Nusa Dua is a first for me, I usually boomerang myself to the usual suspects, the hippy mecca and wellness rich Ubud area and the glitzy, boutique laden Seminyak, so something a little different on this occasion. The area is very attractive, for many holiday makers, I summise that it is the convenience of the location, beach front and not so far from the airport that makes Nusa Dua a destination of choice for so many big named, upscale brands.
Before arriving at The Mulia, I have to confess I didn't know what to expect, I had heard that it was massive and wondered how a resort so large could pull off a luxury service. On our approach to the resort seeing the building looming in the distance I thought perhaps this wasn't the right fit for The Spa Spy.
I love getting first impressions wrong, in fact, I do it quite a lot, and many of the longest friendships I hold dear are with people that on first meet rubbed me up the wrong way.
The Mulia is split into three components, the resort, a behemoth yet high quality enterprise, the boutique resort, a smaller version, and a member of Leading Hotels of the World, with even higher quality amenities and the Mulia's jewel in its crown is the sumptuous private Mulia Villas. This brand really does know how to cater to all tastes and all family demographics with differing budgets (albeit none cheap). It understands, and proves only too well that one size most definitely does not fit all, yet all guests can receive a top level of luxury and the conveniences of a large and well-oiled hotel.
The Mulia is the largest resort in Bali, and it is placed on the shoreline of Bali's Nusa Dua region that is in the south and home to several upscale global brands. From the resort you can see directly onto the beach and watch and hear the sounds of the thunderous Bali surf breaking on the nearby reef.
The Mulia Resort, which we stayed in, offers 526 rooms and large suites. The décor throughout makes great use of the beachside location and complements the lush greenery and striking blue of the sea and sky beautifully. Of course, the colours of Bali include their vibrant Frangipani pinks and sunny yellows and the resort has crafted an open and cool ambience with use of the expansive spaces (everywhere), to allow a feel of being outside when you are inside. Tranquil ponds and pools outside weave naturally around the gardens allowing a refreshing feel throughout the resort.
The Mulia is home to several restaurants, for its size it has to offer something for everyone; the selection of seven dining venues to choose from includes Table8, Edogin, Soleil, The Cafe, Mulia Deli, The Bar and ZJ's Bar & Lounge. The smaller resort and private villas also have their own dining outlets, more about that later.
The Spa, a short buggy ride away from the main resort, offers 20 treatment rooms, including 4 couple's suites, wellness suites including a state-of-the-art sauna and steam room, ice room, outdoor hydrotherapy pool, and an extremely well equipped gym can be found back at the resort that offers an assortment of classes including Pilates, yoga, circuit training and boot camp.
The Mulia is located just over 25 minutes away from Denpasar Airport, and thank fully, now with the new toll road, traffic jams are a thing of the past in this area of Bali making Nusa Dua a convenient stop after a long haul flight.
We stayed in a Royal Suite. The room has a lighter take on a standard boudoir style, with decorative metallic frames and lamps and rich colours of muted golds and silvers with plenty of glass and creams. Bed sheets are totally sumptuous, enormous pillows and one of the most comfy mattresses I have ever sunk my body into. The quality of finish at The Mulia is outstanding; there are no blemishes that one might otherwise see in a large resort. The suite itself boasts a mere 85 square metres of space, including a desk area, pull out sofa bed for extra guests, coffee table, chair, walk in wardrobe, large bathroom decked out in marble with double sink vanity and an oversized white coloured oval bathtub affording views over the courtyards and gardens. The suite also has a lovely balcony area offering a partial view of the Indian Ocean and is perfect for an afternoon nap out of the sunshine.
The bathroom amenities are all by Aromatherapy Associates (love) and the smell of essence of geranium is simply divine and a real contrast to the natural wafts of jasmine and frangipani that is often caught on the breeze in Bali. All bathrooms at The Mulia are equipped with space age 'Japanese' toilets that take on personalities of their own with their motion sensors opening lids and flushing automatically. Although, a heated toilet seat in this climate seems redundant, they are certainly a novel talking point, and for me, a first in a resort anywhere else but in Japan and a few private villas dotted around Thailand.
Again, I had a pre-conceived idea that the spa would not meet my expectations. I had read before hand that they offered "an award-winning and state-of-the-art wellness suite". It all sounded just a little too smooth, could it be that good? Really?
