Bali is known by many evocative names: the Island of the Gods; the Land of a Thousand Temples and a Million Smiles. One of some 15,000 islands scattered across the Indonesian archipelago, Bali offers jaw dropping natural beauty and unique culture – the island’s colourful Hindu traditions are unlike anywhere else on the planet. Charlie Chaplin’s home videos filmed on the island some 90 years ago show that when it comes to Bali’s revered ceremonies and sacred dances, things have largely remained unchanged to this day.
Granted, during the past decades parts of the island have changed enough to be unrecognisable to Chaplin and his contemporaries. If you’ve only ever stayed in Seminyak, Kuta or even Canggu, driving up the coastline today feels like discovering a new land – or travelling back in time. As we travel up north from Seminyak, the trendy restaurants and kitschy souvenir stalls fall behind, giving way to rice fields and Hindu temples, with local school kids dressed in their freshly ironed uniforms waving from the side of the road as we pass by. Away from the tourist track, you’re surrounded by something real – something quintessentially, unchangeably Balinese. This scenic drive up the coast offers the perfect introduction to Impiana Cemagi, our home for the next two days.
Welcome to the Real Bali
Hidden in the serene seaside village of Seseh, Impiana Cemagi follows the layout of a traditional Balinese compound with rooms divided into standalone pavilions spread out across beautifully landscaped gardens. In a Balinese home, the buildings are never scattered about randomly but organised carefully to achieve harmony with the universe. As soon as we step through Impiana Cemagi’s artful Balinese doors, it’s hard not feel completely at peace.
Besides a Balinese compound, Impiana Cemagi resembles a magical tropical kingdom. Palimanan stone pathways usher us over koi fish ponds, connecting thatched roof pavilions over rolling green lawns and serene lily ponds. A small bridge leads us from the open-sided living pavilion – again, very Balinese – over lotus ponds to the seaside. At the edge of the property, a romantic sunset bale looks over the dramatic black sand beach and out to the ocean. The sublime beachfront views are framed by the silhouette of a dramatic Hindu temple or “miniature Tanah Lot” as we jokingly dub it. As a testament to just how beautiful the setting is, we spot a couple posing for pre-wedding photos next to the temple, the bride dressed in a full wedding gown.
Tropical Dreams Come True
Impiana Cemagi has six bedrooms scattered throughout the gardens, offering the perfect balance between privacy and communal villa living. Each bedroom is unique and this theme is consistent throughout the property – there is absolutely nothing cookie cutter or corporate about Impiana Cemagi. That being said, the same classic and unmistakably Balinese design is consistent throughout. Think thatched alang-alang ceilings, romantic four-poster beds and open-air bathrooms that feel like something from a tropical dream.
Dining at Impiana Cemagi
After witnessing a spectacular sunset over the Indian Ocean, watching the sky turn from a blushing pink to a flaming red before dissolving into a sultry purple, it’s time for a very special birthday dinner.
Our table is set in the dining room which sits in its own pavilion, crowned by a traditional alang-alang ceiling and looking over to the pool and garden through glass doors. Impiana Cemagi’s two skilled chefs have prepared us a spectacular feast of Indonesian classics: chicken sate, gado-gado, nasi goreng and mie goreng followed by not just one but two birthday cakes! Whatever your culinary preference – western, Indonesian or something in between – organising meals is made easy as Impiana Cemagi has a priced menu available. This means you order from a set menu the same way you would at a restaurant.
One Stop Entertainment
As demonstrated by the jaw-dropping views and mouth-watering food, Impiana Cemagi was designed for entertaining large groups in style. The villa has two generous swimming pools and after sundown, we clock leisurely laps beneath the stars with the villa’s sound system streaming our favourite tunes through the summer night. Since good things seem to come in pairs, the villa also has two entertainment rooms and to our endless delight, they both come with digital pianos preprogrammed with standards like Für Elise – musical talent never came so easy! You could mistake the villa’s rolling lawns for a private golf course and to top it all off, the villa also has its own full-sized tennis court.
In other words, Impiana Cemagi is a destination villa where the proverbial mountain is brought to Muhammad – you have the full Bali experience right at your fingertips and you only need to leave the villa if you want to. If you do feel like broadening your horizons beyond the jaw-dropping views offered right from your backyard, excursions are made easy with a full team of staff (headed by effervescent villa manager Maya) to organise everything from a car and driver to massage services at the drop of a hat.
On our last morning at Impiana Cemagi, we rise with the sun. The lawns are still dewy fresh and the beach is deserted save for a lone fisherman wading in the shallow water. It’s time for morning yoga by the sea, our mats rolled open on the rolling lawns looking out to the neighbouring temple. In such a beautiful setting, surrounded by the healing frequencies of Bali, you really can’t help but feel at one with the universe.