Google might be the trusted source for many who enjoy planning and packing their vacation schedules with military precision, but algorithms can only take you that far. The hottest tables trending yesterday might be old news today. Truly, nothing beats the human touch when it comes to amassing an army of tips that'll take you on a journey through the very best a city has to offer. As we geared up for our Buro takeover in Bali, we turned to Rika Wisna, the resident W Insider at W Retreat & Spa Bali to point us in the right direction.
How would you describe your role as a W Insider?
As a W Insider, I'm the face of W Hotels and I'm based at the lobby so that I can meet and interact with all our guests. As our service mantra is "Whatever/Whenever", we try to reach out to each guest individually and meet their expectations. As long as a guest's request is legal, the sky is really the limit [laughs].
How is your job different from that of a concierge?
If you're going from point A to point B, a concierge might arrange for a car to drive you there and make a reservation at the restaurant for you. As a W Insider, we go further than that. We might cue the owner to meet and greet you or alert the chef to prepare something special. For restaurants that don't take reservations, say for example, the very popular Sisterfields café, we can leverage on our close relationship with the outlet to save you a table.
What are some of the unusual requests you've received from guests staying at the hotel?
I do receive many of them [laughs]. But one that stands out for me involves a Starwood VIP guest that stayed with us three months ago. He checked into one of our villas and was celebrating his wife's birthday. Two days before her birthday, he asked me to bring 15 ducks and release them into the pool. His wife really loved ducks and he thought it would be a nice surprise for her. As animals are not allowed on the property, we eventually filled the pool with 200 yellow rubber ducks, lined the pathway with duck sculptures, and prepared a duck-shaped birthday cake for her.
W Insiders all over the world always seem to be in the know. How do you stay on top of what's new and trending in Bali?
I work five days a week at the hotel and have two days for myself. I save a day to spend time with my family and use the remaining day to travel, discover something new, and to find out what's going on in Bali. Guest who come to W Hotels love to discover new things and that's something I seek out as well.
How has Bali evolved over the past five years?
Wow, Bali is a totally different place now. A lot of investors have come in and new properties are springing up everywhere. We have a lot of tourists and many people who come from around the world to work and stay in Bali. Kuta used to be the hub for tourists, but it has since spread to Legian, Seminyak, and even Canggu. Ubud has not been spared. My grandfather's house, which is close to the Four Seasons in Ubud, used to be a quiet place. At 7pm, you'll start to hear the crickets. But now, there are lots of people passing through during that time. It's definitely busier now.
Share with us the best-kept secret in Bali.
Nusa Penida. It's an island that's part of Bali. They have very beautiful beaches there. I was there just two months ago and it's heaven. It's feels like what Bali was 30 years ago. To get there, you take a 40-minute boat ride from the main island of Bali.
Where do you shop in Bali?
Seminyak Square is great because you'll find many boutiques carrying unique pieces. If you're exhausted from all that shopping, there are plenty of cafes and restaurants you can take a break at.
What are some unusual experiences in Bali that lie off the tourist map?
If you head up to Bedugul, you'll find strawberry and orange farms where you can harvest your own fruit and eat it right there.
What are your favourite dining spots in Bali?
For local food, I love the babi guling (suckling pig) at Warung Malen. La Favela and Motel Mexicola are some of the trendier restaurants I enjoy going to. You can head to Motel Mexicola for dinner but stay on because the real party only starts after 10pm.
What's a great souvenir to pick up from Bali?
Take a trip to Pod Chocolate in Carang Sari. They make their own dark chocolate and you can join them for a tour where they show you just how their chocolates are made. At the end of it, you get to make your own chocolate and take home your very own handmade souvenir.
To view more insider tips from our #BuroInBali guide, click here.