The Spa itself was expansive, like the rest of Mulia - there's no shortage of space. We began our spa journey (a day of pampering, after an early morning work out, of course) choosing oils for the massage. The knowledgeable Spa Director told me, that the choice of oils should correlate with how oil reacts to the body's PH levels. I chose the one that signifies the need for more sleep and relaxation. Sleep has been lacking this year with a burgeoning workload, some charity commitments and two hyperactive beagle puppies.
We then tottered off to the hydrotherapy pool that offers a cold and warm section with jets. This takes up a large space in the outdoors chunk of the spa, and although the cold section can never really get that chilly in Bali, it was a refreshing dip. After a little float we were escorted into the wellness suite.
We were shown around and told that we had the run of the wellness suite. I should add here that my partner is really not fussed about spa; in fact, we had told the resort that he would not join, but they invited him and he agreed to give it a go for an hour or two.
So, we began with a few minutes in the 'aroma steam room with emotional showers'. I am not sure what emotional showers are, but there was a nice breeze nozzle that showered a spray that was finer than rainwater and the changing chakra colours were a nice touch. I ended up having a play and actually quite enjoyed the contemporary feel of the sauna and the aromas too. After the steam we stepped into the 'sweet spa Finnish wood sauna with eucalyptus fragrance', again, very novel. The temperature controls were computerized so no need for controlling with ladels of water poured onto hot rocks. The smell was really great too, so I stepped out of the sauna really quite excited to step into Ice Room.
The closest I have ever been to an ice room is a small vodka bar in Phuket's entertainment district, which I believe is an overturned chest freezer that can fit three intoxicated revelers inside for a shot and a shiver at any one time. I also am not a fan of the cold, so I didn't expect to be comfortable inside Asia Pacific's only ice fountain room with 'chromatherapy chakra cleansing colours'. It was fun, the lights were reminiscent of nights past in the Patong chest freezer, but actually it was more impressive than therapeutic, it felt good to close the pores and it looked amazing. Slipping from blue, to green, to pink to purple and so on, I loved the experience.
So after we had prepared our skin it was time to be whisked away for a body scrub. The Mulia Spa uses heated Hunnan tables, with chakra lighting also. It is almost space age rather than holistic, but who said that spa had to stay within the rules of tradition? Scrubs offered are almond, Dead Sea salt and jasmine, all of which smell amazing.
Then it was time for a pre massage snack of carrots, celery and hummus before sinking my tootsies into the foot bowl. I do not usually write about the initial touch or foot wash in a spa as usually it is same same, but here it was exquisite. I soaked my feet in a warm bowl of water with flower petals and glass stones allowing a soothing sensation. A few drops of the 'dream time oil' (Frangipani, Neroli, Lavender and Vetiver) were added to aid the relaxation. The therapists use a scrub and palming stone to slough away skin.
The massage I opted for was the Balinese Massage Purely Bali. I always like to keep it simple, knowing that signature of massage indigenous to locations are mostly always good.
The therapy is an ancient deep tissue massage technique using palming, stretching, effleurage and pressure points to relieve tension and improve blood flow. It was explained to me that this particular massage is excellent for stimulating circulation and harmonizing body, mind and spirit. It certainly relaxed me and the masseur worked my writer's shoulder knots very well indeed, using the right amount of pressure and focus.
Bali is an island that is different to the rest of Indonesia because of its prevalent Hindu religion. This really is amplified in Balinese massage techniques. Therapists believe in karma, what you put in to something is what you will get out. I love this philosophy, as it results in a profound massage experience that not only leaves you feeling relaxed, you also feel energized.
After lunch, the afternoon commenced with a white crystal lymphatic facial. At this stage I was surprised to see that my other half had followed me back into the spa. He has said he was going to do some work in the afternoon and that all spa treatments are the same. Yet, he was back for more. Now I knew we really were in the right place, if he loves it, it must be superior.
The facial, using Biodraga facial products, was excellent, and then I went to the beauty salon for a hot oil hair treatment. The salon has a plethora of options, manicures, pedicures, hair styling, foot spa, waxing, and facials to name a few. After my hot oil I was treated to a Kerastase hair wash and a blow dry, I left the spa a transformed woman, and felt that the evening ahead deserved the unveiling of a posh dress and a some lippy.
In summary, I loved Mulia Spa and its treatments. It really is a spa lovers delight and they really get it. The spa director has a lot of experience and all the internationally certified and skilled therapists have confidence in what they are doing. I would absolutely recommend the Mulia Spa; it is one of the finest complete spa experiences I have ever encountered.
