The mountainous central region of Bali is already popular with tourists for its shrines, verdant views of padi fields, and reputation as Bali's cultural centre. But in recent years, it has become home to a number of businesses that embrace Ubud's laidback charm — but in more contemporary ways. The opening of boutique hotel, Bisma Eight, exemplifies this shift and tips the hip scale in Ubud's favour. We think you might even want to consider bypassing Seminyak all together on your next trip.
Opened earlier this year by Suraj Melwani, tastemaker behind the Sifr fashion label and Pact store in Singapore, his father and other family, it's hard to believe that this is their first hospitality project. Taking their combined and varied experience in retail, garment manufacturing, food and beverage, and permaculture, Bisma Eight is bigger than it looks.
It comprises 38 suite rooms and three food and beverage outlets: The Library Café, the roof-top Copper Kitchen and Bar and the cosy tiki Pool Pavilion. Although they're still adding more touches to the building and the roof venue, we think its sensibilities are right on point for global citizens who appreciate understated refinement. More importantly, we think it hits the sweet spot that Ubud's array of accommodation has been lacking — somewhere between the rustic villa/guesthouse offering and the luxurious but staid high-end resorts.
Together with Bali-based Arte Architects & Associates, Singaporean firm Fuur Architects worked to dream up a hotel that eschews an overtly Balinese style in favour of a modern blend of raw concrete, steel and glass. It finds a balance with the lush natural surrounds by bringing foliage deep into its central courtyard and the strategic use of organic Balinese materials and artifacts sculpted by local craftsmen. The infinity pool overlooking the Ubud Forest is undoubtedly the money shot, especially as you watch the sunset from your daybed.
Make sure you have Pius make you a tropical cocktail as you bask. The affable local bartender knows his drinks and you'll spot some of his interesting ideas in the menu such as a variation on the Bloody Mary coined Sup Bakso (Indonesian meatball soup) made with fresh tomatoes and spices he boils down himself.
While there are three room types available, all Bisma Eight suites feature a living room and bedroom partitioned by Sungkai Wood panels for privacy. The voluminous cedarwood Japanese-inspired soaking tub in the bathroom is bound to make you gasp — it could easily double as a cannibal's cauldron. As it takes almost an hour to fill, we suspect some guests might back out midway and opt for the rain-shower instead. It's the little things though that showed us the level of design detail, from perfectly placed powerpoints, to individual retractable readings lights in bed.
We were more than happy to just kick back and unwind at Bisma Eight but restless guests can make use of the gym or take part in the daily in-house activities like morning yoga, cooking classes or foraging workshops at Bisma Gardens, the hotel's own organic farm. The hotel is also located just off the main Ubud centre, a short walking distance from the rows of shops, spas and eateries along Monkey Forest Road.
There's more planned in the pipeline, too. Bisma Eight's owners are so enamoured with Ubud and invested in contributing to its vibrancy that they've already purchased more parcels of land to build more concepts that would appeal to their guests, starting with a dive bar along the Monkey Forest stretch.
For more information about Bisma Eight, click here.