Raffles Bali is a special place with everything you would expect and just a little bit more
Editor’s note: See other Escape Plan stories here.
How comes a butler doesn’t butle? Or even buttle? A driver drives, a singer sings and a wringer wrings, but ‘butle’ simply doesn’t feature as a verb, except humorously. If you ask a butler what he or she does for a living, you’re unlikely to get the answer, “I butle, and sometimes I buttle.” It’s just not a word in common usage, and I think it should be, because no one butles (or buttles) like Raffles.
It’s a feature of all Raffles resorts that guests get their own, dedicated (in more than one sense) butler. It’s part of the programme and achieves the dual objectives of ensuring that the guest gets everything they need when they need it and making them feel special. It’s not ‘hand on foot’ butlering—even that word sends my spellchecker into spasms—it’s a temporary social contract that may not make or break a stay at a Raffles property but is certainly capable (when duly signed) of elevating the overall experience.
The butlers at Raffles Bali are a wonderful group of people, and mine recently made my visit to the ‘Island of the Gods’ (Bali, if you prefer) a truly memorable one. The experience started way before arrival with WhatsApp contact being established.
Obviously there are innumerable details that need to be gone through to make sure that the guest is comfortable—dietary restrictions, transport arrangements and even whether you would like alcohol in your welcome drink or not (a rhetorical question in my case…). It sets a platform of comfort and care on which the guest is convinced that all members of staff, and the butler in particular, are genuinely concerned about the guest’s wellbeing and will do everything they can to facilitate an unforgettable temporary residence.
I won’t tell you the name of my butler at Raffles Bali, to protect the innocent. Let’s call her ‘Pinky’. Actually that is her name (albeit her nickname) but it’s in print now, so it’s too late to change anything. Forget about the forelock doffing sycophant that you see in those British TV dramas loved by Americans, my relationship with Pinky was one of almost instant friendship and respect. I would like to think that it was mutual, but I can’t speak to how she may have felt.
Pinky was a great host. She was friendly, articulate and knowledgeable—not simply about the resort and its facilities, but on tourism dynamics and the current state of play in our post-the-worst-ravages of the pandemic world (hopefully), cultural differences and international cuisine. We even discussed the Large Hadron Collider.
She arranged my itinerary and then furnished me with it—three days prior to my arrival—and made sure I was where I needed to be when I needed to be there, even making sure that I didn’t get lost when walking from my villa to the resort’s reception—all of 150 metres. She indulged all my idiosyncrasies, such as wanting to walk everywhere rather than taking a buggy and not wasting electricity on ‘light shows’ that no one cares about.
I can’t refer to Pinky as a butler anymore, although she buttled brilliantly, but her contribution to the overall enjoyment of my residence at Raffles Bali can’t be overstated. Don’t think The Remains of the Day but do consider Jeeves and Wooster.
There is plenty to do at the resort, especially if all you want to do is as little as possible. This place was designed for rest and relaxation. Literally hewn out of rock on a spectacularly verdant hillside, the resort consists of 32 villas (one ‘presidential’ with an eye-watering price tag) all with their own pool, and all surrounded by lush vegetation. The accommodation itself is… quintessentially Raffles. Fans of the brand (let’s call you Raffleites) will know exactly what I mean.
Always slightly understated, the villas are superbly appointed with studied references to local culture and iconography and with the inimitable style that has made the group’s properties so recognisable and so highly lauded.
If you’re interested in getting your chakras balanced, that can be arranged. Numerology is invoked, crystals are laid, and gongs made to resonate—often harmoniously. Morning yoga, an array of spa treatments and late-night ginger tea-making butlers (to help with digestion and sleep) are all par for the course at what must rank as one of the most luxurious and exclusive resorts on the island.
The food throughout the resort is good, often very good. ‘Downstairs’ by the beach and the pool, the Loloan offers casual dining during the light hours and more serious fusion cuisine when it gets dark. Many of the dishes are creative and make excellent use of local, sustainably produced ingredients.
It’s airy, convivial and atmospheric as diners can look west to the Raffles Bali pool, and north to Jimbaran Bay, but if getting closer to the ebb and flow of the local tide is your bag, then book the Purnama Bale for a spot of private dining. The Executive Chef, Gaeten Biesuz, will curate a menu for you that will be impeccably gradated in terms of flavour and heft progression, while waves lap on the rocks immediately below the enclave as positive palate enliveners. It’s a great experience, as is the private dining in a cave. Yes, an actual cave.
There are several things you can do with a cave once you discover it. Store things in it—wine is always good because of the constant temperatures. Advertise it on Air Be and Bear for ursine tourists; or turn it into a private dining room for people savvy enough to appreciate the ambience and know that every Raffles resort presents opportunities to indulge, subtly, in understated and slightly self-effacing luxury. This is the mark of the brand, as is the butler service that tops, tails and infuses the magical Raffles experience.
Pinky is an important cog in the machine that curates experiences, and a person with her own hopes, dreams and ambitions that extend to being on the other side of the conversation in the future. The Raffles group is very particular about its staff, recognising potential without getting hung up about experience, and places extra emphasis on character, attitude and personality. Conforming to the Raffles’ service ethos can’t be easy, and only the select few need apply, but those who ultimately find themselves representing the brand do so with pride and an indelible sense of place.
Raffles Bali is everything you would expect and just a little bit more. It’s not a ‘home from home’—a ridiculous phrase in the context, trotted out by unimaginative marketing people with deadlines to meet. The whole purpose of travelling to a sumptuous resort is to get away from ‘home’ and experience something special. Raffles Bali is that kind of special place.