NOTE: AS OF 2017 THIS HOTEL IS NO LONGER A PART OF THE ALILA PORTFOLIO. IT IS RUN INDEPENDENTLY AS ‘SOORI BALI’.
Tucked away on the same unspoilt coast of Bali as my favourite Balinese villa: Bulung Daya, this sister resort to Alila Villas Uluwatu had long been on my ‘to do list’. It isn’t quite as expensive as Uluwatu but still by no means cheap. When I saw that a two bedroom villa was available on Agoda for not much more than the price of a single one (not to mention a very decent 13% rebate via Topcashback too), I leapt at the chance to finally see this resort for myself.
Alila Uluwatu is one of my absolute favourite hotels in the world, the Alila brand was started by former Aman staff and at Uluwatu, it really shows. By the time we finally pulled up to the entrance of Soori, my heart was already beating faster – I was sure that the four of us were going to be in for an awesome experience
Subtle, minimal and surrounded by nature. The sign at the entrance is a perfect expression of the Alila brand.
The doors to our car were opened by a pair of smiling hosts in white linen clothing, they welcomed us to the resort, told us that they would take care of our bags and escorted us to the lobby.
As soon as I set foot into this tranquil expanse, I immediately felt at ease. The open space, running water and oversized sofas make this feel like a giant natural living room. Sitting here, it felt as if we had the entire resort to ourselves, a world away from the feel of the Intercontinental.
You don’t always get the lobby to yourself though…
After quickly completing the check-in formalities, our host walked us to the villa. Much like Alila Uluwatu, the lobby faces out towards a reflecting pool, which blends into the ocean beyond.
Two Bedroom Villa
We walked down a flight of stairs to the left of the reflecting pool and were led down a pathway, along the back of all of the villas. This meant that we entered the villa through the master bedroom. Once we were settled in, we almost always opted to access the central resort area via the beach though, as the scenery is so much nicer.
Upon arriving at our villa we were introduced to our Butler. He asked what level of service we would like during our stay. He said that he could either be
Permanently and visibly at our disposal
Refresh our room each time we left
Service our room only on request
We opted for option 2. True to his word, whenever we left the villa, we would return to find everything re-stocked, tidied and cleaned.They must have motion sensors in the villas because it felt like he always knew. Even if we were only gone for 30 minutes, the room was serviced.
The master bedroom is more of a junior suite, the bookcases help to divide the living space from the bed. This came in quite handy as the second bedroom didn’t have an indoor living room, so sharing this one felt a little more comfortable.
I love all these little thoughtful touches. The leather topped bedside table, a mother of pearl storage box and power ports next to the bed. It is one of my pet hates, staying in a hotel and not having anywhere near the bed to charge my phone!
The bed is unbelievably comfortable. A squishy top on a firm base, with giant pillows that never seem to collapse.
Facing the bed we had the minibar and a Nespresso machine (unfortunately not an Illy machine as in Alila Villas Uluwatu)
Coffee and TWG Teas
I love the ceramic cups and saucers that Alila uses. Placing a cup into the saucer emulates the sound of sea shells rubbing together.
Beautiful glassware and leather coasters.
The ice bucket which was kept constantly topped up by our butler.
The spectacular master bathroom. Clean, elegant and modern.
Not your average bath candles
The gigantic, two person bathtub complete with two padded towel pillows, a volcanic scrubbing stone, oils and salts.
Volcanic scrubbing stone and Alila bath salts.
The enormous, walk-in rain shower. The ceiling must have been at least 9ft high. Showering here each morning was an absolute pleasure.
Details: Bottled water and towels replenished every time we left the room.
The bathroom amenities come in a custom designed box and even include lip gloss, sunscreen, tanning oil, mosquito repellent and face mist.
Our basket was replenished each day, with a small card explaining our local fruit to us. Day 1 required no explanation: one of my absolute favourites, the mighty Mangosteen!
The living room featured a large, wall mounted TV as well as a decent amount of desk space and tons of power sockets.
On the other side of the living room was a large, water resistant sofa. “Why water resistant?” you may ask…
Private Swimming Pool
…because our villa’s pool was accessible directly from the room. Of course!
The volcanic sand beach running along the length of the property is publicly accessible. However, the gardens leading up to it are private and each villa gets its own set of deck chairs to relax on.
