As we head towards the end of this Bali Villa degustation tour I am starting to feel hungry rather than full! There are so many resorts to explore and so much possibility. The great thing about Bali is the variety and how well they do it. I can see why it is a favourite for many people.
Each place has offered something different, but the https://www.fourseasons.com/sayan/ is something else again.
Located in the Sayan valley, with the Ayung river weaving through it, this is a mystical setting for a unique hotel.
You arrive to an ordinary entrance – just off an ordinary road, in what appears to be the middle of nowhere and wind your way down a steep drive way. Once there access to the hotel itself is by walking across a large wooden bridge to a stunning huge lily pond suspended above a valley of trees. The entrance is a staircase that descends from the middle of the pond to a lobby below.
It is gob smacking. I have never arrived at a hotel like it. You are skimming above the trees, at least 4 stories high with a stunning outlook over water lilies, across the valley.
Under the lily pond is the main building. Here you will find a treetop bar, restaurant and the spa. All the hotel rooms are also located in this building. The villas are scattered around the rest of the resorts park like gardens. More on those later.
You can meander through rice paddies to the main pool area and River Side cafe, or visit the outdoor cooking school or one of the many yoga platforms.
The main pool is spilt across two levels as the river flows below. It is not a large space but it was never crowded, even though the hotel was full when we stayed. All villa’s have their own pool so I suspect many people choose to stay there and use them instead.
Whilst the villa pool we had was lovely, the riverside pool is defiantely worth visiting. You can swim up to the edge and watch river rafting groups squeal and splash through the gentle rapids directly below you.
At first this hotel seems like a perfectly pleasant, green jungle type place, but within an hour or so, you feel an incredible sense of calm. The jungle noises, the gently running water feeding the gardens, the river sounds, the bird and insect life, the stunning flowers, the terraced rice paddies, all start to culminate and you realise you are in a sacred and special place.
A complimentary guided walk, takes you through the jungle to a local house, where you are welcomed inside and can see close up how the Balinese people in the area live. They were incredibly welcoming and kind. It also gives you an insight into how the hotel has helped its community, paying rent, providing jobs and supporting their way of life.
Along with the guided walk there are also numerous complimentary yoga classes, cycle tours and paid activities on offer every day – like river rafting, secret temple tours and a Balinese cooking school. In the evenings there is traditional music and dance in the lobby bar.
A complimentary shuttle every two hours means accessing Ubud is easy and pain free. Having just had two treatments at the previous hotel, I didn’t used the spa itself, but we did enjoy the various hot and cold plunge pools located next to the gym (which I didn’t use either – I was too busy eating breakfast and getting fat!)
Speaking of breakfast – the food is world class – exactly what you would expect from the Four Seasons brand. Served al la carte in the main restaurant, there was no end to options, from healthy chai and berry smoothy bowls to chocolate pancakes and ice-cream. It was beautifully done and a highlight.
Lunch and dinner at the Riverside cafe was also stunning. Room service was quick and good.
The pool villas themselves are incredible. You access each via a lotus pond on the roof top, where you can sit and read, do yoga or meditate. Then you descend the spiral staircase into your new home. This is not a hotel for the disabled, although they do have a couple of rooms that you can access without stairs.
The lounge area is outside, kept cool by fans and gives you direct access to your pool and outdoor shower. Butterflies dance across the water, birds bathe on its edge and the jungle comes right in close. Cleverly built into the cascading hillside, the outdoor room is cool and the indoor bedroom air-conditioned, so we spent more time outside in this villa than in any other.
I loved watching the day end, by candlelight, with incense burning from the deck.
The villas are 20 years old but they don’t feel tired. They feel like a tree house should, with lots of wood and windows.
The villa pool is deep and perfectly big enough, but the riverside main pool was outstanding so we swam there each day. The villa pool was perfect for a quick dip to cool off if you needed to. Once again it is incredibly private.
It has been a very different experience and one I would absolutely recommend. No visit to Bali is complete without some time spent in Ubud. It is worth the hassle to get here and if budget allows, definitely worth staying a few nights at this resort.
The hotel rooms (as opposed to the villas) are very reasonably priced and you would experience almost everything that the hotel offers. It is the one hotel so far, where I would say the Pool Villa – while amazing, is not necessary, if your budget won’t stretch that far.
The Four Seasons service was, as expected, flawless. They know your name, the General Manager went out of his way to welcome us, and followed up during our stay to ensure we were happy. Nothing is a problem, service is excellent and requests are a followed up on promptly.
It is a hotel I would come back to with friends, family or even on my own. Each would offer up different experiences and a different feel.
Is it worthy of the travel and leisure magazine award – best hotel in the world?
I’m not sure – there are so many wonderful places to stay – but this one is right up there and it is certainly unique.
I will leave a piece of my heart behind in this very special place.
So today we head for the last course – the Four Seasons in Jimbaran Bay. I have high hopes for dessert!
Highlights from Small Heights
A tip to all hotels: If you cannot check people in at promised time, give them a free lunch. It worked perfectly for these guys.
Villa: Huge and wonderfully so. Good value for money (but who cares I don’t pay) and a garden of our own, not to mention a huge deck complete with three seating areas. Bliss. Villa Pool: Finally, a deep pool! I have been dealing with 1.2 and 1.3M this entire holiday. How wonderful this feels with an amazing 1.56M deep private pool. I have high hopes for the next place.
Food: Four Seasons are the holy grail. Food in Bali that isn’t horrible half the time. From chocolate pancakes to fries and pizza in a Pizza Hut style pizza box (the almighty luxurious Four Seasons using takeaway equipment, hilarious), this place proves that the rest of Bali has no excuse (they never had an excuse, anyway.)
Grounds: We’re in a jungle! What could be better? Well, a snake-free jungle could! Picture this terror, people. Your second night in the middle of a jungle and outside your front door: a grass snake lies in wait! Whilst my mother says they have no teeth, I am highly doubtful. I was petrified for the rest of the stay. When there is one snake, there is always more… (Mum: I may have lied about the no teeth thing….)
Rating: 9.5\10 (.5 deducted for Health and Safety Snake Issues.)
Two top tips: Get rid of snakes and be consistent with meal presentation. I didn’t get my beloved pizza box the second time.