. It costs a little more than the Four Seasons, but if you want an ocean/beach experience, there's nothing on Bali that can top it!
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 06:37 AM
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I saw you posted this on balitravelforum.com also. I think you will likely find a more appreciative audience for your report on this forum. That being said, I enjoyed your report. Your experiences at Amankila remind me of our stay last July at Hotel Tugu in Canggu, Bali. The service and attention we received for our 4 days and 3 nights there spoiled us for the rest of our 2-week trip. Based on your review however, I have no regrets about not staying at either of the 4 Seasons Resorts. We had a luxurious and very private pool villa for 5 nights at Maya Ubud (also an architectural wonder). In Lovina, we stayed at Damai, the only top end property in that area.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 04:19 PM
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Craig...interesting to note that I have received the kindest replies from the people on baliforum.com. Balitravelforum.com is a wealth of info, but they're not quite as personal and warm to one another as baliforum.com.

Funny how forums take on personalities.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 06:21 PM
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Ericka, you sure did receive kind replies on baliforum.com. I have not checked into that website in quite a while as I felt it was not really speaking to my needs. However I also noticed a "warmth" there that does not exist on the other site.
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 07:08 PM
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I am going to Indonesia next week for 16 days with a very busy itinerary and that's why I am reading this thread. Personally, I couldn't care less about where I might stay while travelling, Indonesia or anywhere else, so I seldom reserve hotels and this time is no exception. But nevertheless, I do find the original post rather interesting.

That being said, however, I am also curious: why would some of us feel that others might view this type of posts negatively? Especially, to justify a warning to start with?
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Old Oct 28th, 2003, 08:23 PM
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Nice report, Ericka, with good details. Thanks for posting!
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Old Oct 29th, 2003, 06:20 AM
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There are some people who feel very strongly that staying at a luxury hotel cuts you off from the culture and flavor of a particular location. I don't agree - after all - its not as if I never leave the hotel properties. And the Amans, for example, seem to put a lot of effort into embracing the local culture.

Sadly, I have been "burned" by these people before.
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