lounging by the pool was, by all definitions, cool. He had a
laidback, lazy way about him that made him appear nonchalant
and disaffected instead of chronically lethargic and in need
of a Red Bull. The full force of the tropical humidity was
futile in its attempt to flatten his magnificent Bieber
hair. Even his Wayfarers, so overused by armies of lesser
beings in their unsuccessful attempts at style victory,
looked effortlessly right on his suitably sullen face. It
was all rather impressive for a 10-year-old.
Do not belittle my belittlement at the hand of a
pre-pubescent punk by settling on an unfounded assumption
that I am not in fact a bronzed beach god resplendent in my
swim shorts and pecs - because you would be absolutely right
and my feelings would be a little hurt. The combination of a
T-shirt, board shorts and flip-flops lends most
beach-vacation denizens an air of relaxed bohemia. On me,
however, it lends an air of homelessness.
While I adore beach holidays, "beach cool" is a look that
simply doesn't work on inactive, anaemic me, resulting in
the appearance of having been rudely displaced from one's
natural environment. Like a jellyfish at a cocktail bar
holding a dirty martini. Still, while I am accustomed to
being told to put a shirt on because people are laughing too
hard, finding myself coveting the style of someone less than
a third my age was embarrassing even for me.
But, I suppose, that's a good gauge of a beach resort's hip
quotient: When even the cool people's children are cooler
The W Retreat & Spa Bali - Seminyak is a bit of a misnomer.
It's not so much a "retreat" into a quiet cocoon of
nothingness as it is a full-scale advance into the spotlight
of everything. It is the epitome of that old adage "see and
be seen" - evidence of which can clearly be observed in the
fact that you wouldn't pack your comfortably tattered
Frankie Say Relax T-shirt for a stay at this beachfront
property but you would bring along a pair of expensive
In fact, on a previous visit to the W Bali, my travel
companions and self-styled Bali party experts insisted that
we get off our vacationing bums and leave the
Bose-speaker-enhanced comfort of our hotel room to go off in
search of the notoriously fabulous Bali nightlife - only to
find that everyone else was headed for the latest hotspot on
the island: Our hotel.
It was inevitable that the resort would become a major
player in Bali's party scene. Kinda like how the pretty girl
raised by a former cheerleader mum has no choice but to end
up prom queen. Part of that reason is its location. No one
goes to Seminyak in search of quiet nirvana - for that you
schlep it up to Ubud to hang out with Julia Roberts'
toothless medicine man in Eat Pray Love. In fact, one
doesn't "schlep" at all in this well-heeled, trendy enclave
of upscale restaurants and cocktail bars. Seminyak is a
candy shop for urbanites with a taste for big city pleasures
that just happens to be located on a tropical beach.
The other reason is in the property's blood. W, as Eva
Ziegler, global brand leader, W Hotels Worldwide and Le
Meridien hotels, will remind you, has redefined the hotel
experience. Meaning if you think about the traditional hotel
model as a rather homely lady with a room to spare and
dinner on the stove, the design-focused, cool cat W would be
her younger, naughtier sister with a twinkle in her eye,
cocktail in her hand, and stamina to last for weeks. Its
signature service philosophy is, after all,
"Whatever/Whenever". In short: You want it, you got it - as
long as it's legal, the W staff coo. And now it's jazzing up
the beach resort experience.
Going out while staying in
As is the W way, the reception is also the bar, or the W
Lounge, as it is called. Striking tones of pinks and purples
rule the design roost, accentuated by quirky touches of
waddling silver ducks and a "nest" of giant rubber eggs. The
general effect, set to DJ-"curated" music, is less checking
into a hotel and more turning up at a club with luggage in
hand. Except unlike being in a club, people are smiling
instead of appearing insufferably miserable.
On the terrace outside, oversized day beds face the gorgeous
beach, overlooking the pool and all its Wayfarer-wearing
inhabitants soaking up the sun. The mood is both club-cool
and relaxed - meaning not so relaxed that one can exhale
completely and let the gut hang out.
The 158 rooms, I was glad to discover, are some of the
largest in Bali, with the majority blessed with lovely
balcony views of the Indian Ocean. Waking up to the sounds
of waves crashing is not something this city boy is
accustomed to and I quickly learnt not to leave my music
playing with the iPod docking station all night. There are
sounds more relaxing, I discovered, than Mazzy Star. A
large, open-concept bathroom suggests that these are
accommodations for couples and friends with benefits rather
than a pair of football buddies. There are also 79 pool
villas ranging from one-bedroom retreats to indulgent
three-bedroom compounds for families, fabulous parties, or
individuals who require enough space to roam as buffalo do.
Not that you'd be spending much time holed up in your room
(even newlyweds need to eat at some point). The point of
staying at the W Bali, as I discovered, is having the luxury
of being able to have a night out without actually going
past its gates. Designed with the property becoming a Bali
hotspot in mind, W Bali features a variety of F&B options.
Nibble and sip at W Lounge, or sit down for something more
substantial with a bottle of wine at Fire, a grill
restaurant with fabulous steaks and a gorgeous buffet
Cocktails and a boogie-woogie are to be had at WooBar, a
three-story playground on the beach for grown-ups fond of
the joys of inebriation. At the resort's official opening,
we were treated to a gleefully groovy set by DJ Dimitri from
For a more relaxed but equally boozy time, I recommend
seaside beach club Starfish Bloo for pan-Asian cuisine
dished out in front of stunning beachfront views. It's where
I let a late morning melt into a lazy afternoon and into a
decadent sunset over cava, ceviche and hot-stone-grilled
morsels of wagyu heaven. I accomplished absolutely nothing
that day but a feeling of blissful happiness. I was most
proud of myself.
Best of all, in the privacy of darkness after the sun had at
last dipped below the horizon, I finally exhaled deeply and
let my gut hang out. I even rubbed it contentedly - keeping
one eye open, you'll understand, for fear of being judged by
This trip was made possible by W Retreat & Spa Bali -
Check out the "play + unplug" deal, from US$525++ (S$675++)
per night (minimum two consecutive nights) for an
ocean-facing room for two, including daily breakfast at
Fire, US$100 daily Whatever/Whenever credit per room and two
sunset cocktails at WooBar. Offer valid till March 31, 2012.
Or experience a one-bedroom pool villa, from US$499++ per
night for two, including daily breakfast, complimentary
wi-fi, unlimited access to Sweat fitness centre, and access
to Hot Stone Bath and Cold Plunge at Away Spa by W Hotels.
Go to http://bit.ly/tdyseminyak for info and reservations.