All things to all people…
Ayana Resort and Spa
"Smile, breath and go slowly" Thich Nhat Hanh, Zen Buddhist Monk
On arrival at Bali international airport you are greeted by a sea of exuberant smiles. Our plane load of burnt out souls, escaping the European winter, blossom like flowers in the humid air weighted with the scent of Frangipani.
Long before Elizabeth Gilbert urged us all to Eat, Pray, Love, in her novel of the same name, the Island of the Gods, Bali, was already familiar with the concept, and as with the luxurious resort of Ayana, had become an oasis of spiritual indulgence.
As the name suggests in Sanskrit, a place of refuge, Ayana offers the weary traveller the gift to rediscover the joys of harmony and wellbeing. Located in Jimbaran Bay, the resort of Ayana clings to the magnificent cliffs with sweeping views of the Indian Ocean, on Bali's south west coast.
On arrival, we are greeted by a dedicated unit of staff, and garlands of ubiquitous frangipanis. My eye is immediately drawn to a heart stopping view; a silhouette of palms, fringed by the tangerine glow of the setting sun above the ocean. Flares blaze about the languid green lawns and terraced water features, as sun blushed guests come and go for dinner.
Our obsessively helpful butler shows us to our two-room Ocean Villa, accessed through a traditional Balinese gateway, and Koi water feature. The Villa is spacious, surrounded by a walled garden and dense clusters of bougainvillea hedges. A large monitor lizard greets us at the edge of the plunge pool and I take it as a sign of good karma, so too the romantically canopied bed and enormous bath full of rose petals.
We order wine and take it out onto our rolling green lawn overlooking the honeycombed cliffs and ocean beyond. On the far side lawn, a cocktail party is in progress, so too a wedding below at the ocean pool. We sip our wine in the furry soft night, watching the guests arrive, trying to guess their stories. Considering the hotel is at full capacity it is surprisingly quiet, and we fall asleep in our canopied bed to the crashing of the ocean on the rocks below.
The following day we are taken on a tour of the resort, the gardens are magnificent, luxuriously maintained and manicured. Each villa is set amongst the greenery, offering a harmonious blending of indoor-outdoor living. There are 5 swimming pools located within the resort, catering to every guests need. The saltwater ocean pool, overlooking the beach, is accessed by inclinator and appeals more to adults, the four freshwater pools including the 30 metre infinity pool looking out to the ocean, lower pool, waterfall and aquarium attract families. Adjacent to the kids club, which boasts a special program for the kids including a petting zoo on weekends, there is a pool for the littlies, complete with waterslides.
We visit the decidedly stunning Ayana Villa. Hugging the cliff above the ocean, the three bedroom villa is vast, with king sized bedrooms, two downstairs and one upstairs. The décor is an opulent blend of both modern and traditional. State-of-the-art features, such as the enormous flat screen televisions sets, one in every room, including the cavernous bathroom, co-exist with time-honoured carved Balinese beds. A complete Jackwood carved dining table, and a bar fashioned from a shipwrecked Junkung are dramatic features. Local white stone paths lead down to the infinity pool and a wedding Gazebo looking out over the cliffs and ocean. Including the 290 room hotel, the resort has 78 private villas including 38 very popular Cliff Villas, with a separate lobby and river pool, but the Ayana Villa stands alone, what a superb setting for the perfect wedding, and honeymoon!
Navigating the resorts extensive grounds is easy, either by walking or by shuttle or buggy service. Guests staying in the Villas have the added luxury of 24 hour on-call Butler service. Our buggy takes us to the Sami Sami restaurant for a delicious Italian lunch before heading off to visit the world renowned spa.
Ayana boasts the only Thermes Marins spa in South East Asia, the medicinal and holistic attributes of sea water, and its ability to restore vitality is well recognized. The Thermes Marins spa, offers a unique Seawater therapy pool with 12 hydro massage stations, using jet streams, bubbles, and geysers of warmed seawater to ease tired muscles. I was extremely impressed by the tranquillity of the therapy pool with the soft underwater lighting, and stone Balinese statues delivering jets of water for various areas of the body. The gothic colonnades and soft underwater lighting were reminiscent of the Roman Spa in Bath in the UK. The spa blends traditional Balinese spa treatments and healing therapies with European treatments, using exclusive luxurious products, including the much sought after La Mer. I promised myself to return with my girlfriends and immerse myself in an indulgent spa package.
As we walked back to our Villa contemplating sunset cocktails, I could hear the children playing in the pool, so carefree in any language. We had heard so much about the Ayana’s famed Rock Bar. Much talked about, and awarded fave bar of the tourists, expats, and Bali’s elite. The bar, dramatically perched like a monolithic stone skillion out over the rocky shoreline, is reached by way of inclinator down a steep bougainvillea bordered slope. So popular, there was quite a queue waiting, the staff once again, in their wisdom sorted the process with grace and precision.
Once entering the bar I felt like on was on the film set of the 1995 movie Water World, the design is almost antediluvian, open to the sea and sky, with its minimalism softened by decadent sofas and a sparkling thick glass bar, reminiscent of sea glass, tumbled and smoothed by the waves. We ordered delicious tapas, and exciting cocktails from the maverick bar tenders. As we people watched, listening to the different accents about us, the sea threw up a tantalising mist against the night sky while the laid back music set the theme for romance.
In a giddy mood we headed for dinner to the Dava Terrace Restaurant, once again a sumptuous setting, with an inviting cocktail bar famous for its pre-dinner martini’s in the Martini Club. After the buzz of the Rock Bar, the Dava Terrace was a calming experience; we sat at a table on the terrace, listening to the sound of the waves below. The Dava lived up to it reputation for fine dining, with a seductive menu. The service was impeccable as was the divine culinary fare we experienced. The food was artfully creative and beautifully presented. Sated we meandered back to our ocean villa.
With all the heady indulgence available at Ayana Resort it is easy to lie back in a beach chair with a good book, and forget about the world, but for those of you who are a little more energetic there are many wily ways to keep you occupied!
How about cycling to a nearby village or a cultural visit to the markets or temples, perhaps a yoga class, gym, aerobics, tennis, snorkelling or golf putting? The opportunities are endless, you just need the energy and time to pamper to your whims, as I said earlier Ayana resort is all things to all people!
Our final day came all too soon; we took a hike down to Kubu beach and swam in the warm ocean returning to lunch on the terrace at Sami Sami. We watched a wedding taking place and felt at peace, Bali is a profoundly spiritual place.
In the evening we took our sundowners by our plunge pool, watching the Junkung ply the waters. A small parade of local children, in ceremonial dress made their way down the path to the lower levels, to pay homage by way of offerings to the Gods at the temple, part of their everyday ritual. The simple sight filled me with well being and tranquillity.
We traversed the stone steps to dinner at Kisik Bar and Grill, sandy floored and flame lit. We preferred a table directly overlooking the sea, even though the staff were doubtful; the waves were quite high and frisky that evening. Half way through out delicious seafood banquet, a huge wave came up and slapped us in the face leaving us dripping with seawater; we were so stunned all we could do was laugh as did the rest of the restaurant. Perhaps the Gods were telling us something or perhaps, as I would like to think, it was the God of the sea's blessing!
We left Ayana in the soft gloaming as we arrived, already on our way back.
"Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most" Buddha
©Joy C Anthes.