I’m woken by the gentle chink of china, and a smell that makes my stomach growl.
Peeking around the curtain, I spot two smartly dressed staff members busying themselves in our al fresco dining area. By the time I’ve stumbled blearily outside, they’ve laid the table with plates of spicy rice (a popular local breakfast dish), toast and fresh melon.
‘Good morning,’ they smile, pressing their hands together and bowing forward slightly, in their traditional greeting. Then, as quietly as they appear, they retreat again, leaving us to enjoy our morning meal in the warm Balinese sun.
This personal service was just one of the things I loved about the Grand Bali Villa. Located in Legian, on the Indonesian island of Bali, just 15 minutes walk from the bustling beach front, there are a mixture of two and three-bedroom villas on site, six in total, each with its own private pool.
I’d discovered them online while researching for our trip to attend a family wedding. With a long-haul flight to get through, and a four and seven-year-old to keep entertained I really wanted some private space for where we could fully relax. I just didn’t fancy the idea of us all crammed into a regular hotel room, fighting over the sun loungers with the other guests.
A villa was the obvious choice, but we were on a modest budget, so it took a bit of searching before I discovered the family-friendly Grand Bali Villa.
We stayed for just under two weeks in August, and it cost us around £130 per night – that’s four people, in a three-bedroom private villa with a swimming pool, with breakfast served each morning, and a one-way airport transfer.
Before you think it sounds too good to be true, compromises were made. It’s important to remember that – outside the sequestered walls of the luxury resorts – much of the Balinese people live in poverty.
This was never more evident than when our taxi made its way along the potholed access road, to the villa entrance. To one side locals fished from a polluted river; on the other were ramshackle buildings and overgrown plots. It’s a jarring introduction to the Indonesian island, but as soon as we reached open-air reception of Grand Bali Villas we found a calm oasis in the dusty surrounds.
The softly-spoken manager checked us in, and lead us to along a frangipani lined path to a set of worn wooden doors. Pushing them open we were pleasantly surprised to find our villa was also open air, with three separate enclosed bedrooms (each with an ensuite-style bath and shower room) surrounding an alfresco dining and kitchen area, and lounge.
Inside two of the rooms were king-sized four-poster beds, while the third contained twin beds, all romantically draped with mosquito nets. To one side was our own private swimming pool, complete with sun loungers.
The villa was charmingly imperfect – the bedrooms were lovely, but the bathrooms were basic and it was clear the entire site could do with a fresh coat of paint and some TLC. However, it was comfortable and spacious, and spotlessly clean. Given the choice between a pokey hotel room and a three-bedroom private villa with swimming pool for pretty much the same price, there was absolutely no contest.
And when you saw the basic conditions the locals lived in, it felt obscene to worry about a cracked tile, or a wobbly paving stone.
Settling into island life was just so easy. After a day exploring the sights we’d return gratefully to our villa. The girls would leap straight into the pool, while OH and I would pop open an ice-cold beer and watch them splashing around, squealing with excitement.
The location of villas, a few blocks back from the Legian beachfront, made it just a bit too far to walk in each night with the girls. Instead we borrowed the Hungry House style-takeaway book they kept at reception (available to guests on request); front desk would place the order for us, and 45 minutes later dinner would literally be delivered to our table.
Once the girls were asleep, literally swallowed up by the king-sized bed, we’d settle on the sofas to watch a movie (there weren’t many English channels, but we came prepared with some dvds). It was quite surreal at first, having no walls, but we quickly got used to the balmy temperatures, the scurrying lizards, and the croaky tune of the night frogs, and then it just seemed so liberating.
At some point each evening the villa staff would discreetly let themselves in to light the mosquito rings, and the pungent smell of citronella would mix with the sweet perfume of the frangipani.
I don’t know if it was all the swimming or the walking around, or the fact the beds were just so comfy, but we all slept like logs. I’d wake in the morning in the exact position I’d fallen asleep, the then-familiar sounds of the breakfast table being laid.
I had worried the girls would find the food too different from what they were used to, but Big Sis surprised us all by absolutely falling in love with with the delicious local spicy rice.
We felt so at home after a week that it felt strange to pack up and leave our lovely villa behind; the girls were really sad to say goodbye to their beloved swimming pool, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to adjust to making my own breakfast again.
Was it the fanciest accommodation I’ve ever stayed in? No. Was it one of the most enjoyable places I’ve ever stayed in? Absolutely yes.
If you’re looking for five-star escapism, this isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for a clean, comfortable accommodation that gives you space, privacy, and a more authentic glimpse into Balinese life, then I’d definitely recommend Grand Bali Villa.
WHERE: Grand Bali Villa, grandbalivilla.com, Jl. Khresna No. 88 Legian, Bali, 80361. This road isn’t well known to all taxi drivers, so print out a map to show them. It’s a 10 minute walk to a main road, with convenience stores, and 20 minutes to reach shopping streets.
WHAT: two and three-bedroom walled self-catering villas, each with dining/kitchen area and private swimming pool.
INCLUDES: breakfast each morning, daily housekeeping, 24-hour front desk, bottled water for teeth washing.
HANDY INFO: remember to stock up on bottled water, as you can’t drink the tap water in Bali (villas include bottled water to brush your teeth). If you fancy dining in, front desk can give you a book full of local restaurants who deliver, and will phone the order through for you. They can also order taxis and airport transfers. If you want some extra pampering, you can also book spa treatments to be carried out at your villa (additional cost).