After having spent a week fending off the advances of monkeys in Uluwatu (who seemed determined to get their hands on my sunglasses), I was looking forward chilling out in Seminyak.
But after an hour of dealing with the crush of traffic, it’s hard to imagine finding tranquility here among the bars, clubs, shops and resorts. After what seems like the hundredth Ralph Lauren boutique, we turn towards beach and up a long driveway to the Oberoi.
The locals call this the “original and first resort” and love to tell stories of when all there was in the area was a dirt road, rice paddies and the hotel.
I’ve seen the Oberoi before on walks along the beach during previous visits to Bali. There nestled among 15 acres of lush tropical grounds it always looked like a place for grown ups, not for guys like me who hung out at Ku De Ta next door and didn’t care where they crashed for the night. So I’m a little nervous that I might be discovered as an imposter and sent packing before I get a chance to check in. But no, the staff are charming and welcoming. The reception area is traditional Balinese—all steep thatched roofs, stone walls, heavy wood and water features—indicative of how the 74 rooms (a mix of villas and Lainia rooms) also look.
The Oberoi is a recreation of a Balianese Village. It doesn’t pretend to be modern or cool. Its cool factor lies in the fact that after 20-so years it offers luxurious accommodation, flawless service, an escape from the hoards of tourists just a few hundreds yards away, and a chance to hang out on their beach without being approached by hawkers.
My Lainai room has everything I need, including a bathroom with a sunken bath that looks out to a courtyard, satellite TV, a pillow menu and a bed so sumptuous I am a little scared to even sit on it. But when I do… ahhhh.
The day I arrive it’s raining, so poolside dining is out. But the bar in the middle of the grounds turns out to be the perfect place to wait out the torrential downpour, sample the menu and make friends with a bartender who doesn’t skimp on the vodka and keeps telling me I sound like James Bond and decides that is my name. This could explain why my vodka sodas have more of a martini kick. I decide that the Oberoi is the sort of place that 007 would stay at, although its extensive pillow menu would be a whole different experience for Mr. Bond.
While there is fine dining on the grounds, the Seminyak and Petitenget areas are a foodie’s paradise with five star dining at Sarong and Mama San, and for the budget conscious, but no less delicious, the Sate Cooking School and Warung, which is just a five minute walk from the grounds.
After overindulging on swimmer crab, pork ribs and sticky rice pudding at Sarong, I have the taxi drop me close to the hotel so I can walk off my food. By now the crowds are out. No one seems to be minding the rain. Since the hotel has provided me with an umbrella it only adds to the charm of the evening.
Upon my return the staff welcome me as if their whole day has depended on my safe return, making sure I’m dry and have everything I need, while gently scolding me for making up my own bed after an afternoon nap.
While the stores up the road may be selling fake designer clothes, the service and pleasure the Oberoi offers is genuine. You truly feel like you’re the only guest. I’m loving being a grown up.
As I pass the bar, a giant of a man, a Russian as I discover, waves me over. “Mr. Bond, won’t you join us for a drink?” The bartender just breaks into a huge grin. I decide to just go with it—the Oberoi is about escape, so for today I’m 007, but I’m giving my stay here a 10 out of 10.