When I first visited Bali two years ago, I was underwhelmed by what I felt was a lack of authenticity on the island, which was swamped by thousands of tourists who seemed hell bent on capturing the perfect Instagram shot and/or partying. Local businesses were/are forced to cater to this influx of tourists and the spirit of the island continues to be at risk.
With this bleak image, I heard about Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali which is located in northern Bali, surprisingly, the only part of the island I didn’t visit back in 2017. After doing a bit of online research about the area, many people described this part as one of the few remaining places where you can still get a traditional Balinese experience.
Armed with this expectation, I arrived at the resort, located 2.5 hours from the airport in a very scenic route that you will resist stopping every 5 minutes to take pictures. Upon arrival, I was greeted with a cold drink and towel, and, to my surprise, a quick massage and foot rub — always nice to have those especially after a long ride!
I quickly noticed other guests spread across the lobby area and the staff were prompt to point out that everyone gathers in the lobby for the WiFi access which is not available in the rooms. As a remote worker, WiFi is an essential service to me but I quite enjoyed these hours of being disconnected. With the lobby area being a few meters away from the room, you’ll hardly miss the continuous ringing and beeping of your phone. I felt it was a good touch that complements the resort’s wellness theme.
The dinner menu on the first night consisted of several Balinese and a few international dishes. The lunch and dinner menus changed regularly during my 3 day stay — another nice touch — and tasted really good; however, I only wished they were a bit more spicy.
Later that evening, I participated in a complimentary activity provided by the hotel, which is stargazing from the swimming pool. You’re given a floatie where you can lay down and admire the stars in the swimming pool. The weather wasn’t very cooperative that night but I can only imagine how magical that view would be on a clear night. If you want to see the real Bali, the northern part of the island offers a plethora of temples, waterfalls, and rice fields which are virtually empty of any tourists. The staff are incredibly helpful in putting together an itinerary for you based on your preferences and they have some really good and knowledgeable drivers. I was supposed to see a waterfall, but due to a sudden rain shower, the staff were flexible with the abrupt change in my schedule and recommended a temple that I actually wanted to see but didn’t know its name — serendipity at its best! I highly recommend going to the Pura Lempuyang temple which is an hour away from the resort. The views, I think, are the best on the entire island.
The highlight of my stay was a 100-minute treatment which included a Balinese massage and a facial. Shoutout to my masseuse Sari who was so good that I fell asleep for the better part of the treatment! It was one of the best massages I’ve ever had and I recommend booking more than one during your stay as they are very reasonably priced.
As part of the authentic experience, the Spa Village Resort offers a weekly open buffet featuring a traditional Balinese music show, which was absolutely brilliant to watch. The food at the buffet could have been more diverse but you’re really there for the show in this case not the food. The rooms at spa village are spacious and equipped with all the essentials and coffee/tea kettle. The bed was very comfortable and was perfect to take afternoon naps in!
Another nice traditional activity was a sunset tour on a Balinese boat. The captain took out the boat on the nearby shore and I noticed that we were circling around toward the end, and when I asked him why, it turned out that he had thrown out bait while we were out and was closing in on a HUGE fish — simply incredible! And kudos to this old gentleman for navigating the boat and pulling out a large fish!
In short, if you are looking for an authentic Balinese experience away from the madness in Kuta and Seminyak, then Spa Village Resort Tembok Bali is certainly the place for you. I could imagine myself spending two weeks here without getting bored.