Alila: it’s sanskrit for ‘surprise’. And a name we’ve come to love. Words by Susan Hu.
IN a place like Bali where hotels are a dime a dozen, it takes something truly unique to break the mould. While some hotels and brands stick to the tried and true, the expected and predictable, others think outside the box and aim to offer something that is innovative and inspired, surprising and refreshing. Such is the case with Alila Hotels and Resorts. In fact, the name Alila itself comes from the Sanskrit word for ‘surprise’.
From their not so humble beginnings with Alila Jakarta to the exquisitely designed Alila Uluwatu Villas, the tranquillity and seclusion of Alila Ubud and Soori the once-in-a-lifetime journeys offered on the Alila Purnama live-aboard ship, the brand has always aimed to offer guests unrivalled destination experiences and superb hospitality in stylish, eco-friendly environments that integrate culture, cuisine, adventure and wellness.
Today you can find a remarkably diverse range of unique Alila properties spread across the Asian region, including modern urban retreats designed with discerning business travellers in mind like the Kemang Icon by Alila and Alila Bangalore; ultra-luxurious villas set in spectacular locations like the Alila Villas Soori and Alila Villas Uluwatu; and the Lifestyle Collection for those looking for sophistication, serenity and the opportunity to immerse yourself in local culture and tradition.
Unlike other brands launched by a sole visionary entrepreneur, Alila grew through collaboration and partnerships with a group of passionate people who had proven experience in both development and management of unique lifestyle properties in Indonesia. Drawing on this knowledge, they forged a brand that would not only offer incredible guest experiences, but also maintain an unwavering commitment to sustainable operating standards.
From the beginning, Alila has focused on building properties that are defined by the latest developments in design and architecture, yet stay true to their holistic environmental vision. This includes participating with EarthCheck, the world’s leading sustainable environmental benchmarking and certification programme. In fact, Alila Villas Uluwatu was the first resort on Bali to meet all of EarthCheck’s rigorous standards.
Take for example Alila Villas Soori, a luxurious beachfront resort that blends subtly into the rippling rice paddies and black volcanic sands of west Bali’s coastline. The resort was designed using sensitive site planning, local building materials and native landscaping to integrate the natural, physical and cultural elements of the environment. These green initiatives have earned the resort the Green Good Design Award 2012 from the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum.
Sean Brennan, the Regional vice president of Southeast Asia for Alila says, “All Alila properties subscribe to EarthCheck operating platforms, and our properties also regularly support or initiate projects in conservation and localisation to improve the quality of life in the local communities. This includes employing local people who live in the surrounding areas, developing the local workforce through skills training, using products and services from local suppliers, as well as educating our guests on local culture and tradition.”
Cuisine is also an integral part of the Alila experience, as each of the Alila restaurants sources fresh local and seasonal ingredients to prepare authentic traditional dishes and creative modern fare. Whether you are imbibing cocktails prepared with house-made vodka infusions, araks and syrups at the Plantation Restaurant at Alila Ubud or preparing your own traditional Balinese Megibung to share with friends and family at the Alila Manggis Cooking School, you can be sure that you are getting a true taste of your destination.
Fresh natural ingredients also come into play at Spa Alila, where experienced therapists draw on age-old beauty recipes to create curative products are made up of indigenous plants, herbs, fruits and spices. When combined with ancient Asian healing techniques like massage, reflexology, body scrubs and wraps, and warm, genuine care, the results are highly effective healing therapies that promote cleansing, rejuvenation and total physical and mental relaxation.
As if stunning locations, sustainability and superior spa services and products weren’t enough to draw in the masses, Alila Hotels and Resorts also aims to provide guests with spiritual and emotional memories gained through the Alila Experiences and Journeys by Alila. These unique excursions and activities allow guests to interact with the local community, connect to the social rhythms of the villages and towns and discover more about the people, history, and environment of the destination.
For example, guests at Alila Villas Uluwatu can partake in the one-day Journey of Enlightenment for privileged access to five of the holiest temples on Bali’s south coast to join the temple priests in prayer. Those staying at Alila Villas Soori can embark on the Kopi Luwak Voyage in the Jatiluwih area to learn how the famous Kopi Luwak is made and savour delicacies made with some of the world’s finest coffee. Alila Manggis and Alila Ubud guests can also choose from a variety of experiences including volcano trekking, deep-sea fishing, Balinese cooking classes and countryside tours.
Perhaps the most sought-after Alila experience of them all is on the Alila Purnama, an ultra-modern 46-metre live-aboard boat handcrafted in the traditional style of Phinisi sailing ships. With three spacious decks that include five ensuite bedrooms decked out in teak furniture and Indonesian artworks, huge windows that provide 180-degree views of the ever-changing coastline, a dedicated PADI dive centre, spa therapist and comfortable dining and lounge areas, this is the perfect mix of adventure, relaxation and luxury. Voyages on the Alila Purnama include expeditions to the Komodo Islands, Ambon and Raja Ampat.
“Alila’s success hinges on giving our guests a sense of belonging, pampering them with thoughtful service and offering wholesome culinary delights and surprising creature comforts,” says Sean.
“It’s the luxury of indulgence in private space and quiet moments. We want to entice and inspire our guests to explore, rejuvenate and indulge in a refreshing and enriching holiday.”
There is no doubt that this formula is a winning combination as Alila consistently continues to win coveted awards for each of their properties in Bali and abroad. Moreover, the company has a slew of exciting plans and projects in the works.
In 2015, the much-anticipated Alila Seminyak opened its doors along a pristine stretch of beach on Bali’s southwest coast. Designed as a secret garden, the tropical retreat features 240 elegant rooms and a wealth of facilities that create a calm and restful oasis within the cosmopolitan buzz of stylish Seminyak. Alila Seminyak is one of just a few resorts in Bali that is designed and built to surpass the rigorous EarthCheck standards.
“Every Alila hotel is surprisingly different,” says Sean.
“They all have a strong architectural focus in amazing locations and are often dramatic in their individual character and style. It is our hope that our guests get to discover more of the destination through Alila.”
With this in mind, you can be sure that Alila will continue to surprise us and push the envelope with resort destinations where expecting the unexpected is their tried and true.