It was an A-lister who first led me to the Instagram account of Four Seasons Bali – I was allured by a mesmerising shot of him gazing across the rocky Ayung River, from the sanctuary of his private infinity pool in the heart of Ubud’s ancient jungle. Of course, he was half naked in said wonderful pool, but that’s not why I decided to follow the account. Since that day, snippets of life at Four Seasons Sayan and, soon thereafter, Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay, gave me pleasant, inspiring nudges as I rushed around Singapore – work, gym, sleep on repeat.
When two of my university friends pitched up in Indonesia during an around-the-world tour (which I was not jealous about at all), I seized the chance to book the ultimate girls’ vacay – two oh-so-earthy days in the jungle at Four Seasons Sayan, and two beach-babe-fun days at Four Seasons Jimbaran Bay.
Stepping into Four Seasons Sayan, on the outskirts of arty Ubud, is like exhaling a huge breath that you didn’t realise you’d been holding on to. To check in, guests float across a beautiful teak bridge – suspended 65ft over the 18-acre river valley that makes up the greener-than-green resort.
Our luxury villa was set into the hill, overlooking the treetops and winding river. Designed to enjoy the open air, each pad has a tropical garden, huge teak decking and, of course, that infinity pool (which we may or may not have taken 178 smug selfies in and around). Filled with a thoughtful mix of traditional and contemporary Balinese furnishings, you’d be forgiven for hibernating inside the villa and living off room service (which, of course, was exquisite) for the entire stay.
Alas, we had relaxing, jungle-y activities to get on with! Having seen Instas of the Dharma Shanti Yoga Bale, a lotus petal-shaped structure built peacefully above the paddy fields, we were keen to test out their legendary anti-gravity yoga class. And while I can’t say that we were quite as nimble as the attractive folks in the photos, I can say that we had expert instruction, a relaxing stretch and a good few giggles.
Following the session, we were able to enjoy sunset from the otherworldly yoga bale, where we meditated to the sounds of the river basin, sleepy birds, and passing monkeys. We also spent some time with Four Seasons’ friendly and calming wellness mentor, Fera, a former Buddhist monk. She chatted with us about mindfulness, relationships, managing stress and finding everyday inner peace.
Dining at Four Seasons Sayan was as delightful as you’d expect – beautiful, clean ingredients, traditional Balinese fare mixed with Western cuisine, and tables with memorable views across the higgledy-piggledy valley. The barbecue at Riverside Cafe is a must – fresh seafood galore; from oysters and scallops to grilled snapper and octopus – laid out next to the candlelit pool terrace, with the river gushing by.
It’s safe to say that we left the special resort with a glow – in our hearts, mind, tummies, and a little on the nose (a nap by the pool gone awry!).
Four Seasons Jimbaran is sprinkled with the same luxurious, stylish and tranquil pixie dust as Sayan, but the resort comes with an additional layer of tropical, colourful, everything’s-better-by-the-beach vibes.
Perched right on the wide, white (and surprisingly uncrowded) Jimbaran Bay, Four Seasons Jimbaran is blessed with epic views of the ocean from every corner. Our glorious villa was no different – the beautiful cobbled stone house was brought to life by twisting, multi-coloured bougainvillea that stretched from the huge, traditional gate, around the open-air lounge, past the bright garden and around the private pool.
The spiritual all-villa resort feels like a traditional Balinese village, with thatched roofs, stone walls and authentic decor throughout the beachfront property. Blooming secret gardens, quiet, whimsical viewpoints and hidden plunge pools were a joy to explore (and document heavily on social media). The piece de resistance was found at the highest point of the fairytale plot, with the most remarkable view of them all – a huge infinity pool that appears to spill into the ocean. There are infinity pools, and then there’s this infinity pool – complete with a dramatic waterfall, amazing sunset views, and a great-for-mermaid posing ledge.
With tennis courts, yoga studios, a cooking school and spa, there’s plenty of lovely, Balinese activities to keep you busy inside the stunning resort. However, we planned to try our hands at the beach-babe approach to life, and found ourselves drawn towards the sea.
Discovered in the sand below the Four Seasons was Sundara Beach Club. With another cracking infinity pool, P-Diddy-style cabanas, sexy all-glass dining areas and an open terrace with panoramic views of the waves, it’s easy to see why this stylish joint is so popular with expats and locals alike. We spent hours sipping on delicious cocktails, enjoying the music from our four poster day bed (complete with personal waiter) and chatting with the club’s friendly (and attractive!) regulars. We even found ourselves in the best seat in the house for sunset, with Sundara taking on a rich, pink tint (ideal for #sunsetgoal selfies). By night, Sundara becomes an oh-so-sophisticated party, with fashionable punters enjoying gorgeous, sharing plates (think beach fare meets fine dining) and live music under the stars. It’s safe to say that a lot of fun was had.
To blast our fuzzy heads on our last day in paradise, we signed up for a lesson with the Four Seasons’ surf partner, Tropicsurf. We’d never tried our hands (or feet) at the sport before, but we were inspired to give it a good go after eyeballing the uber-cool surf chicks in the water during our deliciously lazy day at Sundara. Our instructor’s teaching style was exactly what we needed: calm and professional; showing us the essentials on the beach, plus confident and easy-going; throwing us into baby waves to help us learn on-the-go. Astonishingly, he had us all on our feet and catching waves to the shore within 45 minutes. The combination of Jimbaran’s perfect surfing conditions (deep, but not too deep; great waves, but not too scary), saw us extending our session by an hour. What hangover?
A few beers and a few more selfies later, we enjoyed our final sunset by the glassy (and, at that point, scarlet) infinity pool and toasted to a thoroughly awesome Balinese she-bang. While I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy a few island short breaks from Singapore, there aren’t many places that can strike the balance between beloved holiday must-haves and momentous new experiences. We’d managed to unwind and escape, while challenging ourselves to try Balinese activities – all from the comfort of breathtaking resorts that made us feel as if we were floating around on the ethereal cover of a ‘sounds of Indonesia’ meditation album.
Today, when I scroll past Four Seasons Bali on Instagram, I’m not just inspired by wonderfully zen scenes, but I’m hit with a nostalgic dose of sparkly, treasured memories. A big thanks to the generous resort for our stay.
How to get there:
Citilink and Air Asia carry the most affordable flights to Bali, with direct returns from around IDR 1,000,000. Four Seasons will collect you from the airport in posh, comfortable wheels – with Sayan being about 75 minutes away, and Jimbaran about 25 minutes away.