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Seeking bliss in Bali: Hotel Tugu Bali

Please only travel when it’s safe to do so.

It was the first thing to catch our eye.

A dramatic 15-foot-high Garuda (sun bird king) towered above a Balinese dance stage in the lobby of the Hotel Tugu Bali.

(No doubt the Garuda also caught the attention of super-model Kate Moss and popular Brazilian singer Bebel Gilberto, who’ve been spotted at the hotel.)

A giant wooden carving of a Garuda steals the show in the lobby of Hotel Tugu Bali.
This giant wooden carving of a Garuda steals the show in the hotel’s lobby

It was carved from a 120-year-old tree,” Lucienne told us.

She’s the daughter of Anhar Setjadibrata, who owns Hotel Tugu Bali.

Lucienne literally stumbled over the wooden statue’s head one day while walking around a village with her father.

Carved by an Indonesian master carver, the Garuda had been left outside as too massive to fit any home, and over the years, had slowly sunk into the earth and almost disappeared.

Tugu Bali review
There’s so much art to see at Tugu Bali

Hotel Tugu Bali: There’s beauty here

We’d read the laments about Bali.

It’s not like it was 15 years ago.”

It’s over-crowded and over-developed.”

The traffic is terrible.”

That may all be true in the tourist hot-spots.

But scratch beneath the surface, and you discover enough beauty in the country’s Balinese dance, art and temple culture, not to mention the kindness of the people, to fill a lifetime with joy.

Tugu Bali review
Welcome to Tugu Bali, where every Thursday evening, you can watch a free Balinese dance performance

Perhaps it helped that we were fortunate enough to stay at beautiful five-star hotels like Hotel Tugu Bali – where we felt like we’d walked into a living story book on Indonesian art and culture.

Beach lover? Romantic? Find the right hotel: Read more of our luxury Bali hotel reviews

Rooms and suites

We stayed in a "Rejang Suite" at Tugu Bali - we loved the bed!
The huge four-poster bed in our Tugu Bali suite was so comfy, it was hard to leave it in the mornings!

Tugu Bali has 22 different suites, clustered in thatched roof bungalows. 

We stayed in a delightful “Rejang Suite” on the second floor, with dark timber interiors, hanging light fixtures that resembled bird cages and a carved four-poster bed.

An enclosed porch with wood-paneled windows looked out over palm trees to the crashing surf.

It was very Hemingway – we could imagine he’d be right at home clacking away on his old typewriter here.

At Tugu Bali, our lovely bathroom had a big beaten silver bathtub.
A lovely bathroom with a big beaten silver bathtub

When we arrived, the sunken beaten silver tub in the corner of our suite was filled with water, its surface covered by big floating orange blossoms.

Full of Indonesian treasures

At the hotel, one crimson-themed guest villa (which you can visit when not occupied) is dedicated to the passionate love story between Belgian painter Adrien Le Mayeur (who came to Bali in 1932) and the model of his paintings, Balinese dancer Ni Polok.

It showcases the artist’s original carved furniture.

Tugu Bali review
The Puri Le Mayeur suite, dedicated to painter Adrien Le Mayer

The small piece that started Lucienne’s father, Anhar, on a life-long mission of cultural preservation is also displayed in the hotel lobby – a 16th-century stone bowl from which ancient priests sprinkled healing holy water on sick villagers.

Saddened by what he perceived as forgetting the past, Anhar was inspired to save Indonesia’s “lost” artistic pieces and built a group of boutique Tugu Hotels to house his collection – Tugu Bali is one of these hotels.

A wood carving of a face decorates the ceiling of the lobby at Hotel Tugu Bali.
A wood carving of a face decorates the ceiling of the lobby

Indeed, Tugu Bali is so chock-full of treasures that it possesses one of the largest and finest private collections of Indonesian art and cultural artifacts in south-east Asia.

Want privacy? Put out this hanging carving on your door

Visiting Lombok island too? The Tugu Lombok is gorgeous!

Pool

We liked chilling by the pool better than being by the beach

You could relax on the bleached sunbeds the hotel maintains on a small patch of semi-private black sand beach outside the walls of the hotel property.

But the water-spout-fed pool, surrounded by ferns and lush gardens, is more inviting.

It was lovely to doze off here while being serenaded by birdsong.

Feasts fit for royalty

Tugu Bali review - breakfast
Breakfast by the pool?

Dining is a bespoke experience at Hotel Tugu Bali – you can eat in the garden, by the pool, at the beach or in a nook overlooking a lotus pond.

But the most romantic and elaborate dinners are served in the Bale Sutra.

Meaning “Palace of Harmony,” this dining room is in a 1706 Chinese (Kang Xi period) temple painstakingly reconstructed in a wing of the hotel.

Tugu Bali review - Bale Sutra
Dine like royalty in the Bale Sutra!

Perhaps book the Imperial Chinese dinner?

You’re seated at an antique dining table covered with 18th century gold thread-emroidered Chinese silk, illuminated by rows of red candles.

Dishes of crab, Peking roast duck and steamed fish with ginger are presented on Ming-style tableware and lavish antique silver.

Tugu Bali review - Bale Sutra
The Bale Sutra is a 300-year-old Chinese temple which the owner moved from Java and reassembled to serve as a special dining room

Or choose the royal ceremonial feast of the Majapahit Kingdom, and a procession of costumed staff, playing drums and musical instruments, leads you into the dining temple.

We saw a couple, accompanied by singing and dancing “soldiers” and Balinese “maidens,” being led to the blood-red dining room for their private, multi-course feast. 

Definitely something to consider if you’re celebrating an anniversary or other special occasion!

Hotel Tugu Canggu

Location:

There’s a slightly wild feeling to the hotel’s location in the quieter Canggu beach area of Bali. (Canguu is a little further north of Seminyak, where luxury villa rentals are popular). Surfers flock to Canggu for its wave action.

Ask for a tour:

If Lucienne is onsite, she’ll happily show you around.

She charmed us with her teenage recollections of time spent with her father: “When my friends were out having fun at parties, I was traipsing along with my Dad to antique stores!”

Don’t miss:

Tugu Bali offers free authentic Balinese dance performances on Thursday evenings.

Rates:

Rates at Hotel Tugu Bali include complimentary afternoon tea, with a selection of five or six different cakes baked fresh each day.

Ready to book your trip to Bali?

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Photo credits: 2, 5, 8 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase | Remaining photos are courtesy Hotel Tugu Bali.


About the authors:

Janice and George Mucalov

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George are the owners and founders of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, luxury hotel reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!

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Kathy Lom

Saturday 6th of August 2016

Yes, it's really good but I can say that Hidden Valley Resort Bali is one of the best resorts in Bali for a family holiday and tranquility. Nice staff and pleasant clean rooms. Great food, but couldn't get used to the spicy taste. All in all it was great!

Irene S. Levine

Thursday 17th of December 2015

Bali looks magical and the Tugu Bali looks like a palace! Great post and photos!