Katie Truman gets high at Goya in balmy Ubud.
I’ve been visiting the highland town of Ubud since 1991, staying at a kaleidoscope assortment of accommodations, from losmens on Monkey Forest Road to international brand resorts with sumptuous villas, like Four Seasons Sayan and The Ritz-Carlton – and everything in-between. Ubud however continues to evolve and raise its game in sophisticated culinary and stay options. A prime example is Goya Boutique Resort, since late 2015, offering lashings of style and guest-friendly class, yet homely and good value. Goya is located along Jalan Bisma, an elevated street with a distinctly rural feel and one of Ubud’s development barometres, home to beloved haunts like Honeymoon Guesthouse and Komaneka Bisma, but now, shaping up nicely with this new kid on the block neighbouring several new options that have sprouted-up here.
For various reasons, Goya is a stand-out – literally – one of the highest positioned on Bisma, loftily perched above practically everyone else. And arriving at the lobby, walking through a leafy laneway to the end of this bijou property, presents a jaw-dropping, unexpected sight: an infinity-edge pool and deck seemingly merging into a hillside opposite, carpeted with jungle and coconut palm trees. There is none of Ubud’s de rigueur rice paddies, but with sweeping valley views, this little inconvenience is soon forgotten. Hard to believe that this tranquil jungle bolt-hole is just a short stroll (or complimentary shuttle service) away from Ubud’s frantic main drag.
Goya ranks as “four star”, but actually offers five-star touches, especially accommodation standards and meticulous attention to detail, from luxe Bvlgari brand bathroom amenities to lemongrass infused iced water, served complimentary poolside. Service however is plainly from the heart, endearingly sweet and genuine – what I’ve come to expect from Ubud staff.
In true Ubud tradition, Goya’s owner-creator is a local artist, originating from generations of sculptors, painters and wood carvers from Mas artisan village; Goya is named after his great grandfather – and perhaps a nod to the celebrated Spanish artist, underlining the artistic focus and aesthetics obsession. Unlike others however, Goya presents a modern-day Balinese architectural design, tropical elegance yet simplistic and light, and earthy, natural tones without the usual rustic overload, while contemporary-style wood furnishings and artifacts, produced by the owner’s own company, are tastefully displayed throughout.
Putting to bed the assumption that the south-west coast has the monopoly on luxe villa life, Goya’s eight villas – six one-bedroom and two, two bedroom units – offer couples-friendly sanctuaries hidden in walled gardens, with high vaulted ceiling interiors and an outdoor living area. The private plunge pool, conveniently sandwiched between the open-plan bathroom and bedroom, makes it possible to simply roll-out of the four-poster for a refreshing dip. Eighteen Deluxe Suites (each 60-square metres) are housed in three floors below the pool, each level distinguishable by doors boldly painted in red, yellow or green with matching hallway artifacts (additionally helpful for inebriated souls who can’t find their way home). All private balconies with daybed provide jungly views, although level three offers the best.
Both categories are stylish yet emanate a home-from-home feel, furnished with natural woods, lovely decor and curated art works, even the sparkly bathrooms with stand-alone bath tub are decorated with touches like mirrors hung with leather straps and archipelago tribal artifacts.
Senja bar and restaurant, two open-air sections set on either side of the infinity-edge pool, present an all-day menu of surprisingly good nosh, funky sounds and stunning jungle views. Even if you’re not an in-house guest, pop-up for well-priced cocktails at sunset, lingering on for dinner illuminated by fire beacons with a backdrop of inky black forests; full moon nights come accompanied by a special dinner menu. The hottest ticket in town however are the couple of canopied gazebos bookending the pool and jutting out over the rock face, complete with dining table, comfy couch and art deco glass chandeliers. Justifiably sought-after (even for the privacy), reserve a gazebo for early morning breakfasts, if lucky, revealing spectacular volcano views in the east. Or candle-lit dinners a deux. Like a floating restaurant in the forest and the height of elegance, it doesn’t get much better than this.