Capella Ubud in Bali offers personal, curated travel experiences while staying in a rainforest: A review
It's human nature to seek an escape when we're weary of the world that we're pinned under. We disregard the overcrowding inbox and the chaos that is the peak hour city hustle, and sojourn at any palatial resort with any chance we get. But more often than ever, travelers are also increasingly getting more restless and discontented with a mere indulgent vacation. There always has to be more. It's innate in us to crave more, even while soaking in an infinity pool booted with a floating breakfast.
So comes along Capella. Of course, the luxury hotel group has always been a bougie fixture when it comes to holidays. But they're taking things up a notch with a little something extra — in what they call Capella Curates. Essentially an arsenal of experiences specially handpicked by every Capella Culturist in every outpost — from the beaches of Sanya to the mystical rainforest of Ubud in Bali. Even in Singapore, Capella Curates serves up a few exclusives that only hotel guests can be privy to. For instance: We hopped on a side-car tour titled 'Qi and the City', with experts from Singapore Sidecars making a stylish entrance on the roads and lanes of a typical Monday's traffic situation. Alongside, tidbits and facts of how fengshui played a part in the development and locations of many of our country's historical landmarks. Even a walk in the Botanic Gardens strung together many insights about the park's flora and fauna. We definitely fell back in love with our own city with the simple hour-long guided tour.
In Bali, staying on the cusp of nature isn't actually considered a feat. A slew of villas and boutique resorts are typically planted close, if not within verdant trees, rice padi fields, and even the ocean. But in Bill Bensley's enigmatic masterpiece that is Capella Ubud, is a sanctuary erected within a dense and cool rainforest of Ubud's Keliki Valley. No trees were cut or removed in the building process, as part of the resort's focus on conservation. The result centers around 23 tents — all one-bedroom tents with the exception of a two-bedroom tent. Yes, we made sure to enforce the term 'tents'. But only to build up on Bensley's vision of early settlers hailing from Holland back in the 1970s who came to Bali and physically pitched tents as they settled in. Except the shabby fragile nylon quarters are reimagined by Bensley into majestic rooms replete with copper bathtubs, plushy armchairs, and even plunge pools immersed in the middle of the wild out there. Speaking of which, thanks to the immersive foliage you're constantly embraced with, temperatures dip down to 25°C in the day, and 20°C come night.
Every nook and cranny presents a mishmash of luxury and an ode to the survival sport of camping. For instance: A huge mini bar awaited us in our room, which resembled an extra large ice-box stocked with fine wines, beers, and kombuchas (because health) and our telephone was tapered back to the 1900s of a heavy number booted with a rotary dial. And even with a mix of eccentric influences paving the way, the room was steeped in Balinese motifs, with a tapestry of wood and batik fabrics tying everything together — circling us back to the quaint, cultural habitat we were nestled in.
But there's only so much one can capture on Instagram. With the rest of your time at Capella Ubud, leave it to the adept hands of a Capella Culturist, who is in charge of learning your wants and needs, as he or she curates a dedicated programme tethered to the local way of life. There's a trail for the creatives, where you'll be hosted by Ubud's most acclaimed artists. With this, private tours are granted and you'll get busy with a painting class and even an induction to the art of Balinese wooden mask making and dance. For folks who love their personal quarters (a tad bit too much), there's even a quirky programme where you'll be confined to your room for 24 hours. Meals, activities, and everything you could possibly entertain yourself in solitude will be sent over. This includes a Balinese holy water cleansing ritual, Senja massge (which extends for two hours), and even a camp roast dinner out on your private deck.
As for us, we were itching to get out there — our main activities were set to get your heart rates up. A cycling adventure out on the roads led by the resident trainer, as we worked our gams uphill and meandered down an enchanting view of rice padi fields (even in sight, a man bathing discreetly in the shallow stream). It was a first-hand experience with the villages in the vicinity, where local kids played outside and had no qualms about waving to the strangers whisking them by on two wheels. In hindsight, we probably could have used a proper briefing to the cycling tour in accordance to an individual's fitness level and skills in biking. For something less strenuous, try out a Balinese dance class, which blends Balinese dance and yoga techniques into a single session.
The pinnacle workout, had to go to the hike up Mount Batur. With a call time of 3am, what kept us treading the incline of 1717 meters above sea level had to be credited to pure adrenaline, and of course our experienced guides who gave us a hand whenever we needed it. The perks of Capella also came through — lavishing us with headlights, long sticks (because they did save our limp footing at many instances during the climb), and a sumptuous picnic laid out by the time we reached the summit. What our porter hauled up stealthily turned out to be a medley of pastries, yoghurt, granola, piping hot coffee, tea, and even healthy turmeric juices. All that against the breathtaking landscape of stars and the breaking dawn, it had easily gone down as one of the most memorable breakfasts to date. Of course, when the sun came up, the way down also warranted sweeping views of mountains — only to remind us of what our weary bodies had exactly conquered on the way up.
Back at the resort, expect to be fed — very well. The two main establishments at Capella Ubud will keep you sated at any time of the day. With a breakfast menu of healthy acai bowls, mouthwatering plates of nasi campur, black rice pudding, French toast platters, and even congee when you need that bowl of comfort, mornings felt like a real slow-paced luxury. That plus the overarching view of the entire forest as you sip on your morning cuppa. The other spot, Api Jiwa is an intimate Asian barbecue that serves up authentic and inventive fare done in omakase fashion. It's a smoke show of sorts — literally — with piquant use of herbs and the magic of farm-to-table proving its worth on the many plates we powered through. Fresh seafood took centerstage during our meal — with a simple pearl oyster adorned with fermented citrus. Elements of good fun came in the form of a ribeye sandwiched between two pillowy buns, plus comprising of a messy state of mash potato within that's only best eaten with your hands. Other standouts included a smoked chawamushi with generous lobster bits pooled in a egg shell. One can also end the meal with on a sweet note — by convening around a campfire and roasting marshmallows before a open-air cinema. Three spoonfuls of condensed sugar in, and boy were we glad we scaled that mountain.
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