Following the pool along you come to our rather large, outdoor living space. This is where we spent the majority of our time during the strongest hours of sunlight. The second bedroom is located behind the glass doors to the left. The master bedroom is just up the steps.
A perfect space to hang out with our friends.
Pool towels were always replaced whenever we left the villa. Alongside them was a selection of extra amenities (you can never have too much sunscreen)
The second bedroom was initially set up with twin beds. However, our Butler offered to rectify this and ensure that the beds were joined into one massive bed for our friends Oli and Bena.
MOP box and iPod dock on the leather bedside table
A small desk space and a TV which could be angled towards the bed.
There is plenty of storage in the shelving and cupboards behind the bed. The door to the bathroom closes fully.
The bathroom is more compact than the one in the master bedroom, the shower is identical but there is no bathtub. To the right of the frame is the open fronted wardrobe
My favourite thing about the villa was the outdoor space, it was very spacious and comfortable and served as our ‘living room’ during the day. It is so relaxing having the combination of pool, sofas, grass, loungers and beach all in such close proximity. However you want to relax, Soori has you covered. All within a maximum 2 minute walk of this spot.
In the evenings our Butler would always stop by with some fresh ice, ready for us to make our G&T sundowners.
Our pre-dinner evening G&Ts at the villa.
Watching the sun slowly lower itself into the endless blue ocean, right from the comfort of our villa was a truly magical experience. Moments like these make all of the hard work worthwhile…
Kamara striking a rather more elegant silhouette…
In the evenings, the locals would always come out to play on the beach. You couldn’t really tell when you were sitting in the villa but it was nice to walk down to the beach and see all the activity.
Evenings at Alila Soori
After our G&Ts we took our preferred route, along the beautifully manicured gardens, to the restaurant. Our walk to dinner was rather more illuminated than usual on our final evening. The resort was very good about warning everybody in advance that a major display would be taking place. The fireworks were for a family, celebrating a birthday in style!
The pool is the centrepiece of the main resort area. In the evening it serves as a mirror, reflecting the lights and lanterns that surround it.
The Reading Room
A natural wooden sculpture at the entrance to The Reading Room
Just like the Aman resorts that form part of Alila’s DNA, every Alila resort has an extensive library.
Alila Soori Reading Room
Tea and coffee
Alila Soori Reading Room
The last place I was expecting to find a Charlie Brooker book. You may be familiar with his TV shows: Black Mirror and Nathan Barley. His writing is an inspiration, particularly THIS masterpiece.
Dinner at the Dining Room
Given that we had the perfect spot to enjoy our drinks, in the villa, we didn’t frequent The Bar much in the evenings.
The resort’s only restaurant is the breathtaking, open walled Dining Room, serving some of the best food I’ve ever encountered at a resort.
The Dining Room
The Dining Room
The wonderful Ayu really made our dinners a delight. She struck a perfect balance between being fun, knowledgeable and welcoming. Her recommendations were always spot on and just seeing her would bring a smile to our faces each evening.
Dinner at the Dining Room – Alila Soori
The Indonesian cuisine was wonderful. Very fresh ingredients, expertly cooked and seasoned to perfection. Some dishes were a little more experimental though, like this sweet sushi, made from rice soaked in coconut milk, served with matcha ice cream.
My favourite Indonesian dessert – Bubur Injin. Black rice pudding served with coconut ice cream and fresh mango.
Playing the Gamelan
Every evening, we were entertained by the resort’s Gamelan players. On our final night they asked if I’d like to give it a try. We actually ended up playing together for about 15 minutes. I like to believe that he was the solid and dependable Izzy to my freewheeling and dynamic Slash. The G&Ts may have had something to do with this interpretation of reality 😉
Overall, dinner every evening was a real highlight of our days.The menu was so varied that we never needed to repeat a single dish, although a few were so delicious that we couldn’t help but re-order 🙂
The service was unbelievably attentive. On a level I’ve only ever had the fortune of experiencing in Bali. A real benchmark for future resort stays. This wasn’t just a case of asking, “was everything ok?”. It was more along the lines of, “I noticed you didn’t eat all of x yesterday but you ate all of y, let me recommend z as perhaps it will be more to your liking”. So not just attentive but remarkably well spoken too. Ayu’s vocabulary was seriously better than most servers that I encounter in London.
