Travel Story Classic Bali style at luxurious Seminyak haven

Photo of Gemma Nisbet

Traditional architecture and extensive grounds set the Oberoi Bali and its Lombok sibling apart. 

Given that Bali’s bustling Seminyak seems to pretty much remake itself with new restaurants, bars and hotels in the time it takes to have a massage and a mani/pedi at one of the many local day spas, the change the area’s Oberoi resort must have seen in the nearly 40 years since it opened is remarkable. 

Accommodation on the beachfront site started in the early 1970s as a private club designed by Australian architect Peter Muller, who later oversaw the property’s expansion to become the Oberoi, which opened in August 1978.

The resort has been upgraded many times since, but it retains a classic Balinese style — in contrast to many of the newer minimalist high-rises in Seminyak — while still offering the modern amenities expected of a luxury resort. 

“The architecture of the hotel is very classical, traditional Balinese,” explains Sukesi Windyarini, Oberoi Indonesia’s director of sales. Part of this is the resort’s 6ha grounds, in particular its mature gardens and 450m beach frontage. 

“Our grounds are the biggest among all the other hotels in the area in the sense that, percentage wise, of the land we use only 20 per cent for the buildings, and the rest we keep as free space,” she says. 

The resort offers 74 rooms of two types. The Lanai rooms are up to 60sqm in size and are set in clusters of four, each with its own terrace facing either the ocean or the gardens. The villas range in size from 200-400sqm and most have a private pool that Ms Windyarini describes as “really a swimming pool, not a plunge pool”. 

Customer service and memorable experiences are central to the luxury Oberoi brand, and at the Seminyak resort this translates into details such as complimentary cut fruit and sorbets by the main pool, or simply getting a person (and the offer of a promptly delivered cup of tea or coffee) at the end of the phone instead of a recorded message when you order a wake-up call.

Then there’s the complimentary afternoon tea served daily in the amphitheatre, accompanied by a changing roster of cultural performances — Balinese dancing one day, for example, and gamelan music the next.

This, Ms Windyarini says, tends to attract couples, including honeymooners, as well as families taking advantage of the 50 per cent discount offered on the second room for the children when booking two interconnecting rooms. Brits and Australians make up the most sizeable percentage, and in general guests tend to be “people who have been to Bali several times” and who “know what they are looking for”.

Guests have also included a fair scattering of the famous and well-known: everyone from David Bowie and Julia Roberts to Kofi Annan and Barry Humphries are said to have stayed.

Another perk is the Best of Indonesia offer, which combines a stay of at least two nights at both the Oberoi Bali and the Oberoi Lombok for a total of at least six nights, with free inter-island transfers via fast boat or plane.

Ms Windyarini says it’s a popular option given the distinct character of the two resorts and their locations. “They are totally two different experiences — you can do a lot of things in Bali like shopping and clubbing, but Lombok is more a back-to-nature trip.”

The Oberoi Lombok was the first five-star resort on Lombok when it opened in 1997, and is in the island’s north-west coast, away from the more developed areas to the south but close to both the Gili Islands and the arrival and departure point for the inter-island boats. “Location wise, it’s very secluded,” Ms Windyarini says. “In general, it’s very quiet, very private.”

Like the Seminyak resort, the Oberoi Lombok has extensive grounds — in this case, 11ha — in a beachfront setting, and relatively few rooms, with 50 villas and pavilions. Architecturally, it also highlights regional styles.   

Activities-wise, guests at the Lombok property can enjoy everything from yoga and open-air painting classes to swimming and snorkelling at the beach in front of the resort to a ride in a traditional cidomo, or horse-drawn cart, to a local market and village. 

The group strives to add local character and culture to its properties around the globe, which include numerous Indian resorts, the new Oberoi Beach Resort Al Zorah in the United Arab Emirates, about a 45-minute drive from the existing Oberoi Dubai, and a spa resort set to open near Marrakech this year.

An easily accessible option from Perth is the Oberoi Mauritius, located 15km from Port Louis on the island’s north-west at Turtle Bay. Set in 8ha of subtropical gardens, the resort has a 600m beach frontage.

Like the Indonesian properties, there’s a focus on experiences and the Oberoi Mauritius runs a Touching Senses program of free activities — classes with a local sculptor, star gazing, rum tastings, meditation, cooking classes, nature walks, water sports and so on.

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