Ubud in the hills of Central Bali has always been an alluring, mystical place. The impossible emerald green of the rice paddies claimed from the dense tropical jungles stretches to the horizons and temples large and small dot the landscape.
Ubud has always been a promise of peace. The same would have been true years ago when the first Dutch colonialists came to the shores of Bali in search of spices and adventure. On that fateful first mission with the Dutch East India Company, only three of the four ships – the Hollandia, the Duiffie, and the Mauritius – survived. Fast forward to today, and Bali is the crown jewel of Indonesia’s thriving tourism empire, and Ubud is Bali’s jungle treasure. Inspired by adventurers and designed by Bill Bensley, Capella Ubud is one of the best new luxury resorts to open in this exciting Bali destination, an extraordinary dreamscape of mountainside camps deep in the Ubud jungle.
Entering Capella’s arched doorway to the Reception Tent, you are transported to another era, one that harkens back to the age of colonial explorers. The meticulous attention to detail evokes a sense of seeing something truly unique. Lush trees cover the expansive property – a true achievement considering Capella Ubud was built without felling trees. There are, of course, paths throughout, but I couldn’t help thinking I would get lost, either on my way to the room or in my own imagination.
I was escorted to my tent – a slightly daunting walk down a steep hill to the river, passing other tents along the way, each one named for the skills required of those early settlers: Baker, Cartographer, Naturalist, etc. There are 22 guest tents altogether.
All-in-all, 186 stairs led down to my jungle oasis: the Bird Watcher’s Tent. As I crossed the suspension bridge to my private deck, I think I lost my breath for a moment: an infinity pool suspended over the edge blended with the rich, green thicket. A slight rumbling from the river below and a symphony of birds and insects welcomed me home.
To enter, you need to unzip the door flaps. In fact, visitors unzip the windows as well, opening the accommodations to the extraordinary surrounds. The tent itself was stylishly appointed with every possible comfort – from the chic lounge area and expansive canopy bed to the full bar; yes, that’s right, it’s a full bar with an impressive selection of spirits and beers – all tucked into a nifty Coleman-style esky. The bathroom featured a brass bath alongside the rain shower and a whimsical throne toilet. This is glamping on a whole new level.
Back up the stairs to the main resort area, I pass the spa tents – the Hollandia, the Duiffie, and the Mauritius – named for the eponymous Dutch ships. Sadly, a massage was not forthcoming as treatments must be booked well in advance.
Behind the spa is the extraordinary resort pool, the Cistern, a 30-meter-long outdoor salt water rainforest pool. The poolside bar hosted an ample selection of gins – always a welcoming sign.
From the pool, guests can meander through the gardens up to Mads’ Lounge, the camp’s main dining room, named after a famed Danish spice trader. Mads traveled to the Dutch East Indies at a young age and settled. In time he picked up the nickname “The White King of Bali” and was a peacemaker and mediator between the local Rajas and the Dutch colonialists. The restaurant focuses on farm-to-table fresh ingredients, as well as a detectible a la carte breakfast.
The second restaurant, located under Mads’, is Api Jiwa – an Asian barbecue-style venue with a fun robatayaki counter. The night that I ate there, the resort was hosting a multi-course wine dinner and the head chef – Chef McCool – was a true star of the show. Another fun feature was the camp fire – a charming area that welcomes guests after dinner for apertivos and s’mores.
If I had to pick, my favorite resort haunt was the Officer’s Tent, the resort’s stunningly well-appointed library featuring a wide array of books, magazines, games, a large billiards table,and echoes of colonial curiosities. A true haven, I needed no excuse to partake in the morning coffee, afternoon tea, and evening cocktails; generous G&Ts make this traveler very happy indeed.
As a true hotel junkie, I give Capella Ubud major kudos for creating an atmosphere and environment that is both experiential and transformational – unlike any other hotel anywhere in the world.
It is design eye-candy, a piece de resistance brought to us by epic designer Bill Bensley. But most of all, it is in the careful service, in the delivery and warmth of the team, that allows a new era of Bali travelers to walk in the steps of adventurers.