In the spa, all personal wellbeing reawakening treatments are offered with a comprehensive treatment menu of Balinese, Indonesian and a fusion of Asian and western techniques suited to each guest's personal needs. Stimulating water therapies and an experience in the wellness suite will create a journey that will bring your body to perfect synergy and equilibrium.
There's plenty of choice here, but my focus was wellness and spa cuisine. Most of our meals were enjoyed in The Café, a spacious restaurant offering buffet style meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The menu was vast for those who eat everything but those who are opting for healthier options, the choices are limited to standard salad fare and some very tasty stir fried vegetable dishes, therefore if healthy and vegetarian options are your thing, you'd be better off ordering al la carte as the buffet would be very expensive for just a bowl of salad.
On the flip side, foodies with no dietary restrictions or preferences will be in culinary heaven, the choice is outstanding; there are separate stations for cuisine highlighting the best of Korean, Japanese, Indian, Indonesia, as well as some Thai dishes and grilled meats, seafood, cheese and a dessert room with an impressive homemade ice-cream and sorbet carousel. The highlights were the banana and toffee ice cream and the lychee sorbet, truly delicious.
Service at The Mulia is outstanding, everyone greets you by your name and everyone knew my cuisine preferences and bent over backwards to accommodate me. Gastronomy for me doesn't get any better if it is well-balanced and clean food; this is why I love spa cuisine. Alan, the American chef who took care of the all the cuisine on the one-day spa day really understood how to prepare very tasty and lean meals. We were served our spa cuisine in the beautiful restaurant located at the Mulia Villas, 'The Living Room'. Breakfast was substantial and I was served the tastiest buckwheat waffle I have ever had. The notable dish for me was the lunchtime entrée, a plate of succulent Portobello mushrooms with a gluten free taboulleh made from cauliflower with a Moroccan sauce. This was out of this world; Alan followed this up with a simple buckwheat and vegetable pasta dish that was seasoned to perfection. My partner enjoyed fish and chicken dishes as part of his spa menu cuisine, and assured me that his meals were just as delicious. The Mulia spa menu included water infused with a selection of different combinations, lychee and mint, ginger, berries all designed to detox or rejuvenate.
After our spa day we were excited to try some other restaurants within the resort. We visited the beautifully appointed Chinese restaurant, Table 8; unfortunately they serve shark fin soup so we left. As much as I understand this is a popular dish in some places in Asia, we were highly uncomfortable with this and felt sad that such an amazing hotel would not follow the suit of other leading brands and stop serving this barbaric dish. This was the only low point of the entire stay, and we really hope that the Mulia stop serving this dish immediately as sharks are declining rapidly.
Our last meal was at the Soleil restaurant; we were really looking forward to this as the Mulia team told us that their epic Sunday brunch was served in here and that the concept is interesting. I have several friends who say that they have dined at the infamous brunch and it is epic. Soleil is more focused on fine dining, Italian and French cuisine with Pan Asian influences. They offered so many options, that it didn't quite fit into my perception of fine dining, but the air-conditioned surrounds are elegant and service fantastic. The chef really pushed the boat out for me on this evening, I enjoyed a specially prepared 'zucchini blossom', tofu satay, falafel and a delicious vegetarian, al dente mushroom gluten free pasta dish all washed down with a glass, or two, of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. My partner ate the Coral Trout and would strongly recommend.
The guest activities, which include boot camp designed to make you sweat, you will need to burn those buffet calories. The spa, it truly is outstanding with some of the best therapists Bali has to offer, the ice room, in fact the entire wellness suite is a great experience and a complete contrast to the otherwise rustic Balinese wellness experience. The beach, it is terrific, and the pool areas are very 'Miami'.
Words: Natasha Eldred
The Mulia & Mulia Villas - Nusa Dua, Bali has accommodation available from £475/ US$750 (+21% gov. tax and service charge) per room per night based on two adults sharing including breakfast and afternoon tea. For information and reservations visit www.themulia.com
The Mulia (www.themulia.com / T. +62 361 3027777) offers 7 nights for the price of 5 in a Mulia Grandeur room from £1,395 per person per stay when booked through Abercrombie & Kent (+44 1242 858 062 www.abercrombiekent.co.uk) - saving up to £400 per couple. Offer is based on two adults sharing on a b&b basis and includes international flights from London Heathrow with Qatar Airways and airport transfers.
Denpasar Airport is served by flights arriving directly from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. The car journey from the airport to the Mulia is about 2 and a half hours.
Flights are plentiful from the UK and airlines that fly in to Denpasar are: