Hotels & Resorts

Review: Jumeirah Bali. We Checked In to the Ultra-Luxe Resort for a First Look 

There’s a new beauty on the block: the famed Dubai-based luxury brand has opened a simply stunning new resort in Bali. We checked in for a first, culture-steeped look.

Jumeirah Bali: Outdoor Archways

Outdoor Archways

By Vincent Vichit-Vadakan

Sep 26, 2022

LET’S JUST GET THIS OUT of the way: Jumeirah Bali is drop-dead gorgeous. The lobby looks like a corner of Aladdin’s fairytale palace, all white columns and tranquil pools of flowing water with views over the treetops all the way down to the sea. The exteriors are so stunning that you might just miss artworks like the monumental painting by socially aware Indonesian artist Made Wianta that hangs in the blissfully cool and peaceful library adjacent to the lobby.

The pools of water are no accident. From terraced rice paddies to holy water blessings, water is a sacred element in Bali. It is invigorating and cleansing, a sign of life, abundance and purity, but also pragmatically a source of fresh drinking water and irrigation. Everywhere you look, the pools, streams and fountains are a reminder of just how important water is.

Jumeirah Bali Resort Ocean View
Resort Ocean View

Jumeirah, a brand best known for its dazzling hotels in Dubai and around the Middle East, has followed up its expansion to the Maldives last year with its first hotel in Southeast Asia. Here opulence comes in the form of Balinese and Javanese art and culture, resulting in a sense of calm that pervades every corner of Jumeirah Bali. The oohs and aahs come not from soaring skyscrapers but from the crashing waves of Bali’s Pecatu coast. Guests bask in the privacy of one of the 123 exclusive private-pool villas, with shaded pendopo or pavilions poolside and understated interiors that start at a more-than-comfortable 210 meters square. The resort that has been operating in soft-opening mode for several months officially opens its doors to the public on October 22. 

Jumeirah Bali: Ocean Villa
Ocean Villa

The villas themselves perpetuate that sense of well-being with a seamless blend of traditional and modern art. During my stay, I loved the vibrant aquamarine trim on the massive wooden door of my sea view villa. That distinctive color, the sculptures and the etchings on the stone walls of my room are just some of the codes of the Majapahit Empire that reached its zenith in the 14th century. That empire and its unique blend of Hindu and Buddhist beliefs are still at the foundation of the spirituality that attracts so many people to Bali today. 

Some of the more modern features of my room were the minimalist furnishings and the infinity pool that I floated around in every chance I got. Super attentive butlers are on hand day and night to spruce up your room or bring you a drink. I found that they were always willing to make a little small talk and answer my questions about the resort as they whisked me around the property. They are rightly proud of details like the paved garden walkway and the stone archways that are designed to look like the ruins of Trowulan, the long-lost Majapahit capital. 

Ocean View Terrace, Jumeirah Bali
Ocean View Terrace

For the IG-happy among you, you can have lunch floated on your infinity pool, but the romantic in me loved the idea of a flower-strewn candle-lit dinner on the edge of the pool. With the lightest of sea breezes as the sun was setting dramatically beyond the Uluwatu coast, all I was missing was a date. Since I didn’t pack one for this trip, I called one of my Bali-based friends to share the evening with me. (Thank you Nong W. for keeping me company!)

Of course, no one says you have to stay in your room for a good meal. Chef Vincent Leroux oversees the menu at Segaran Dining Terrace, where you don’t want to miss Indonesian dishes like beef cheek rendang and dadar gulung, a contemporary take on a classic palm sugar and coconut sweet. I love crispy snacks so the basket of oversized rempeyek (seed-inflected crackers) was the perfect vehicle for scooping up a variety of spicy and less spicy sambal. Generous afternoon teas and heady cocktails or mocktails infused with ginger, clove, lemongrass and tea are on offer in the Maja Sunset Pool Lounge. The Akasa Grill and Wine Cellar, with its steaks and extensive wine list, is set to open in October. 

Jumeirah Bali: Brunch by Chef Vincent Leroux; Beef Wagyu Strip Loin
FROM LEFT: Brunch by chef Vincent Leroux; beef Wagyu striploin
Jumeirah Bali: Segaran open kitchen area
Segaran open kitchen area

Many of the activities offered by Jumeirah Bali are also inspired by local culture and history. For the writer that I am, etching Balinese letters on palm leaves to spell out my own name was a humbling experience that filled me with awe and admiration for the scribes who painstakingly preserved entire epics in manuscripts on leaves and bark. 

Perhaps the most memorable experience was the prayer and blessing at the resort’s own sacred shrine. I dressed all in white, my udeng worn around my head just so, with tabs higher on the right and the folds carefully centered on my forehead. The headband is just one of the many minute details and symbols that are an integral part of worship in Bali (just like the belt worn around the waist that separates the lofty and spiritual from the baser nether regions of the physical body). 

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Jumeirah Bali:
Balinese temple

The Bhumi blessing ceremony included chanting, offering flowers and other items in canang sari that are often found on the ground in Bali, purifying my own face in blessed coconut water as well as chanting, incense burning and belling ringing, all discreetly explained by my guide who patiently whispered explanations of the proceedings in my ear. It could easily have felt contrived but instead it was an eye-opening learning experience. I wouldn’t say that I’d embarked on some eat-pray-love epiphany, but it did leave me feeling very peaceful.

At the Talise Spa, the invigorating Balinese massage gave my usual Thai massage, a workout disguised as a spa treatment, a run for its money. I felt battered but relaxed, and appreciated the therapist’s folksy reminders about staying hydrated (I know) and my lazy posture (I know). 

Jumeirah Bali: Talise Spa Room
Talise Spa

I’m not a huge fan of photos of myself. “I already know what I look like,” I often complain. But on the last day of my stay, I decided to embrace the trappings of the Balinese prince that I’d been treated like during my stay. In an embroidered kamen (sarong-like shift) and wearing a more elaborate udeng around my head, I was given a tour of the property one last time, with an entourage that included a photographer, a stylist and a buggy driver. The vanity inherent in the situation still makes me cringe just a bit, but if I’m honest the memories preserved that day elicit a true smile, despite myself. 

Jumeirah Bali, located 45 minutes from Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport, will celebrate its grand opening on October 22. Villas start at Rp16.65 million per night. 

All photos courtesy of Jumeirah Bali.

Kagi Maldives

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