While budget is often my bottom line by necessity, my arts background and my ingrained appreciation for aesthetics means I have a deep appreciation for great design. Few things make me happier than finding a gem of a boutique hotel in which thought and style has been injected into every aspect.
That’s what I found at The Alaya in Ubud, Bali.
The Alaya very quickly joined the ranks of my favorite plush hotels around the world. It stands among The Witt in Istanbul, Blancanaux Lodge in Belize, and Centerhotel Thingholt in Iceland — all beautiful properties that I still reminisce about today.
The Alaya located in the heart of Ubud, a ten minutes’ walk from the Monkey Forest and just a stones’ throw from the Yoga Barn. Some traveler’s prefer to stay in Ubud’s more remote and serene countryside, but personally I dislike relying on cabs and shuttles and enjoyed being within walking distance of Ubud’s restaurants, spas and attractions.
A small working rice paddy sits aside the resort, and all rooms’ balconies face out to it, giving a countryside air to this central hotel.
I sighed deeply as soon as I walked up the steps of the Alaya’s reception — I knew it would be a special stay already. I took a seat and was handed a cool towel and a fresh juice concoction to enjoy as I signed into my room. I loved this personal touch. No standing in front of a big impersonal check-in desk. It felt like I just arrived at the home of a (very stylish) new friend.
The skinny Alaya faces out on it’s long side to a rice paddy and a lush pool, perfect for unwinding after a day of exploring. While the hotel has a large capacity, the pool never felt crowded.
I loved the open-air lobby, restaurant, and walkways that connected all the rooms. The hallways were designed using natural materials like bamboo, stone, and my favorite detail of all, the honeycomb wooden doors. I can’t tell you how many times I ran my hand over that pattern on my door during my three day stay.
Tip: Because of the long, skinny layout of the hotel, the rooms furthest from the reception provide the most peace and isolation from the road. However, they are also a decent walk from reception and the restaurant. Be sure to request a s specific location depending on your preference.
I mentioned yesterday that I barely left my hotel during my time in Ubud. Now you’ll understand why.
The rooms at the Alaya were enormous — larger than some New York City apartments I’ve been in! Upon entering, a chic open bathroom is on the left, while a spacious built-in closet is on the right. Ahead, a heavenly bed and a desk area sit in front of floor to ceiling glass doors leading out to a private terrace.
Obviously, the oversized stone tub is a standout feature of this room. I could have fit three people in there! I stayed in this room alone at first and then was later joined by Anders, and as a couple we were perfectly comfortable with the open layout of the room. However, for families and friends traveling together there is a privacy curtain that can be pulled all the way around the bathroom, making it into a separate space.
I can say this with confidence — The Alaya had the best hotel breakfast I’ve ever had in my life. Included in the room price, the a la carte breakfast menu was served in the ultra stylish open-air dining room every morning.
Each of the breakfast offerings was served with coffee or tea (and our specialty requests for peppermint tea and cappuccinos were happily accommodated), a fresh fruit plate with an individual jar of homemade yogurt, and a bread basket served with homemade jams. The cinnamon pineapple jam is something I will be dreaming about until the next time I manage to get to Alaya. Then, if you have any room left at all, the main course is brought out. I tried both the banana pancakes with vanilla butter and the scrambled eggs and toast — both were excellent.
The waitstaff was absolutely lovely. When I inquired what one of the fruits on my plate was, our server brought an unpeeled one out from the kitchen to show me, and then gave it to me as a gift.
Also included in the room price was afternoon tea. This lovely ritual provided me a daily time to slow down, enjoy the beautiful grounds, and taste small samplers of Balinese delicacies. I really enjoyed this little touch.
I also ordered room service one night when I couldn’t be bothered to go out, and I was really impressed by the (relatively) affordable indulgence. I paid less than $12US for a pasta dish and a fresh shake, including all taxes and service charges.
While I didn’t visit Dala Spa, I did take a moment to stop by and enjoy the luxurious setting and take a peek at their offerings. Rates are high by Balinese standards, but an absolute bargain compared to back home. Massages start at 450,000 rupiah (around $45) for an hour, while a thirty minute body scrub cost only 195,000 rupiah (around $20.)
One fun little extra is the spa offers a free sample of Jamu — a traditional Indonesian healing tonic — every day in their lobby. They also offer spa classes including one teaching the making of Jamu (395,000 rupiah for 60 minutes.)
Room for Improvement
It’s hard for me to find things to critique about the Alaya. Their main area for improvement is the internet system, which required entering a complicated code every use. This is particularly irritating on a smartphone, when you are logged out every time the phone goes idle.
My personal petty complaint is that the bath products didn’t seem up to the same high quality as the rest of the details of the hotel — the bottles seemed flimsy and the products themselves were a bit watered down. Anders, when I pressed him, confessed that the cappuccino was a bit cold. Really though, you know things are pretty good when you’re complaining about the temperature of the beverages.
Overall, I think it’s clear that I adored the Alaya. While I was there I excitedly dreamed of returning with my family and friends from home, who I knew would love it too. The sincerely sweet service, the fantastic design details, the ideal setting and the amazing food combined to make this the top hotel of my trip.
At $100-$122 for rooms, I can’t imagine a better value. That price would barely get you a private room in a hostel in some parts of the world! Whether you’re a design maven looking for some inspiration, a luxury traveler looking for a retreat or a flashpacker looking for a splurge — The Alaya is the place for you.
What’s the most beautiful hotel you’ve ever been to?