Visitors to Ubud are on the whole aware of the region’s association with rice farming but spend too long in the overly touristy centre of town and you feel you could be in any Asian backpacker resort. The Chedi Club, a GHM property with only 20 villas, is fortunately located 15 minutes outside of town. Hidden amongst rolling hills of rice fields it offers a window into the true Ubud, the rustic farming community located in Bali’s cultural highlands. An Ubud virgin, the setting of this secluded estate leaves me breathless. Arriving in time for sunset I am astounded by the peacefulness, the natural beauty and the unbeatable views.
For The Chedi Club hasn’t tried to compete. At the heart of the resort’s design and architecture is an awareness that the real beauty lies not in the man-made buildings but the surrounding undulating hills. Three aspects afford you unlimited views of genuine rice paddies meaning that we spend most of our time in the hotel witnessing the daily activities of the local farmers. This doesn’t detract from our holiday experience but rather enhances it as we gain a true sense of the life blood of the region. The Restaurant, open sided and high roofed in the traditional Balinese style of construction, hovers like a jetty over a sea of knee deep rice crop. Tables all face out bearing witness to the arable spectacle unfolding beyond. The immediate rice fields are hotel owned ensuring privacy and seclusion but the horizon is dotted with Balinese locals tending to their harvest oblivious to the tables of contented tourists’ gazing eyes. Lingering breakfasts were spent watching the sun establish its dominance over the horizon whilst straw hat clad villagers went about their morning offerings. Floating amongst the fields perches a romantic table beautifully illuminated by gentle candle light where we sat one evening immersed in the surroundings, romantically detached from all other diners. Delicious Indonesian food is served up by an incredibly gracious team of waiters. The service throughout the resort is faultless; not only is there the polite and willing approach found in many hotels but there is an undercurrent of genuine goodwill radiating from the waiters, pool boys and especially our personal villa butler, Pasek.
Each of the 20 villas stands alone scattered amongst the property. Our one bedroom pool villa has its own gated stone archway leading through to a private pool overlooked by an outdoor seating area. Traditional Balinese style infuses every element from the ornately tiled roof to accents of dark wood found in the flooring, furniture and pillars. The inside is no less impressive, anchored by Balinese wooden wardrobes and a decorative bed frame, the cool interior also comprises of a dressing area, his and her sinks, rain shower and a beautiful outdoor bath large enough for two. Slatted wood shutters discreetly separate the various areas but the highlight truly is the exterior space. Two stone fountains therapeutically cascade water into our pool and each morning the rear gates at the end of the pool are magically opened to expose yet more peaceful views over the rice paddies beyond.
As enjoyable and relaxing as spending time in our own private paradise is, we find ourselves repeatedly drawn to the hotel’s communal areas. In keeping with the predominance of the Hindu faith throughout Ubud, the grounds are scattered with century old religious statues. Soft grey stone stained by the encroaching moss patches beautifully represent Hindu gods. Ganesh is the presiding image and is mainly found lurking by the beautiful ponds at the centre of the resort. Blanketed in lilies and home to a beautiful family of swans the ponds contribute to the restorative feel of the resort. Combine this with the meandering nature of the resort, the authenticity and calming influence of the surrounding rice fields and the Hindu touches and you start to understand why this hotel has transcended the typical and emerged into the realm of inimitable sanctuary. With so few other guests and such aesthetically pleasing, mesmerising surroundings we find ourselves lingering over the smallest details; slowly walking through the grounds, endlessly photographing the natural surroundings and staring at the views from The Restaurant for hours after our meals end.
When we did find ourselves in need of more external stimulation this was found via the hotel’s free transfers into Ubud, cooking lessons on site and most memorably, a walking tour around the rice paddies and local village with Pasek. Leaving at sunrise we stalked the edge of the paddies and witnessed close up the calming stillness in the fields. Offerings to the gods provided constant reminders of the inseparable nature of religion and work, reinforced by the beautiful temples scattered around. At the end of our too brief stay we felt restored and revived and as if our hearts truly belonged to The Chedi Club.
In a country where luxury hotels dominate and prices are continually on the rise, The Chedi Club offers in my opinion some of the best value for money in Bali. Without doubt one of the most luxurious and memorable hotels, it’s nonetheless significantly cheaper than Ubud’s other heavyweight luxury hotels and offers this 5 star stay on a notably smaller and more intimate scale. Frequent offers make it even more affordable along with the fact that the room rate generously includes breakfast, airport transfers, morning yoga, daily afternoon tea, in room mini bar snacks and a much appreciated sunset cocktail. It’s one of Bali’s best kept secrets…well, until now.