While inspecting the best villas in Asia, our team has come well acquainted with a few key styles which we see interpreted from villa to villa: sleek designer estates framed with full-wall windows; unique abodes filled with quirky art and design elements; shabby chic beach houses where the “no news, now shoes” mentality reigns supreme… And the list goes on.
The villas I personally love the most are the ones which will help me get rooted in the local culture. In Bali, I swoon over villas which capture the rich cultural and artistic heritage of the Island of the Gods and the Indonesian archipelago. Villa Zelie does just that – and so much more.
Entering Villa Zelie feels like taking a step back in time – or like happening upon a glossy magazine photo shoot. From the moment we step through the antique wooden doors, we become immersed in flawlessly curated Indonesian heritage chic: think artful wooden architecture, serene koi fish ponds, priceless antiques and lush tropical gardens which shroud the property in luxurious privacy. Following the tropical lifestyle that’s so integral to Bali, life at Villa Zelie flows effortlessly between indoor and outdoor spaces, with living and dining areas and the five bedrooms all housed in their own pavilions.
Though much emphasis is put on Indonesian traditions, the overall look and feel of Villa Zelie is polished and oh-so luxurious. Rather than any concrete element, this luxury exudes from an indefinable je ne sais quoi which floats about the villa. Great attention is given to detail, starting from the smooth feel of the polished floorboards beneath our bare feet – the very definition of that oft alluded to barefoot luxury. One of our team from India was visiting Bali for the very first time and it was wonderful being able to introduce Indonesian heritage to her in such beautiful packaging.
A 20-metre long swimming pool works as the undeniable centre piece of Villa Zelie, framed by a majestic ravenala tree and reclining statues of the Buddha. There’s a shallow wading pool to the side of the main pool, allowing kids to splash around safely. If safety is a concern, a pool fence can also be set up at an additional charge.
And then there are the bedrooms. Each one is housed in its own rustic wooden pavilion scattered across the tropical gardens. Fit for a Balinese princess, the bedrooms are furnished with ornately carved beds draped in butter soft linen. Though the wooden pavilions make you feel like you’ve taken a step back in time, don’t worry – the bedrooms are fully air-conditioned, but even the air-conditioning units are camouflaged to blend in with the timber interiors. Again, it’s all in the details! The beautiful bathrooms definitely deserve a special mention – the open-air layout is the definition of tropical decadence, but the setup is still completely private.
Dining and Services
Speaking of royalty – the staff at Villa Zelie certainly have a way of making you feel like one. Upon arriving at the villa, we’re greeted with cold drinks and cool towels and from here on out, it’s five star all the way. Villa Zelie is staffed with butlers, security guards, housekeeping and a villa manager who makes sure things are running smoothly throughout our stay.
And then there is the chef.
Simply put, dining at Villa Zelie was fabulous. The dining pavilion follows the open-sided layout of the villa, with a grand dining table seating our group of nine with ease – all in all, there’s room for up to 14 people to all dine together. The rugged wooden table is lined with plush cushions and lit up by dramatic lanterns, with intricate antiques adorning the space.
The theatrics of the room give mealtimes a real sense of occasion, with a little help from the gracious staff dressed in their Balinese uniforms. The chef prepares our chicken and beef satays on an open grill, with glowing flames only adding to the festive ambiance. Meals at Villa Zelie are charged at the cost of groceries plus a 20% handling fee. Take it from us – nothing beats the luxury of dining in your own villa, feasting on dishes prepared just for you.
After Hours Fun
After dinner, it’s time for some fun and games. We gather around the chess board in the living room but it doesn’t take too long to suss out who actually knows how to play! Leaving the game to the pros, the rest of the group moves over to the cinema lounge next door. We sink into the plush sofa and settle in for a movie night. Next to the movie screen is the villa’s swanky bar which matches our movie of choice – Ocean’s 13 – perfectly.
If the epic dining and lazy movie nights aren’t enough to relax you, Villa Zelie has one more ace hidden up its sleeve. Tucked to the back of the garden, a two-storey massage pavilion offers an idyllic setting some in-villa indulgence. Here guests can enjoy massages, reflexology, nail treatments and more from professional spa therapists. Trust us – this is pure villa bliss.
Staying in Canggu
The tranquil realm of Villa Zelie feels like a self-contained microcosm to such an extent that when you’re relaxing at the villa, it’s easy to forget that the outside world exists at all. When you do look beyond the villa’s walls, Villa Zelie sits on the border between hip Canggu and relaxed Batu Belig. The villa is located in a private complex with Villa Asli, so if you’re needing more rooms, there are options close by. The quiet street leads down to the beautifully bohemian La Laguna restaurant, followed by a bridge leading you down to Kayu Putih Beach.
La Laguna used to be the only must-visit spot on this stretch of sand but that has all changed with the opening of Tropicola, a retro fabulous beach club from the same team behind Seminak’s ever popular Motel Mexicola. Reaching the beach on foot is an easy breezy affair, but if you want to explore further – and we definitely recommend taking a spin around Canggu – it’s best to hire a car and driver for the day. If this sounds daunting, fear not: our concierge team can organise everything for you. We had a blast exploring the beach clubs and cafes of Canggu – it’s incredible to see just how fast this once sleepy seaside village is evolving.
Our stay in Villa Zelie was an immersive study in Balinese luxury. Surrounded by Indonesian heritage and five star hospitality, there was little reason to leave the villa at all. Being just footsteps away from the beach and just moments from the hip dining of Canggu was just the icing on the cake. If you ask us, this is the perfect way to experience Bali.