With its stepped rice terraces, dramatic highland gorges, volcanic vistas, beaches, omnipresent temples, music and dance-dramas… not to mention never-ending cocktails… few destinations evoke visions of paradise like Bali. Can a resort dubbed ‘Bali as it should be’ live up to the hype? Zara Horner finds out.
Set on the edge of the ocean between the Batukaru Mountain and terraced rice fields, Soori Bali is a hidden refuge of peace and tranquility.
‘Culturally vibrant and spiritually charged’, the region is home to one of Bali’s most sacred sites, Tanah Lot Temple as well as UNESCO protected rice fields which step down from volcanic Mount Batukaru in a local preserve which has managed to slip under the majority of travellers’ radar.
To preserve the largest area of agriculture fields on the island, Tabanan Regency Administration has been strict about the development of star-rated and city hotels. Only tourism facilities with a commitment to environmental conservation with 30 per cent of buildings and 70 per cent left naturally as paddy field or plantation get the seal of approval. The recently re-launched Soori Bali falls well within this remit.
What’s all the fuss?
Designed, owned and operated by architect Soo K. Chan and his wife Ling Fu, the resort prioritises environmental and cultural sustainability.
Chan, founder of Singapore-based SCDA Architects, and Ling Fu, conceived the resort as their family’s private holiday home. But the setting was “so compelling, and the feng shui such an overwhelming experience,” they expanded their original vision to include the public.
“What is unique about Soori Bali is that we own it, we designed it, we built it and now we run it too,” Chan says.
“For Ling and I, Soori Bali is as much a state of mind as it is a world-class resort; it’s a peaceful, spiritual, healing and re-energising place.”
Designed “with a lot of passion, care and love,” it’s evident “layers of thinking” have gone into the smallest details. The couple is responsible for how everything at the resort looks – from uniforms to cutlery – and have kept colours to a minimum; it’s texture and the use of light that make the difference.
Calling Soori Bali “one of the most honest things I’ve done,” Chan likens the project to a piece of art.
Guests are seeking refuge, a place of quiet contemplation, and a chance to redress the imbalances of their everyday stresses… “so the architecture has to be quiet, balanced and exude comfort and peace,” Chan says.
The resort is anything but a monument to the couple’s vision, it’s so much more about place, and space.
For Chan it’s about “enclosing the outdoors; [about] compression and release.”
Guests’ first glimpse of Soori Bali is at the end of a long, slim driveway; turning left at the foyer a grand ocean vista presents itself and the healing begins.
“Luxury travel is about the authentic experience,” Chan asserts. “Service should be instinctive and guests should enjoy complete flexibility, and be on their own time. We want to instill a feeling of being away from structure. That comes from
Work began in 2005 with the resort crafted solely out of local materials so that it “maintains a true sense of place.” The environmentally and culturally sustainable resort “melds soothing natural surrounds with contemporary Balinese design elements, polished teak, and intricate terra-cotta tiles created by local artisans.”
The award-winning architecture drew inspiration from nearby villages and the natural surrounds. With a dormant volcano on the doorstep, volcanic stone abounds so the light grey stone was quarried from nearby sources and used as the foundation for the resort’s buildings.
The design “blurs the line between indoor and outdoor spaces. Myriad pools and courtyards open up spaces and promote natural light and cross-ventilation,” Chan points out.
Keeping it real
The EarthCheck-certified resort’s design minimises its carbon footprint through a host of measures, including reduced energy consumption, water conservation, waste management and the use of organic products.
Keeping things pure, its restaurants use fresh produce from nearby farms and spices from the resort’s own garden; the spa uses only high quality organic products.
Soori Bali is designed “in a way that respects the integrity of the centuries-old rice field irrigation practice called Subak,” Chan says. The 48 private pool villas, residences and common areas were built around existing irrigation paths and ceremonial routes, while several new temples were constructed in accordance with local beliefs.
Daily life, as it has been in this part of Bali for centuries, continues as a result of this holistic design; beach parades, onsite prayers and visiting local musicians and dancers introduce guests to Balinese culture.
Soori Bali will soon introduce a new Indonesian restaurant, moored in a traditional wooden Balinese house amid the resort’s rice fields and later this year will expand its helipad lawn on the 10-bedroom Soori Estate, totalling 5,250 square metres the cantilevered platform will jut out over the Indian Ocean.
The spa’s offerings are being significantly expanded, in line with the resort’s vision of being “Bali’s premier well-being destination promoting a more harmonious and sustainable way of life.” The resort’s ‘journeys’ programme is “built around authentically-enriching experiences including visits to the onsite bat cave, kite-making, cooking classes with the chef, horseback riding on the beach, and indigenous fishing. Guests can even try their hand at learning to play the rindik (bamboo xylophone).”
The relaunch of Soori Bali, which recently joined Leading Hotels of the World, marks the first in a series of major developments to be rolled out under the Soori brand. Soori High Line, a residence opening in New York City’s West Chelsea, and Soori Niseko, a ski resort in Japan, underscore Soori’s philosophy of “living exceptionally well through holistic design.”