Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Ubud Hanging Gardens, A Love Letter

I have a confession to make. I first discovered this resort years ago when I was combing the internet for the most potentially memorable places to which Ed and I could venture at some point in our lives. Then, when we decided to register for our honeymoon (and only that), Bali seemed fitting for our first monumental trip together. The endeavor wasn't budget. Not only did we give puppy dog eyes to every wedding attendee, in the hopes that they would throw some extra pennies at us and we could actually pull this voyage off; but, we even took an additional year to save before heading into the great Southeast Asian unknown.

Unknown? Who am I kidding? I'm a professional traveler! This thing was researched to the teeth! Many spreadsheets were made. And what I can say with absolute certainty is that Ubud Hanging Gardens was the very first thing I put down on every list, sheet, post-it, napkin, and coaster.

It had been built up so much in my mind by the time we arrived, I wondered if any property could meet the mammoth expectations I had squeezed into my luggage (along with a honeymoon wardrobe of which I was particularly proud).

To say that they didn't disappoint falls so flat. To mention that every need was masterfully anticipated is better, but still ordinary. To tell you that that staying at this Orient-Express property is an experience you will never forget is true, but still seems so unrefined and basic. The truth is, the richness of a stay at this Balinese oasis is one you have to see to believe. Luckily, that's what we're here for...

Located in Buahan Village, about 25 minutes outside the center of Ubud, the Ubud Hanging Gardens is built into the hillside of the Ayung River valley.

Ubud Hanging Gardens from across the valley
The property has a total of 38 pool villas of various types and sizes as well as 2 main pools that sit in the middle of the resort. The main pools are stacked one atop the other for an impressive waterfall effect.

A close-up view of the restaurant, upper pool, and funicular.

The lower pool is set up to feel like a more intimate space than the upper pool. The water cascading down from above blankets everything with a wonderful sound. The flowers and plants are much closer to the poolside and make it feel like a secluded paradise just for you. And, the lounge chairs at the lower pool are simply cushions set directly on the deck floor. The entire poolside experience feels so effortless and organic in its execution that you would swear everything is exactly how you would do it at your house (if you could afford it). 

The upper pool deck is more traditional in its layout.
It bumps up against the breezy, open-air Bukit Becik Bar.

We had many conversations with the staff about how the Hanging Gardens was constructed. Since it's built into the side of a hill, stretching from the river at the bottom of the valley to the very top of the hillside slope, most of the building materials had to be carried up one stone at a time. And to get a sense for just what an undertaking that may have been, you should take a look at the preferred mode of transportation onsite.

Even with the grounds as impressive as they are, they had very little to do with why I was in love with the property from the first time Google laid my eyes on it. That honor lies completely within the following 4 words: Panoramic Deluxe Pool Villa.

Ed comprehends the sweeping views of the Ayung River Valley

There is no question. The star of our accommodations at Ubud Hanging Gardens was definitely our private, massive infinity pool and outdoor area. Frequented daily by humans and monkeys alike, we basked in our own personal paradise like no two people ever basked before! 

Truthfully, the accommodations are so fantastic, we had to fight some guilt over leaving the property to go exploring. And this might help to better explain why:

One thing that certainly made it a bit easier to leave our cloistered oasis was the fantastic food. Breakfast on the property is something to behold! A buffet to rival any I have seen before, with traditional Balinese and Indonesian foods represented along with all of the usual breakfast suspects. And, everything cooked to perfection. (Including the eggs made to order...about which Ed is very particular.) However, what I find to be most memorable were the simplest expressions of the local flavors. For example, every day there were new, fresh jams set out with the bread. Seriously, where have pineapple and banana jam been hiding all this time?

Well the lovely folks at Ubud Hanging Gardens were kind enough to let us nab a couple of recipes for your culinary edification and one of them is, indeed, for banana jam. The other is for Soto Ayam, a classic Indonesian chicken soup, made with turmeric, kefir lime, and lemongrass. (I had it at least 3 times during our stay. And the versions we tried elsewhere in Bali didn't come close to this one.) Enjoy!

And, then there's dinner! The Hanging Gardens' Beduur Restaurant is not only frequented by guests of the hotel, but it's also pretty popular among outside patrons simply looking for excellent fare and transcendent surroundings.

Cannelloni with Beef Cheeks
Fresh seafood from Jimbaran Bay

The food is progressive and deeply satisfying; and, the wine options, while pricey (as is all wine in Bali), are varied and excellent. Additionally, the bartenders are very adept at making a mean mixed drink. I had several caipirinhas as good as I've ever had.

Enjoying the after-dinner mood at the Bukit Becik Bar

And, all of this, mixed with the geckos chirping and the river rushing, makes for a pretty unforgettable evening.

So, after four bliss-filled days and nights in our Balinese sanctuary, I can proudly report that Ubud Hanging Gardens has been my favorite accommodation worldwide, thus far. Now that we've been home a month, I still can't help but see that amazing morning view every time I close my eyes. It's become my meditative place of calm...even from 10,000 miles away.

I highly recommend you click the picture on the right to enlarge.

And, if you still don't quite grasp the magic of this awe-inspiring accommodation, here's one last reminder of what's in store at the Hanging Gardens:

I'm thrilled that we were able to make our first resort stay in Bali such a memorable one. And, there was no other post that I would have wanted to start our tale with more! There is MUCH more to see in the coming weeks, as the holiDAYtrips blog takes you all around Bali. You can be sure we've got plenty of sambal, volcanoes, temples, shadow puppets, Arak, dancing, rice paddies, and many, many more monkeys!

I'm thrilled to take you on this journey,


The “Packing List”

This week, we were rocking the following: