It might not seem like the sexiest way to start a holiday, but completing a pile of paperwork as preparation for a stay at Sungai Gold is well worth it. Before we even reach our dreamy villa in Bali, we’ve tackled a wad of personal preference forms – from pick-up details and activities to meal times and menus – but as soon as we touch down on the island we realise it’s the best investment we ever made.
From the moment we’re collected from the airport we’re assured that our meals for the day have been taken care of and can be served anytime upon request. Kids’ food (pre-chosen by us as part of the form-filling) is already being whipped up as we drive, ready for our arrival. Even welcome drinks are being specifically mixed to our taste.
This is the real strength of Sungai Gold – its team’s ability to anticipate guests’ needs and fulfill all those little requests that turn holiday accommodation into something more like a home away from home. Because I’m travelling with a friend, not a partner, the staff opens up an additional bedroom for us in the exclusive-hire villa, which usually caters to a couple. Once we’re settled in, a tub of toys, colouring kit, water floats and a slide for the infinity pool are installed for the child we have in tow.
Everything is chic and white, just as you’d expect in a contemporary Balinese villa. Soft mosquito nets drape romantically over a four-poster bed, floors and walls are pale and clean, and super-comfy pool recliners and vibrant frangipanis dot the space. We’re wowed by the large day-bed and shaded deck area, Bose sound system (frustratingly not working during our stay), outdoor bathrooms with rainwater showerheads and communal dining, but the star of the show is definitely the infinity pool overlooking a small creek surrounded by beautiful tropical greenery. Even once the children’s playthings arrive, the villa still manages to look as cool as a cucumber.
What makes Sungai Gold stand out from its counterparts, though, are the tiny details. A well stocked fridge, significantly larger than a typical hotel minibar, full of soft drinks, lime wedges, mixers and, most importantly, cold beers. Wet towels silently and instantly replaced with fresh, dry ones. A private live performance of traditional music presented during our first night’s dinner as a welcome surprise. Ziplock bags to store wet bathers on check-out and earplugs and eye masks for the flight home.
As the villa is based in the small inland village of Cepaka many activities are a commute away, but since we are after a no-thinking, complete chill-out break, it’s perfect. Spa services come to us in-villa and, at the staff’s recommendation, we’re happy to rely on the chef’s expertise and dine in for all our meals. To be honest, we don’t ever want to leave.
A short stroll to the local kindergarten and primary school is our only external activity – another great Sungai suggestion – where we donate pens and pencils and interact with the children. It’s a heart-warming reminder of the other side of life in Bali.
Perhaps the one inconvenience that always accompanies a villa stay is that we have to commit to meal choices hours before we even develop an appetite, to give the staff time to shop in the local markets. Meals are served family style, which means everyone has to agree on the same thing and you are only charged additionally for the ingredients.
Even on departure day, nothing is too much trouble. We have revolting late-night flights so Sungai Gold offers us multiple choices in the event that the villa cannot guarantee a late check-out. This includes an arrangement with Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort where, for a nominal fee, we can use their facilities. Sungai still plans to take care of the luggage and pick-up for the airport transfer. Luckily for us, a late check-out is available in the end and the staff is extremely accommodating – we are clearly told to use the facilities at our leisure and pleasure until it’s time to go.
Finally, the great paper trail leads us to this conclusion – it’s all smart stepping-stones to ensure Sungai Gold can meet every guest’s individual needs. And they certainly strive to do this well. They are open to feedback and quick to provide a solution to every scenario. No stay is ever perfect, but since Sungai tries so hard, they come pretty close.