I must admit I hadn’t really done my homework prior to pulling up to the enormous stone columns marking the entrance of The Santai Villas in the laid-back suburb of Umalas, Bali. The Amala Villas, The Santai’s sister retreat and the place I’d just arrived from, was the hotel I was dying to experience after hearing some fantastic reviews from fellow travellers. The Amala was the escape I had been looking forward to and The Santai was an afterthought, a small blimp on my Bali-adventure radar. But after getting-out of the retreat’s complimentary transfer car and climbing up the cascading steps to the open-air reception, what I saw put a huge grin on my gob-smacked face.
The expansive reception, built high above the rice-paddies to catch the light afternoon Balinese breezes, was both simplistic and high-design. A visually stunning combination of modern-Asian architecture with intricate woodwork mixed with stone pillars inscribed with ancient Balinese script as well as a glass-panelled rooftop made for an inviting and impressive introduction to the retreat. It also made for a curious one – my first question, as I pointed in utter disbelief to the glossy-see-through roof above, was: “how do you actually keep that thing clean?” The friendliness of the staff and the delicious bite-sized Indonesian snacks and fresh juices I received at check-in were a nice little touch and made me feel relaxed and right at home. But the real surprise came when I walked to the end of the structure and fixed my peepers on what lay out across the property in front of me: a luscious, manicured-to-perfection garden, complete with stone pathways, bubbling streams of water, wooden trellises and tropical flora a type of high-visibility green colour that could blind someone without specialised sunglasses. The setting was way too Secret Garden-esque to be real. And yet there it was, laid out right in front of me like an orchestrated landscaping seduction. And I hadn’t even reached my Villa yet…
I was ushered down the steps by my personal Butler and led through the newly dubbed ‘Secret Garden’ past a couple of very large vine-covered villa walls. My anticipation was pretty high at this point. I snaked around the labyrinth-like retreat following my Butler like a loyal puppy until I arrived at a big wooden gate – the entrance to my massive two-bedroom pool villa. The first gate took me through a gorgeous little passage with hanging plants, and it was there I caught the first glimpse of what looked to be Bali’s largest ever pool (note: slight exaggeration, but still, it was big!) complete with frangipani tree and jungle-like garden beds surrounding a generously-proportioned sun-deck. I said thank you to the Butler and bid him farewell as I opened the second door leading into the villa and started skipping around like a mad-woman checking out the bedrooms (which were actually two villas, separated by the pool and sun-deck), the open-air bathrooms, the designer kitchen and the living room and taking a million pictures like I do when I’m lucky enough to stay somewhere that really gets me excited! And well, I think the images pretty much speak for themselves…
The Santai Villas: The Lowdown
The Santai Villas, Umalas
Jalan Bumbak Dauh No.88A, Kuta Utara, Bali 80361, Indonesia
+62 361 9002699
Stefanie stayed courtesy of The Santai Villas in April 2015. All opinions are her own.