I'VE ALWAYS HATED BALI. The island is too sprawling and too difficult to get around, the traffic means that what should be a 10-minute journey could easily take an hour, the cuisine leaves very much to be desired, the tourist-geared pricing is anything but friendly, and let's not even begin to talk about the alcohol tax, which makes enjoying a poolside cocktail not quite so enjoyable.
So when our car pulls up outside the Anantara Seminyak Bali, in one of the most touristy of Balinese districts, after considerable stopping and honking, I'm some mixture of cranky and relieved. More so the former when I spot, at the entrance, a flight of two-dozen steps that my companion (by which I mean a couple of litres of dutyfree booze) and I need to scale before reaching the check-in desk.
Luckily, that's where the aversion ends, and the resort splendour begins. (And even more fortuitously, a bellboy quickly comes to my rescue on the issue of the hand-carried baggage.)
Unlike more expansive, party-friendly properties along Seminyak beach, Anantara retains a discreetness that suits its more sophisticated clientele, those who appreciate the convenience and options of the Seminyak area but would prefer to enjoy a bottle of wine on the balcony rather than full-moon-party till the morning light (that said, Ku De Ta and Potato Head are but a stone's throw away).
Within the hour, my cranky pants have come off, replaced by a swimsuit and a smile.
The open-air lobby segues into the hotel's all-day restaurant, Wild Orchid, which is fronted by a long and not particularly outstanding swimming pool. In between the pool and Seminyak beach lie stadium-style
levels decorated by tanning chairs, beanbag chairs or sunbeds. The swimming facilities might seem modest, but the pool population is so sparse it hardly matters – quite a few guests have been diverted to another private pond afforded the Pool Access Suites; others, I assume, prefer to splash around in the actual ocean. And true to the Anantara service code, you need only plonk yourself down on a chair for a minute or two before a waiter materialises with a basket of goodies, including bottled water, towels, sunscreen and mosquito spray (though for what, it's not clear, because the area is fortunately yet unaccountably bug-free). In a more mass-market resort, the freebies would spell crowds, but in the four days I'm there, there are certainly no catfights over sleeping perches and never more than three people in the pool at a time.
Even if there were, the rooms are sanctuaries that honestly make it difficult to decide whether it's worth the one-minute trek to the pool. Mine is an Ocean View Suite, and though it's on the ground floor, you can see straight into the Indian Ocean from the balcony, which features its own little bathtub (keep your swimmers on though, lest your modesty be invaded by roving eyes such as my own when I decide to undertake an impromptu site exploration) complete with a little Balinese bathside game set featuring bowls and stones, clearly suited to those of higher intellect than myself, as I fail to discern the rules or purpose during my stay.
Inside, there are easier games to play, including three baskets worth of entertainment tucked into the TV table containing the likes of a Jenga set and a DVD copy of Skyfall, for those who lack the interest or competence to poke blocks out of a teetering tower. There's a sketchbook and colour pencils for the artistically inclined – and who wouldn't be, with views that like?– or a fancy little diary for the writer.
That would be me, except I've left my work ethic back at the airport, along with my rapidly subsiding disdain for this beach town. I'm more interested in the giant indoor square tub, complete with a removable shelf that hovers over the tub so you can rest your phone, e-reader or magazines without fear of losing them to the tower of bubbles rising from the water. Your usual amenities are there, of course, but for the true hospitality nerd the extras will be pleasing – Anantara-branded exfoliating scrub and serum in addition to the basic facial products, or a big brown beach towel twisted into the shape of an orangutan swinging from a towel-drying bar.
More of these little touches are available at the Anantara Spa, whose reputation is renowned (a menu is conveniently placed beside your bathtub for perusal), but for those bitten by the social bug, just next to the spa on the top level of the resort is SOS Supper Club, serving tapas and seafood at oceanfacing tables, but with day beds available for those who just want to chat with friends over a drink and some sick sunset views.
It's up here, persuaded by a gentle breeze and sweeping views, that I discover I quite like Bali, as long as my experience of the place doesn't extend further than three steps outside the Anantara. The next morning, settled irrevocably into a beanbag chair at Wild Orchid, greedily requesting made-toorder breakfast entrées from the all-you-can-eat menu till no part of the table is visible underneath plates of apple-stuffed French toast, bacon and eggs and stir-fried noodles, and cups of coconut water, guava juice, water and coffee, I decide that yes, I really do like this place after all. Besides, it's not like I can get up.
Anantara Seminyak Bali can be booked through Mr & Mrs Smith at mrandmrssmith.com