We’re idling at the edge of the infinity pool, which is set into the second floor terrace and overflows into a tropical garden scattered with pink and yellow frangipanis. Up ahead, the hill rolls gently all the way to the brink of Bali’s glinting coastline.
We’ve just checked into The Longhouse, a private six-bedroom villa spread over three lavish levels in the Jimbaran hills. Set high on the hillside, The Longhouse is outdoor living at its finest, capturing the passing breeze in its wings; a cooling antidote to the steamy tropical air.
Built by expats Linda and Robin Nederkoorn and designed by local architect Popo Danes, The Longhouse has Balinese living at heart, with embellishments such as a locally painted Ramayana mural depicting an ancient story – one that still influences native culture today – as well as countless Sanskrit scrolls, wood carvings and stone sculptures. The six bedrooms, each one inspired by an island of the Indonesian archipelago, are all very well, but we’re having trouble choosing where to rest our heads.
There is the master room on the top floor, named Bali, dressed in teal with a four-poster bamboo bed and a private balcony with the best view in the house. Sumatra is olive green with patterned throws and polished wood features, though it’s the outdoor tub on the terrace that excites me most; an immense eggcup of solid riverstone. Sumba, themed around the isle’s ancient export of horses, is darker and cosier with a bathroom decked in sepia hued onyx, while the two further rooms, West and East Java, are elegant twin share affairs leading out onto manicured lawn and a private dining pavilion. Every room showcases antiques collected from its namesake and indigenous textiles lovingly composed over 30 years of travel. In the end, it’s the extra plunge pool in the master bedroom that swings it, an entirely unnecessary but utterly indulgent detail.
Bedrooms aside, you could get lost in this palatial residence and never even see your companions. Luckily though, there’s a fleet of staff on hand to chaperone you back to your quarters (and serve up a cocktail to boot). Discreetly, efficiently, and somewhat miraculously, they run the estate so that it never ventures below perfection, and what’s more they do it with gorgeous, genuine smiles and easy conversation.
The resident chef is a jewel; he seeks out the best produce from the local Jimbaran seafood market and serves up all fares including European, though blasphemous it may be when there’s so much glorious local cuisine to be had. He knocks up a delectable gado gado – a traditional dish of various vegetables tossed in warming peanut sauce – right before our eyes in the soaring lounge pavilion, with the odd cartoon gecko skittering across the straw roof and a symphony of invisible cicadas singing from the foliage.
There is a dedicated spa room for those that way inclined, in fact everything is arranged so that you might not leave the villa at all. There’s a private theatre for the odd rainy day and a gym that we don’t quite get round to. How could you when there’s a chauffeured car to take you anywhere you please: markets, kite tournaments, traditional flower arranging classes, Balinese dance performances.
We sink into a hazy sleep and awake at the crack of dawn to the call of a cockerel and the chant of Morning Prayer coming from a temple hidden in the greenery below. The villa has two temples of its own, where offerings are presented on a daily basis, offering an insight into the spirituality at the core of Balinese life. And belief comes easy here, where we sit on traditional ikat woven cushions as an afternoon shower casts circles on the surface of the pool, distorting an otherwise pristine mirror of the sunlit clouds overhead.
Rates start from £620 per night based on full villa rental. Book The Longhouse through villa and yachting experts Ultimate Indonesian Yachts.
Words: Annie Biziou
Photos: Christopher Leggett