"Welcome back to your Balinese home," read the note left on the desk inside our villa, personally signed by the general manager.
It truly did feel like I was returning to visit an old friend. This was my second visit to the Alila Villas in Bali, although I was just as impressed and warmed by the hospitality on this visit, as I was on my first.
From the moment you arrive at either Alila Villas Uluwatu or Alila Villas Soori, you are made to feel special. Each guest is greeted by the general manager and a team of staff as soon as the car pulls into the driveway.
There's no need to sit at a check-in desk or fumble with paperwork, that's already been done for you by your personal villa host, whose duties are much like a private butler. Within minutes, he has also arranged to have your luggage delivered to your villa.
The Personal Touch
Before you even have a chance to say, "I'm in heaven", you're ushered to your private villa in the back of a buggy car. Here, you are presented with a cold hand towel and a refreshing juice, squeezed in time for your arrival.
Your villa host guides you around your new home, pointing to the plunge pool, the decked cabana lounges and the outdoor rain shower. Inside, there's an Apple TV, iPod dock, coffee machine, his & her organic soaps, beach hats and yoga mats.
The host has already added your choice of music and movies to the sound system and your preferred pillows are neatly laid out on your bed. As he leaves, he mentions that the Australian newspapers, lifestyle magazines and snack box you pre-ordered in your booking will be delivered to your villa shortly.
To give you some background, Alila Hotels & Resorts is a Singapore-based brand, with villas and resorts dotted throughout Southeast Asia. One thing is for sure, they know how to do eco-luxury well. Each property boasts a cutting-edge design that strikes the perfect balance between elegance and sustainability.
For both Alila Villas Uluwatu and Alila Villas Soori, award-winning architects were called upon to create a seamless integration of indoor and outdoor spaces. The aim was to have minimal impact to the natural environment, so designers paired sustainable materials, like sandstone and timber, with an earthen colour palette to achieve a ‘barely-there' configuration of main living areas and scattered villas.
Service is of the highest standard imaginable. You are greeted by name, no matter where you are in the resort, and the staff seem to know a lot about you, your preferences and your daily activities.
The Alila Experience is centred on creating unique emotional memories for its guests. These are the kinds of experience that you wouldn't usually expect, so it's appropriate that the name Alila comes from the Sanskrit meaning to 'surprise'.
Suitably, this describes our experience at Alila Villas Soori on our first evening, when we came back to our villa to find a warm bath filled with rose petals and a piece of chocolate cake for two, saying "Happy Wedding Anniversary".
A Love For What's Local
The company has certainly been doing its part to sustain a thriving economy for the Balinese people, by employing staff members who live in the nearby villages. Not only does this provide financial support for local families, but it gives them a sense of ownership in the area.
Alila truly lives up to its culinary expectations. We indulged in some of the best Indonesian cuisine we have ever eaten and took part in a Journey to Gastronomy. This half-day session, led by one of the sous chefs, starts with a visit to the local produce market and fish market, and ends back in the kitchen where you put your cooking skills to the test. The feast we prepared was surely enough to feed a family, but somehow we managed to devour it all.
Weddings are very popular at both resorts, with up to 125 couples exchanging their vows against the sunset backdrop each year. Many will bring along a group of family and friends to stay at the resort.
If you don't believe me, the properties have plenty of accolades to support my opinions, as well as an EarthCheck certification for their environmental practices.
Alila Villas Uluwatu was recognised among the Best Hotels in the World for 2012 by Conde Nast Traveller and Best Hotels in the World in 2011 by The Sunday Times. More recently, it took the award for Best Hospitality Design Hotel in 2013 by Connoisseur Circle Hospitality Awards in Berlin.
Alila Villas Soori was one of TripAdvisor's Best Hotels in 2012 and more recently won Most Heavenly Hideaway for 2013 at the UK Tatler Spa Awards.
Given all of this, it's easy to see why so many celebrities choose the Alila Villas for their own private escapes, so why not follow in their footsteps for your own.