Be prepared for an extreme reaction when you arrive at The Mulia resort hotel: it’s the kind of place you’re not quite sure how to take at first. Is it a film set? Everywhere you look, there are ranks of huge, white, female stone statues, guarding the three pristine swimming pools like ancient handmaidens, making you feel like you’re in some kind of Cecil B De Mille epic. Or is it just one of the most quietly luxurious properties you’ll ever have the pleasure of staying in, boasting tasteful and stylish interiors, attentive staff, and Michelin-standard food? The answer is a bit of both – a touch of theatre, against a backdrop of efficiency and expertise.
The Mulia opened in early 2013, immediately making its five-star neighbours (which include the St Regis and the Westin) feel a bit shabby. It’s already been garlanded with awards, including winner of Conde Nast Traveller USA’s reader’s choice. Its location, Nusa Dua, lies at the southernmost tip of the Indonesian island – a small, rarified enclave away from the popular backpacker hangouts of Kuta and Seminyak. Divided into three areas, it comprises a boutique hotel, which has 111 upscale suites; nearby is a more family-oriented resort, with 526 rooms; and a clutch of 108 villas is scattered across the hillside, which sleep between two and 12 people. Hotel and villa guests have access to the resort’s restaurants and facilities (though not vice versa).
The villas, understatedly decorated in palest pastels, and set away from the main resort so you get a complete feeling of seclusion, feature a private pool and outdoor shower. Suites in the boutique hotel boast a fine view over the main pool (and onto some of the giant statues), a hot tub on the vast balcony – and a loo whose lid rises automatically when you enter, with a pre-warmed seat awaiting your regal behind. The décor is oligarch chic, all metallic cushions here and directional lighting there, and hung with specially commissioned local art. Afternoon tea is served in the lobby restaurant where you can nibble on home-made macarons, Balinese snacks and proper British sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
In fact, it’s the food where The Mulia really comes into its own. With eight restaurants and bars to choose from, you won’t go hungry. A particular favourite was The Café, the buffet located in the family resort. These things are so often tired, reheated, limp affairs, but this is the Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner of hotel buffets. There are dozens of fresh food stations, where chefs cook to order, using only the best ingredients – a principle which runs throughout the resort. If you like sushi, head to Edogin, for sashimi so fresh you can almost see its gills move, and a choice of fillets including black cod, seabream and snapper.
Table8, whose witty décor and authentic food could give Alan Yau a run for his money, specialises in Cantonese and Szechuan cuisine and does daily dim sum at lunch. And Soleil, the resort’s Mediterranean restaurant, holds a Sunday brunch so sumptuous, people come from far and wide. There are veritable cornucopias of oysters, lobster tails and tiger prawns, whole roast suckling pigs, and a dessert station that looks like an explosion in a sugar and rainbow factory.
The resort also boasts a spacious and ultramodern spa, featuring sci-fi touches such as an ice chamber (good for the circulation, apparently), aromatherapy shower, and colour-therapy hammam.
The fantastically well-equipped gym has a daily programme of classes including tennis, yoga, circuit training and more. And if you can tear yourself away from all that, you can head to the beach, all translucent, turquoise sea fringed by white, fine, sugar-soft sand.
There’s a danger you could never leave, but not to explore your surroundings would be criminal. Bali has put its decades of oppressive Dutch colonial rule behind it, and offers up beautiful, ornate temples, lush green rice terraces, and even the odd monkey sanctuary. The hotel can help arrange a variety of excursions; well worth doing is a trip to Uluwatu Temple, an ancient, crumbling edifice on a dramatic clifftop, where you can also experience a traditional Kecak dance, featuring impossibly elegant, long-nailed women, and very bendy men. Just outside the cultural capital, Ubud is the best place to see rice paddies. Men and women in peaked, straw coolie hats still tend crops by hand, as they have for centuries. This is the real Bali – but it’s lovely to go back to the film set, nonetheless.
Flights to Bali via Java with Garuda Airlines start from £597 for a return flight from London | garuda-indonesia.com
The Mulia Hotel has suites available from £475 per room per night based on two adults sharing, including breakfast and afternoon tea. Mulia Villas are available from £624 per night per villa including breakfast and afternoon tea | themulia.com | email@example.com