Ubud often gets unfairly relegated to an afterthought compared to the livelier Seminyak, but those in the know have been enjoying its tranquility and vibrant cultures for years.
For intrepid travellers who want to see a different side of Bali, some say is the more authentic side, Ubud’s the real deal. But although Ubud’s charms seem a little rustic compared to its achingly hip sister, no creature comforts need to be sacrificed. At least, not when it comes to Bisma Eight, a boutique hotel only a little over a year old, which has quickly made its mark amongst the idyllic paddy fields.
The 38-suite hotel is a joint project between Balinese company Architects & Associates and Singapore’s Fuur, who have kept its exteriors a minimal affair of steel and concrete, choosing instead to imbue maximum warmth and hospitality into its interiors with the use of southern walnut, bamboo and Balinese orange brick.
A nod to the area’s artisanal heritage, the designers also interspersed the modern space with traditional Indonesian art pieces and locally hand-crafted furniture. After the 1.5 hour drive from the airport, guests are perked up with a refreshing Rosella Lemonade (I’m told the drink offering changes periodically) and led through a calming bamboo walkway to their guest suites.
At the end of that walkway sits the hotel’s pièce de résistance – the heated rooftop pool – the only temperature controlled pool in Ubud. The infinity pool overlooks a lush verdant valley, providing a panoramic view that has proven to be irresistible to Instagrammers. Where better to do your faux yoga pose right? But for hotel guests who actually want to perfect their sun salutations, they can always sign up for the variety of complimentary classes provided by Bisma Eight, which range from Hatta and Vinyasa yoga classes in the morning to traditional sari making classes in the afternoon. Culinary inclined? There are cooking and mocktail classes at least once a week.
Lunch at the rooftop restaurant Copper Kitchen is a lovely, if slightly warm, affair. The view from the top is unhampered , thanks to floor to ceiling windows and a glass roof, which suffuses the space with beautiful natural light, but unluckily, also has a bit of a greenhouse effect. So, if you felt like indulging in a spot of lazy lunching by the pool instead, the curated pool menu isn’t your only option.
True to the famous Balinese hospitality, guests of the hotel can sample both Western and Indonesian options from the kitchen anywhere in the hotel. Led by Chef Duncan McCance, who cut his teeth at Orana (Adelaide), Ekstedt (Stockholm) and Burnt Ends (Singapore), the versatile and efficient team is happy to serve you dinner in your own suite. Or a snack and drink ordered from your suite and sent to you at your pool lounge. And if that salad tastes particularly fresh, it’s probably because it came from The Gardens – Bisma Eight’s own organic farm just mere steps away. Chef McCance’s affinity for locally sourced produce means that a tenth of the greens used on the menu is supplied by the hotel’s own farm, which is currently expanding to increase its output.
As dusk beckons, a warm orange glow pours golden over the Pool Pavilion – considered to be the best spot to catch the sunset. The restaurant and adjacent bar is starting to get livelier as guests are arriving at the hotel from a day of shopping and cultural activities in Ubud Centre. A mere 1.5km from Bisma Eight, guests have the option of either booking a complimentary ride from the hotel or taking a leisurely stroll to take in the sights.
Retiring into the suite at the end of the day is like walking into a welcoming embrace. The blend of traditional Balinese and warm contemporary chic – a combination of teak furniture, ikat pillows and woven jute rugs – is warm and inviting against a backdrop of muted sounds of the forest.
One of the highlights of the room is the Japanese-inspired soaking tub – a first in Bali. The 780 litre tub is an impressive presence in the bathroom, beautifully crafted out of American red cedar and best enjoyed with fragrant natural bath salts from Balinese body care company Republic Of Soap. Careful though, once you step in, you may find yourself never wanting to leave.
Thanks to Bisma Eight for their hospitality.
Words and pictures: Ben Chin – Fashion stylist, aspiring travel writer, beer guzzler, dinosaur lover & enamoured with tiny houses.