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Published May 21st 2018
How to find your dream villa
There are in fact five floating stars created with flowers at Abaca Villa - but the pool was so wide that I couldn't quite fit them all in the frame. Imagine a dip each day in your own personal large pool
Some 1.248 million Australians holiday in Bali each year. A short plane trip to warm smiles and the open arms of legendary hospitality. Add in world-class beach clubs, where infinity pools meet the sea, sipping two for one cocktails and a burgeoning international food scene.
Yet most tourists cram into hotel enclaves along busy tourist strips, where they are hassled by touts and beeped at incessantly by taxi drivers who seem to follow their every move.
But as Australians often holiday in Bali, a growing number of aware travellers are seeking out villa stays for a more authentic, stress-free and relaxing holiday.
The advantages are many including coveted peace and seclusion. The often traditional compound-like villas are a far cry from the Western hotel experience. You have your own extensive self-contained space that includes a number of bedrooms, as well as lounge rooms and dining areas.
Villas mostly come with a dedicated staff to look after you and this might include a housekeeper, houseboy, a gardener, your own driver who will pick you at the airport and run you around. Some even provide you with your own chef. Perfect for those who may have stringent dietary requirements.
A villa stay comes with your own personalised staff. These are some of the lovely staff members at Abaca Villas
Villas often have their own private pools and these can sometimes be quite large. There are beautiful tropical gardens, high walls and tight security.
Honeymooning couples often also prefer the privacy and luxury of a private villa. They are also the perfect option for groups of friends or cross-generational families who want separate bedrooms but a communal living area, so they can spend quality time together. And villas can work out cheaper (than a hotel), especially if you divide the cost between a number of people.
But there are sometimes issues in booking villas sight unseen, as there are some scams such as paying for non-existent villas or misrepresented ones. Other times wires get crossed and words get mangled in translation borne out by the woman who booked a supposedly accessible villa for herself and her daughter. They arrived to no wheelchair access. The villa may have been on one level but most traditional Balinese architecture has steps at entrances to stop bad spirits from entering. The women were left stranded during the busy holiday period trying to find alternative wheel-chair friendly accommodation. So one should take some care in booking a villa that meets your specific requirements.
One can use Airbnb but this well-known site offers such a diverse range of accommodation that you would be much better to look at a dedicated villa only site.
On my recent stay in Bali, I stayed at a perfectly lovely hotel in Petitenget /Seminyak. No issues except for the normal limitations on space provided by hotel stays and having a busy road to cross each morning in the Land of Smiles and no road rules.
I heard from other tourists who they were staying in villas. So after some research, I contacted Villa-Finder, a leading villa agency who have some 650 Bali villas on their books. My purpose was to look at some villa options for my next stay.
I was pleased to learn that unlike other digital marketplaces such as Airbnb, Villa-Finder turn down 80% of listings offered to them as they do not meet their strict standards that cover maintenance, a desirable location, and quality of the structure and that Villa-Finder staff visit each villa and nurture a relationship with the owners, so that if something goes wrong like the air conditioner isn't working, they can usually get someone to fix it within 2-3 hours.
They must spend hours at each property as I was amazed by the precise and detailed write-up on every villa. The site is also visually pleasing, easy to navigate and showcases their listings with plenty of professional photos and information in English. so I can recommend this site.
I quite liked the area I was staying in, so I went to view close-by Abaca Villas some lovely villas Villa-Finder suggested. While both my hotel and Abaca Villas were located off the popular and busy Jalan Petitenget in Seminyak, my hotel was close to the road. Abaca Villas were set right back and the entry was through a long, wide tunnel of greenery that let in only pleasant dappled sunlight.
While only a couple of blocks back, when I emerged I could see the villas were surrounded by the quietude of rice paddies. The real Bali and not the touristy tornado of touts and tooting taxis.
The view looking down from one of the bedrooms at Abaca Villas
But you cannot just walk into these villas unannounced. I was met along the way by security who, when he knew my purpose, walked me in the rest of the way. Inside I was offered a welcome drink of refreshing ginger and mint by Merry, the housekeeper and I met with the owner Pierre, who does not live on the property but calls regularly when it is vacant to check that all is in order.
I could see that he was keen and proud to show me around and so we were off on the whirlwind tour that became more incredible as it went. Balinese decorating styles, when done discerningly, are really something to behold.
The villa compound is long rather than square and right down the centre were a series of aquamarine-blue pools. A large group could rent out this whole complex (15 bedrooms) and this would be perfect for weddings and events. Weddings have been held here for up to 100 people. But it is more likely there will be smaller groupings. And in this case, gates are closed between each pool, so that each group, not only has their own villa and grounds, but also their own private swimming pool. There are separate entrances into each enclosed compound, so you are assured your privacy.
French owner Pierre of Abaca Villas who has lived in Bali for over 40 years
Perhaps because he is a doctor or because I was limping, the first accommodation Pierre pointed out to me was a villa, which is wheelchair accessible. It would also be highly suitable for those who prefer not to have steps of any kind, such as less agile members of extended family groupings.
Living quarters for larger groups with a lovely breeze coming in.
All villas were designed around the pool areas and the living areas were traditional open-sided structures to allow cooling breezes in. There were large living areas with long tables for collective dining, and plenty of long couches and rattan chairs with attractive printed cushions. An upstairs area, which was open on both sides, is used when masseurs are brought in.I could imagine lying there looking out over the rice paddies while a cooling breeze swept over me and I luxuriated in a relaxing massage.
Decorative touches in the rooms included batik mats, antique ceramics, flowers arrangements floating gently in water and Pierre's daughter's striking paintings.
There were traditional doors on bedrooms and shutters creating cool and tranquil sleeping spaces with impressive four-poster beds draped with netting. Bedding also featured traditional ikat bed runners.
Bathrooms were particularly fascinating as while high walled, they also let the sky view in being only half enclosed. Some had rain showers as well as traditional showers and all were beautifully designed with double basins, pastel slates and plants.
The choice of vegetation has been highly deliberate throughout the villas. Pierre told me that the beautiful scent I could smell was from the plant zodia. 'It provides a beautiful scent that fills people's dreams,' he said.
The first area, Villa Illuh, can accommodate 12 people and there was even a lovely joglo (a small traditional vernacular Javanese house) that children would adore. Your group would be looked after here by a fleet of 10 staff.
Finally, at the end is Villa Ketut, a romantic getaway for two, perfect for anniversaries or honeymoons. Only a few steps from your room, you can take a dip in your own private pool. One of the most striking features in this villa is an architectural feature at the end of the pool that frames the outside landscape like a painting.
The view is captured in the architecture through a huge exterior picture frame. Image Facebook Villa Abaca.
Staff buy all groceries and then add 20% of the cost to cook your meal. There is also a selection of French wines at a reasonable price.
You are close to some of Bali's most famous restaurants such as Métis and Sardine. There are also nightclubs such as La Favela, Hu'u Bar, Petitenget Rest & Bar, Potato Head with its beach fronting infinity pool, Mirror Lounge & Club, Mint and La Plancha.
Seminyak shopping, if you wish to re-enter the fray, is around the corner at Petitenget and Oberoi streets.
But I rather think you will just want to do a lot more relaxing on this holiday to Bali as like many villas on Villa-Finder's books services can be brought in for you.
Too lazy to go out? Don't worry, you can call a manicure and pedicure treatment to the villa picture by @camilitanuttall- Image from Facebook Abaca Villas