Bali is just about one of my favourite destinations in the world, and the island holds a lot of memories for us (which is why we chose to get hitched there), but we've never known it as a place for real R&R as we're usually stationed in the hustle and bustle of Seminyak (the heart of Bali's coffee and cocktail bar scene). It was only on our last trip in July, when we ventured to the cultural and artistic heart of Ubud, that we discovered the lesser known side of this amazing island.
Nestled among emerald green paddy fields and lush tropical rainforests is the beautiful and bespoke Bisma Eight, a charming boutique hotel with just over 40 rooms, which lies down a narrow and unexpected back lane of Ubud dotted with cafes, family-run restaurants and quaint spas.
While the surroundings are rustic, the hotel itself is anything but. A beacon for modernist design, it marries bold new design sensibility with rustic balinese elements: cool concrete blends beautifully with traditional balinese suar wood doors, a riot of tropical greenery lined up against edgy brass spacers, a thoroughly modern infinity pool drops off into a misty jungle vista, a bar that would not be out of place on the lower east side of Manhattan opens up onto a spawling rooftop patio with wisps of white linen, a common theme in Asian design. Now of course, rooms are essential in any holiday, and I must admit to being on the pickier side, so it was a lovely surprise to find the rooms were very, very spacious by boutique hotel standards, each with its own living area separate from the bedroom, and a generous sized bathroom complete with a japanese tub.
Now, hotels are rarely known for their F&B, but it's safe to say Bisma Eight does a damn decent job at it. From the cocktail bar to the full sized restaurant to the pool side cafe to the coffee shop just off the reception area, each space was clearly designed with a young urbane traveler in mind.
A lot of thought went into each item on the menu - from Copper's modern asian menu to the more casual fare at the pool side Pavillion - and much of the food pays homage to the surroundings from where they came. Perhaps most poignant is that a variety of the produce is sourced from Bisma Eight's very own gardens where the owner's father has made it his pet project to grow produce sustainably and source for items locally. Farm to table is all the rage these days, but I often wonder if it's all just hype. No hype or marketing gimmicks here, because the man enticed us out into the gardens to help out for an afternoon, and was fairly crestfallen when he realised my talents in this area extend as far as keeping cacti alive.
Cocktails from the beautifully appointed bar also did not disappoint and would not have been out of place at the trendiest establishment in London, New York or Singapore - but served up with a much better view of the sun setting over lush greenery in the rolling hills of Ubud.
Paul, of course, was pleased as punch to have a hotel that serves up proper coffee at the Library Cafe with beans sourced from some of the best roasters in Bali. If you've been to Bali in recent times, you'd have witnessed first hand the incredible growth in the coffee scene in central Seminyak, with hip and incredibly packed coffee joints sprouting up like daisies. Now just imagine, that stellar cup of coffee served up in the cool air-conditioned confines of the quiet library cafe, amidst a lovely selection of literature and no noise whatsoever to distract you from whatever it is you wish to spend the afternoon reading. Paul was in there a lot, to get away from the gaggle of girl friends I happened to bring along for the trip.
Personally, my favourite part of this piece of real estate has to be the hospitality. Everyone from the chef to the bell boy is passionate about what they do. Agus, our host, has a background in computer science and spends his days off coding software, which he hopes will one day be used in the hospitality industry. He loves his job as it lets him meet and mingle with a wide variety of people from around the globe, and gives him access to a creative class of individuals in search of a little rest and relaxation within his domain. He says at Bisma, it's like family, and it's this positive energy that will keep me coming back over and over again.
But maybe the best testament to this beautiful space is the fact we only left it once over three whole days to have dinner, and were otherwise fully occupied soaking in the atmosphere and making the most of our time at this boutique hotel in the hills of Ubud.