The prices were actually a little more expensive than the eminently reasonable Alila Uluwatu but still by no means expensive, particularly when you consider that you have absolutely no other options nearby. (c. $50-60 per person without alcohol)
Daytime at Alila Soori
Everybody at the resort is offered a free yoga class in the mornings. Feeling the cool ocean breeze as the waves crash in front of you is quite an uplifting way to start the day.
A rather more advanced yoga practitioner than us, stretching at the end of the class. Literally up-lifting.
After yoga we walked downstairs to breakfast, served once again in The Dining Room.
Each morning our Butler would meet us here and discuss our plans for the day.
Breakfast was not included in the rate we booked with Agoda but was priced at a very fair $35 per person and was served as a limitless, a la carte, tasting menu. Each day would begin with a selection of different juices and smoothies. My favourite was the watermelon, mint and chilli juice, served over ice this is pretty much the most refreshing thing you could ever hope to drink.
We loved the teapot so much that we ended up buying one to take home.
Butter, jam and homemade lemon curd
Smoked salmon served on a blini with dill oil
Over the course of our stay, we discovered that the menu was more of a suggestion than a hard limit. We mentioned that we loved the Rendang from the first day, on our second morning. “No problem”, we were told. The wontons, freshly cut fruit, homemade granola, parfaits, eggs Benedict, pastries…. everything was excellent.
After breakfast, our days were either spent lazing around the main pool, the beach or eating even more delicious food at the bar.
The black sand beach at Alila Soori
Outdoor seating by the bar
Lunch at the Bar
Softshell crab tacos. My kind of bar food!
Freshly grilled satay skewers
The resort offers numerous activities and experiences but most of them involved lengthy transfers to other parts of Bali that we had already visited. Part of the appeal of Tabanan is its relative isolation and rugged coastline, immediately flanked by verdant rice paddies. It seemed like a waste to spend a long time heading away from here on day trips, since we’d made the effort to come here in the first place.
Equally, it would have been a shame to come all the way here and miss out on heading inland a little, to see the amazing greenery. So, we decided to spend an afternoon on a Segway tour.
Oli looking particularly cool.
We spent two hours driving around winding lanes which periodically opened into spectacular panoramas like this one. It was a cool experience and great value for money at $50 per person.
Back at the resort, when we felt like being a little more sociable (or if we wanted a coconut 🙂 ) we spent some time at the gigantic main pool – a sleek and expansive infinity edged lagoon which blended seamlessly with the surroundings.
The Lagoon Pool
One edge of the pool is lined with a series of semi-private day beds, each with its own shallow ‘bay’ leading to a drop into the main pool
Enormous waterproof bean bags, how come I’ve never seen one of these before!?
The wild and roaring ocean on the East coast of Bali is not recommended for swimmers. It does make for a fantastic backdrop whilst laying at the pool though.
Details: fresh flowers placed between the pool towels.
A selection of the usual amenities was brought to us each time we took a spot by the pool. The stone is a particularly thoughtful detail. The Ocean breeze can easily turn the pages of a book or blow away a sarong or magazine.
The Poolside menu (the same as the bar menu)
Sunbathing on a giant beanbag, in the middle of an enormous pool, sipping a coconut as the waves crash ferociously into the ocean beyond. Does it get much better than this?
More intimate and more connected with its surroundings than Alila Uluwatu, Alila Soori provides an altogether different and equally amazing experience. The architecture is modern with a few selective nods to Balinese culture – without feeling like it is embracing a Balinese schtick.
Staying here actually feels like an exciting architectural experience, just like Alila Uluwatu, albeit without the wow factor of the sunset cabana and the sliding walled villas. To live within the confines of such considered design is a truly wonderful thing. With every passing minute it seemed as though we came to admire another clever feature of the resort layout.
The staff here were every bit as genuine, thoughtful and kind as the staff at Alila Uluwatu and I imagine that this will not change now that the resort has reverted to private ownership, given that the majority of the staff lived locally and will presumably be staying on.
Tabanan doesn’t have the name recognition of Ubud, Uluwatu or (the horrors of) Semniyak and this is probably for the best. When you come here you really feel like you’ve stumbled onto something special, it takes a while to arrive (nearly 90 minutes from the airport) but those that make the effort are truly rewarded.
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