Don't let Mt Agung get between you and your wanderlust
|Part of our new SG Great Escapes 2017.|
We all enjoy a quick, long weekend trip as much as the next Singaporean, but Adam Kerr never thought a quick 2D1N trip could accomplish the same kind of satisfaction. He heads to Ubud, the cultural center of Bali, to experience it for himself.
I really needed a quick respite and do nothing but laze around and relax. I needed to be away from the evil clutches of social media, my iPhone and my inbox. I needed to disconnect in order to reconnect with myself. And so I headed to Bali, a place that needs no familiarization, over a weekend.
The Bali we are all familiar with are the Kuta, Seminyak and Denpasar areas, the epicenters of all things beach and nightlife (read: crowds). I wanted to experience a different, quieter side of Bali. Hearing that the further north you go in Bali, the quieter, colder and more sophisticated it gets, that’s where I headed.
I planted myself at The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah in Ubud, about an hour and a half away from the Ngurah Rai International Airport by car. This five-hectare hotel resort is a magnificent piece of work and used to be the home of Hendra Hadiprana, one of Indonesia’s most respected art collectors. It’s hidden away among the rolling hills of the city’s heritage-rich highlands and thriving rice fields, with only 20 villas on site despite its size, meaning you get lots of space and privacy.
After being whisked away to my villa in a buggy, I came to one conclusion: this place is extremely excessive for one person, so you might want to bring a pal along. Even alone, with amenities like a cozy queen-sized bed, a private pool facing the rice fields, an outdoor tub and all the club benefits at my disposal, I knew I was going to have a great time here.
Lunch was an intimate affair at The Restaurant, which overlooks an infinite vista of rice fields. Helmed by Singaporean-born chef Khairudin “Dean” Nor, The Restaurant serves up typical Indonesian cuisine like nasi campur and ayam sambal tomat, as well as other Asian dishes with a Western twist; all made using ingredients from their own garden. I wasn’t exactly prepared when I ordered the Rijsttafel (note: ordering when hungry is always a bad idea), a dish that was obviously meant for sharing.
It started with a small bowl of soto ayam followed by a dulang (tray) of various main courses like the be plecing kangkung, ayam bakar taliwang and five other dishes, all served with steamed rice from the fields. My favorite had to be the flavor-packed bowl of shredded beef doused in Balinese spices, which tastes vaguely similar to rendang.
Instinctively, the first thing I did after the feast was to go for a massage in one of the two paddy fields-facing suites. I knew I was going to be in good hands (ha. ha.) because The Chedi Club Tanah Gajah was dubbed the World’s Best Relaxation Retreat at last year’s World Boutique Hotel Awards.
I opted for the 60-minute Ancient Balinese Massage, and the “Elate” oil—an in-house concoction of geranium, grapefruit, lemongrass and lime—to be used during the session. It’s apparently a good pairing since it’d help the body “detox” while the traditional Balinese massage techniques of palming, stretching, effleurage and kneading pressure points relieve tension, improve blood flow, ease stress and calm the mind.
That same evening, I went to the rice paddy fields with my assigned personal butler, Ayu, and my host for the evening, Denny, after an indulgent, slightly over-the-top Afternoon Tea (complete with three tiers of savory and sweet snacks) in my villa. This trek is just one of the many Club Service Benefits here, which explains why both of them were fully prepped to answer my questions about the goings-on at the field, from its irrigation process to the ceremonies performed before planting, as well as the pre-harvesting process.
After a light dinner at The Restaurant and a quick runaround of the town center, I was back at the villa to continue enjoying the rest of the facilities under the shimmering nightlight from the moon, which lit up the otherwise dark and serene compound (also because most of the establishments in the area close fairly early).
It’s hard to imagine that I actually did all of that within a day and still managed to squeeze in a quick tour of Goa Gajah, a Hindu archaeological site that’s been nominated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the next morning before I departed for home—now rested, rejuvenated and ready to get back into the grind.
Many airlines, including full-service carrier KLM, operates direct flights from Singapore Changi Airport to Ngurah Rai International Airport.
$1 = 9700IDR