Mr Sunshine and I had dreamed of visiting Bali for years. In fact, it was on our honeymoon shortlist, coming in second place only after our eventual choice of the Amalfi Coast. Two years on, we weren’t ready to give up the dream; something about that lush jungle greenery, those azure ocean waters and the zen-like vibe of this laid-back Indonesian island was calling our names, and we weren’t going to let travelling with a toddler put us off.
Often, long-held dreams don’t quite live up to reality, but on this occasion we were far from disappointed. Our days in Bali were filled to the brim with things to do and see, we stumbled upon some truly excellent restaurants, and we watched Sophia flourish day by day. It was the two Four Seasons Bali hotels, firstly in Sayan, Ubud, and later on at Jimbaran Bay which we chose as our base, and which bravely rose to the challenge of making all of our Bali dreams come true.
Here is the first of a two-part series about our once-in-a-lifetime experiences with the Four Seasons Bali, focussing on the luxury retreat of Four Seasons at Sayan.
Fresh off a nine hour flight from Doha, with an exhausted toddler asleep on my shoulder, we entered the jungle paradise of the Four Seasons at Sayan. With one of the most impressive hotel entrances I have ever seen, involving a floating bridge which crosses over the treetops from the main driveway to the iconic circular lotus pond on the roof of the hotel, which seemingly floats above the jungle, the experience left quite the impression.
We had chosen the area just outside of Ubud to begin our journey, and I was delighted with our decision. Well-known as an area covered in lush greenery and steeped in natural beauty, a spiritual getaway from the stresses of everyday life, I couldn’t have imagined a better juxtaposition between our first stop and our busy, urban, desert-based lives back in Doha.
One fruity drink, and swift check-in to the tranquil sound of music being played on a traditional Bamboo Xylophone later, and we were on a buggy on our way to our private villa.
The extensive grounds are peppered with suites and private villas, but once you are tucked away inside your own, you could easily be alone in the wilderness, with only the babbling sound of the Ayung River for company.
With a topsy-turvy layout which mirrors the main building of the hotel, you enter the villas from the roof, and head downstairs to an indoor-outdoor setting which allows you to take full advantage of the nature on your doorstep.
We mainly spent our days on the resort moving between the cooling infinity pool, which looked out over the wild jungle beyond, and the comfortable seating area on the terrace, where we ordered room service and allowed ourselves to indulge.
Inside, the room was large and flooded with natural light; decorated with traditional wooden carvings and splashed with special touches of luxury which made us feel at home right away.
The bed was enormous, and as usual, Sophia rejected her cot in favour of the marshmallow mattress with the princess-like mosquito net which surrounded it.
There are many things that are right about this hotel, but the extensive grounds are by far the best of them. Winding pathways connect the villas and the various outlying buildings of the hotel, and provided a pleasant way to spend a morning of exploration.
To Sophia’s delight, we spotted brightly coloured birds, numerous lizards and even enormous frogs in the grounds, which came out of hiding after a rain shower one day. For the rest of the holiday, she couldn’t stop talking about the ‘bobs’ she had seen, and kept dragging us around trying to find them once again!
Tucked away at the edge of the resort is the stunning riverside infinity pool, which provided another pretty spot for Sophia to splash about in when we fancied a change of scenery. With two levels, and the most delicious of views over the effervescent river, it feels more like a naturally-occuring rock pool than a luxury hotel pool.
The kid’s club, which is free for all of the hotel’s younger guests (unless your child is under four like ours, in which case you will have to pay for a dedicated child minder to stay with them, which actually gave us a lot of peace of mind!) is located on the edge of the grounds and is a stunning piece of architecture in its own right. With well-stocked shelves of games, books and activities, and a little yard outside to play, it is a well-appointed and safe place to leave your child for a few hours while you have a little downtime.
Which is exactly what Mr Sunshine and I did for a couple of hours on our last day, so that we could head to the beautiful Sacred River Spa for a couple’s massage.
Treatments are either carried out in private ‘huts’ in a secluded location on the edge of the complex, or in the hotel’s main building, and both locations offer patrons a number of traditional spiritual practices and rituals to calm the mind and restore the body.
After an hour-long, relaxing Thai massage, still in my blissful state, I headed over to the iconic Dharma Shanti Yoga Bale for a complimentary beginner’s yoga session. This lotus petal inspired structure is located amongst the rice paddy fields and provides the perfect peaceful spot to immerse yourself in meditation and really feel at one with nature amidst the sounds of the birds and the trickling stream.
Breakfast at the Four Seasons at Sayan is something incredibly special. Set up amongst the treetops on the Ayung Terrace, a long balcony of tables allows diners to fully-immerse themselves in nature with panoramic views out over the jungle.
As a breakfast fan, I adored the menu, which was split between traditional Asian and Indonesian dishes and European classics. The buffet was well-stocked, and the service flowed, resulting in three very happy people each morning, with plenty of energy for the day of activities ahead.
The Riverside Cafe, overlooking the hotel’s infinity pool, was an almost daily haunt of ours from day one. Serving up good quality European cuisine and with the warmest of staff, who took a liking to Sophia and swiftly brought out her favourite snacks and drinks before we even had to ask, it was a great location for lunch, or a snack from our sunbeds.
Usually opting to eat out for dinner, we only experienced dinner at the Ayung Terrace on our last night, and were thrilled to have caught them on their seafood-themed night. With a street food vibe and relaxing music lilting away in the background, an enormous array of fresh fish was on offer, ready to be hand selected and cooked in front of you. Plus sushi. And Indonesian dishes. And a fantastic room filled to the brim with desserts of every description.
Four years on from starting this blog to document our adventures across the world, Mr Sunshine and I count ourselves incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to stay in some of the world’s most luxurious, iconic and memorable hotels. But this one was extra special.
This is the kind of hotel which provides an entire holiday package and set of experiences in itself – in fact, if it wasn’t located right at the centre of Bali’s cultural heartland with so much to see and do on the doorstep, I doubt we would have left the hotel at all! The hospitality was impeccable and the staff warm and kind. The options of things for us to do, see and explore as a family were remarkable. The food was world class. The location and surroundings were faultless.
After an outstanding experience at the Four Seasons in Doha the year before, I wasn’t sure that there were many hotels that could better it. However, the leading hotel group have exceeded themselves with this one, giving my family one of the most exciting and memorable experiences of our lives.
Have you visited either of the Four Seasons Bali resorts? What did you think? If not, would you like to?!
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