Sarah Douglas experiences quintessential Bali style.
I could pinch myself as I peer out over the terrace off my beautiful bedroom. Spread out before me are some of the most spectacular gardens I’ve seen outside of a resort. But it is the sight of an ancient sea temple, built on craggy volcanic rocks rising out of the swirling seas, right in my front garden, that has me captivated.
Bali is rightfully famed for its tropical gardens, the sea in all its many colours, and the thousands of temples that dot the island. This, however, is next level. I’ve landed myself some plum assignments, reviewing luxury resorts in incredible locations, staying in villas you would sell your mother to own, but this one . . .
Located in Cemagi, a beautiful unspoiled village built on a wild beach between Canggu and Tanah Lot, Impiana Villas Cemagi tells a timeless story. Built as a private home, with six guest bedrooms, each housed in individual buildings, it is spread out on a hectare of absolute beachfront. The sand is black, the rocks have been carved by time and the temple, Pura Luhur Gede, is as spectacular as its famous neighbour, Tanah Lot, and a lot less crowded.
As the sun sets into the sea squarely in front of you, the temple is silhouetted against the darkening sky. People clamber over the rocky paths that surround it, even at this time. It’s so close you feel like it is part of your villa, and it almost is. A balé sits on the highest point of the property, more of a living room really. Dotted with deep sofas, sprinkled with cushions and beautiful colonial-style antiques, soft lights invite you to stay longer. It is easy to imagine doing just that, with a group of friends or family.
It is intriguing that Impiana has added this boutique villa to their collection. A relative newcomer to Bali, Impiana has properties in Malaysia and Thailand and purchased The Villas in Seminyak a year or so ago. They are planning on opening a new resort on Sayan terrace in Ubud, shouldering the Amandari and Four Seasons. Why a six-bedroom boutique property like this? One visit and the answer is obvious.
This incredibly spacious villa can take 12 guests travelling together or suites can be rented individually. Common areas include the beautiful ocean-sprayed balé, a large dining room and an outdoor living room overlooking a long horizon pool, which makes a perfect alternative sunset spot. There is also a large tennis court, a stunning family room with a pool table, games, large sofas, a cinema-style TV and beautiful windows that overlook the property towards the sea.
My home for the night is the two-storey ocean villa with a large terrace that looks out to the sea and the temple. Impiana’s guest rooms are beautifully designed with polished wood floors, an incredible collection of antique Dutch colonial furniture and massive canopied beds, all of which makes this feel like the home it once was. There are stunning lamps in all the rooms, a great collection of art and artifacts and interiors worthy of a glossy magazine spread. Every single piece of furniture you want to photograph and search antique stores for, it’s so tastefully done with a nod to the past in every corner.
Bathrooms, ah, don’t get me started on this. Garden bathrooms are often found in houses, villas and hotels in Bali. These bathrooms actually are gardens. My bathroom features a circular bath, set in a balé in a beautiful garden surrounded by a pond filled with glittering golden carp. Opening the door to your bathroom is an Alice-in-Wonderland moment, as you step into a world of brilliant colour and sunshine.
Overlooking the tennis court (someone loved their tennis), is a graceful wooden joglo, straight out of Java. It’s a master suite that is romantic, spacious and perfectly preserved. This joglo suite, located in the garden, has its own swimming pool that overlooks the river and an amazing wooden bathroom updated with modern amenities for comfort without compromising the original structure.
In the garden, elevated above the estate, two twin rooms are often home for the kids, if a large family takes the villa exclusively. They are also perfect for extra guests with views and their own garden bathrooms. Above these is the family room.
Two other large suites are located in the middle of the garden. With sea views from the terrace, they are spacious and gracefully decorated with massive beds (I needed a stool to get into mine), antiques and more fabulous garden bathrooms.
A butler, a villa manager and a private chef are on hand to make sure that everything is taken care of. Longer staying guests often take to the kitchen to make their own meals but a menu is offered and the chef is always on hand. By day gardeners tend the grounds and the lawns that are golf course-perfect. Big lotus ponds add colour and stone and aged wooden statues dot the lawns.
My internet was patchy in places, my television wasn’t playing nice with me and I barely had time to explore all the places I wanted to sit and just enjoy the surroundings in this villa, but I am not complaining. From the moment I arrived, a sense of peace, a timeless piece of Bali captivated me. I want to come back, I want to bring my friends and family with me. I want to explore this beautiful village, just 10 minutes from Echo Beach and the Canggu hot spots but so far removed from crowds and traffic and noise.
It’s nice to be so close to happening restaurants, Canggu surf breaks, Tanah Lot and even Seminyak, which is 30 minutes away at the right time, but discovering this piece of Bali and the beautifully preserved village of Cemagi, home to a sprinkling of luxury villas, is absolute bliss. The Bali you’ve been looking for is right here and I have fallen in love with my island all over again.